Presidential frontrunner Sean Gallagher has come under new scrutiny in the final week of the campaign, as his role in a fundraiser that raised $7,000 a head for discredited Fianna Fail leader Brian Cowen is being investigated as is a business loan he made to himself from one of his companies.
Gallager has sought to distance himself from Fianna Fail, the party in power during the economic collapse who are now deeply unpopular and which he is a former member of.
However, a secret fundraising dinner for the new Fianna Fail leader Brian Cowen was held in Dundalk in 2008 and Gallagher was among those who attended and solicited funds for it.
The Irish Independent reports that the event was held in the Crown Plaza Hotel, Dundalk, in early summer 2008, shortly after Cowen became Prime Minister.
His campaign rejected any talk of influence peddling. “"Sean Gallagher did attend the event. He was not requested to donate nor did he, either before, during or after the event, make a donation in a personal capacity or a corporate donation," the spokesman said.
"At no point did he actively solicit any donations. He would have been in touch with a number of people he knew to tell them it was on," the spokesman added.
Fianna Fail confirmed the fundraiser was held to the Irish Independent. "Yes, we organised a dinner in Louth in 2008. We organised it to help defray the cost of the 2007 general election. All of the donations are all recorded and reported in line with regulations," a spokesman said.
However a local businessman who attended had a different recollection"He (Gallagher) rang me up and said they were holding a function in the Crown Plaza. He had pull where nobody had pull," he said.
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"I was one of 40 listed to contribute €5,000 a head. There were 40 people selected in the county to attend. I swear to God," he said.
In the second disputed event a large loan that may have been illegal was given to Gallagher by a company he owned the Irish Times has reported
Gallagher loaned himself approximately $100,000 from his own company in December 2009 which breached company law,’
Illegal loans to company directors have become a major issue in Ireland and are now punishable by fines and even imprisonment.
However, Gallagher made clear to the Times that he had repaid the loan in full and no legal action was taken against him.
Under company law a director can not have a loan from a company that is in excess of 10 per cent of its assets. Gallagher’s loan was for 70 per cent of his company’s assets.
“A director’s loan of €82,829 was made available to Seán Gallagher in 2009,” his spokesman told the Irish Times..
“Upon compiling the accounts for 2009, Mr Gallagher was notified by his accountants that this loan was not in accordance with the Companies Act. Upon being advised of this by his accountants, Mr Gallagher repaid the director’s loan. This will be reflected in the company accounts for 2010.”
In a statement Gallagher slammed the suddenly negative coverage of him. “I’m really sad that we continue to focus on negative campaigning,” he said, stating that he wanted to be an economic ambassador, focusing on tourism, trade and investment.