Presidential challenger Sean Gallagher blames an RTÉ TV programme for changing the outcome of the 2011 race for the Park, but denies being bitter about the controversy.
The former Dragons’ Den panellist launched an attack on the broadcaster as he made his first public appearance since announcing his second attempt to get elected. He appealed for nominations to enter the race.
The Cavan businessman was speaking at Leitrim County Council, where councillors put forward motions to nominate him to get on the ballot paper for the election. He spoke after the meeting about RTÉ’s apology and court settlement with him over the 2011 Frontline debate.
I think the recent High Court action and RTÉ’s apology speak for themselves,” said Mr Gallagher. “I believe that the Frontline programme changed the 2011 election. I’m not drawing a conclusion as to what it is. All I am doing is putting the facts out there of the RTÉ High Court apology.
He thanked those who had voted for him before and also apologised to those who supported him, including councillors, over his “failings”.
“I could have and should have done better, but the circumstances of a dogmatic, repeated, confrontational, false accusation caused me to stumble momentarily,” he said. “And for that, I regret and I am sorry.”
The RTÉ TV debate drew controversy over a false tweet read out to Mr Gallagher relating to his previous role as fundraiser for Fianna Fáil. Mr Gallagher said this “threw” him on the night.
However, he denied he is still bitter.
It is not about anger or annoyance,” said Mr Gallagher. “It is about setting the record straight. It isn’t about me, it is about anybody who stands for election in public office has to have the confidence that they will be treated fairly by the national broadcaster.
He said he is running again as an Independent candidate, proud of his Fianna Fáil background.
The council will reconvene next Monday and decide on motions to nominate Mr Gallagher.
During the meeting with councillors, Mr Gallagher pledged to prioritise raising concerns about the marginalised. He outlined initiatives to support the disabled, including a work placement scheme. The arts would also be prioritised and he pledged to visit Irish peacekeepers abroad if elected.
Fellow ‘Dragon’ Peter Casey also attended the meeting. He said Ireland’s neutrality is “outdated” as he called on the country to align itself with Nato.
I think neutrality is an outdated concept in this 21st century that we are in,” said Mr Casey. “We have to align ourselves with the international community. We are obviously European and we have alliances with America.
Mr Casey also said that, if elected, he would give US president Donald Trump a “warm welcome” when he visits Ireland in November. Mr Casey also proposes selling passports to the diaspora for €300 for each document. This potentially could raise hundreds of millions of euro, he said.
Celebrity impersonator and pro-life candidate Sarah Louise Mulligan said she would donate part of the president’s salary to crisis pregnancy agencies if elected.
Former airline worker Patrick Feeney called for active tourism measures and new rail routes, which he pledged to promote if elected.