Seán Gallagher says voters will not engage until closer to polling day

Businessman shrugs off poll findings: ‘I am living proof unprecedented things happen’

Seán Gallagher held the official launch of his Presidential campaign in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

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Seán Gallagher has dismissed suggestions that the Presidential campaign is essentially over, arguing voters will only begin to fully engage with it over the next two weeks.

At the official launch of his campaign in Dublin on Friday he was asked if something unprecedented needed to happen for him to overcome the lead enjoyed by President Michael D Higgins in the polls.

“I am living proof that many unprecedented things happen,” he replied, referring to the pivotal Frontline debate days before the 2011 election.

“The campaign proper is happening. People will begin to reflect on what is important for the next seven years, what level of energy and dynamism that will be required.

“That is up to the good people of Ireland and that is what is great about democracy.”

Asked about a opinion poll today that showed some 70 per cent support for Mr Higgins, Mr Gallagher repeated his view the campaign proper would begin in the final two weeks of the campaign.

He also said he would not criticise any of his opponents during the campaign, including during the three broadcast debates in which he has agreed to participate.

Asked if he would be willing to point out the shortcomings of opponents during the debates, he responded: “This is one of the downfall of politics. It’s one of the reasons of being turned off by politics.

“My life has been about overcoming my own challenges. It does not involve running down any of the opponents.

“You will not find me criticising other candidates. It is about encouraging others to come forward.”

He said he had to believe every other candidate was motivated by the same reason. “Why would I criticise that. Everybody has the opportunity to present their vision of Ireland,” he said.

At the launch in the Shelbourne Hotel on Friday, he also outlined the role his visual impairment has played in his life.

Mr Gallagher spoke of being born with congenital cataracts that left him with very impaired vision, and the effect it has had on his life.

He said that as a child because he could not read the small print in books and teachers thought he was a slow learner.

Because of that, he does not rely on scripts rather than on memory and visual prompts, written out in large print, 34 point Aria, on many sheets of paper. He said when making his first presentation to Leitrim County Council there was no podium and nowhere for him to hide his paper, but he overcame his nervousness by remembering the responsibility he has to his daughter, Lucy, who also has the congenital condition.

“We want to create an Ireland where we nurture the vulnerable and champion the strengths of all citizens,” he said.

“I am committed to shape a society that respects all our citizens equally.”

Turning to President Michael D Higgins, he said Mr Higgins been an “inspired politician who had given a lifetime to public service. “I think he has done a good job”. [BUT]Ireland has changed now. I do not seek to be a replacement and to be his successor to continue on the good work that he has done.”

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