Sean Gallagher promises action on emigration and Irish abroad
Irish presidential frontrunner reveals his close US links
When Sean Gallagher,49, began running for president of Ireland he was a 40/1 outsider.
Next week he will likely be odds-on favorite to become Ireland's ninth president. It is an extraordinary turnaround, one of the greatest in Irish political history. Gallagher has come from nowhere to lead by 12 points in the latest opinion poll.
To hear him tell it, however, he always believed that it could happen, though he knows he is still not past the finish line.
Though he was well known for his role on Dragon's Den, a reality TV series, and as a successful entrepreneur, he had never run for political office.
Born severely sight impaired and still with restricted vision, he faced long odds from the start.
But in the presidential race he has simply outworked all his opponents, some of them household names. He proved his mettle by visiting almost every county in Ireland in order to get on the campaign ballot paper.
He spent months traversing the highways and byways of Ireland and came back deeply informed on what the Irish people wanted in their next president.
They wanted the role of president to be relevant again, one that “dealt with half a million people unemployed and emigration taking the lifeblood of many communities --- they wanted someone to deal with those types of issues,” Gallagher told irishcentral.com from Dublin.
He was talking the language of the Irish people. While the other contenders endlessly debated the esoteric meaning of the presidency, he acted on his gut instinct that the people wanted straight talk, not philosophy, and to see a president who cared about the issues today.
Gallagher’s background of overcoming hurdles augurs well for him in his race for the presidency.
Originally from Cavan, near the border, he became a youth and community worker and says his formative experience on emigration came at an early age.
That was when his successful minor football team in the early1980s disappeared overnight as an economic crisis hit and half the team emigrated to America.
Sensation as newcomer Sean Gallagher leads race for Irish presidency
He understood then the loneliness of emigration, not just for those who left but the many families left devastated.
If elected president Gallagher promises to make emigrant issues a key priority.
“I know there are thousands who left not of their own accord. I want to build and rebuild links with them to make them feel they're still a part of us still a part of our people,” Gallagher said.
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