Independent presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has declined a request from the Labour Party’s Michael D Higgins for a two-way debate.

An opinion poll published last weekend shows the two candidates are now the front runners in race with Sean Gallagher on 39 percent and Michael D Higgins on 27 percent.

Higgins had suggested an one-on-one debate which could take place on after tonight’s Presidential debate on TG4, the Irish language station.

Well I’m just leaving a conference now on Inclusion Ireland, and I think that would not be very inclusive," Gallagher said in response.

"Why would we exclude five other candidates? I think we’ve been through 12 or 13 presidential debates so far and a few more to go.

"I think that would be unfair on the other five candidates."
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Defending his previous association with Fianna Fail he said : “I wouldn’t like to think that anybody would be demonised for being a grassroots member of any political party, whether that be Sinn Féin, Fine Gael or Labour.”

Responding to criticism about his success as an entrepreneur he defended the fact he earned €212 ($294) euro a week after tax last year.

“Welcome to the real world. This is where everybody is at the moment. Every shopkeeper I meet, every small business is struggling to survive,” he said.

“Survival is the new success. I understand that claim. I’ve been through it.”

“That’s the message for every other business. We’re all struggling. That’s the challenge that all of us need to remain focused on,” he added.