PRESIDENTIAL hopeful and Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Séan Gallagher paid a flying visit to Thurles on Wednesday last week, to address the Thurles Chamber of Commerce.
The developer of Smarthomes has the tentative backing of five Councils, one more than the required minimum of four Councils in order to formally get the nomination to contest the Election, due to take place on October 27th. The Councils will confirm their nominations later this month.
Widely regarded as the dark horse of this Presidential race, Mr Gallagher spoke to the Tipperary Star about his bid for the Áras. “More and more, there’s stronger evidence from the electorate that they really want to see Independent candidates in the field. I think the Councils will honour that,” he says.
Asked why should the people of Ireland vote for him, Mr Gallagher said that, if elected, the theme of his Presidency would be to focus on the need to rebuild Ireland’s economy and shattered self belief. “Just like Mary McAleese focused very much on putting the Peace Process and ‘Building Bridges’ at the centre of her Presidency, because it was current and relevant, the real issues facing Ireland now are the huge unemployment, increased emigration, and the whole sense that confidence is gone.
“So it’s very much about building confidence, and about representing Ireland abroad. I want to change the conversation we’re having in the country, and focus on all the good things. There’s an air of negativity that’s bringing the country down. We need to move away from that.”
Gallagher, who has a visual impairment, said we need to work with the strengths we have. “I have a saying I share with young people and those with disabilities. Most people can do 10,000 things when they’re born. I can do 9,000. I want my life defined by the 9,000 things I can do, and not the 1,000 I can’t. That’s essentially my message to the country. Let’s focus on all the things we can do, whether it be food, crafts, or continuing to attract foreign investment.”
The Presidency is not merely a ‘ceremonial role.’ Now more than ever, the office needs to be a “job of work.” “I’m young and energetic. I have a track record in farming and youth work, community development, and enterprise. Put me to work. Let me work for Tourism Ireland, the IDA, all the organs of the state. The government’s last manifesto talked about getting Ireland back to work. The President needs to lead that charge, along with the government. That’s what I want to do, because I believe in Ireland.”
Mr Gallagher spoke to the Thurles Chamber of Commerce about the challenges facing small businesses and regional towns like Thurles. “There is one upside to this downturn. And that is we are going back to community. We’re going back to the knowledge that the future won’t be solved by individuals. It’ll be solved by people coming together. No one person can run a food fair, or a fleadh to promote a town. But communities working together can. No person can keep the town clean, but people working together can. And it’s about local people supporting local businesses, to keep the shops open. And more importantly, about getting involved locally. It’s the same in Thurles, and across Tipperary.”
Was he disappointed not to get the backing of North Tipperary County Council for his nomination? “No, I got a very good and courteous reception. I was hugely grateful for the kind comments I got from the Councillors. I understand the democratic process and how it works. My understanding is if another candidate had the backing of enough Councils and I didn’t, that the Council would consider backing me then. So I’m hugely grateful for that.”
Ahead of the All Ireland, has he a message for the people of Tipperary? “Do your very best. Don’t leave anything off the pitch. Leave all your effort on the pitch. It’s with a great sense of pride that people wear the County jersey. Going out there on Sunday, they’ll have that sense of pride, and as I say, give it your all. That’s all anybody can ever ask of us.”
Has the visual impairment driven him to succeed even harder? “It’s given me a sense of determination. I have to work a little harder to do the simple things. I’m aware of the challenges faced by everybody. And so, my life is very much built around that. Being grateful for what you have. In some ways, it’s made me even more grateful for my sight than other people who have perfect sight. Maybe, the obstacles you have to overcome, maybe they’re the things in the end that define you and make you who you are.”
How would his Presidency restore Ireland’s international reputation? “Somebody from my background, in youth work, farming, sends a clear message to the world that Ireland is open for business. That being an entrepreneur in Ireland is something we need to encourage more and more people to consider. ‘Come and do business with us’- we’re open for business, that’s the image I’d like to project to the world. Come and work in Ireland.”
Mr Gallagher finished his tour of Tipp by visiting the Moore Haven Rehabilitative Centre on O’Brien Street, Tipperary town, before meeting with the Tipperary Town Chamber of Commerce, before going on walkabout in the Main Street and the Dunnes Stores Shopping Centre. Mr Gallagher finished his visit with an address to the West Tipperary Mental Health Association, called ‘Building Resilience Together’, at Ballykisteen Hotel.