After all they did, are Fianna Fáil going to win the Presidential election? Or, perhaps as pertinently, are the media going to win it for them? While Mick suggests that they are right to protest that Gallagher is not their ‘dog without a collar’, the limited ability of the media to amass any significant details of Gallagher’s Fianna Fáil CV is in contrast to the detail being presented on the other candidates (with the obvious exception of Michael D).
Gallagher has yet to make a convincing case that he has actually left Fianna Fáil and has claimed that his membership was sporadic. He is not a politician apparently.
Unfortunately Gallagher’s fellow Dragon Gavin Duffy penned a brief portrait of Gallagher in the Sunday Independent a couple of years ago. This includes the following:
Sean Gallagher of Smart Homes, who is a very smart person himself, has become a very good friend. But Sean, having spent years working in Fianna Fail , is as much a politician as he is a very successful businessman.
Gallagher himself penned a longer piece which appeared in 2008 in both the Sunday Business Post (April 27th, 2008 if you can get past a paywall) and a book called That’ll Never Work, published by KPMG. The following are Gallagher’s own references to politics (all prior to his 2009 appointment to the FF National Executive):
The first of the five ambitions I wrote into the life plan came from the fact that I’d always liked agriculture and the outdoor life. I liked physical hard work. ”I want to be a farmer,” I wrote. ”That’s number one.” Secondly, I’d been working in youth clubs. ”I want to be in youth work,” I wrote next. ”Particularly, with people who’ve come through their own personal challenges.” The third pillar was that, because I liked sport, I wanted to be a martial artist. The fourth was that, arising out of my interest in youth work, I wanted to be in politics. The last thing was that I wanted to start my own business.
Then Dr Rory O’Hanlon, the Fianna Fail TD and minister for health at that time, asked me to become his political secretary, so I spent a couple of years working in the Dail. I built up a good network of contacts in departments, and other ministers started to ring me to get things done. The first people I spoke to when I went into a government department were the guys at the gate. Why? Because they were the guys who opened up in the morning and shut the place down at night, and you had to get in and out.
The people in the restaurant deserved exactly the same respect as a department secretary general or a minister. The more you do for people just because it’s the right thing to do, not out of any cute hoorism the better network you have and the better your chances that they’d help you out if you were in difficulty. The political pendulum has swung to such a degree in the intervening years that if you do a favour for someone it’s assumed there’s something sleazy behind it. That’s unfair.
If you think about it, good business is all about relationships. Business people and customers don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people. Companies don’t start businesses. Individuals do. It’s all about personal relationships, rapport and motivation. In business, as in politics, it’s all about relationshipbuilding.
I was passionate about politics and it was an electric time. Politics has its downsides, as I was soon to learn. The insecurity, the precariousness of political life hit home when Albert Reynolds took over as Fianna Fail leader and did an Andrews Liver Salts’ purge of his cabinet.
O’Hanlon was to lose his post and so was I. Within hours, we were gone and some new lessons were learned. I went for a short time into Fianna Fail headquarters, but I missed the cut and thrust and the buzz of the front line.
Then Noel Dempsey, TD, asked me to come up with a plan for the reorganisation of county councillors. I was due to start on the Monday. I had my desk picked out and all. It was a job that I knew I would love and one that I believed needed to be done.
The 2007 general election in Louth was fiercely-contested. The biggest challenge for Fianna Fail was to secure the re-election of its party chairman, Seamus Kirk, a man with 25 years’ experience as a TD. With a lot left to contribute, he had been written off by the opposition, by most political commentators and even some in Fianna Fail itself.
I was asked, and accepted the challenge, to direct his election campaign. For six months we planned, organised and all but choreographed his campaign, resulting in him, not only, not losing his seat, but actually topping the poll with more than 10,000 first preference votes an increase of some 54 per cent on the 2002 election result. It summed up politics for me: a good candidate, a strong team and an intelligent electorate. Reflecting on the result, it appears that our business is no different: we have a good product, we have built a strong team to deliver it and we have, increasingly, better-educated and informed customers.
Gallagher has been allowed make repeated claims to be primarily interested in youth work, which he did for a couple of years, yet not dismissed for the pretence that he is not lifetime FF politician.
The 2011 presidential election has all been about the media, rather than the candidates. And it appears, given the relative easy ride given to their candidates over the other four candidates, that the media can only really tolerate candidates from Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil.