I’d like to think that one of the reasons that people like reading this blog is the fact that I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.
And boy, was I wrong about the Frontline presidential debate on RTE.
Perhaps I was suffering election fatigue when I sat down to watch it, but I think I can be forgiven for saying that I was expecting the same non-answers to the same irrelevant questions.
What followed, of course, was two hours of the most gripping television in the history of Irish broadcasting as Gallagher stumbled badly on the home straight, and, sensing weakness, Michael D moved to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
In the bitterst of ironies, it was Martin McGuinness- no stranger to a bit of cavalier fund-raising himself – who held the smoking gun.
He had spoken to someone who had handed over a cheque for Fianna Fáil to the value of five thousand euro to Seán Gallagher, in return for his dinner and a picture with Brian Cowen.
Never has something that sounds so unappealing cost so much.
It cost the donor five grand.
It may have cost Gallagher the presidency.
The rest of the candidates, who until that point had failed to find a foothold on the Mount Rushmore-like face of Gallagher’s entrepreneurial stoicism, gleefully queued up to twist the knife.
Even Mary Davis – the candidate most likely to be accused of kicking a man whilst he’s down – got her digs in and has called on Gallagher to come clean or suffer the wrath of the people.
She has done little in this campaign, but this late intervention may just turn the tide.
In another bitter irony, Gallagher’s problem is very similar to that of his prime adversary McGuinness.
Both have shady political pasts that they would wish to forget, or at least cast in a totally different light to what anyone else remembers.
Neither can afford the luxury of condemning their supporters in the shadows (McGuinness in the IRA, Gallagher’s in FF).
Gallagher’s problem, like McGuinness, is that when he denies his past, he loses all credibility. Instead of prostating himself before the electorate and begging their forgiveness, he left himself open to being caught out.
Gallagher could have been the first of the new FF breed, accepting both his own past and the wrongs of the Galway tent but promising to usher in a new era of politics.
Instead, he chose to minimise his part in FF, thus creating a hostage to fortune that, in the media climate of this campaign, wasn’t likely to stay chained to a radiator for long.
Like the banks of the Dodder, the floodgates have finally opened, and a much more damaging allegation is that he took payments form GAA clubs to secure funding.
As most people know, the GAA is an amateur organisation kept running by the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, none of whom will be too enamoured at this prospect.
Add to this his seemingly odd (but seemingly legitimate) business transactions and we are witnessing a death by a thousand cuts.
I have written several times over the last few weeks that there was one major twist left in this race, but I don’t think that anyone in their wildest dreams could have imagined it would be a game-changer like this one. Not even Michael D.
At 1400 Irish time tomorrow the utterly ludicrous broadcast ban kicks in and the public pronouncements of the candidates will be effectively finished.
That means Gallagher has about 16 hours to save his campaign track or risk becoming the second candidate to throw this election away despite seemingly having it in the bag.
I have no doubt about the brilliance of his backroom team (some of them trained me in public relations) – the question is whether they can save him in time.
Watch this space.