WITH Labour riding high in the opinion polls, the party is trying to entice a high profile candidate to stand on the party ticket in Clare. The party believes that, with the right candidate, they could repeat the feat of 1992 when Dr Moosajee Bhamjee was a shock winner.
Leader Eamon Gilmore has targeted Clare as a possible gain in terms of Dáil representation and it is understood that he has approached former All-Star goalkeeper and Waterford manager, Davy Fitzgerald to enter the political ball game.
Communications have been ongoing between both parties over the past few months but Fitzgerald has yet to declare his hand. Efforts to contact him on Wednesday to establish his position failed.
Meanwhile, speculation has intensified that Scariff barrister and part-time farmer, Michael McNamara may also be in Labour’s sights as a possible candidate.
The Clare Champion has learned from a number of sources that Mr McNamara, who secured 12,744 first preferences as an independent in the 2009 European Elections, could well be the standard bearer.
Mr McNamara, however, declined to confirm or deny whether he would run for Labour.
“I have no comment to make on this matter at the moment. There has been a lot of speculation but I haven’t decided to run in any capacity in the next general election yet.
“At this stage, I am more concerned about policies rather than personalities. I have put forward a costed proposal about generating employment through a community employment scheme and helping innovative enterprise to make a start. My focus is on policies that will help Clare people get out of this terrible mess. For far too long there has been a focus on personalities. There is no magic solution but we need policies to get us out of this financial mess,” he said.
Paul O’Shea, who is currently serving his first term on Ennis Town Council, has confirmed that he will definitely be putting his hat into the ring for the Labour Party selection convention, scheduled for Friday, December 3.
Mr O’Shea admitted to being “very much interested” in standing for election and being one of the party’s front-runners for the nomination.
“I’m starting to roll things out. It’s a case of rallying the troops right now and deciding on a strategy for whenever the election is called.
“With my work on the ground over the past year as chairperson of the Ennis Hospital Committee and in the campaign to close down the headshops in Ennis, I feel I’m entitled to look for the nomination,” he said.
Shannon’s Patricia McCarthy, an unsuccessful Labour Party candidate in the 1977, 1981 and 1982 general elections and now an independent member of Clare County Council, is also being mentioned as a possible candidate.
However, as regards being enticed back into the Labour fold, Councillor McCarthy was non-commital.
“I can’t help speculation. My name tends to always surface when there’s talk of an election. I suppose I’m humbled that people think that I’m a good candidate and should be in the running,” she commented.
In the 2007 General Election, Labour was represented by Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald. He received just 1.58% of the vote, leading to his elimination in the first count.
Meaney defends Greens
Green Party Councillor, Brian Meaney, who was selected to run for the general election at the party’s convention on Tuesday night, has admitted his party could be wiped out.
While he has been an unsuccessful candidate in the last three general elections, he has pledged to do his utmost to maximise the Greens’ vote in the Banner County.
The only promise Mr Meaney is prepared to make is to be honest with the Clare electorate.
“Ireland is entering a completely new era as a country. I don’t think some people fully appreciate the problems facing this country. The Irish taxpayer could be saddled with a massive debt of €250 billion when all the bank debts, sovereign debt and other debts are taken into account.
“I will bring a different perspective to the election campaign. My views can be controversial but I am not a populist politician and the only proposals I will make will be for the good of this country.
“People need to be made aware of the financial global calamity that is facing countries. I will also be honest with what Clare people are facing over the coming years,” he said.
Asked if the Green Party displayed poor political judgement by declaring their intentions to withdraw ahead of the Budget on December 7, Councillor Meaney defended their controversial stance.
“The Green Party deputies felt they had to be honest with the people by stating their intentions now instead of waiting until after the Budget. Personally, I don’t think that the general election will be held at the end of January. It could be March,” he said.
Meanwhile, Independent James Breen, who caused a political sensation when he topped the poll in the 2002 General Election with 9,721 first preferences, is also a declared candidate.
Breen stood as an independent after failing to secure a Fianna Fáil nomination. However, in 2007 he lost his Dáil seat and Fine Gael’s Joe Carey came into the frame.
Also in the field is social campaigner and well-known sculptor, Jim Connolly from Kilbaha.
No decision for Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin has not yet decided if the party is to run a candidate in Clare.
Finbarr MacGabhann, of the regional working group of Sinn Féin in Ennis, did confirm that he would not be a candidate. He was also able to rule out the prospect that their 2007 candidate, Anna Prior from Shannon, would go forward once more.
“We are not sure if we are even putting someone forward at this stage. No decision has been made. We will have a series of meetings with Sinn Féin’s Munster board. To date, we have had some informal discussions but no formal meetings to make a decision have been held.”
Sinn Féin Shannon Town Council member, Cathy McCafferty, also stated that she would definitely not be going forward as a candidate.
“I’m quite happy where I am at the moment as a member of Shannon Town Council. I was approached by the party but I’m not interested in contesting the general election and there is no chance that I’ll be talked into it.”
Councillor McCafferty also said that Ennis Sinn Féin member Sean Hayes, who contested the local election in 2009, would not be a candidate for the party either. “He definitely isn’t running and has not been considered for the ticket,” she added.