Duffy’s only regret is losing over €100,000 in election campaign

‘Casey was throwing grenades repeatedly. One of them was going to explode and it did’

Dragons’ Den presidential election candidate Gavin Duffy has said his only regret in the campaign was losing money.

The businessman, who looks set to finish with the fewest votes of all six presidential candidates, said: “Any time you lose money you’ve a regret. That’s a regret,” he said. Pressed about how much the campaign cost him, he said it was “definitely over €100,000”.

A candidate must secure at least 12.5 per cent of the votes to be able to reclaim their expenses.

On the basis of the exit polls and first results, only Michael D Higgins and Peter Casey will reach this threshold. Mr Higgins is set to be re-elected on the first count with exit polls and first results giving him 58 per cent support.


"I am disappointed when you contest and you don't really compete at the end of the day but no regrets and I'm saying that genuinely," Mr Duffy said on Saturday.

Asked where his campaign went wrong, he said: “well it didn’t go right I’d say”.

Mr Duffy said he did not find the campaign “bruising”. It was a “test of your values and your character”. He added: “I would be really annoyed if I hadn’t contested”.

He noted “one candidate, by mentioning a minority, you can see how that grabs headlines”.

Speaking to reporters as he arrived at Dublin Castle for the count on Saturday he said: “I’m the only person in the country who isn’t surprised by Peter (Casey) and the performance”.

He questioned whether there was a strategy to Mr Casey’s campaign. “If there was a strategy you’d have to attribute some evil genius to him, which I don’t think he deserves.

“He was throwing grenades repeatedly. One of them was going to explode and it did and it drove him up in the polls.”

Mr Duffy said five of the six candidates “did not go to that area of populism. We have a President with a socialist track record being returned with a handsome majority.”

He said: “I look back on the campaign and I don’t think I did anything very wrong. I just didn’t do enough things to connect with the people of Ireland.”

But Mr Duffy quipped he was “concerned” that he liked “much of the cut and thrust of it”.

As a result, he did not rule out running for public office again but “I think there’s a perception amongst the public that it’s a bit audacious that the first office you run for is the head of State.... there’s two things in life, you either succeed or you learn.”

He was worried at the trends in other parts of the world where people start picking on minorities. “The very reason I entered that was to avoid that.”

He called on the Traveller community to not exaggerate the response to comments about them.

Mr Duffy said “it just played to the frustrations that some people feel out there. I don’t think it’s a specific minority issue.”

He said his son had sent him a message that “he was proud of his parents, what we’d done and that we didn’t go to certain places”.

Mr Duffy said he was very positive about Ireland’s future “as long as we don’t go the route of other countries like the US, the UK and parts of Europe that’s emerging and we saw a little bit of that in this election. But it didn’t grab the wind the way it has elsewhere.”

Today “was about President Higgins winning a fantastic result, going back with a strong mandate for the next seven years, even though I contested him on that,” Mr Duffy said.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times