Saturday 15 December 2018

Gallagher sweeps on to ballot paper in just one day to challenge for Áras

Seán Gallagher before addressing Westmeath County Council seeking its nomination for the presidential election. Photo: Kinlan Photography
Seán Gallagher before addressing Westmeath County Council seeking its nomination for the presidential election. Photo: Kinlan Photography

Ryan Nugent, Laura Larkin and Cormac McQuinn

Sean Gallagher - who lost the 2011 presidential election amid controversy - staked his claim for the forthcoming contest by winning the necessary council nominations in just one day to get on the ballot paper.

Mr Gallagher proclaimed his achievement "a great day", as another contender, Senator Joan Freeman, also got the required four council endorsements for nomination. A third potential candidate, Gavin Duffy, will also be nominated, with three councils confirmed and at least one other council committed to backing him.

A dramatic day of meetings by 10 councils countrywide delivered considerable progress in deciding the slate of runners for the presidential election to be held on Friday, October 26. There will be at least four rivals to President Michael D Higgins, who is entitled to nominate himself to contest a second seven-year term.

Mr Gallagher and Mr Duffy, who were panellists on the RTÉ show 'Dragons' Den', along with mental health campaigner Ms Freeman, will be joined by a Sinn Féin nominee, expected to be Liadh Ní Riada MEP, who will avail of the only other route to the ballot paper via nomination by 20 TDs and/or senators.

Other contenders could emerge before close of nominations at noon on September 26.

Mr Gallagher's path to the election started early yesterday with an endorsement by Roscommon County Council shortly after 9am. Over the course of the day he received backing from councils in Mayo, Leitrim, Wexford, and his native Cavan.

Mr Gallagher, a businessman, who entered this year's race less than two weeks ago, repeated the apology he has made in recent days. He referred back to his appearance on RTÉ's 'Frontline' debate days before the 2011 election.

"I appeared unconvincing," he said, in relation to being asked if he collected a cheque for Fianna Fáil from a businessman. He reiterated that this allegation "was simply not correct" and that it was a "costly" and "public" mistake.

Independent Senator Ms Freeman, who added Fingal and Galway City and County councils to her previous backing by Cork City Council, struck a determined note on campaigning to win.

"I think President Michael D Higgins is my competitor. I think he is much loved and that's exactly right. I'm not sure about Gavin Duffy or Seán Gallagher, there's another 'Dragon' in the den, Peter Casey, so we'll have to see how that goes," she said.

Asked if she was prepared for a gruelling and possibly personal campaign, she said that she has "put her head above the parapet" by putting her name forward.

"I know that I'm going to be scrutinised but I believe so passionately in what I'm doing I'm willing to be scrutinised," she said.

Businessman Mr Duffy said he "expects to be on the ballot paper" after receiving his third council nomination. He was unanimously picked as the nominee by Wicklow County Council after Ms Freeman received her fourth nomination while the meeting was taking place.

When Mr Duffy, who was at the Wicklow County Council meeting, received notification of Ms Freeman's Galway nomination, he informed Wicklow's Cathaoirleach, Pat Vance, and the meeting went into recess for 10 minutes to ensure this was the case. Once this was confirmed there were no objections from an almost-full council for his nomination.

He has now received nominations from Meath, Carlow and Wicklow and expects another nomination from Louth, as the only nominee there. "At this stage I can say I expect to be on the ballot paper," he said.

The contest in Wicklow between Mr Duffy and Ms Freeman had been expected to be extremely tight.

Irish Independent

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