Kevin Sharkey’s presidential vision includes ‘red-haired girls playing harps’

Hopefuls Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Jimmy Smyth and Sharkey make presentations in Kildare

Presidential hopefuls travelled to Kildare on Monday to pitch their campaign promises.

Four candidates – Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Jimmy Smyth and Kevin Sharkey – made presentations to county councillors in Naas in a bid to secure their nomination for presidency.

Businessman Gavin Duffy pushed home the point that he was born in Kildare. His mother ran a successful business in Naas before opening another in Drogheda. "No pressure, but I'm really looking for a vote from my county of birth," he said.

When asked about corruption, he said one of the planks of his campaign was integrity.“I don’t think there is anything that can be found in my past that will cause embarrassment to me or my children, in my business or personal life.”


He said he and his wife, Orlaith, had taken out a mortgage on their home to pay for the campaign. “I’m proceeding with this with conviction.”

Senator Joan Freeman, the founder of Pieta House, said she would like to be known as “the listening president” if elected. “I will open doors in the Áras and welcome every single social issue so I can be the voice and conscience of people in this country.”

She was asked about how she thought she would fare against other international leaders such as Donald Trump and how she would spend her €250,000 salary.

“I think I’d be well able for Trump,” she said. “I think I’d be well able for anybody who wants to talk to me about anything.”

She promised to donate part of her president’s salary to create a recognition award for volunteers, similar to OBEs in Britain.


Mr Smyth, a musician and lecturer, told councillors he wants artists and dreamers rather than bankers and developers to have VIP status in Ireland.

Asked how he would secure a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil vote, he said he had no party affiliations and was simply "a citizen running for president".

He said his focus would be on the promotion of the arts. “I know I’m an outsider but believe me, I’ve something different to bring to this.”

Mr Sharkey, an artist, recounted his story of growing up in Donegal and the institutional abuse he had suffered. "The mettle of a man is surely the most important thing in any role," said Mr Sharkey.

He criticised how motorways have cut off small rural towns and suggested opening Famine villages to draw tourists. All villages should have a girl with red hair playing a harp in the corner, someone cooking cabbage or someone burying someone outside like they used to do in the old days, he said. “This is a gold nugget that we are sitting on.”

County councillors promised to allow further candidates an opportunity to address them on another date before making their nomination.