Latest: Sean Gallagher calls for presidential expenditure audit

Presidential candidate Sean Gallagher says he will urge the government to carry out an annual audit of presidential expenditure if he is elected.

Speaking in Dublin today at his official campaign launch, Mr Gallagher also announced he had made a voluntary disclosure to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

“While it is not legally required, I believe that in doing so is in the interests of transparency and befitting the office,” he said.

Áras an Uachtarain (Niall Carson/PA)

“If honoured to be elected, I would urge the government to carry out an annual audit of all expenditure associated with the office of President.”

Mr Gallagher’s announcement comes after transparency on spending in the Áras has been criticised after a Public Accounts Committee hearing revealed there is an allowance of €317,000 that is not audited.

In his SIPO declaration, his main occupations are listed as directorships of four businesses: Sean Gallagher Business Matters, Heart Metabolics Ltd, HWT Engineering and Clyde Real Estate Management.

In total, Mr Gallagher listed 24 companies of which he is a director, he has stated that he has stepped back from all his business roles in his bid to be president.

“Our legal team are working to divested all my business interests and shares, so that is not an issue which will arise,” he said.

Mr Gallagher has been criticised for being largely absent from Irish public life since his failed presidential bid in 2011, despite two major referendums in state.

“I have been very active in public life, I said in 2011 I would do for jobs what Mary McAleese did for the peace process.

“For those seven years I’ve continued to work in business, I’ve continued to mentor and coach, I’ve continued to promote SMEs.

“If we’re going to have a caring society, you do need hospitals and roads and schools, and that takes wealth.

“Wealth is created by small businesses and more importantly keeps our young people in areas where whole swathes of the country have not yet experienced the recovery, that to me has been incredible public service,” he said.

When asked why he hasn’t run as a member of parliament, where he would have more opportunity to create legislation and contribute to policy, Mr Gallagher said he believes the office of president sets a tone.

“With regard to making a contribution, I’ve always been a person of action.

“I believe the role of President is unique in this context, it is above party politics.

“It’s not as much about legislation, as it is about imagination.”

During the launch Mr Gallagher said as president he would encourage more women into public life, claiming the reason there were not more female politicians was a lack of role models like former president Mary Robinson.

When pushed, he did not elaborate on how he personally would remedy this.

Other points included in the launch were a United Ireland, which he says can be reached through community engagement.

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

The tweet from a fake Martin McGuinness Twitter account alleged Mr Gallagher, who was once a member of political party Fianna Fáil, collected campaign funds on the party’s behalf.

Mr Gallagher received “substantial” damages and an apology from RTÉ in a settlement against the state broadcaster.- Press Association

President Higgins leads Áras race with 70% support; denies spending claims

By Daniel McConnell

Michael D Higgins holds a near-unassailable lead in the race to be the country's next President, a new opinion poll reveals.

A Red C poll carried out for Paddy Power shows that support for Mr Higgins is running at 70%, more than double the combined support for all other candidates.

The poll, based on a nationwide sample of 1,000 people over the age of 18, showed the next nearest contender is Sean Gallagher at 14%.

No other candidate has support of more than 6%.

Of those polled 8% were undecided and these were not included in the results.

The full results are as follows:

  • Michael D. Higgins is on 70%
  • Sean Gallagher is on 14%
  • Joan Freeman is on 6%
  • Liadh Ní Riada is on 5%
  • Gavin Duffy is on 4%
  • Peter Casey is on 1%

Michael D Higgins has 58% of Fianna Fáil voters, 78% of Fine Gael voters and 85% of Labour voters, 55% of Sinn Féin voters and 85% of Independent Candidate voters.

Liadh Ní Riada is the Sinn Féin presidential candidate. Fianna Fáil have not fielded a candidate.

Meanwhile, President Higgins has labelled claims the salary of an employee in the Áras was enhanced at his discretion, "an untruth."

Last month it emerged the office of the President receives an allowance of €317,000, on top of the Presidential salary.

President Michael D Higgins insists no salary of an employee was increased from the discretionary allowance.

"That's absolutely an untruth, it is completely untrue," said President Higgins.

Every single item has, in fact, been spent entirely in relation to the function of the presidency and to associate it with costs not provided otherwise in the vote.


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