Three presidential candidates attend charity representative body event

People are the most important, says Senator Joan Freeman

Harry McGee follows former Dragon and businessman Gavin Duffy on the campaign trail. Video: Kathleen Harris

 

Pieta House founder Independent Senator Joan Freeman said she would “champion” older people and “nurture children” if elected president of Ireland.

The suicide charity founder was one of three presidential candidates to speak at an event organised by the Wheel, the national association of community and voluntary organisations.

Businessman Gavin Duffy and Sinn Féin candidate Liadh Ní Riada, also set out their stall at the event. President Michael D Higgins was unable to attend because of a prior campaign engagement, event organisers said.

Businessman Seán Gallagher did not attend because, the organisers said, of his “previously stated position” that he would only attend hustings events if all candidates were present, while fellow businessman Peter Casey had been in contact “but then we didn’t hear from him again” they said.

Ms Freeman said she wanted to be a champion of all communities, but particularly older people and children.

“We need to champion our older people. I also want to nurture our children,” she said. “While our country has been building up the economy we have forgotten the most important people, and that is people.”

Mr Duffy said he wanted to see an easing of the bureaucratic and regulatory burden on charities.

“There was a time people appreciated that we were out there doing good and now suddenly in a world of compliance and regulation, it’s ‘what did you do wrong?’,” he said. “It starts off with blue sky thinking ends up with a lot of red tape.”

Ms Ní Riada said “Irish unity” would be the “centrepiece” of her presidency.

“I think the next great debate will be about Irish unity and I think we need to start that conversation,” she said.

“The future of this great country will be built on our glorious diversity and an equal society for women and men, citizens of all abilities and disabilities, settled and Traveller, LGBT and straight, young and old, black and white, orange and green,” she said.