Unstoppable Gallagher unaffected by Haughey link and €860k in payments

CLAIMS: Sean still has a strong lead despite revelations of e860k payouts and his FF links

Niall O'Connor

NOTHING, no matter how unpalatable, can seem to stop the Sean Gallagher juggernaut from crashing into the Aras.

Fresh revelations about strong links to Charlie Haughey, €860k payments from one of his companies, which reveived €830k in government funding, and today's Herald story that he charged €3,000 for one speech are having no effect on the public.

The latest poll results out today show that the former Dragon's Den star has a commanding lead over Michael D Higgins in the race to the Aras.

Gallagher has stretched his lead at the top of the polls to an incredible 40pc, while Michael D trails in second place at 25pc.

The entrepreneur is expected to come under intense pressure during tonight's final televised debate with his presidential rivals gearing up for a last-ditch attack on his Fianna Fail past.

It emerged today that Mr Gallagher wrote a letter to Fianna Fail members in which he boasted about his connections with former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

The letter -- sent in January 2009 -- highlighted his "30 year" involvement with Fianna Fail during which he raised "much needed funds for the work of the party".


He went on to pledge to continue his work with the party in Co Louth "to meet the challenges we all now collectively face, particularly in the run-up to the local elections".

Despite the letter pouring cold water on Mr Gallagher's attempts to dismiss his Fianna Fail connections, two new opinion polls today showed his commanding lead over his presidential rivals.

The race for the Aras is now Mr Gallagher's to lose, with today's MRBI/IPOS poll showing that he has secured a double 15 point lead over Michael D.

The Labour Party was today devising how to derail Mr Gallagher's surging bid, with focus expected to gather around weekend revelations about Mr Gallagher's business dealings.

At the weekend it emerged that one of Mr Gallagher's companies, which had received €830,000 in state payouts, had paid Mr Gallagher and his business partner €860,000.

The payments were made in 2008 and 2009 to his firm Smarthomes -- which was losing money at the time.


Mr Higgins has upped his attacks on his rival, attempting to link him to the excesses of the Celtic Tiger.

The Galway TD remarked that his achievements have been made in the Dail, rather than the "Companies Office".

"I'm in favour of a social economy. I am not trying to revive the Celtic Tiger's excesses," he added.

But party sources have admitted the Mr Higgins will need "very significant transfers" in order to catch Mr Gallagher.

Labour Party Headquarters were expected to issue a rallying cry to party members to bolster their candidate's support as polling day approaches.

And Transport Minister Leo Varadkar today became the first cabinet member to weigh in on Mr Gallagher's Fianna Fail connections.

Mr Varadkar stated that electing Mr Gallagher would show that Irish people have "learned very little as a country in the past four years".

He said he will be giving his "number two vote to Michael D Higgins and I'd like to see Fine Gael people do the same".

See pages 16-17