Nine potential presidential candidates made pitches to Galway City Council

Sean Gallagher says he is not seeking to ‘replace’ President Higgins but to ‘carry on with the great work he had undertaken’

Sean Gallagher at Galway City Hall  where he was seeking a nomination to run as a candidate for the  presidency. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Sean Gallagher at Galway City Hall where he was seeking a nomination to run as a candidate for the presidency. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Galway City Council will vote on Monday on nominations for the presidential election after nine potential candidates made pitches at a five-hour meeting on Thursday evening.

Businessman Sean Gallagher said he was not seeking to “replace” President Michael D Higgins, but wished to be his “successor” and “carry on with the great work he had undertaken” for the past seven years. He was speaking to councillors at a specially convened session in Galway City Hall.

His priorities would include launching a year of disability from December 3rd this year which would focus on the 900,000 people across Ireland with a disability, along with their carers and families.

Reiterating his presentation to Leitrim County Council earlier this week on the 2011 campaign, Mr Gallagher said he had taken a subsequent legal case against RTÉ over a tweet read out during the final debate “for everyone in Ireland who was brave enough to stand for public office”.

“What I should have said [on RTÉ’s Frontline] that night is that fundraising is the work of every political party, and that the fundraising I was involved in was legitimate,” Mr Gallagher said. “Mine was a costly mistake, and a very public one.”

Pressed by Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely to state how much the cost to the taxpayer had been in damages awarded to him, Mr Gallagher said he had been “gagged by RTÉ” from disclosing the sum.

Mental health

Senator and Pieta House charity founder Joan Freeman said Ireland had one of the highest records of teenage suicide in Europe, and a 500 per cent increase in prescriptions to children for mental health .

She said there was a serious issue with isolation of older people, and she would hope to use the Pieta House model to mobilise communities.

“President Higgins gave us dignity...Mary Robinson became a voice for the dispossessed and the diaspora...Mary McAleese built bridges,”she said, and “I want to show as a nation that we are not afraid to take on mental health”.

Businessman Peter Casey said he had the global contacts and the passion to do the job, and referred to the “powerful pride” which “the Irish abroad feel every day”.

He said Ireland comprised not just the 6 million people living here but the 70 million around the world. Technology could help to create a “potent movement” involving the Irish diaspora.

Journalist Gemma O’Doherty said Irish people were being affected by “scandal fatigue”.She said she did not believe Ireland had a free press.

Second term

Ms O’Doherty said Mr Higgins had “misled the Irish people” in opting to run for a second term. “I think an awful lot of people feel he has not spoken enough on behalf of citizens. He is not in touch with the pain that it out there.”

Also addressing Galway City Council were Marie Goretti Moylan, Patrick Feeney, Sarah Louise Mulligan and James Smyth.

Presidential hopefuls need four council nominations or the backing of 20 Oireachtas members to get a place on the ballot paper for the October 26th election.