Gallagher distances himself from FF


Independent presidential candidate Sean Gallagher today moved to distance himself from Fianna Fáil's performance in government over the past four years after appearing to equivocate on the issue when questioned on the Prime Time debate on RTÉ last night.

Mr Gallagher said he "abhorred" the decisions made by the last Fianna Fáil government and said that he was disillusioned with the party's loss of contact with its grassroots when he resigned from Fianna Fáil earlier this year .

Asked by Miriam O'Callaghan on the Prime Time debate if he felt Fianna Fáil had let the country down, Mr Gallagher said that he could not answer for Fianna Fáil, but today he moved to counter suggestions that he had been equivocal on the issue.

Mr Gallagher said he was seen to hestitate when he was asked the question, adding the reason for that was he was seeking to make a distinction between what Fianna Fáil ministers did in Cabinet and the ordinary members of the party.

"I was asked to condemn Fianna Fáil, and the first thing that came into my mind was the thousands of ordinary decent men and women who are the grassroots of Fianna Fáil . . . and I didn't want to condemn them because they weren't in government, they weren't in Cabinet.

"What I wanted to say and in the heat of seven candidates in the debate, I wasn't able to get back in to say it is that I abhor many of the decisions taken in the mismanagement of the country by the previous governments, not by the rank and file of the party.

"We all know the decisions that were made, the overheating, the mismanagement of the economy, simple things like the withdrawal of medical cards, it was absolutely absurd - it was against ordinary elderly people who deserve much better and I make that point unreservedly."

Mr Gallagher said when he resigned earlier this year, he did so because he was "disillusioned that the party had moved away from the grassroots" and this had been acknowledged by party leader, Micheál Martin who apologised for it.

Asked about Dana Rosemary Scallon's statement regarding "untrue, vile and malicious" allegations regarding a family member, Mr Gallagher said he felt for her and believed that the media and others should not focus on personal family matters in the campaign.

"I spoke to Dana, and I have to say I stand in solidarity with her in terms of personal issues she is facing, and I would like to send a very clear message out to everyone in the media and elsewhere that there may be issues in people's personal lives that just are personal.

"I would not like to see for the interest of entertainment or newsworthiness, people's personal lives being dragged into this so I feel today for Dana - Dana will deal with whatever issues she has to but I think we need a degree of compassion at this time."

Canvassing in Cork, Mr Gallagher quickly called into his question his protestation that he was not a politician, as flanked by around 30 blue T-shirted supporters, he breezed through the English Market, shaking hands and greeting unsuspecting shoppers like a seasoned politico.

Fishmonger Pat O'Connell, who famously made Queen Elizabeth II laugh heartily when she visited the Market in May, welcomed Mr Gallagher to his stall where he provided him with a white tunic to keep protect his suit as he lifted up a hefty turbot to pose for photographs.

"I like him - he's one of three that I'm thinking of voting for at the moment - I watched the debate the other night - I didn't think anyone was outstanding, they were all trying to play it safe but I thought Miriam played a blinder," said Mr O'Connell.

Six of the seven presidential candidates canvassed across the country today. Ms Scallon, who launched a broadside at the media at the end of the RTÉ presidential debate, did not go out on the campaign trail.

Senator David Norris said today he had comforted Ms Scallon after the debate, but as he did not know what her statement was about, he could not comment on it.

Mr Norris was speaking at the Famine Memorial in Dublin’s financial quarter, the IFSC, where he called for recent immigrants to be given the right to vote. He said 120,000 people had left the country in the last three years, equivalent to the population of Cork.