All seemed to be going well for the favourite to replace Mary McAleese as Ireland’s next president when during a televised debate Sean Gallagher suffered a major blow. In the cut and thrust among all seven candidates, it was alleged he had close links with Fianna Fail, the party thrown out of power over its handling of the economy.
Gallagher was subsequently relegated to second place by the bookmakers but that might not cut any ice with the voters.
According to opinion polls Labour’s Michael Higgins is still trailing Gallagher by at least 15 percentage points.
Left-wing party Sinn Fein’s candidate, a former Irish Republican Army commander, Martin McGuiness remains in third place. It was he who made allegations of a cheque being given to Gallagher’s campaign from Fianna Foil.
Voters cast their ballots today and have to decide on personality rather than policy for this largely ceremonial but prestigious position.