Media circus in Carlow as candidates seeking a presidential nomination come to town

Some councillors already expressing support for a candidate despite no formal nomination until September

Darren Hassett

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Darren Hassett

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news@carlowlive.ie

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Some councillors already nailed their colours to the mast in support of Dragons' Den businessman Gavin Duffy

National media descended on Carlow on Wednesday as people vying for a presidential nomination from the local authority came to the Council's chamber on the Athy Road. 

Independent Senator Joan Freeman, businessman Gavin Duffy, artist Kevin Sharkey and former general election candidate in Galway West, Patrick Feeney, made presentations to members. 

Athlone woman Marie Moylan had been billed to make a presentation but did not show up. 

The meeting was chaired by Cathaoirleach Cllr Brian O'Donoghue and each individual was afforded fifteen minutes to make their pitch and each of them addressed different issues around the presidency and problems Ireland is facing. 

Mr Duffy said his presidency would be open and transparent and he would endeavour to open the presidency to Freedom of Information legislation so people would know its expenditure on catering and other costs. 

He added that he would be a president "who goes beyond speeches and invitation for tea in the park".

Cllr Tommy Kinsella said he wouldn't be standing in the way of Mr Duffy and described the businessman as an "honest and intelligent man".

Cllr Charlie Murphy said: "I hope Carlow nominates yourself. I hope my colleagues will follow through."

Senator Freeman - who founded Pieta House and organised the Darkness Into Light Walks - was next to make a presentation and began by saying she has spent her life campaiging for the mental health of the people of Ireland. 

She promised to hold the first presidential summit on mental health in Ireland and added: "You listened to me, walked with me, listen to me again. As president I promise I will lead the way."

Senator Freeman in response to members' questions said she has been accused of being a one-trick pony - a reference to her background in mental health - "but the trick is very big", she affirmed. 

In response to Mr Sharkey's presentation, details of which the artist previously revealed to Carlow Live, Cllr Willie Quinn said "Ireland first" reminds him of another fella who said to put "America first" and raised his concerns around illegal Irish immigrants in America. 

Cllr Andrea Dalton said Mr Sharkey's vision for Ireland as a "predominantly white country" was a concern for her. 

Cllr Arthur McDonald said the country had an atheist president, a gay Taoiseach, the country has brought in divorce and brought in abortion, and he added: "I just wonder do you think it's time for a coloured president?"

In response, Mr Sharkey said cutting off Ireland is the opposite of what he wants to do, electing him as president shows that Ireland understands humanity. 

"Yes we do have a gay Taoiseach, we did change abortion laws, but I've learned that the world changes and if we don't change we'll all get left behind. The colour of my skin is no more important than the colour of your hair," Mr Sharkey added. 

Cllr Ken Murnane said he would have reservations about anybody who could support President Donald Trump after the Donegal man admitted he won money betting on Donald Trump to win the US Election. 

Former general election candidate in Galway West, Mr Feeney, in his presentation said he wants to get the beet factory in Carlow going again as "the land is suitable" and urged representatives to get sugar beet back again in Carlow. 

"It is a cash crop and so many products come out of it, it is worth doing it again," he said. 

Cllr Murnane said that the "sugar quota system is gone and the sugar system is very viable, the important thing about Irish suger, you left out". 

A presidential election is expected to be held in October if candidates receive the backing of 20 or more Oireachtas members or four or more local authorities.

Formal nominations won't be made until after the presidential election order is made and therefore Council members are not likely to vote on a potential candidate until the September meeting of the local authority. 

Carlow TD Pat Deering and Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor were also in the Council chamber for the presentations.