PRESIDENTIAL favourite Sean Gallagher received more than €3,000 from public funds for giving a motivational speech that lasted less than an hour.
The Dragons' Den investor is very close to receiving a sizeable earning as president, but not even the salary of the country's first citizen could go near to match the rate of pay he enjoyed from speaking at the public event.
Mr Gallagher was paid €3,025 by West Limerick Resources (WLR) after they booked him to be the key speaker at an enterprise event in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, on October 19, 2010.
Positioning Your Business For The Future was hosted by WLR in conjunction with the Newcastle West & District Chamber of Commerce as part of the Mid-West business week.
Board members of WLR last night said Mr Gallagher was paid too much and said they would not have agreed to it had they known how much he was going to charge.
A spokesman for Mr Gallagher said the fee was agreed with WLR beforehand.
"The organisers were aware of the fee and up until now, he has not been questioned about this," the spokesman said.
"The first we hear of this is four days before the election and I am sure people are smart enough to understand why it is being raised now."
At the event, Mr Gallagher urged the audience of more than 150 to seek out "cost-saving opportunities and growth potential in their operations".
WLR board member Jerome Scanlan said Mr Gallagher spoke for between 40 and 50 minutes on the night.
"I wasn't aware that cost was going to be incurred. One would have to question the manner in which public money was spent on him," Mr Scanlan said.
"I would have raised and questioned value for money if I had known this at the time," Mr Scanlan added.
The WLR board initially considered approaching well-known businessman Bill Cullen before asking Sean Gallagher to address them.
It is understood that the 23-person board had to collectively agree who was to address the event before it was signed off.
Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan, who served on the board at the time, said it was wrong that Mr Gallagher charged over €3,000 from public money for speaking for such a short space of time.
Mr O'Donovan said serious questions have been raised about why such a sum of money was paid out for a short speech.
"I wasn't aware how much he was going to charge on the night, In hindsight, it could have been handled a lot better," Mr O'Donovan admitted.
"He charged far too much. It is wrong that this amount was paid from public money to Mr Gallagher for what he contributed. Perhaps these events should be done pro-bono in future," Mr O'Donovan said.
Mr Gallagher also met and spoke with those in attendance before and after the event.
Also addressing the event was WLR Manager Shay Riordan and Limerick County Enterprise Board CEO Ned Toomey. Neither were paid and were present in a professional capacity.
WLR said the key message from the night was how local businesses are the cornerstone of our economy and have a key role to play in the country's recovery.
On their website, the State-funded agency said Mr Gallagher "highlighted that careful planning, strategic management and effective networking are essential components of future success".