Live Blog: Sean Gallagher on The Last Word & The Right Hook (as it happened)
We’re calling the last hour a draw. No more damaging revelations, but the fall-out from last night’s daggers thrown by Sinn Fein could well be enough to scupper his Aras hopes.
That’s it folks.
Thanks for sticking with us.
The Right Hook definitely seemed to be the more searching of those two interviews. Gallagher came out fighting, and he’s probably scored a few points by successfully refuting the Sinn Fein/Hugh Morgan dates – about dropping off a photograph to Hugh Morgan in exchange for a cheque.
But as Newstalk’s political correspondent Shane Coleman says, it’s the perception. Fianna Fail was too close to big business, he says, and this talk of an “envelope” was unfortunate, given the toxic status of “brown envelopes” in all the murky political dealings of the past.
So as it stands, things aren’t any worse for Gallagher than they were following The Frontline last night. But it’s still not great, and you’d have to think Michael D Higgins is the man to beat.
And with that, he’s off. Promising to preach a positive message as he goes.
You tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, says Hook, so that the Fianna Fail diehards would vote for him, and others would vote for him because he’s not associated with Fianna Fail, because the brand is toxic.
That’s a pretty good and succinct line from George, right there.
Gallagher says he’s been a sporadic member of Fianna Fail for eight of the last 30 years.
Now, there’s a discussion on semantics over the word “sporadic”, in which neither Hook nor Gallagher comes out of with any great credit.
I have addressed all the questions of integrity, says Gallagher, and if I’m lucky enough to be elected as president of Ireland I will serve this office with pride and dignity.
But Hook finishes with a kick:
You’re making promises you can’t deliver, you can’t visit 700 schools as president, and you haven’t been clear on your associations with Fianna Fail, when you didn’t have to be.
Meanwhile, Hook and Gallagher are talking about his role on state boards, which gives him a bit of a breather from that Morgan cheque stuff.
But Hooky quickly brushes it aside – “I’m not interested in all that” – and gets back down to the business of accounting, and the possibility that dodgy accounts could come back to haunt him.
Interestingly well timed, a statement has landed from Hugh Morgan.
He says that Gallagher invited him to donate €5000 to Fianna Fail in June 2008, as there would be no Galway Tent that year, and that this fundraiser would replace the Galway Tent.
Morgan also says he wrote a cheque for €5000 and gave it to Gallagher personally at his business premises in Killean, Co Armagh, on June 27th, 2008.
I was accused last night of being a liar on national television, says Gallagher. Both Martin McGuinness and Hugh Morgan have now been proved to have told lies.
This isn’t a bad response from Gallagher. It’s passionate, anyway.
But George hits back.
“We don’t want the impeachment of a president,” says George. “You don’t want to be an Irish Nixon.”
This was an orchestrated campaign by Sinn Fein to launch a timebomb. The only reason he stalled on live TV last night was because he was so shocked.
But the allegations that he collected a cheque from Hugh Morgan was “a blatant lie”. Because Fianna Fail’s records show the Morgan cheque was cashed before the fundraising event.
It’s only in the last week that Gallagher learnt about this man’s past. This man, Hugh Morgan, who he “assumed to be reputable”, because he was the sponsor of the Armagh football team.
Now, last night’s Frontline stuff. “You gave us three different stories over the course of the debate about this donation,” says Hook. “I have no problem with you collecting donations, that’s part of our political process.
“But everyone in Dundalk knows everyone else. This is not Manhattan! To say you didn’t know this man or his background is stretching credibility.”
Now, the Fianna Fail question. Seamus Kirk, Margaret Conlon, Dara Calleary all brought up.
Nothing new for Gallagher to defend here. He’s well used to this stuff at this stage.
That’s a bit better, Georgey boy.
The jobs policy promise is reckless and dangerous, playing on the fears of the people. Because the president cannot create jobs, says Hooky.
But Seanie plays it fairly well. He can’t create jobs, but he can lead trade missions. Hooky fights back. This is a teeny bit better than The Last Word.
Second question is about the promise to visit every secondary school in the land during his term of office.
Is big bad George a secret Fianna Fail supporter, by any chance?
An easy opener by George Hook.
“You’re on 40 per cent in the latest poll. How do you think you got there?”
We can only put that one down to a loosener from Hooky. He must be just warming up…
They’re still on the news on Newstalk, but the full interview is to follow shortly.
While you’re waiting, an interesting press release landed from Boylesports earlier. They’ve conducted a survey, and they delivered these two crazily opposing stats:
- A majority of 44 per cent find Sean Gallagher the least trustworthy of the seven presidential candidates
- He’s still second in the race, on 25 per cent. Michael D Higgins leads the way on 34.
Now how does that stack up?
The final salvo from Matt:
“If you were to lose, would you consider a career in politics afterwards? With Fianna Fail perhaps?”
And there goes the straight bat again.
Sean Gallagher not out. Not yet, anyway.
Over to you, Hooky.
Matt brings up the lowly P60 returns and the Dromoland Castle wedding, and asks:
Where is the Sean Gallagher money?
To which the response is: “All above board, Matt.”
Everything, all the tax clearance certs, the tax returns, the company accounts, it’s all been lodged in time.
Now, the €87,000 illegal loan. It was an honest mistake.
Nothing to see here, folks.
Matt throws him a softball.
Do you have the experience to do the job?
That’s about as threatening as a shot from 65 yards from…
He’s given the chance to reaffirm his commitment to young people, communities and people with disabilities, and insists there are no skeletons in the cupboard that could bring the office of presidency into disrepute.
Says he’s run a perfect campaign, that he outlawed all his supporters from any negative comments about the rest of the candidates from the start.
And they’re back. Stick with us folks.
Something has to happen. Matt is under pressure to deliver something to trump George Hook post-5pm over on Newstalk.
And Matt has taken a breather.
It’s been a bit underwhelming so far. No new details that would put the final dagger through the heart of Sean Gallagher’s presidential bid. And no really convincing fightback from the man himself.
But then again, maybe last night’s Sinn Fein bombshell did all the damage that Gallagher’s rivals needed.
Gallagher says that he lost a million euro because suppliers weren’t able to pay him.
Or was it his company, Smarthomes, that lost a million and a half?
What’s a few details between friends, eh?
He also insists he didn’t canvas for Fianna Fail in the 2011 General Election.
But he did respond to invitations from Dara Calleary and Margaret Conlon to attend their campaign launches.
That’s Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary and Margaret Conlon, of course.
He didn’t resign from Fianna Fail, because “voluntary members” don’t typically resign. We then get lost in a mire of details surrounding Fianna Fail Ard-Fheis in 2010 and 2011.
He’s donated no money to Fianna Fail down the years. That’s what he said, and we’ve no reason not to believe him. None.
Matt Cooper asks him how much money he has made from his Fianna Fail connections – the old cronyism chestnut of the last Government – but he insists he has made none.
And we’ve no reason not to believe him.
He doesn’t know Hugh Morgan, never met the man. He invited “three or four people”, including Hugh Morgan, but he distanced himself from it when some of his people did a background check and discovered that Morgan was a “convicted criminal”.
He’s blaming his inexperience for failing to deal with the Sinn Fein/Martin McGuinness/Hugh Morgan bombshell on the RTE Frontline debate last night.
Welcome to the live blog, folks. We’re following Sean Gallagher’s last hurrah/match-winning performance on the two drivetime shows over the next hour.