Joan Freeman joins Sean Gallagher as official candidate

Independent Senator secures backing of Galway City Council to reach four nominations

Businessman Sean Gallagher and Independent Senator Joan Freeman have secured the backing of four local authorities to run in the forthcoming presidential election.

Mr Gallagher secured the backing of four local authorities in the space of six hours on Monday.

Later in the evening he was joined as an official candidate for the October election by Ms Freeman, founder of Pieta House, who said it was a happy conincidence she received her four nominations on World Suicide Awareness Day.

She secured the support of Galway City Council, Galway County Council and Fingal County Council on Monday, to add to the nomination she received from Cork City Council last Monday.


Mr Gallagher, who finished second in the 2011 presidential election, won nominations from Roscommon, Leitrim, Mayo and Wexford county councils on Monday, with Fianna Fáil councillors backing him heavily.

Earlier, speaking to Kilkenny county councillors in a bid to get their endorsement for a nomination, Mr Gallagher said he is “not seeking to be Michael D Higgins’s replacement, I’m seeking instead to be his successor”.

He had already secured the backing of Mayo, Roscommon and Leitrim County Councils by the time he arrived in Kilkenny. But with the Wexford endorsement he is now set to challenge for the Áras.

Businessman and former Dragon's Den colleague Gavin Duffy has three nominations having secured the support of Wicklow County Council on Mondayevening, as well as that of Carlow County Council. Last week he recieved the backing of Meath County Council.


Ms Freeman won the Fingal contest by 14 votes to five. She had earlier addressed the council, along with artist Kevin Sharkey, who did not succeed in securing a proposer and seconder among the councillors.

Mr Gallagher earned a second nomination on Monday after Mayo County Council backed him with a vote of 12-10 in his favour.

He was strongly backed by Fianna Fáil members on the authority. His name was proposed by Cllr Damian Ryan and seconded by Cllr Al McDonnell, both Fianna Fáil representatives.

Seven presidential hopefuls – including Mr Gallagher – were due to make brief contributions to the special council meeting. But only one turned up, Sarah Louise Mulligan, a political admirer of US president Donald Trump.

All of the other scheduled speakers sent their apologies stating that they could not attend due to other similar meetings elsewhere.

The contribution of Ms Mulligan, who at 36 is the youngest candidate in the drive for the Áras, was well received.

Mr Gallagher earlier secured 10 of the 16 votes available during Monday morning’s Roscommon County Council meeting, which included four Fianna Fáil votes and one Fine Gael vote.

Mr Gallagher has told councillors previously that his priorities would include launching a year of disability from December 3rd this year. This would focus on the 900,000 people across Ireland with a disability, along with their carers and families.

Jouranlist Gemma O’Doherty was due to speak at Fingal’s Council Chamber in Swords. She had clashed with members of Clare County Council last week over her claims that there was State collusion in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.

At a meeting of the council in Ennis to hear pitches from some of those seeking a nomination to contest next month’s election, Ms O’Doherty alleged that Ms Guerin’s brother, Cllr Jimmy Guerin, had defamed her in a tweet posted recently about the matter.

Ms O’Doherty said she did her work “on behalf of the Irish people” and that if she felt something was being covered up, nothing would silence her. She said she had been told of collusion in the murder by “a decent honest” member of the Garda and that the issue was not put in the public domain as part of her manifesto.

At the Fingal county council meeting on Monday Cllr Guerin excoriated Ms O’Doherty over her allegations that the State was responsible for the murder of his late sister.

“In 22 years only two people I have come across say John Gilligan is not responsible for Veronica’s murder: one is John Gilligan; the other is Gemma O’Doherty,” he said.

Mr Guerin had planned to question Ms O’Doherty over her claims at the meeting, but the freelance journalist did not attend.

Candidates need four nominations from councils or the backing of 20 Oireachtas members to run for presidency on October 26th.

‘Voice of the people’

Mr Duffy became the first candidate to secure a nomination last week after he received the backing of Meath County Council.

Ms Freeman, who voted against removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution last May, has said that if elected President her personal conviction would have absolutely no impact on her public duty.

“The voice of the people has been heard and there probably will have to be amendments to legislation. That comes with every legislation. We’ll just have to wait and see what is suggested.”

Galway County Council – in addition to Ms Freeman – also nominated businessmen Peter Casey and Sean Gallagher, although Mr Gallagher did not attend to make a presentation.

Senator Freeman won by 12 votes to seven for Mr Casey and six for Mr Gallagher. She was also absent but represented by her daughter Aisling and drew support from a combination of Fine Gael and Independents, along with one Fianna Fáil councillor, Donagh Killilea.

Mr Casey was supported by six Independent councillors and one from Fianna Fáil, while Mr Gallagher’s six votes were all from Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin, Republican Sinn Féin and Independent Cllr Michael Stroke Fahy were among four abstentions.

Ms Freeman thanked the 27 councillors present for the meeting and said her mother would be very proud and this would be “quite a shock to her”.

Galway City Council

Two nominations – that of Ms Freeman and businessman Sean Gallagher – had been made to Galway City Council after a presentation by nine candidates to city councillors last week.

However, Mr Gallagher indicated he would be happy to withdraw as he had already secured the support of four local authorities.

Seven councillors supported Ms Freeman, who was proposed by Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) and seconded by Donal Lyons (Ind). There was one vote against and eight abstentions, while two councillors were absent.

Explaining her abstention, Independent Cllr Colette Connolly expressed disappointment that only two of the candidates seeking nominations sent her their profile.

Cllr Pearce Flannery (FG) said he would be abstaining as he is supporting President Michael D Higgins for re-election. And his party colleague Cllr John Walsh agreed, noting that Mr Higgins had been twice mayor of Galway.

Mayor Niall McNelis (Lab) and party colleague Cllr Billy Cameron (Lab) also said they would support Mr Higgins and would be abstaining. Sinn Féin councillors abstained on the basis that they are running a candidate.

South Dublin

President Michael D Higgins has indicated he will run for a second term. Sinn Féin is likely to endorse the Munster MEP Liadh Ní Riada as its candidate on September 16th.

South Dublin County Council has agreed to invite prospective candidates seeking a nomination to run in the presidential election to a public meeting to address councillors on Thursday, September 20th. Councillors agreed they would take a vote on whether the local authority would nominate any candidates after the meeting next week.

Offaly county councillors look set to back Sean Gallagher’s presidential bid in a vote next Monday.

Mr Gallagher had visited the council headquarters in Tullamore along with candidates including Peter Casey and Gemma O’Doherty on Monday.

Mr Gallagher, whose mother is from Offaly, denied being Fianna Fáil’s presidential contender.