herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

McGuinness paid €2.8k to smuggler who ended Gallagher's Aras dream

EX-IRA commander Martin McGuinness handed over almost €3,000 to the convicted fuel smuggler who played a hand in destroying Sean Gallagher's presidential bid.

Newly disclosed figures reveal that the Sinn Fein man paid the tidy sum to Morgan Fuels Ireland Ltd -- the company owned by Louth-based criminal Hugh Morgan.

The smuggler is credited with destroying Mr Gallagher's Aras dreams during one of the most infamous televised presidential debates in Irish history.

McGuinness shocked the nation during the Frontline debate by claiming his presidential rival accepted a €5,000 cheque from Mr Morgan in 2008.

Now it has emerged that the Ulster politician handed over €2,869 to Mr Morgan's fuel company in three separate payments during the campaign.

Figures released showing the expenditure of all seven presidential candidates show that payments of €948, €765 and €1,156 were made.

Sinn Fein claims the driver of Mr McGuinness's infamous bus had a Morgan's fuel card.

However, sources close to Mr Gallagher today described the revelation as "despicable" but "not surprising".

"There was a concerted effort to ambush Sean's campaign, everybody knows that," a source told the Herald. "It's been clearly shown that McGuinness has strong connections with a convicted fuel smuggler and that he purposely used this to tarnish the campaign."

Overall, €2.3m was spent by the candidates, with just three winning enough votes to received a reimbursement from the state worth €200,000.

Fine Gael will be licking their wounds today with the figures showing that their candidate, Gay Mitchell, forked out more than €527,000 on his catastrophic campaign. The Dublin MEP came in fourth.

Mr Mitchell, who was the only candidate not to receive donations, spent just under €4 per every vote received.

The biggest straggler on election day, independent Mary Davis, was the second biggest spender and received the largest amount of private donations. The former Special Olympics boss spent more than €414,000.

Ms Davis received €5,000 in donations from businessman Denis O'Brien and his wife Catherine.

Sean Gallagher spent more than €323,000, taking in donations worth €28,759.

And Senator David Norris recorded the fourth highest expenditure bill of more than €331,000. He received a €2,539 donation from financier Denis Desmond.

Dana Rosemary Scallon propped up the rear of the field, spending just €59,591 while receiving more than €12,000 in donations.

Winner Michael D Higgins recorded almost €360,000 in expenses. He received donations from senior trade union figures, as well as his own party leader Eamon Gilmore.

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