Dr John Hillery and Deputy Timmy Dooley were selected to represent Fianna Fáil (FF) in Clare at the next General Election following the selection convention in Hotel Woodstock on Thursday night.
The son of former President of Ireland Patrick Hillery beat off the challenge of Rita McInerney as Deputy Dooley was returned without a contest.
In total, 278 FF members in the West Clare Municipal District voted in this contest, Dr Hillery secured 154 votes while Ms McInerney got 123 votes.
Interestingly, these two successful candidates also represented Fianna Fáil in the 2011 General Election when transfers from Dr Hillery helped Deputy Dooley to win a Dáil seat without reaching the quota in the midst of a national meltdown for the party
In his acceptance speech, Deputy Dooley requested all his supporters in West and North Clare to give their first preference in the next General Election to Dr Hillery.
Acknowledging this was a difficult thing to do, the Mountshannon native stressed “it was the right thing to do” in a bid to win two Dáil seats.
“This is not about winning for Timmy Dooley or John Hillery. It is about ensuring Fianna Fáil is in strongest position to address the issues to bring a fair and equitable society rather than one the select few,” he said.
He appealed to all party delegates to leave the convention as a united party and do everything in their power to return two seats for Clare not just for FF but for the country.
He stressed it was necessary to win two seats to help FF get back into government and send a message to Fine Gael that it is not acceptable to turn their backs on rural Ireland.
Dr Hillery said he hoped to repay the honour of being selected to run for FF in the next election by winning two seats for the party.
He said it was vital to examine how FF failed in the final count in the 2016 General Election to win two seats in Clare and stressed everyone needed to work together on all fronts to achieve this common aim at the next election.
This could be achieved with working with determination, belief and good vote management. He said Clare was the “poor relation” due to the lack of government investment in the county.
While Ms McInerney admitted she was very disappointed not to secure a place on the FF Dáil ticket, she pledged to continue to support FF and the fight to prevent the demise of rural Ireland.
As a social democratic party, she stressed that FF is best placed to fight for the survival of rural Ireland.
The run-in to this convention was shrouded in controversy after a new ad-hoc group including former director of elections, Michael Neylon called for a postponement amid claims it was “undemocratic and contrary to party rules”.
There was a major backlash by some FF delegates against the decision by the national Constituency Committee (CC) to issue a directive to select one candidate from East and West Clare at the Clare Fianna Fáil Dáil Selection Convention.
However, FF general secretary, Sean Dorgan insisted the convention directive was “strategy not personality driven”.
Mr Dorgan also rejected claims this directive was “undemocratic and contrary to party rules”.
Five candidates were initially nominated for the convention – outgoing Deputy Timmy Dooley and Councillor Cathal Crowe in East Clare, as well as Rita McInerney, Dr John Hillery and Michael McDonagh, before the latter officially withdrew last week.
The directive prompted the shock withdrawal of Councillor Crowe, who claimed party headquarters scuppered his chances of selection with a “political bombshell”, paving the way for Deputy Dooley to be returned unopposed in East Clare.
Councillor Crowe told the convention he withdrew from the convention in “protest”, describing the decision to create an East and West Clare divide as “unfair, undemocratic and unprecedented”.
He said the “minimalist approach behind this Clare strategy” is advantageous to some who stand before you tonight and disadvantageous to others.
“At this time we need to look beyond protecting one seat. Every sinew of effort needs to be employed to deliver a second seat. In my opinion, Fianna Fái’s headquarters strategy will not deliver it.
“I don’t know of anywhere else in the country where a geographical divide has been imposed. Clare, it would appear, is very unique in this regard.
“Clare is Fianna Fáil heartland. This is Dev’s county. This is the county in which, not too long ago, Fianna Fáil was able to win three out of four seats. Fianna Fáil has slipped. Now, in spite of outpolling Fine Gael, FF only have one Dáil seat in Clare, while Fine Gael have two,” he said.
“I believe that I would be the best candidate to win a second seat for Fianna Fáil. While I have reluctantly bowed out of tonight’s convention, I am now seeking a meeting with senior party figures to discuss our next steps,” he said.