Seán Gallagher will not take part in first presidential debate

Joan Freeman says she will reveal identities of backers who loaned campaign €120,000

Presidential nominee Peter Casey has called a recent security incident at Áras an Uachtaráin, where an intruder entered the residence, "a bit of a coincidence" as he and Seán Gallagher submit their nomination papers ahead of the election.


Former Dragons’ Den investor Seán Gallagher has said he will not take part in the first presidential election debate because President Michael D Higgins will not be involved.

A spokesman for Mr Higgins this week said the President could not participate in the RTÉ Radio One debate on Thursday as he is “constrained” by pre-existing diary commitments.

Submitting his nomination papers on Tuesday, Mr Gallagher said he would not be participating in the debate due to Mr Higgins being absent.

He said the “situation could easily have been avoided had RTÉ contacted the office of the President to find out if indeed the President was available on these scheduled dates”.

“Perhaps what we do now is not concentrate on this debate, but on the lessons that can be learned going forward, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” said Mr Gallagher, who was accompanied by his wife Trish and their children.

Speaking about what had changed since his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2011, the former Dragons’ Den panellist said: “I think Ireland has changed in the last seven years, our lives have certainly changed, we have two small children Bobby and Lucy, and our focus is in shaping a future that they will be happy to grow up in.”

Senator Joan Freeman said she would participate in the debate as it was “up to me to tell the people of Ireland what I stand for and how I stand for it, regardless of who else is going to be debating”.

‘Important job’

“The way I look at the presidential role, I’m applying for a really important job, and if I was applying for a job anywhere else I wouldn’t really care what the other candidates applying for the job are doing,” she said.

Ms Freeman, who also lodged her nomination papers on Tuesday, confirmed she would release the names of donors behind €120,000 in loans made to her campaign in the coming days.

“They are Irish, and they are based in America, but they are Irish business people who have helped me in the past,” she said, adding that the identities would be disclosed after she informed her backers of the move “out of courtesy”.

Meanwhile, Peter Casey, another former Dragons’ Den investor seeking to become president, said the timing of a recent security incident during which an intruder entered Áras an Uachtaráin and confronted Mr Higgins was “a bit convenient”.

Speaking to media outside the Custom House after he submitted his nomination papers, Mr Casey said he had “no idea” who the intruder could be.

“I think we go seven years without an intruder and then the week before the election kicks off we get an intruder . . . It’s a little bit of a coincidence rather, not convenient,” he said.

A security review is underway into the incident, where a woman drove through the front gate of the presidential residence, walked in the front door and confronted Mr Higgins, who was working in his office at the time.

Mr Casey joked he was “surprised” that Mr Higgins did not “wrestle” the intruder to the floor.

The other candidates are Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada and Louth businessman Gavin Duffy, who was also a Dragons’ Den investor.