Wednesday 21 November 2018

Peter Casey becomes third Dragon's Den star to make the presidential ballot paper

Áras contender: Peter Casey
Áras contender: Peter Casey

Conor Kane

Businessman Peter Casey has become the third panellist from the Dragons' Den TV show to make it onto the ballot paper for next month's presidential election.

Mr Casey secured his place in the poll when he was endorsed by Tipperary County Council on Tuesday evening. He had already won the endorsement of Limerick City and County Council earlier in the afternoon, to add to the two votes he won on Monday.

He joins President Higgins, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada, Pieta House founder Senator Joan Freeman, and fellow Dragons' Den panellists Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy on the ballot paper for next month's election.

Peter Casey won 13 votes at the Tipperary County Council meeting in Nenagh, with journalist Gemma O'Doherty taking eight votes.

Mr Casey's votes came from a mix of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and independents, with Ms O'Doherty's votes from Sinn Féin and independents. Labour's Fiona Bonfield abstained.

Afterwards, he said it was an "amazing" two days during which he secured the necessary four council endorsements.

"I'm so excited to get, now, into the race proper," he said. "I thought it would work out this way, I was the last person into the race and I knew I would be the last one to get over the line. It's a big relief. I can go to the ploughing competition tomorrow and relax."

Gemma O'Doherty was asked if she intends pursuing council nominations and said "of course".

Peter Casey spoke during his pitch to the council about the importance of reaching out to the diaspora, pointing out there are over 70 million people worldwide who call themselves Irish.

His "birthright programme" would see the children of the Irish diaspora being invited to spend a month in Ireland: two weeks in a Gaeltacht area, a week in Belfast and Derry "to understand the troubles and our history" and a week in Dublin to "understand how the State was created and about the Civil War".

They would return to their home country with "a better sense of what it's like to be Irish" and tell their friends about their experiences.

He also emphasised the importance of education and referred to Ireland's past reputation as "the island of saints and scholars," adding: "I want to relight that educational fire".

The Derry-born businessman reiterated his view that the president's expenses should be made public, that a president shouldn't be allowed to nominate himself or herself for re-election, an that the presidency should have a five-year term with elections taking place at the same time as local authority elections. He said he would not take the salary himself but give it to the county councils to pass on to charity, "maybe invite the county councillors up to the Áras once a month".

In her presentation, Gemma O'Doherty said she "would worry about the fact now that we have three businessmen going forward into this race, with pretty much the same track record".

Asked by Sinn Féin councillor David Dunne what salary she would take as president, she said she wouldn't want to earn "any more than E80,000, the [president's] salary at the moment is outrageous... I'd quite happily drive my own car, I'd quite happily stay in my own home. I don't want to disrespect the office of the president".

She also told councillors that her concerns include free speech, a free press, homelessness, healthcare, truth and justice. "We do not have a free press in Ireland and this is deeply damaging to democracy. There are influences now within Irish society which threaten free speech and threaten press freedom."

Performing artist Sarah Louise Mulligan said she was a pro-life advocate and, if elected president, "I'd happily divert some of my salary to opening new pregnancy crisis centres for women who are considering abortion. With the help of good counsellors, they may just decide to keep their unborn babies."

A supporter of President Trump, she described him as "the greatest Irish ally we have".

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