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Gallagher's campaign comes to Birr as Aras race hits town

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Gallagher's campaign comes to Birr as Aras race hits town thumbnailMidland Tribune staff, Catherine Nugent Ryland and Elaine Hanniffy Slevin pictured with Sean Gallagher and his wife Trish after they popped into our offices in Main Street last Friday during Mr Gallagher's recent visit to the Midlands. MT40905JOC

Holding up the traffic on a bustling Friday afternoon is definitely one way to announce your arrival into Birr and rally some support for your impending stroll around town to "press some flesh".
On Friday last, Seán Gallagher's campaign bus snaked down Birr's Main street, causing some motorists to be slightly frustrated by the presidential candidate's arrival into town as part of a whistle stop tour of Offaly.
Once parked, the business man stepped off his campaign bus, accompanied by his wife Trish and a small group of canvassers in a bid to nab a few shoppers and punters, milling along the sunshine filled streets of Birr. Full of gusto, Seán showed no signs of waning enthusiasm, despite his early start that morning for an appearance on Ireland AM, which he later said was "great".
Mr Gallagher's first port of call was to stick his head into the Tribune office where he chatted briefly to some of the staff. Back outside, Sean then bumped into a former local councillor, who regaled the presidential candidate with a story of how he [Sean] had previously presented his daughter with a student award and she had voted for him in his 2011 bid for the Aras before wishing him well in the forthcoming presidential race.
Seán then turned to chat to a lady about his connection to Offaly through his mother, Annie Bracken from William Street, Tullamore. "She had a shop there in Tullamore," he was heard saying.
With a slight respite in well-wishers, I took the opportunity to chat to Mr Gallagher as we walked up the street about his bid for the Aras, some seven years after he sought the job the first time around.
We started out talking about the obvious connection to Offaly, having just come from Tullamore earlier in the morning. "They [his mum's family] had a shop there growing up, called Brackens and my uncle Simie and his wife, Josephine ran it up until a number of years ago. I spent a lot of my childhood up and down during the summer. I was remembering standing outside the shop, which is now a different business, what my uncle Simie used to say 'that it was great to see me coming but it was also great to see me going because it was a sweet shop and I used to eat all the profits'," he fondly recalled.
Down to more serious business, we moved onto the topic of kicking off his presidential bid. "Ireland has changed a lot in the last seven years. I think that areas like Birr and Offaly are dependent on local businesses to create jobs locally that allow staff and people to live in the community and are sustainable. I think this has become more important because there's are whole swathes of the country that are not experiencing the recovery that the eastern region are. And, this is an area that I want to continue to highlight."
According to Seán, another area he wants to promote is the area of disabilities. "I have announced if elected that I would launch a new year long initiative for people with disabilities," he explained. Growing up with a vision impairment, he said it was very important that "we bring people with disabilities to the fore and change the perception about how they are viewed and also to create opportunities for employment and education. Everyone including those with disabilities need an opportunity to reach their full potential."
Mr Gallagher also took the opportunity to mention to me that his campaign would be "carbon neutral" along with the importance of reaching out to the communities in northern Ireland and helping to "build the relationships that fosters the trust on which the unification as much as territory will take place".
Putting a question to him about encouraging young people to come out to vote, Mr Gallagher said it's important to "get young people engaged" as earlier as possible in community and public life. As a former professional youth worker himself, Seán has previously sent a lot of time working with young people.
"What we need to give them [young people] is a sense of confidence in themselves, a sense of respect for everyone else around them, a sense of creativity so they can create and solve the problems they are going to encounter and they can work together as a team. That's the skill set we need to give them."
According to Mr Gallagher, more young people need to be encouraged to "step forward" in all aspects of life, individual, community and public life. "All of us can only lead by example. This is the most powerful thing," he added.
At a stand still, a local business owner took the opportunity to chat to Seán about the reality of the economic situation in towns like Birr. "We are struggling," they said as the presidential hopeful took on board the concerns raised during the conversation, agreeing much of the economic recovery was "Dublin-centric" and perhaps, more needed to be done for the regional economy.
Having received over a half a million first preference votes in the last race, Gallagher is expected to mount a significant challenge to President Michael D. Higgins, who is seeking his second term if office.
Well, this is according to one Birr on-looker on Friday last, who quipped "sure at least he will give him [Higgins] a run for his money if nothing else". While another punter felt they weren't sure about this as President Higgins had proven himself very popular during his visit to open the 50th Birr Vintage parade earlier in the summer.
Meanwhile with his hashtag #sean4president in full use, Mr Gallagher uploaded some snaps from his visit to the midlands including one taken outside his mum's home house in Colmcille Street, Tullamore, a link Seán is very proud of and thanked everyone "across the midlands, who came out to support us today".

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