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Can the Dragon win the race?

treatment serif;”>Sinéad Williams talks to presidential candidate Seán Gallagher

According to independent presidential candidate Seán Gallagher “our future doesn’t happen to us. In life, we’re not passengers, we’re in the driving seat and our future has to be created by us and that’s where everybody has to get involved and participate.”

Perhaps best known for his involvement in Dragon’s Den and as the co-founder of Smarthomes, Gallagher feels that his experience as an entrepreneur would help him if elected president. Job creation and enterprise are key to Gallagher’s campaign, as one of the three “themes” he would have as president. “I’m going to have three different themes: one is enterprise and job creation, the other is community development and the third is disability.”

The idea of enterprise is really important because Ireland is a small country, it’s a small domestic market, and we need to export things like food and technology. To do that, we need to open new markets and our president, Mary McAleese, has started to do that recently.”

Mr Gallagher feels that the president has a role to play in encouraging employment. “The big issue is about creating jobs…and it’s about attracting foreign direct investment…it’s about promoting Irish companies who are ready and able to export into new markets to sustain and grow jobs at home, and it’s also about promoting tourism abroad to attract more tourists who can support our hospitality and tourism sector at home.”

Listing youth, energy, passion and drive as the qualities he would bring to the presidency, Gallagher says, “I’m hugely positive on what Ireland can offer. I’ve always lived my life based on my strengths. I think all our individuals, our communities, our country needs now to use the same philosophy – developing the next chapter on our strengths.”

Gallagher notes that the office of the president is made relevant by the person who occupies it. “It’s elected by the people of Ireland, I think it’s the voice and face of Ireland. The role itself isn’t relevant; I think it’s the person in the role that makes it relevant.” He feels that he has the capacity to make it relevant to a wide range of people. “For me, I understand the issues and I’m as comfortable in a youth club in the west of Ireland or in the inner city as I am speaking to Paul Rellis, MD of Microsoft.”

 

A former member of Fianna Fáil, there is some confusion as to when Mr Gallagher actually left the party, with some sources claiming that he was a member until January this year. Gallagher says that he “never made any secret of it…but this is not about party politics. This is about the president and I believe that should be above party politics and therefore I’m standing as a independent, I’ve made that very clear.”

Gallagher is the only candidate in this presidential race who has opted not to use posters. He says that this was partly environmental reasons and also to save the taxpayer money. “People in every part of the company have been telling me that they’re spending so much time creating Tidy Towns and voluntary organisations that they don’t want it littered with those posters…most importantly, also, we’re not wasting taxpayers’ money, because 50% of every poster is paid by the taxpayer.”

Gallagher would like to get young people involved with the office of the president. “I would be open to having a young person on the Council of State, I think that would be a big message to send…to send a message that young people are recognised and can contribute.”

For me it’s very much: young people are the future of the country and I want to build a future that embraces them and gives them opportunities right across all the boards of employment, of community, of those who have a disability. I want to create opportunity that everyone can sing their song, whatever their song may be and I’ll lead by example by singing mine.”

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