Wexford seals deal for Gallagher
Wexford councillors have voted to back Sean Gallagher after three of those seeking to join the race for the áras set out their stall before a special council meeting. Anna Hayes reports
Wexford County Council sealed the deal for businessman Sean Gallagher yesterday (Monday) to run in this year's Presidential Election when they became the fourth council to back the runner-up of the 2011 campaign.
Two candidates had already received backing from councillors before setting out their stall in the council chamber last week - Sean Gallagher was promised a proposal by Independent councillor Ger Carthy, while Senator Joan Freeman had secured support from Fine Gael's Cllr Paddy Kavanagh.
On Monday afternoon, Mr Gallagher secured 16 votes, with Ms Freeman receiving ten votes. There were five abstentions from the vote. Fianna Fáil and a number of Independent councillors cast their vote in favour of Mr Gallagher, while Fine Gael supported Ms Freeman.
Mr Gallagher was not present at Monday's meeting but his proposer Cllr Ger Carthy, speaking on the candidate's behalf, thanked both those who had voted for him and those who had, saying he was looking forward to the Presidential race and 'letting the games begin'.
Last Wednesday, three candidates set out their campaign, seeking a nomination for the Presidential campaign.
Sen Freeman was first to speak and she used her time to promote the importance of positive mental health, pointing out that all of the wider problems that affected Ireland stemmed back to this one issue.
Sen Freeman, who is a trained psychologist and the founder and former CEO of Pieta House, said she had been campaigning for mental health services since she was 17 and pointed out one particular case of a child who had spent 41 days in the adult psychiatric unit (nicknamed 'The Dungeon') of Waterford Regional Hospital and saying that this was not acceptable. She also referred to the ongoing crisis in Wexford's mental health service for adolescants.
While she acknowledged that the President had no executive powers, she believed they had the power of persuasion and influence.
She remarked to the councillors: 'You have listened to me. You've volunteered and donated. You've shown compassion but compassion is a crowded place - we all care but it's time to do something. People can say that I'm a one trick pony but that 'trick' is a massive issue.'
Cllr Michael Sheehan asked if there was any circumstance whereby she would refuse to sign a bill into law.
She replied: 'If the bill was repugnant to the Constitution of this country. I voted no in the latest referendum but I would not refuse to sign the bill into law. My personal beliefs do not filter into my job.'
She believed that change could be affected through people power adding that if she was President she would not have to wait two years for legislation to pass as drawing attention to issues and problems was often key to starting a dialogue on them.
In relation to the proposed visit of US President Donald Trump, she said she would welcome him to Ireland and explain that Pieta House had two linked organisations in New York. She believed the role of President was about influencing, persuading and engaging with people.
Entrepreneur Sean Gallagher used his time to speak not just about his current bid to become President but also his last one in 2011.
Referring to the 'false tweet' that derailed his campaign in 2011 on the RTE Front Line debate, he said he had responded to an accusation of collecting money from a man's house earlier in the programme and to another national newspaper. He said the tweet had 'caused me to doubt my own memory momentarily'.
He said was aware that many people had planned to vote for him but subsequently changed their mind and he regretted that people had seen him as someone he was not. He said he had taken his case against RTE not just for himself but for all those who were brave enough to stand for public office and who deserved fairness.
Of his current campaign, he stressed that he did not want to be Michael D. Higgins' replacement but his successor. He said the country was seeing rapid change which lead to fear which lead to paralysis. He wanted to lead by example and by serving, and make sure that Ireland was seen as a place that was open and inclusive.
He belived that apathy would hold the country back as people had become disengaged from the country's problems but he believed that everyone needed to work together and that more leaders were needed for people to look up to.
In relation to a question from Cllr Johnny Mythen about the North of Ireland and reunification, he remarked: 'I am of the border counties and I genuinely believe that we'll see a United Ireland in my lifetime. But it will start with a unification of hearts and trust.'
When asked by Cllr John Hegarty, who referred to the late decision to run on this occasions, what he had been doing for the past seven years since the last election, Mr Gallagher explained that the election had been gruelling and he had taken time to recover from it. He said he had not taken lightly the decision to challenge RTE on the Front Line debate issue and said that that process had taken six years. He added that he did not believe in failure, but feedback which he had received plenty of.
He had, he said, become a father over the past seven years, set up a business offering workspaces to companies, largely outside of Dublin, and started writing a column profiling entrepreneurs and their achievements.
He said being an entrepreneur or, for that matter, being the President, was not about making money but about making a difference.
He also agreed with Cllr Tony Dempsey on the notion of tackling cyber crime through new laws but he said that technology was developing so quickly that it was hard to keep up. He felt that action was beginning to be taken on the issue, remarkng that sometimes it could only happen after damage had been done.
Cllr Ger Carthy, offering his support to Mr Gallagher remarked on the 20,000 votes the former Dragon's Den judge had secured in the 2011 election, saying he was hopeful that people would support his nomination of him.
Finally, actress Sarah Louise Mulligan spoke of how she wanted to be a President who would celebrate Irish people, and mend people's broken hearts and souls with words and actions.
The self-confessed Donald Trump fan said she had a keen interest in issues surrounding child and elder abuse, suicide, homelessness, pregnancy and pro-life matters.
In the area of mental health, she referred to a case of an 11-year-old child who had announced their intention to commit suicide on a social media account. She pledged to use the same platform to share videos that would help those feeling vulnerable. She also felt that not enough was being done about the issue of elder abuse, something she had written her college thesis on.
She proclaimed to be 'pro-life and proud', saying that she would happily donate some of her Presidential salary for the setting up of crisis pregnancy centres.
She added that she would have a big problem with signing off on legislation to remove the Eighth Amendment, remarking that she and the Taoiseach would be 'at loggerheads' over it.
She said she admired Donald Trump for his pro-life stance and for a lot of his policies, saying she wanted Ireland to be a place where people could speak their mind freely, adding that she would like to see more healthy debate on issues.
Cllr Davy Hynes referred to her admiration for Trump, remarking that anyone could make a mistake! He acknowledged that she had spoken about the abuse of people but said he could not reconcile those concerns with her support for someone who he saw to be a culprit of that.
'You mentioned free speech but there is a big difference between that and hate speech,' he pointed out.
Cllr Paddy Kavanagh wished Ms Mulligan well in her endeavours, pointing out that Peter Casey, another candidate, had remarked that he would filter his salary back to councils who had backed him through their chairman. He joked that council chairman Keith Doyle was single and would gladly welcome a move to Aras an Uachtarán!