Political newcomer Sean Gallagher is the shock new leader in the race to become President of Ireland as he bids to swap the TV set for the Aras.
Independent candidate Gallagher has shot to the top of the opinion polls as he puts serious pressure on bookmakers favorite Michael D Higgins.
The latest Red C poll for the Sunday Business Post has the Cavan native ahead of the field with a jump of 18 points to 39 percent support, a whopping 12 points ahead of the Labor Party’s Michael D Higgins.
Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is down three points to 13 percent, Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell is down two to eight percent, David Norris is down seven to seven percent, Mary Davis is down five to four percent and Dana Rosemary Scallon is almost non-existent on just two percent support.
Gallagher is now the hot topic on the hustings despite his relative obscurity on the Irish political landscape.
A former member of the Fianna Fail National Executive, businessman Gallagher’s only previous claim to fame is his role as a judge on the Irish version of the Dragon’s Den TV series to fund entrepreneurs.
The Dundalk based 49-year-old admits his television profile has helped on the doorsteps but claims his past as a community volunteer and successful businessman is more relevant to the role facing the new President.
“My TV appearances have helped but I am also recognized because of my work with communities and organizations representing disabled people before being on the programme,” insisted Gallagher.
“What I want to do for the economy is what Mary McAleese did for the peace process during her presidency. I have on-the-ground experience of creating jobs and building communities. My ambition is to work alongside the government in bringing jobs and investment to Ireland during this recession.”
Almost blind as a child after he was born with congenital cataracts, Gallagher’ sight was saved by pioneering surgery. He is one of Ireland’s most famous self-made men and now owns a home technology business worth $14 million and employs 70 people.
Standing as an independent candidate in this election, Gallagher has been a sporadic member of Fianna Fail over the years and only resigned from the party’s National Executive in January.
“My message is wholly non-party political. I am an independent and I want to represent all the people of Ireland,” stressed Gallagher.
Reacting to the latest Red C poll and his 12 point lead over previous frontrunner Higgins, Gallagher said: “I am taking nothing for granted despite the great reception to the positivity of my campaign.
“I hope that the personalized tone of the campaign will remain for the final days of campaigning.”
Meanwhile, Barack Obama’s distant cousin Henry Healy offered his support when Gallagher canvassed in the US President’s ancestral homeland of Moneygall this weekend.
Healy, the man who invited Obama home, told reporters that he can relate to Gallagher who would make a ‘great double act’ with his cousin.
“Sean has emphasized building up local communities and reviving business activity in Ireland,” said Healy. “If Sean is elected president, he will know what he is doing on trade missions around the world promoting Irish business.
“Sean is a businessman who understands the pressures people are under in this recession. That is why he is the best man for the job.”
Healy also revealed that Gallagher will invite President Obama back for a formal visit to Ireland if he wins the election.
“I’ll write and ask him to accept Sean’s invitation for another visit to Ireland. They will make a great double act,” claimed Healy.