A LEADING national Fianna Fáil strategist insists its controversial geographical directive, which effectively hinders Councillor Cathal Crowe from seeking a party ticket to contest the next general election at this Thursday’s Dáil Selection Convention, is “strategy and not personality driven”.
There has been a major backlash from some angry 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.
A new ad-hoc group – including former FF director of elections in Clare, Michael Neylon – has called for the convention, scheduled for 670 delegates at the Hotel Woodstock in Ennis, to be postponed, amid claims it is “undemocratic” and “contrary to party rules”.
Five candidates were initially nominated for the convention – sitting 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 has claimed that party headquarters scuppered his chances of selection with a “political bombshell”, paving the way for Deputy Dooley to be the sole party candidate in East Clare.
Dr Hillery and Ms McInerney will now battle it out for one place on the ticket to become Deputy Dooley’s running mate, as only two candidates will be selected on the night.
Councillor Crowe has called for party unity in Clare, stressing that his gripe is with party headquarters and not the county’s grassroots membership.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, Fianna Fáil general secretary, Sean Dorgan, has defended the strategy adopted by the CC, insisting it is “strategy not personality driven”.
Mr Dorgan recalled that the CC had examined the disappointing result of the 2016 General Election, where the party won almost 31% of the vote but only managed one Dáil seat, while Fine Gael, with 26%, got two seats.
In the 2014 local elections, FF candidates won almost 40% of the votes in the West and North Clare areas, taking 6,700 first preferences, while almost 6,000 votes came from this area in the 2016 General Election.
He said the FF party and CC has taken a lot of time to reflect on these results and tallies from recent elections and had discussed its future election strategy with a number of people.
“In a big geographic county like Clare, the CC is keen to ensure that the Dáil ticket is geographically and strategically balanced. The CC will always keep this strategy under review; the convention is one step in this process,” Mr Dorgan said.
He rejected calls for the postponement of this Thursday’s convention and disagreed that it is “undemocratic”, as the party rules allow it to put in place district conventions, which has been done in other parts of the country.
By Dan Danaher