Dr John Hillery has sensationally quit from the race to secure a place on Clare Fianna Fáil’s General Election ticket.
In a surprise move, the son of former President of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery confirmed he is withdrawing his name ahead of next Monday’s nomination deadline for the Clare Fianna Fáil’s General Election selection convention. The consultant psychiatrist confirmed he wasn’t asked by the party to withdraw from the race.
Having consulted with his own political supporters, Dr Hillery decided he hadn’t enough time to mount a credible campaign ahead of the selection convention, which will be probably held next month.
He criticised party headquarters for the delay in providing a definite timescale and date for the convention, which made it extremely difficult for prospective candidates with full time jobs to juggle local canvassing with work.
“Candidates have a lot of work done and at this stage I felt I had too much work ahead of a possible convention in July. The lack of a definitive date or timescale was a big factor in deciding to withdraw. If Fianna Fáil want to encourage people from all walks of life to contest conventions, a timescale has to be given to allow people, particularly those in business and certain jobs to set time aside for canvassing,” he said.
“I am very disappointed that I will not have a chance to stand before the selection convention. If selected, I would have loved the opportunity to run in the General Election. I have a huge interest in doing something that will improve the quality of life for Clare people and I felt the best way to do this was to become a member of the next Dáil.
“I really enjoyed canvassing and meeting Clare people before the last general election and local elections. I got good feedback from people canvassing before the last Local Elections,” he said.
“I made it very clear from the start that Clare should elect two Fianna Fáil deputies if it wants to do well in the next General Election.
“I believe that Fianna Fáil in Clare should select three candidates at the selection convention, one from West Clare, East Clare and the Ennis area. I think Michael McDonagh is the best West Clare candidate, Timmy Dooley is an obvious candidate as a sitting deputy, while Clare Colleran-Molloy is well known in Ennis,” he said.
The former Irish Medical Council chairman is still planning to open a part-time private mental health practice in Clare and believes his wife could also work part-time as a dietician in the county. Dr Hillery recalled politics prevented his late father from doing what he enjoyed best- working as a GP in West Clare.
His departure is a major boost for Michael McDonagh’s bid to secure a place on the local Fianna Fáil ticket. The Clare GAA County Board chairman has now been spared a battle with a West Clare candidate, who was born just over a mile from the chairman’s own Miltown home.
It also means Dr Hillery will not entering into a political battle with his future son-in-law, Labour Deputy Michael McNamara, who is engaged to his daughter, Sarah.
While Dr Hillery has made it clear to the party, he is willing to help out ahead of the General Election, his unusual dilemna concerning Deputy McNamara means he doesn’t envisage going door-to-door asking people to vote against him.
“I think very highly of Michael McNamara and I think he has worked hard for Clare. I can’t see myself asking people to vote against him in the General Election. It is an unusual dilemma and if I was contesting the election I think it would have been unprecedented to have someone in opposition to their future son-in-law,” he said.
Last January, the Spanish Point-born Dr Hillery pledged to run as a candidate in the next General Election and up until today (Thursday) local Fianna Fáil cumman members faced the prospect of voting for two West Clare candidates from the one locality.
Having secured a place on the FF ticket as a late entrant following the retirement of former Defence Minister Tony Killeen before the 2011 General Election, Dr Hillery secured 6,015 first preferences compared with 6,789 with his running mate Deputy Timmy Dooley.
Barring any more unexpected withdrawals, the 650 local FF cumman members will have to choose from four candidates when nominations close next Monday.
Outgoing Clare FF Deputy Timmy Dooley will be hotly fancied to secure one of the places at the selection convention.
He will be joined by Mr Donagh, former Ennis Chamber chief executive, Rita McInerney from Doonbeg, and Councillor Clare Colleran-Molloy.
The FF National Constituency Committee has yet to decide whether it will select two or three of its Dáil candidates in Clare at the selection convention or reserve the right to add one at a later stage.
The general consensus suggests cumman members will pick one candidate to represent the new West Clare Municipal District, one from the Killaloe Municipal District and one from the Ennis Municipal District, if three candidates are being chosen at the convention.
It is expected the national 30% gender quota requirement will be implemented in Clare, which means that at least one female candidate will be on the local Fianna Fáil ticket.
A registered cumman or five members can nominate a candidate for the convention. Previously, a Fianna Fáil cumman had three votes but now the party has changed to a one man one vote for all its conventions.
Asked if the party would select all its candidates on the night of the convention, Fianna Fáil general secretary, Sean Dorgan said recently no decision has been made on its election strategy in the Clare constituency. Once the closing date for nominations passes, he said the party would move to stage two of its election process by organising and finalising a date for the convention.
By Dan Danaher