Belfast Telegraph

Derry Dragon to run for Irish President - but won’t take a salary if he wins

A former Dragon's Den investor from Londonderry is about to enter the Irish presidential election race.

Peter Casey, who will formally announce his intention to seek a nomination today, has described current president Michael D Higgins's €249,000 salary as "bonkers" and insisted he would not take the wage.

He said Mr Higgins has "kept the seat warm" over the past seven years while he could have doing much more to represent Irish people.

In particular he criticised the President for "extolling the virtues" of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez while speaking for the people of Ireland.

The ex-Dragons' Den investor will today write to councillors asking for a nomination. Mr Casey promised not to accept any of the €1.7m salary which the president will be entitled to between 2018 and 2025. He described the salary as "bonkers".

"It's almost the same as the US president. It's much more than the Taoiseach who does the heavy lifting. It's just wrong. I wouldn't take any," he said.

Mr Higgins is entitled to a salary of €325,000 but has gifted 23% of this back to the State each year, bringing his annual income down to €249,000.

The father of five adult children accepts that he is best-known for his stint on reality TV - but would "hate to think that you are eliminated from standing for office just because you were on a TV show".

He is the third 'Dragon' to challenge Mr Higgins, following in the footsteps of Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy.

The Derry native who founded recruitment firm Claddagh Resources now lives in Atlanta. However, he recently signed over his company interest to his son and sold his American home ahead of a permanent move back to Ireland.

His campaign will be largely based around trying to harness the strength of Ireland's diaspora. He wants to replicate the 'Birthright Israel' programme which allows the children of ex-pats to travel to Israel on sponsored heritage trips.

Asked why he believes he would do a better job than Mr Higgins, he replied: "He certainly hasn't embarrassed the presidency. He's kept the seat warm but there is so much opportunity for connecting the Irish.

"The president is the president of all Irish people, not just those living in Ireland."

He added: "I wouldn't have supported him going to Cuba and supporting Fidel Castro… or extolling the virtues of Hugo Chavez. I'd like to hear his answers as what justified using taxpayers' money to go to these countries," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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