Belfast Telegraph

Gallagher not playing blame game

Presidential runner-up Sean Gallagher would not blame rival candidate Martin McGuinness after he derailed his seemingly unassailable campaign on live television.

The Independent candidate said it was not the night to point the finger at the Sinn Fein contender, who is largely responsible for his fall from the top of the opinion polls last week.

"Tonight is not a night at all for blame," said Mr Gallagher, who lost out to Michael D Higgins. "Tonight is a night for celebration for Michael D and I congratulate all of the other six candidates for stepping forward."

The Louth businessman, with wife Trish by his side, admitted that it had been an enduring campaign. He had been 15 points ahead in the race in last weekend's opinion polls before he was hit with an unprecedented collapse in support.

A former fundraiser for the Fianna Fail party which was widely blamed for the country's economic woes, Mr Gallagher was hit by a storm of controversy on Monday night on RTE's Frontline programme amid allegations he was a "bag man" soliciting and collecting donations.

A bogus tweet also suggested the man he collected money from, Hugh Morgan, the Armagh-based owner of Morgan Fuels, was preparing to go public with information on a 5,000 euro donation.

Mr McGuinness dropped the bombshell in a live debate that Mr Gallagher had requested and personally received the cheque from Mr Morgan, who has a conviction for tax fraud and fuel smuggling.

Mr Gallagher said he was not surprised by the tactics used by his opponents during the race. "These are campaigns and this is the nature of a campaign," he said.

Mr Gallagher went on to pay tribute to Ireland's ninth president and the lifetime of service he has given the country. "I said at the beginning that Ireland was full of heroes," he said.

"Over the last six months I travelled to every community and county, and I witnessed more and more thousands of heroes, and I have the full faith in being inspired by everyone I have met that this is a great country and will be great again."

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