Three ‘Dragons’ in presidential race ‘very strange’, says programme producer

Larry Bass, producer of Dragons’ Den, says ‘ego plays factor’ in seeking nomination

The chief executive of the TV production company behind Dragons’ Den has said it is “very strange” that three people from the programme should seek to join the presidential race.

Larry Bass of Shinawil, which produces the reality TV programme broadcast on RTÉ, said the interest of "Dragons" Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey in becoming president was in line with them being people who are "good with people and can read people".

He said he was “waiting to see who else is going to join them”, speculating whether other “Dragons” might join the race.

“They have always been people who have strong and passionate views, so it isn’t surprising that they have thrown their hats in the ring,” he said in an interview.

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Ego played a factor too, he said, saying that it was “a prerequisite” to becoming involved in politics.

“You have to have a thick skin as well. You have to have ambition. I don’t think anyone can have a successful political career, be it at this level with some level of ego that drives that ambition,” he said.

Dragons’ Den producing three potential presidential nominees and another reality TV show, The Apprentice helping build Donald Trump’s profile in the US, reflected the power of television as a medium.

“Television isn’t dead yet,” he said. “Television is still the best way to talk to a broad, mass audience.”

Mr Bass predicted a hard-fought campaign should the three men win presidential nominations.

“All three will be formidable. They will never shirk away from debate or discussion, or difficult issues, and they will seek our searching questions of everyone else in the field,” he said.

“They are successful businesspeople who have the battle scars of big business that proves it is tough out there. They didn’t get where they are by being pussycats. This is a campaign in which people will have to put on their suits of armour.”

Mr Bass put President Michael D Higgins as favourite but said Mr Gallagher had a "score to settle" after the 2011 election, which the TV producer believes he would have won had RTÉ not read out a fake tweet during a televised presidential debate.

“He is definitely going to have learned from that experience,” he said.

Mr Duffy, he said, had “extraordinary ability” in one-to-one conversations with people and could relate to rural voters as “a man of the country”. He had built up a strong nationwide network of contacts too, he said.

“If both of them get the nomination, it will be very, very close between the two of them and Michael D,” he said. “You could throw a blanket over the three of them and it will be all down to transfers.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent