Councillor Cathal Crowe has confirmed his shock withdrawal from the Clare Fianna Fáil Dáil Selection Convention, after claiming party headquarters scuppered his chances of election with a “political bombshell”.
The Clare Champion can reveal the experienced Meelick Councillor will officially withdraw from the covention next Thursday, after an unprecedented geographical directive from Fianna Fáil headquarters.
While Councillor Crowe will not contest the convention, he is hoping to convince senior party officials to subsequently add him to the party’s Dáil ticket in the Banner county.
In fact, he is seeking an urgent meeting with general secretary Sean Dorgan and Fianna Fáil leader, Micheal Martin to present what he believes is a strong case to be added to the line-up.
Hundreds of delegates, who are eligible to vote in the convention in Woodstock Hotel next Thursday night, have been issued with a controversial party directive requesting them to select one candidate from East and West Clare.
Five candidates were initially nominated for the convention – outgoing Deputy Timmy Dooley and Councillor Crowe in East Clare, as well as Rita McInerney, Dr John Hillery and Michael McDonagh, before the latter officially withdrew last week.
For election purposes, Fianna Fáil in Clare are including the Shannon and Killaloe Municipal Districts and east of Ennis in one block with West and North Clare as well as west of Ennis in another unexpected division.
Veteran FF Councillor P J Kelly described the directive as a “political manipulation of the democratic process. “There is an agenda within an agenda,” he said.
Councillor Kelly told the Clare Champion he has no recollection of any similar geographical directive being imposed on delegates in advance of a vote over the last 40 years.
Having travelled to the four corners of the county canvassing about two thirds of party delegates in the county since August 2nd, Councillor Crowe admitted he is very disappointed with this political development.
The father-of-two said he has received nominations from all over the county as well as pledges of support from numerous people in West Clare.
“I had a lot of canvassing work done over the last eight months. I met delegates at meetings, telephoned delegates and travelled all over the county meeting people door-to-door.
“Some candidates are being clearly advantaged by this decision. I am being disadvantaged. This directive is not want Fianna Fáil members want in Clare.
“Delegates were looking forward to a five-candidate contest, which reduced to four when Michael McDonagh withdrew.
“This has now been taken out of delegates’ hands by a committee in Dublin. While I have the utmost of respect for the remaining candidates, I don’t believe the West Clare and East Clare strategy will win two seats for Fianna Fáil in Clare.
“I made it clear from the start I wasn’t interested in a head-to-head contest with sitting TD Timmy Dooley as I wanted to be selected as his running mate,” he said.
A report published by the Constituency Commission recommended that the high variance in the Clare constituency be addressed by the transfer of the 5,994 Clare population in the electoral division of Ballyglass, that is in the Limerick City constituency, to the Clare constituency.
This will restore the breach of the Clare county boundary for the next General Election and provides Councillor Crowe with a political platform to mount an election bid.
First elected to Clare County Council in 2004, Councillor Crowe has won elections in two electoral areas the Killaloe and Shannon Electoral Area.
In 2014, he topped the poll in the Shannon Electoral Area and secured the highest vote for a Fianna Fáil candidate with 1,929 first preferences.
With parts of South-East Clare returning to Clare for General Elections, Councillor Crowe said it is ironic that Fianna Fáil has now decided to split the constituency.
“This isn’t all about me. I believe this directive is unfair and is a kick in the teeth to party delegates. Party delegates were looking forward to a contest that would be fair and open, which is not the case.
“Everyone was looking forward to a four-way contest. As a sitting TD, Timmy Dooley is a shoe-in. I believe I have a lot to offer politically as someone who has won council elections as a very good vote getter.
“If you draw a line north of Clarecastle most of the prospective General Election candidates will be coming from what is a very congested field. Below this line is very open territory where I was one of the few candidates with the likes of Councillor Mike McKee in Shannon.
“I believe Fianna Fáil are making a big mistake leaving this large geographical area to Siinn Féin. It takes at least 40 minutes for me to drive from my front door to Timmy Dooley’s house in Tulla.
“I believe we should run three candidates to win two seats for Fianna Fáil in the next General Election. If Fianna Fáil can win a seat in Clate at the expense of Fine Gael and repeat this in five or six more constituencies, this could be enough to make Michael Martin Taoiseach,” he said.
He claimed FF headquarters has let down its membership in Clare with this “anti-democratic” directive.