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  1. ITV Report

Who’s in the race for the Irish presidency?

Aras an Uachtarain is the home of the Irish President in Phoenix Park, Dublin (Niall Carson/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

Following confirmation businessman Gavin Duffy will contest the election to become the next President of Ireland, here are the four candidates currently in the race for Aras An Uachtarain.

Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

The sitting President, 77, was born in Limerick and had an academic career in the 1960s-70s, teaching sociology in Ireland and the United States.

He entered the political arena in the late 1960s joining the Labour Party and served as a senator in the 1980s before representing Galway West in the Dail from 1987 to 2011.

Mr Higgins is a fluent Irish speaker and served as minister for arts, culture and the Gaeltacht in the 1990s.

He is also a published poet and has presented TV documentaries.

Mr Higgins was first elected president in 2011 after running as an independent candidate.

He made history in 2014 when he became the first Irish President to undertake an official state visit to the UK.

Earlier this year he welcomed Pope Francis to Ireland, the first papal visit in almost 40 years.

As the current president, Mr Higgins is able to nominate himself as an independent candidate for another seven years in office.

However he has secured the backing of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, who have agreed not to field candidates from their own parties.

Sean Gallagher

Mr Gallagher has declared his intention to run again in the upcoming presidential election Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The 56-year-old businessman and former former Dragons’ Den star from Ballyhaise, County Cavan, finished second in the 2011 Irish Presidential election.

He secured more than half a million first preference votes, but lost out to Mr Higgins.

Mr Gallagher has described himself as coming from the “Fianna Fail gene pool”, but is running as an independent.

In 2002 he founded Smarthomes, a home technology business, with Derek Roddy.

The company won numerous awards for innovation and Mr Gallagher was a finalist in the 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year contest.

Mr Gallagher became a public figure during his time as an investor on RTE One’s Dragons’ Den from 2008 to 2011.

Last year, State broadcaster RTE apologised to Mr Gallagher over a tweet read out during a live TV debate during the last election campaign.

The tweet was purported to be from an official account linked to the late Martin McGuinness, who also ran for president in 2011.

However, it later emerged the account was not the official campaign account of the Sinn Fein candidate.

Mr Gallagher won the backing of Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim and Wexford councils, and was the first independent candidate to secure a nomination.

Gavin Duffy

Gavin Duffy is known for his media career Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The entrepreneur and businessman from Sallins, Co Kildare, is best known for his role on the RTE programme Dragon’s Den.

Mr Duffy, 58, started his career as a shareholder in radio stations, and in 1992 he co-founded a media and management consultancy.

He is the former owner of HRM, one of Ireland’s largest recruitment companies.

His early career in the media included presenting the first RTE television business programme, Marketplace; broadcasting on Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One, and founding regional radio station LMFM.

Later Mr Duffy became a serial entrepreneur and is now a veteran of over 40 start-ups. His venture capital portfolio has been concentrated on recruitment, professional development, education and media.

He has been a panellist on the Irish version of Dragon’s Den for all eight seasons since the show began in 2009.

Mr Duffy has worked in the past as an adviser to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

He has said he would accept the full presidential salary of 350,000 euro.

The current President, Michael D Higgins, has voluntarily reduced his own salary to under 250,000 euro while in office.

Mr Duffy will run as an independent candidate after securing his nomination by winning the backing of Waterford, Meath, Carlow and Wicklow councils.

Senator Joan Freeman

Joan Freeman is the only woman in the race Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The sole woman in the contest so far is a psychologist and mental health activist from Dublin.

Senator Joan Freeman, 60, has also served on the Seanad since May 2016 after being nominated by the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny. She is the chairperson on the committee on mental health.

Senator Freeman founded Pieta House, a suicide intervention charity, in 2006 in Lucan, County Dublin. It now boasts 12 additional centres around Ireland.

Senator Freeman also founded the annual fundraising event Darkness into Light in aid of Pieta House. The event began with 400 participants in 2008 and has since grown with approximately 200,000 people participating in the 2018 events held across Ireland, including at the Phoenix Park.

She resigned from Pieta House in 2014, in order to concentrate on developing Solace House, a similar charity based in New York City launched in 2015.

Senator Freeman will run as an independent candidate. She earned the backing of Galway City Council as well as Galway County, Fingal and Cork County councils.

The Irish Presidential election will be held on October 26.

Sinn Fein is set to announce its candidate on Sunday.