Wednesday 20 March 2019

Presidential hopefuls quizzed on cost of running €500k campaign

Joan Freeman
Joan Freeman

Presidential hopefuls Gavin Duffy and Joan Freeman have been quizzed on how they plan to finance the campaign, which is estimated to cost up to €500,000.

Ex-Dragon's Den star Mr Duffy and Independent senator Ms Freeman were questioned about a range of different issues at a meeting of Waterford City and County Council, where they made their first pitches in their campaigns to secure the support of four local authorities for a nomination.


Mr Duffy said he has raised a mortgage to meet the initial costs, while Ms Freeman said she has €10,000 in savings in a Credit Union and will not be in a position to remortgage her house, adding that she is still making repayments on her home.

Her team is looking after the financial side of the campaign, she added.

Patrick Feeney, a relatively unknown Independent candidate from Galway, also presented to the special meeting. He told councillors he wanted to "challenge the status quo in Irish politics".

Mr Duffy was questioned about his consultancy work, and confirmed he provided consultancy to four taoisigh from various parties but has not done so since 2011.

He also said he met with former Anglo chief executive Sean Fitzpatrick at the height of the banking crisis, when he was "big news", but said it was their first and only meeting.

The former Dragon's Den entrepreneur also defended his status as an Independent candidate after being questioned about his chairing of the Fine Gael leadership hustings between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

He said that he was chosen because of his independence and was "vetted up and down" by the party.

Ms Freeman also faced difficult questions from councillors following her presentation, including about her family's ties to the Iona Institute.

Gavin Duffy
Gavin Duffy

Her niece is Maria Steen, who emerged as a strong pro-life advocate during the referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

The Pieta House founder said she voted no "not for religious reasons" but because she had worked all of her adult life to "preserve life". Her vote was personal, she said, and she would be happy to carry the voice of the people and sign legislation into law if elected.

Ms Freeman said she wants to create a Republic of well-being, initiative and justice.

She pledged to be outspoken about injustice in society and referred to the ongoing CervicalCheck scandal.

Meanwhile, Mr Duffy said his focus would be on representing Ireland well abroad in the hope of encouraging further investment.

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