The Meaning Of Life with Gay Byrne

Programme 3

Gay Byrne with Sean Gallagher

Sean Gallagher

In his first televised interview since last year's presidential campaign, Sean Gallagher tells Gay Byrne what gave an almost-blind schoolboy failure the self-belief to run for the highest office in the land, and how he has coped with the disappointment of becoming last year's nearly man.

There aren't many presenters who either could, or would dare to, begin an interview with Sean Gallagher by saying, "We are in this one room, two of the greatest Presidents the Irish people never had." But Gaybo makes sure there are no unmentioned elephants in the room, as Sean Gallagher gives his first television interview since his failed presidential bid last year.

After several months in the spotlight, Gallagher has been more or less invisible in the months since. He reveals that he and his wife, Trish, spent a few days at a Carmelite monastery in Sligo after the election, meditating, walking and getting to know one another again. Now she has persuaded him to move to her home county of Cork and the Monaghan-born, Cavan-raised, previously Louth-based businessman says he is happy enough to pull on the red jersey of the Rebel County.

Gay first met Sean Gallagher at a Crumlin Children's Hospital benefit, before Sean ran for the Park. What interested Byrne that day was the speech Gallagher gave, in which he described the life-changing effect of surgery on his eyes as an infant, which transformed his near-blindness into partial sight.

Congenital cataracts weren't the only set-back in the young Sean Gallagher's life. He was in a serious car smash in the 1980s, from which he took over a year to recover. Again though he was determined to turn this to his advantage. He explains how he learned judo and then karate as part of his rehab, becoming black belt in both disciplines, so that his crash probably ended up making him fitter than he might have been. Martial arts also introduced him to Eastern philosophies and muddied the Catholic outlook instilled by, amongst others, a young Fr Seán Brady, who taught him Latin at school.

A year after he came so close to winning the presidency, he tries to be philosophical. Ah, but would he go again? Gay asks him...

Watch The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, Sunday 21st October at 10.30pm on RTÉ One



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