Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Gallagher's myth-making will bring shame on Aras

Sean Gallagher has brought disgrace on this election and on his own campaign. He should make a public announcement in advance of tomorrow's vote, stating that he is withdrawing from the election because of the sustained misleading of the public. He is at liberty to do that and step out of the presidential race.

If he does not do so, he will permanently damage the office of President of Ireland. If he still wins, the media will be dealing with someone who has repeatedly misled the people, not by accident, but by design. Journalists in the future will question the truthfulness of anything he says. They will continue to hound him in office. There is no reason to suppose that his inventive myth-making will not dog us forever more.

He cannot be exonerated. The deliberately misleading presentation of himself has been too comprehensive and too fundamental. There is no resort to transparency. It would not be believed.

He does not now deserve to win and I think he won't. But the Irish people have been put into a spin of uncertainty by his many conflicting statements. Unfortunately, he cannot be left out of the vote but he should indicate that he cannot accept the office under false pretences.

He entered the campaign under false pretences. His website, from the outset, was deliberately misleading. He made claims and statements about his slight and intermittent involvement with Fianna Fail, an involvement that he said had ended in 2009.

None of this was true. He was deeply involved -- and for much longer -- in party affairs. He operated at a high level within the party, engaging on large-figure fundraising events and exercising his influence at the highest level, on the Fianna Fail national executive.

He resigned from this under pressure because he was not representing the Louth constituency. Yet he gave not one, but several entirely different stories about severing the Fianna Fail links. At the same time, he did not sever them. He may have resigned from the national executive but he did not resign as a party member and has been unable to give a true account of this part of his membership.

Moreover, there was a two-year gap in his story. When he said: "I left any involvement in Fianna Fail in terms of being a member of the party or being active back in 2009 because I felt that the party had moved away from its grassroots, the ordinary people who were struggling", the real year was 2011 and the real reason was that he wanted to pass himself off as an 'Independent candidate' in the presidential election. In order to do this, he had to create an entirely invented character for himself. He did this with conviction and a complete ignoring of the truth.

His whole time in Fianna Fail has been intense, committed, high-level and very much on the inner circle of party power. From the time he served as a special adviser to Rory O'Hanlon, which gave him initial access to the highest echelons in the Fianna Fail party, he maintained an ambitious series of political involvements.

Gallagher worked in FF headquarters, dealing with key figures in the party and in government. He was head-hunted by Noel Dempsey and went to work for him. He was given a chairmanship for the Bremore Project, a key Celtic Tiger enterprise. He was working under a well-placed and potentially significant leading figure from the up-and-coming generation.

THOUGH he claimed a parting of the ways with Fianna Fail, this was not so. He remained a key party member, receiving three quango appointments. As Tommy O'Brien says, in his '' blog: "You don't join that elite few with multiple quango appointments without having serious contacts in government with people willing to put you on to things."

He misrepresents his work for Seamus Kirk, former Fianna Fail TD for Louth, claiming he drifted back to help him. In fact, he was Kirk's director of elections, not a job one "drifts into". Nor did he "drift" onto the national executive, which he did twice, though without telling us. It brought him close to Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. That's independence for you!

Having put forward a version of events about joining and leaving Fianna Fail, he claimed that he never attended any political meetings after 2009. He did. He attended candidate launches and chaired them. He attended an Ogra Fianna Fail conference in 2010 in Belfast.

He pretended he was there as a celebrity business leader. He was not. He was there for Ogra Fianna Fail and to give his public backing to the party which, he finally admitted, a week ago, he never left at all. In its embarrassment, FF cannot find the courage or good judgment to answer questions about whether he is still in FF.

I find all of this a deeply shocking narrative that cannot be explained, excused or exonerated. It is made worse by the gullibility of the Irish public. Their gobdaw acceptance of this man and his amazing, sustained fiction about himself has turned what many think of as a pretender into a leading contender for the highest office in the land.

I also find shocking the undoubted complicity of Fianna Fail in his rise in popularity. Worse still has been the party's failure either to extricate itself from the shame or tell even the simple, banal truth about his party membership.

I find it possible to discover one area of sadness in the further humiliation of the Fianna Fail party by its leader, Micheal Martin, a conspirator in the whitewash of Sean Gallagher. It is this. The party had a viable candidate in Brian Crowley, likeable, able and appealing. He was turned down in favour of Sean Gallagher.

What a way to go!