Connell and Casey clarify their candidate support

Two independent councillors who supported Dragons Den judge Sean Gallagher’s bid for the Presidency have dismissed suggestions they reversed an earlier decision to back fellow independent candidate David Norris.

Two independent councillors who supported Dragons Den judge Sean Gallagher’s bid for the Presidency have dismissed suggestions they reversed an earlier decision to back fellow independent candidate David Norris.

Cllrs Mark Casey and Paul Connell last week joined Fianna Fail by voting in favour of Mr Gallagher, six weeks after Mr Norris addressed Longford County Council members for support.

It had been rumoured at the time both Cllrs were willing to side with Mr Norris’s election bid after the independent senator visited Longford last month.

All that changed last week however as Cllr Casey and Cllr Connell chose to vote in favour of Mr Gallagher.

Reacting to the news this week Cllr Casey rubbished suggestions he opted to support the Cavan businessman because Fianna Fail were doing likewise.

“I only ever proposed that David Norris could come and talk to the council,” he said. “At the time Paddy Belton (Fine Gael Cllr) stood up to say Fine Gael would be voting against David Norris. Sean Gallagher came out and met me to secure my vote and I made a certain decision that I would be supporting him.”

Mr Gallagher’s strong business background allied to his work with local community groups were key factors in his decision to support the Smarthomes founder, said Cllr Casey.

Pressed about whether his support had been influenced by local Fianna Fail council members, Cllr Casey replied: “A decision had to be made with Paul (Cllr Connell) in the chair. Let me make this clear though, Fianna Fail supported me. I didn’t support Fianna Fail.”

His independent colleague and outgoing county mayor, Cllr Connell took a similar stance as he hit out at the “negative” tactics employed by Fine Gael.

“We had enough (support) to put somebody through and I believe a horse is entitled to get into the starting stalls. Fine Gael didn’t want to let anyone else in. That was one of the reasons that made me vote for (Mr) Gallagher,” he said.

Mr Gallagher’s presidential hopes were, meanwhile, given a massive lift this week as Clare, Roscommon and Donegal County Councils joined Longford by provisionally giving their support to his candidacy.

The result means Mr Gallagher is now the first independent candidate to secure declarations of intent from four local authorities, the minimum required to be formally adopted as a presidential candidate.