Businessman and TV personality Gavin Duffy will formally enter the presidential race within a week after leaning heavily on Fianna Fáil to allow councillors to nominate a contender for the role.
Well-placed sources confirmed the Dragon’s Den panelist will launch his campaign early next week as speculation intensified last night over rival Seán Gallagher after he wrote again to councillors saying the next president must be business and Brexit focussed.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner after Independent senator Gerard Craughwell pulled out of the race, claiming he is a “pauper” who could end up €200,000 out of pocket if he loses, sources close to Mr Duffy confirmed his intention to run.
They said that after contacting Fianna Fáil figures in order to encourage them to allow party councillors to nominate Independent candidates, Mr Duffy believes he now has enough support and will confirm his plans after a meeting with Waterford County Council next Monday.
Mr Duffy’s move came as rival Dragon’s Den panelist and 2011 presidential candidate Mr Gallagher wrote to councillors for the second time to strongly indicate he wants to run.
While not specifically saying he will make a second bid for the Áras this autumn, Mr Gallagher last night wrote that he has received messages from councillors across the country who he said want a president more actively engaged in business and Brexit issues.
The businessman from Co Cavan, an area that risks being badly damaged by Brexit, also said in the letter that his previous call for councillors to open up nominations to independents was not designed to benefit anyone in particular.
The growing speculation over Mr Duffy and Mr Gallagher came as Mr Craughwell pulled out of the race citing the sheer scale of money needed to run a campaign.
“I was the only fella who was a pauper running,” he told the Irish Examiner, saying he could not risk losing up to €200,000 by running.
Mr Craughwell insisted yesterday that he would have had enough support to run. He said the local authorities who would have backed him included Galway, Kilkenny, Kerry, Waterford and Donegal county councils.
It is understood he was contacted by Mr Duffy about his intentions in recent days, but has chosen not to formally back another candidate.