Joan Freeman 'very curious' about why three Dragons' Den stars are running for presidency

Joan Freeman 'very curious' about why three Dragons' Den stars are running for presidency

Presidential candidate Joan Freeman has questioned the motivation behind some of the candidates' decisions to run for president.

Senator Freeman said she was sceptical of the reasons behind the three Dragons' Den stars entering the race for Áras an Uachtarain at the same time.

Ms Freeman said: “I’m curious, very curious, of the coincidence of three Dragons running together. They are friends even though they may say that they are not.”

She added: “They must have spoken to each other beforehand.”

The founder of suicide prevention service Pieta House said she was a business person, just like presidential hopefuls Sean Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey, but she believed that her entrepreneurial acumen was not always acknowledged.

“I started something, just like them, started an organisation from scratch, and built it to what it is now,” she said.

“The difference between them and me is that I had nothing to sell.”

The mother-of-four set up Pieta House in 2006. To do so, she said she borrowed €130,000 and had to give her family home as collateral before the bank would agree to release the funds.

Since then, the charity has helped more than 20,000 people and it now operates in 15 locations across the country, with a total of 280 staff.

The Independent senator also established the Darkness Into Light walk, which raises money for self-harm prevention.

More than 200,000 people took part in the last event.

The presidential hopeful also set up Pieta House New York, now renamed Solace House, to help the Irish diaspora in the US, but she has now stepped away from both organisations.

Ms Freeman said if she was elected president she would be able to make the changes in society she would like to see without the government’s help.

One of the aims of her presidency is to improve the overall well-being and mental health of Irish citizens.

She said she had spotted a “massive need” for a suicide intervention service a decade ago and that the people of Ireland had got behind her.

“We didn’t need the government to do that, they wouldn’t have done it,” she said.

She said people could be encouraged and empowered to make changes in their own community.

“We have counties that are neglected, that are forgotten,” she said.

“We need to stop waiting for the Government to do anything. Need to encourage the community.”

She added: “While it’s wonderful people can come to the Áras, I want to go out. I want to go out to the communities, to the towns and villages of every county.”

Ms Freeman said she believed President Michael D Higgins was “exactly” the right person for the job seven years ago, but that was no longer the case.

“I want to be active and energetic. My track record has proved I am active, I’m an activist and I want to bring that activist streak in me around the country,” she said.

Irish presidential candidate Sean Gallagher made an unsuccessful bid in 2011 (Aoife Moore/PA)
Irish presidential candidate Sean Gallagher made an unsuccessful bid in 2011 (Aoife Moore/PA)

But if she fails in her bid, Ms Freeman said she would not run for a second time, unlike rival candidate Mr Gallagher, who was unsuccessful in 2011.

Ms Freeman said: “I wouldn’t run again if I wasn’t successful because the people had a choice, they made that choice. If they didn’t choose me, why would I put myself forward again?”

She said she did not know why Mr Gallagher had decided to do so.

The businessman was considered a front-runner in the 2011 presidential race until an incident involving a fake tweet during a live TV debate saw his polling numbers plummet.

He later received “substantial” damages and an apology from RTE in a settlement against the state broadcaster.

“I think he might be hurt, maybe that’s why he’s going again,” said Ms Freeman.

- Press Association

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