Is the man from Dragon's Den Ireland's next president?
He was leading the polling, but a damaging allegation this week could have hurt Seán Gallagher's chances of becoming Ireland's next president.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
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Five men and two women are standing for what is, officially at least, the highest office in the land. But Ireland's presidency has no real power – something the public appears to understand only too well.Turnout was low according to reports from polling stations, averaging around 20 percent in some areas at 5 p.m. tonight.
Executive power in Ireland, a parliamentary republic, resides with the Cabinet in the lower house, the Dáil, but the presidency has symbolic power and this is being exploited for all it's worth by the candidates. Each claims to want to shine a light amid the economic gloom that pervades the nation.
The man to beat is an unlikely figure for political office: a farmer turned property developer and TV star: Seán Gallagher, a businessman and star of "Dragons' Den," a reality TV show about entrepreneurs.
"Seán Gallagher has surprised the Dublin media bubble but he has the common touch, something that can be seen in the numbers of his Facebook fans," says Ciarán McMahon, a psychologist at the Dublin Business School who has been studying the impact of social networks during the election campaign.
Many feel Mr. Gallagher represents Ireland's transformation in the past two decades, though supporters and opponents mean different things when they say that.
Fianna Fáil, long the dominant political party in Irish life, failed to stand a candidate, such was the likelihood of humiliation at the polls. Many see Gallagher as a proxy candidate for a party that was trounced at the general election on February 25.
The allegations linking Gallagher to Fianna Fáil, along with questions about his business and accounting practices, were aired on a televised debate Monday. There hasn't been an opinion pol since, so it's difficult to tell if he has been damaged.
"I think the [real] winners, politically, will be Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin," said David Farrell, professor of politics at University College Dublin, saying many had written Fianna Fáil off and that a victory for Mr Gallagher would be a major coup for the party.
"[The] Labor [party] will come out pretty well, too," he said.
Gay Mitchell, candidate of the main governing party, the conservative Fine Gael, is trailing badly in opinion polls, likely to come fifth, a result that some feel could damage party morale.