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Spotlight turns to candidante's wives

While most of the attention focuses on the seven presidential candidates, a very important aspect of their private lives has also come under the spotlight.

The spouses of the candidates have been involved to varying degrees in the campaigns as they criss-cross the country looking for votes.

The importance of the president's other half was highlighted in the quietly dignified role President Mary McAleese's husband Martin performed during their 14 years in the Aras.

Former president Mary Robinson's husband Nick also became a familiar face during her tenure in the Park.

Sean Gallagher's wife Trish has cut a dash in the campaign, appearing beside her husband on the hustings.

The slim brunette from Kanturk in Co Cork has caught the eye of many voters as she travelled the country to meet and greet the public in recent months.

A sales rep for Munster for Vichy Skin Care, Trish is Mr Gallagher's second wife and the couple married in the majestic Dromoland Castle in Co Clare last year.

The couple met through their mutual friends Jim and Niamh Barry when the presidential hopeful was giving an after-dinner speech in cork for the Costcutter chain.

Martin McGuinness has said his wife BERNIE, who he married in 1974, will not be taking any part in the presidential campaign.

The couple have four children, two girls and two boys.

However, the decision not to include her could backfire as many voters are interested in seeing the men and women behind the candidates.

Even so, a picture of Mrs McGuinness meeting Nelson Mandela with her husband has appeared on the former IRA commander's official Facebook page. She has always kept a low profile throughout his career.

Mary Davis's husband Julian has already featured in a campaign controversy after the couple denied a conflict of interest claim.

PR firm Fleishman-Hillard, which counts Mr Davis among its directors, was awarded a contract by the charity Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI).

Mr and Mrs Davis sat on the board of SEI at the time. Mr Davis denied there was a conflict, saying both he and his wife had excused themselves from the board meetings at which the PR contract was discussed.

The PR expert is always on hand to offer his wife image advice as they campaign with their four children.

Dana Rosemary Scallon's husband Damien, a hotelier from Newry, has appeared frequently beside his wife's side, particularly as she battled to secure a nomination to contest the election.

The couple married in 1978, as Dana's popularity as a singer was growing internationally.

Actor

In 1990, the couple and their children relocated to Alabama in the US for a number of years, becoming involved with the Catholic broadcasting network EWTN.

In recent years, Dana and Damien launched their own record label, DS Music Productions.

Of all the candidate's spouses, Michael D Higgins's wife, the actor Sabina Coyne, has featured most prominently in the campaign.

Sabina, a native of Ballindine in Co Mayo, has been a strong advocate of battles at home and abroad in favour of women's rights. They met at a house party in Dublin and have four grown-up children.

She was said to be the most formative influence on the former Labour minister's early career as a politician and academic, in many cases orchestrating his campaigns and strategy.

The wife of Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell has so far not taken a prominent role in the election as her husband battles against poor poll ratings.

Norma Mitchell has to date remained in the background while Mr Mitchell tries to turn the tide in the campaign.

However, she was pictured with Gay outside the RTE studios before he appeared on the Late Late Show on September 30 for the first of the TV debates involving the candidates.

He met Norma through his work as president of a St Vincent de Paul network of 20 youth clubs across Dublin and they have four children.

David Norris has said he will not have a partner living with him in the Aras if he is elected as president.

The gay senator is not currently in a relationship and, even if he were, he would keep any future partner away from the presidential home, he has said.

However, it is one of Mr Norris's past relationships which has caused him so much controversy.

Letters of clemency he wrote on behalf of his former lover, the Israeli Ezra Nawi, have dogged the Independent candidate's campaign for months.

Mr Norris denied a claim earlier this week that he lobbied on behalf of another former boyfriend, Tevfik Akin from Algeria, in an attempt to get Irish citizenship for him.

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