Gallagher holds lead in race


Seán Gallagher has raced into a commanding lead going into the final days of the presidential election campaign, according to the latest Irish Times /Ipsos MRBI poll.

The poll shows that Mr Gallagher has doubled his share of the vote since the last Irish Times poll less than three weeks ago and he has pulled well ahead of Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins.

All of the other candidates have lost support since the last poll. Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness remains in third place but he is now well behind the two frontrunners.

Support for Senator David Norris and Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael has continued to slide and both are now well out of contention.

A digital presidential debate took place between the seven candidates at the offices of Google in Dublin earlier today. The final televised debate of the campaign takes place tonight on RTÉ's Frontline programme.

Mary Davis has dropped into joint last place with Dana Rosemary Scallon as voters move to Mr Gallagher’s camp in large numbers. The controversy surrounding Mr Gallagher’s membership of the Fianna Fáil national executive and his business dealings was in full spate while the poll was being taken at the end of last week.

When people were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election was held tomorrow, the figures (when the 21 per cent of undecided voters were excluded) compared to the last Irish Times poll on October 4th were: Seán Gallagher 40 per cent (up 20 points); Michael D Higgins 25 per cent (up two points); Martin McGuinness 15 per cent (down four points); David Norris 8 per cent (down three points); Gay Mitchell 6 per cent (down three points); Mary Davis 3 per cent (down nine points) and Dana Rosemary Scallon 3 per cent (down three points).

The poll was taken on Thursday and Friday of last week among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent. With less than a week to go before the election, the poll indicates that unless there is a dramatic shift in opinion in the final days of the campaign, Mr Gallagher is on course to succeed Mary McAleese as the next president.

However Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the gap between Michael D Higgins and Seán Gallagher "could be bridged between now and Thursday."

Speaking on RTÉ radio this morning, Mr Gilmore said Mr Higgins was the best candidate for the job.

"If people switch their vote the gap can be bridged between now and Thursday. Michael D. Higgins has the political experience to do the constitutional role - remember that the last two presidents were constitutional lawyers. Nobody in this election has the track record of Michael D Higgins in relation to inclusion and working for people who have been at a disadvantage. He is a president we can be proud of," he said. 

He denied that Mr Higgins had been making a point about Seán Gallagher's business dealings yesterday when he said he respected entrepreneurship "as long as it was ethical."

"No the point being made was if you look at what’s happened to the Irish economy over the last few years and you look at the collapse that has happened, the one thing that was missing from entrepreneurship and some sections of the Irish economy during the celtic tiger years was a lack of ethics. Michael D Higgins was one of the few people who questioned what was happening during those years. He has conducted a positive campaign from the very beginning and was just reminding people of his track record," he said.