Campaigns to cost up to €350,000, say candidates

 

PRESIDENTIAL candidates could spend up to €350,000 on their campaigns, it emerged on the Late, Late Show debate.

Dana Rosemary Scallon said she did not know how much her campaign would cost and could not remember what she spent in the 1997 campaign. Independent candidate Mary Davis said it would be more than €200,000 and up to €350,000 but she had used a poster campaign because she was not as well known as other candidates.

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell estimated his campaign at up to €350,000 while Labour candidate Michael D Higgins said they had budgeted for €321,000.

Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness said his campaign would be “considerably less” and contingent on fundraising but his team had offers from the US. Independent Seán Gallagher estimated it would cost about €200,000 while Senator David Norris had limited funds.

Introducing themselves initially, Mr Mitchell said he wanted to put “my fighting sprit and the compassion I learned growing up in difficult circumstances behind these difficult circumstances”.

His key quality was “to use an office which has limits to the limits of that office for the benefit of people. I’ve done that in every office I’ve held.”

He denied repeated reports that party leadership was against him. He said he and party leader Enda Kenny were “very close friends”. When asked about the “backroom boys” not supporting him he said, “I don’t know where that comes from but these backroom boys are breaking their backs for me.”

Mr McGuinness said his membership of the IRA wasn’t an issue for ordinary people, in contrast to the “powers that be” who were frightened about his entry into the race for the presidency.

Asked why he wanted to be president, he said the country need leadership at this difficult time and he could provide that. A president could bring about a new order in society by standing up and embarrassing the people who were taking huge salaries and who had driven the economy into the ground.

Independent candidate Mary Davis said she was a leader who had worked with the “most incredible people who have been disenfranchised and have had to overcome obstacles and worked with thousands of volunteers.”

She wanted to embrace many issues. “I’ve done it with disability and I want to bring it to a broader base.”

She also said businessman Denis O’Brien had donated €2,500 to her campaign.

The Special Olympics chief executive for Europe and Eurasia was appointed to 23 boards and said it was a pleasure to sit on the boards and she brought her skills and experience to the boards.

Senator David Norris defended the non-publication of the controversial letters he wrote and said “lawyers differed” in their legal advice.

He said he wanted to be given a chance to outline his vision. He said: “We’ve had an election but we’ve had no change. They just changed jerseys. They abolished Combat Poverty, they put the interests of the estalbishment and the preservation of the system above the rights of the people.”

Holding up a copy of the EU Constitution, Ms Rosemary Scallon said: “This is what this election is about.”

She said, “I have the knowledge and experience to be able to protect our sovereignty and that’s the only question I think that’s really urgent at this time.”

She said, “you bet your boots I would” when asked if she would refuse to sign a Bill that she felt threatened the Irish Constitution.

Mr Higgins said he supported a version of Irishness that’s very different from the last 15 years.

“My key quality I think is vision. I have independence of mind, I have demonstrated it through all of my political life.”

He believed that “we should be open about the values that you hold. I’ve said that the way we should live as citizens involves taking other people into account.”

Seán Gallagher, an entrepreneur, said that “of course the president cannot create a job but what the president can do is create a culture of entrepreneurship”.

He wanted to help get the country back on its feet, adding that he had a lifetime of experience in farming, enterprise, youth work, work with people with disabilities and in developing confidence in others.