If she was running for a third term, she would be a certain winner.
But the Irish president can only serve two seven-year terms and so voters will decide tomorrow who will succeed President Mary McAleese and assume office as Ireland’s ninth constitutional head of state.
Independent Sean Gallagher looks to be the man to beat, as he has topped most of the final days opinion polls.
However, Mr. Gallagher suffered a serious setback on Monday night as he conceded during a live television debate that he “may” have delivered a €5,000 donation from a “convicted criminal and fuel smuggler” to Fianna Fáil three years ago.
Gallagher accused Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness, who initially made the allegation, of a “dirty tricks” campaign aimed at “taking him out” of the race for the presidency.
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Following the show, Gallagher said it was an “honest mistake” if he had collected a check from the man and had not remembered it. He said a legal fundraising event had been held for Fianna Fáil in County Louth, “unlike many of the fundraising events perhaps that Sinn Féin or others have been involved in.”
Gallagher said he had been contacted with a request that he invite other people to the event and that he had communicated with a number of people about it. However, he did not know the particular man involved in the allegation raised by McGuinness.
In the wake of the allegations, Fianna Fáil issued a “clarification” on the fundraiser and named the same man mentioned in the course of the debate as having issued a check for €5,000 some days ahead of a fundraiser in Dundalk on July 1, 2008. The party said the man also attended the event.
“Last week, it came to my attention once I topped the polls it was obvious from all sides that I was going to come under serious attack as the poll topper,” said Gallagher.
Speaking during the televised debate, Gallagher, when pressed by McGuinness said: “What I have done, I may well have delivered the photograph. If he gave me the check it was made out to Fianna Fáil headquarters and it was delivered and that was that. It was nothing to do with me.”
The check revelation came after the most recent survey which showed that Gallagher had doubled his share of the vote in the past three weeks, pulling well ahead of Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins.
All other candidates have lost support in that same time, with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness remaining in third place ahead of Senator David Norris, Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael, Mary Davis and Dana Rosemary Scallon.
It was the latter who began the week with the startling statement that she believed someone was trying to kill her after a tire on her car blew out.
Although several experts said they believed it had been caused by driving following a puncture, the Derry woman filed an official complaint of criminal damage after the tire blew on the M4 motorway near Dublin.
“As far as I am concerned, it was a very lucky escape,” she said.
Another candidate was also making a bold claim. Martin McGuinness promised that, if elected, he would continue the tradition of hosting a garden party in Aras an Uachtarain on July 12 for orangemen to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne.
McGuinness said the event, initiated by President Mary McAleese, was something he was “determined” to continue if elected.
“I’m passionate about ensuring that the doors of the Aras are kept open to our unionist brothers and sisters. We’ve made huge strides forward in the North, and we’ve got to keep that going,” he said.