“This is not a trophy for political parties”

He came for a haircut, but in the end presidential candidate Sean Gallagher arrived and departed Longford town last week having given a hairdryer treatment of his own.

He came for a haircut, but in the end presidential candidate Sean Gallagher arrived and departed Longford town last week having given a hairdryer treatment of his own.

The independent hopeful stopped off for a whistle-stop tour of local grocery chain, Supervalu to meet with voters and immediately went on the offensive ahead of this October’s presidential election.

Flanked either side by his wife, Trish and local Fianna Fáil county councillor, Martin Mulleady, the Cavan businessman looked relaxed and self-assured as he strolled and conversed with shoppers inside Davis’ Supervalu last Wednesday afternoon.

After flicking through a copy of last week’s Leader, Mr Gallagher smiled as he agreed to take part in a novel ‘presidential haircut’ initiative, orchestrated by Margaret Mulvill of Zara Hair Salon.

“I suppose that’s what you can call it-short, back and sides,” he laughed amid a scrum of awaiting photographers.

A little later, Mr Gallagher took time to reflect on the past few weeks which has seen no less than five local authorities, including Longford give notice of their intent to back his presidential campaign.

“The (Longford County) Council has given its intent and I would be confident that will be followed through. One of the key things that has been evident in the polls over the last few months is that the people want to see independents in the race.”

Asked about his views on the candidacy of high profile candidates such as David Norris and Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell, Mr Gallagher opted to shift the focus on to the broader presidential debate.

“I am very focused on my own campaign,” he said bluntly. “It’s very early on in the race to be looking at the polls other than the fact that this is not a trophy for political parties. It (presidency) should be outside politics and I think that is the message people are clearly giving.”

The star of Dragons’ Den was just as quick-witted when the conversation switched to reservations his campaign was becoming too caught up by business and economic issues.

“You would know me as an entrepreneur or would you know anything else about me?” he asked the Leader. “I started in agriculture and worked with the agricultural Bailieboro co-op and bought my first farm when I was 21, so I am probably the only candidate in this race who probably had their own herd number.”

He was reflective when asked about the recent decision by the county council in his native Cavan to vote down his nomination.

“It doesn’t reflect the real feeling of the Fine Gael councillors and the people of the county who contacted me in their hundreds to give me their support,” he said.

And as for what citizens of this country can expect should the Gallagher name strike a chord with voters in around 12 weeks time, his message was simplistic but equally emphatic in its delivery.

“To me it’s (presidency) not just about business, it’s about enterprise and job creation. Lots of people would say to me the presidency has no function, my answer to them is nowhere in the constitution did it lay down that any president would have a role in building peace on the island, but Mary McAleese did. What I am saying is that if the next president is to be relevant it has to be related to the current issues that are facing our country and that is our economy, our international reputation, restoring confidence and building communities.”