Brexit, abortion and Trump: Where each of the six presidential hopefuls stand on the big issues


Brexit, abortion and Trump: Where each of the six presidential hopefuls stand on the big issues

With less than a week to go until polling day, break down the candidates and where they stand on the big issues

The countdown is on – there is less than a week to go until polling day for the Presidential Election 2018.

The six candidates have hit headlines for various reasons in the last few weeks – but what do each of them stand for? have broken down the candidates and where they stand on the big issues of the times we live in.

Joan Freeman

Joan Freeman



Ms Freeman declined to comment on whether a second Brexit referendum should be held but said her primary concern is that the terms of the Brexit agreement protect an invisible border between North and South.

Presidential expenses:

Dodging the question on Claire Byrne Live as to whether she thinks it was right for the Public Accounts Committee to look at expenditure from the Office of the President in the run-up to the election, Joan Freeman said candidates either have to have personal wealth or be totally aligned with a political party.

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Joan Freeman and husband Patrick. Photo: Arthur Carron

Abortion Referendum:

Freeman voted No in the Abortion Referendum. She has said it was not for religious reasons, but because she has worked her whole life to preserve life. However, she said she would absolutely be happy to carry the voice of the people and sign resulting legislation into law as president.

U.S. President Trump:

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Speaking on the Claire Byrne Live debate, Ms Freeman said she would meet with Donald Trump.

“We have spent decades creating a magnificent relationship with America and it would be such a shame if we destroyed that relationship because of one president. If I was to meet Trump, I would welcome him to Ireland.”


Joan Freeman has said that she is a feminist because she believes in parity between men and women.

“We need to be advocating for women as I believe women’s voices should be represented in all aspects of society. Women not only bring skill, talent and leadership, but they also bring empathy to all situations. It makes sense for women and men to work together as it results in a more balanced and fair society.”

Peter Casey

Peter Casey speaking at EPIC centre in Dublin at the official launch of his presidential campaign. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA. Friday October 5, 2018.


On Brexit Mr Casey predicted it will “end up like Y2K”, otherwise known as the Millennium bug, that failed to have the expected impact on computers worldwide in the year 2000.

“It’s like the crisis you have when you’re not having a crisis. Germany has a 16pc trade surplus with the UK so they are not going to do anything that will mess that up,” the businessman said.

“I think they’ve run out of time already, so what they’ll do is vote to give the UK an extension.

“They’ll extend it probably for two years. In the meantime there’ll be a new government elected in the UK and they’ll go back and ask for a vote on it.

“This time they’ll vote to stay in. That’s what I’d bet on,” Mr Casey said, adding: “I think it’ll be a huge big yawn. We’ll think ‘Why were we all so excited about Brexit’.”

Presidential expenses:

Peter Casey told the Claire Byrne live debate he is “sceptical” on the issue of PAC looking at the presidential expenses. He said that he does not think it was right to examine presidential costs just weeks before the election.

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Peter Casey and wife Helen. Photo: Arthur Carron

Abortion Referendum:

Asked about the recent abortion referendum, he said he’s “absolutely 100pc opposed to abortion as a means of birth control”, but would sign the legislation being proposed by the Government into law.

“I’m opposed to it, but where the mother’s life is in danger or cases of rape and incest I would be in favour of it,” he said.

U.S. President Trump:

Mr Casey said on the Claire Byrne live debate that “you don’t have the luxury” of deciding who you do and don’t meet as president.

“As the head of state you are duty bound to meet the person … I think Trump is an international embarrassment as the president you have to grin and bear it.”


Peter Casey has said that he is not a feminist because he “doesn’t discriminate by favouring men or women”.

“I would like to think we’re past this as a society and women are treated equally in Ireland. But I am open to exploring the matter further and would happily engage with the Women’s Council of Ireland on suitable means to address inequality or advance the aim of equality for everyone in our society.”

Sean Gallagher

Presidential candidate Seán Gallagher. Picture: Kinlan Photography.


Gallagher has described Brexit as a “mistake”. He said he “could not even begin to countenance” the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit.

The former Dragons’ Den star said he had first-hand experience of how “very intimidating” crossing a militarised border could be and he was “very fearful” for young people should a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland be reinstated.

Gallagher has said he would campaign for a united Ireland if he was elected as president. He told Newstalk Breakfast recently he believes a United Ireland can be achieved within his lifetime and he said he would use his position as president to address local authorities in Northern Ireland.

Presidential expenses:

Gallagher said he was surprised to learn a €317,000 allowance to the office of the president was not audited. He said all public funding should be audited.

Sean Gallagher (Liam McBurney/PA)

Abortion Referendum:

Mr Gallagher said that he voted to appeal the abortion referendum.

U.S. President Trump:

Mr Gallagher said that he would welcome Donald Trump to Ireland.

“Ireland has a great reputation for welcoming visitors to our country. If elected President I would of course welcome any Head of State that is invited by our Government,” Mr Gallagher told the Journal.


Sean Gallagher has said that he is feminist and believes that women should have equal rights and opportunities.

“It’s also about standing up when we don’t see this happening, whether it’s in politics, a playground or a boardroom. As much as I want my daughter Lucy to grow up with all the opportunities she and every girl deserves, I also want my son Bobby to grow up knowing that being a feminist is a strength because it means that you stand for others and are committed to shaping a future where everyone is equal.”

Gavin Duffy

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Gavin Duffy


Mr Duffy said that he is opposed to Brexit and would support a second vote on the referendum in the UK.

Presidential expenses:

Gavin Duffy has said it was right for the Public Accounts Committee to look at the presidential finances.

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Gavin Duffy and wife Orlaith Carmody. Photo: Arthur Carron

Abortion Referendum:

Mr Duffy said that he voted to appeal the Eighth Amendment.

U.S. President Trump:

Speaking on the Claire Byrne live debate, Mr Duffy said that he would meet with Donald Trump.

“Ireland is a very unique country. We have a good relationship with everyone. We have reached out across the world.

“I believe we should be available to all people and to have difficult conversations. We all have personal problems with Donald Trump but all of us would be meeting the office of the President of the United States.”


Gavin Duffy has said that he is a feminist and that he believes in full gender equality in every aspect of life.

“I know women are discriminated against because I have worked with men who have blind spots to women’s potential or, sadly feel more comfortable in majority male teams. Of course I challenged those men but many suffer unconscious bias. I have always been different in that regard and have always worked closely and successfully with women.”

Liadh Ni Riada

Liadh Ni Riada



Ms Ní Riada said that it is up to the UK to decide on a second Brexit referendum but that if she was president she would ensure inclusivity and equality.

She said she would be president for all people, that includes having that dialogue with Unionists.

Presidential expenses:

Speaking during the Claire Byrne live debate, Liadh Ní Riada said the timing of the Public Accounts Committee looking at presidential expenses was “unfortunate”.

“Absolute accountability is key, but it’s seven years too late,” she said. She also said she believes the presidential salary should be halved.

Liadh Ní Riada


Abortion Referendum:

Ms Ní Riada said she voted to appeal the abortion referendum.

U.S. President Trump:

Speaking on the Claire Byrne live debate, Ms Ní Riada said that she would welcome Mr Trump to Ireland.

“I think it’s important that as president you do meet world leaders. It’s an opportunity in the private discussion that you do have that you can try and be a positive influence and raise the issues. It would be very wrong not to meet any world leader.


Liadh Ni Riada said that she is a feminist and that she is committed to equality for women.

“While much has been achieved in recent years, including the repeal of the 8th Amendment, there is a lot still to be achieved in Ireland and across the globe. As an MEP I have been active on a range of issues to improve equality for women and if elected president I will continue to advocate for women and girls in Irish society and internationally.”

Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins canvases for votes on Dublin’s Grafton Street (Niall Carson/PA)


Mr Higgins said that as President, he could not comment on a second Brexit referendum but said that Europe was in a fragile condition, and stressed the importance of social cohesion, and of “restoring the connection with the European street”.

Presidential expenses:

Mr Higgins takes a reduced salary of just under €250,000 a year, which adds up to €1.75m over the term of his presidency. He also has rental income from a property in Galway and a pension from his time as a college lecturer.

When asked by the Irish Independent if Ms Freeman is justified in casting him as a millionaire candidate, he replied: “Material things are not important to me.”

Michael D Higgins


Abortion Referendum:

When asked about the abortion referendum Mr Higgins said it would not be appropriate for an incumbent President to reveal which way he or she voted on a constitutional issue.

However, he opposed the introduction of the 8th Amendment in 1983.

U.S. President Trump:

Mr Higgins said he would extend all appropriate courtesies to any head of state visiting Ireland. Mr Higgins previously used a major speech on women’s leadership in New York to criticise “unapologetic sexism” in Donald Trump’s America.

Mr Higgins also said that women’s voices were “marginalised, ignored or silenced” for too long in Ireland’s first 100 years of independence.


Michael D Higgins said that he is a feminist and that global feminism has been a transformative source of new thinking, benefiting everyone.

“I’m heartened to see a renewed, inclusive, confident, feminism within contemporary movements for a more equal Ireland.

“A feminist is a man or a woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today, and we must fix it, we must do better’.”

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