'Dragon' seeks FF support for Park bid

Sat, May 7, 2011, 01:00

ENTREPRENEUR SEÁN Gallagher has approached Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members with a view to getting the party’s backing for his bid to enter the presidential election later this year.

Mr Gallagher, best known as one of the panellists on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den, announced last week he is interested in entering the race to succeed President Mary McAleese, who steps down in October. He said he wants to be an Independent candidate.

A potential candidate must win the backing of 20 members of the Dáil and Seanad, or four full local authorities, to be eligible to stand in the election.

Mr Gallagher said he had not made a final decision but confirmed that he has begun the process of consulting Oireachtas members. Independent Senator Feargal Quinn has already declared his support for Mr Gallagher’s bid.

A reliable source told The Irish Timesyesterday that Mr Gallagher has spoken to Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators to elicit the support of the party.

According to the source, Mr Gallagher was exploring the possibility of a “semi-detached” arrangement with Fianna Fáil. That would involve him getting the support of 10 Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members, as well as 10 Independent TDs and Senators.

It would also allow him to remain as an Independent candidate, said the source. Former president Mary Robinson had a similar arrangement in 1990. Though an Independent candidate, she was supported by Labour, Democratic Left and the Green Party.

A spokesman for Fianna Fáil said that while Mr Gallagher had made no formal approach to the party, he may have spoken to individual TDs.

The spokesman said the party was now beginning to give the presidential election “due consideration”.

“The party will come to a view later on whether we will be putting forward a candidate or supporting another candidate,” said the spokesman.

Mr Gallagher’s spokesman would not comment when asked if the entrepreneur had spoken to Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators. He said the only public comment being made at present was the statement Mr Gallagher posted on his website.

In the statement, Mr Gallagher, who is also a community activist, said he was giving serious consideration to the consistent calls to him, from people in business, community organisations and disability groups “to offer myself as an Independent candidate, with a clear understanding of what is needed to help rebuild our country”.

He said that while many questioned the value of the office of president in our economic climate, he believed the office could be used constructively to address the challenges.