Businessman claims diary supports allegation Gallagher collected €5,000 cheque

Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 01:00

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:THE BUSINESSMAN who claimed that presidential candidate Seán Gallagher personally collected €5,000 from him has released extracts from his diary that purports to support his contention.

Hugh Morgan, who runs a major fuel operation in Co Armagh, yesterday made available diary entries for three days in June and July 2008, indicating contact with Mr Gallagher over a Fianna Fáil fundraising event that took place the following month.

He also made available a photograph of himself and then taoiseach Brian Cowen at the event, which was held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk on July 1st.

However, the documents do not give any indication as to how the cheque was delivered to Fianna Fáil, nor do they provide any evidence to back the allegation Mr Gallagher collected the cheque.

A spokesman for Mr Gallagher said last night that he had never denied meeting Mr Morgan and had also said he might have delivered the photograph to him. He said there was nothing in the documents to support the central allegation made by Mr Morgan, or by Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, that Mr Gallagher had personally collected the cheque.

The three diary entries were released through Mr Morgan’s solicitors, Tiernan and Company, in Newry, Co Armagh.

The first, for Friday, June 6th, 2008, includes a handwritten note that states: “Sean Gallagher FF. Fundraising 5K”. The “5K” is a reference to the €5,000 that Mr Morgan claimed Mr Gallagher solicited from him on behalf of Fianna Fáil. Mr Gallagher has accepted that he was asked by Fianna Fáil to tell potential attendees at the event, where Mr Cowen would be guest of honour, that the party was seeking donations of “up to €5,000”.

The second entry, from June 9th, again includes a handwritten reference to Mr Gallagher at 8am, with two mobile numbers.

The final entry is for July 1st and the handwritten entry for 7pm states “Brian Cowen”. That coincides with the time of the fund-raising event. Mr Morgan, through his solicitors, also released the cheque stub dated June 27th, 2008, and a redacted extract from the Morgan Fuels Ireland account, showing that the €5,000 was debited from the account on July 1st.

This tallies with the schedule of payments produced by Fianna Fáil earlier this week.

Mr Morgan, who was convicted for fuel smuggling in the late 1990s, said in a statement earlier this week that Mr Gallagher had personally collected the cheque from him on June 27th from his premises and called back after the event to deliver the photograph.

Mr Gallagher has denied categorically that he collected the cheque from Mr Morgan, and said that an apparent concession on RTÉ’s the Frontlinethat he might have done so was a mistake.

He said the reason he did so was because he was momentarily taken aback by a fake tweet sent to the programme, as well as an allegation made by Mr McGuinness (which he corrected the following day) that Mr Gallagher collected the money after the event.

In an interview on LMFM yesterday, Mr Gallagher again rejected Mr Morgan’s claims, saying he never collected the money. He apologised for any confusion that had been caused.

In a final statement to supporters last night, Mr Gallagher said the Irish people wanted “hope and leadership, not bickering and backbiting”.

Yesterday, Labour’s Michael D. Higgins said the Frontlinedebate had added to the significant surge in support he had witnessed during the last week.

“I think it is in the public interest, very clearly, that all questions addressed to any candidate be answered fully, particularly ones that in any way create anxiety for people as to transparency or indeed as to trust,” he added.

Fine Gael Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said some of the disclosures during the campaign were “disturbing” and it would not be desirable to have any risk of impeachment in the Áras. He claimed his party’s candidate Gay Mitchell and Mr Higgins were the only two candidates with no skeletons in their cupboards.