Businessman Seán Gallagher insists that the race to become President is not yet over even though Michael D Higgins appears to be assured of victory.
“Campaigns matter. I’m living proof that unprecedented things happen during elections,” he said. “I am focused on my own campaign and setting out my stall and vision to the people of Ireland,” he said.
He was speaking after a new opinion poll revealed Michael D Higgins holds a near-unassailable lead in the race to be the country’s next President.
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, shows that the next nearest contender is Seán Gallagher at 14%. No other candidate has support of more than 6%.
The full results are as follows: Michael D Higgins is on 70%; Seán Gallagher is on 14%; Joan Freeman is on 6%; Liadh Ní Riada is on 5%; Gavin Duffy is on 4%, and Peter Casey is on 1%.
Michael D Higgins has 58% of Fianna Fáil voters, 78% of Fine Gael voters, 85% of Labour voters, 55% of Sinn Féin voters, and 85% of Independent Candidate voters.
Support for the incumbent is particularly popular among young people, the poll suggests, with the results showing a potential first preference vote of 83% in the 18 to 34-year-old group.
More than three-quarters of Fine Gael and Labour supporters back President Higgins for a second term, according to the results, as well as a majority of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin voters.
The poll shows that there is an ‘overwhelming consensus’ of 89% that there should be a full and detailed account of the expenditure within the office of the presidency.
Last month it emerged that the office of the President receives an allowance of €317,000, on top of the presidential salary.
Speaking on Newstalk to presenter Pat Kenny, President Higgins insisted that no salary of an employee was increased from the discretionary allowance: “That’s absolutely an untruth — it is completely untrue. Every single item has been spent entirely in relation to the function of the presidency.”
He insisted he is fitter now than he was seven years ago when he contested and won the presidency in 2011: “I am in fact reading better, writing better, and physically I am much fitter than I was seven years ago.”
Mr Gallagher formally launched his presidential campaign yesterday, insisting that he has the right attributes to be a successor to President Higgins.
Reacting to the opinion polls so far, Mr Gallagher, who finished second in the 2011 race after polls gave him an early lead, said unprecedented things can happen in a campaign.
He observed: “A journalist made the comment that something unprecedented would have to happen, potentially, in this election given her views of the poll.”
He suggested that as the October 26 vote draws nearer, people will begin to engage and consider “what sort of Ireland they want over the next seven years”.