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Gallagher denies being ‘secret FF candidate’ during radio debate

Sean Gallagher insists he has the support of members of all political parties, and denies being a de facto Fianna Fáil candidate.

Image: Tony Kinlan

SEÁN GALLAGHER has sought to dismiss suggestions that he is a de facto Fianna Fáil candidate in this week’s Presidential election, saying he has the support of members of all parties.

Answering questions during a seven-way debate on RTÉ Radio 1′s ‘Saturday with Charlie Bird’, Gallagher insisted that his early declaration of interest in running for president, and his campaign to seek nomination from local authorities rather than through the Oireachtas, was a sign he was a genuinely independent candidate.

“What I do say to you is, if you reflect on the process of selection and non-selection, the party decided not to put a candidate forward,” Gallagher told an audience member who asked about his Fianna Fáil links.

Why would I have been out there for so long, while Fianna Fáil were trying to make up their mind?

He also denied that any political party would “parade the president” as being linked to their own party, saying Fianna Fáil had not done so following Mary McAleese’s election as a FF candidate in 1997.

Asked about his role in helping to publicise a Fianna Fáil fundraiser in 2008, details of which emerged during the week, Gallagher said his role was “simply to let local businesspeople know it was on”.

David Norris, in response, commented that independence was not “a flag you can pick up and wave when it suits you”. Mary Davis noted that “all of a person’s background should be interrogated” when they were running for office.

‘Gay running for president’

Later in the debate, which was recorded at The Helix at Dublin City University earlier this morning, Norris and Gay Mitchell traded words over the latter’s joke about being “the only Gay who’s going for president”.

“I don’t think this is at all entertaining,” Norris commented. “We still have homophobic bullying in schools… and a candidate makes a joke about being gay? I don’t think that’s appropriate at all. It’s not what I would expect from a president.”

“David, if we were having a serious debate here this morning, we might be talking about some of your more serious comments about this issue,” Mitchell responded, later adding: “I won’t take intolerance from anybody, including David Norris.”

Davis said she had a history of supporting gay pride, naming activists from Cork who she had experience working with, while Dana Rosemary Scallon said her personal beliefs about gay marriage did not mean she did not respect those who felt otherwise.

Earlier, candidates were asked if they believed the media had treated them fairly. Martin McGuinness said he felt he had been more fairly treated by media in Northern Ireland than by those in the Republic.

Asked how he would bring some excitement to the office of President, McGuinness said the excitement around potentially hosting the visit of Queen Elizabeth would be greater than the excitement surrounding her first ever visit in May of this year.

Michael D Higgins commented that while he did not have any complaint over how the media had treated him, the election had raise “very good questions… and some that are worth reflecting on”.

Asked about what a potential president could do to address the overcrowding in hospitals, Higgins called for a national discussion on what he termed a “‘citizenship floor’, below which people shouldn’t be allowed to fall”.

More: Gallagher: I haven’t been involved with Fianna Fáil for 18 months

Previously: Gallagher: ‘I abhor many of the decisions of the last government’

Gallery: Behind every successful president… meet the spouses vying for the Áras

In full: TheJournal.ie’s coverage of the Race for the Áras

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Gavan Reilly

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