POLITICAL manoeuvring among Clare Fianna Fáil delegates stepped up a gear after five candidates were nominated to contest a coveted place on the party ticket for the next Dáil race.
The Clare Fianna Fáil Dáil Selection Convention looks set to attract a very large attendance as hundreds of local delegates consider the selection of at least two Dáil candidates.
Outgoing Deputy Timmy Dooley, former 2011 General Election candidate Dr John Hillery, Councillor Cathal Crowe, former Ennis Chamber chief executive officer Rita McInerney and former Clare County Board chairman, Michael “Malty” McDonagh have all been nominated to contest the selection convention.
However, Mr McDonagh, who secured 4,726 first preferences votes in the 2016 General Election, has told The Clare Champion he will not be a candidate at convention.
He may come under pressure to change his mind before the convention, which still has not been fixed.
It is expected the party’s drive to win two seats at the next General Election will be kick-started at a Comhairle Dáil Ceanntair (CDC) meeting this Friday night amid recent disquiet over the lack of meetings.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, Dr Hillery said the party should select only two candidates to win two seats at the next General Election.
Asked about a possible directive from Fianna Fáil headquarters about the national gender quota, the consultant psychiatrist said any directive in relation to this quota should be made before the convention as he does not favour adding an extra male or female candidate after the convention.
Having decided to go forward to contest the convention on the basis that he could win a second seat for the party, Dr Hillery stressed there needed to be a level playing field for Deputy Dooley’s running mate, whoever was selected after the convention.
He said there was no point in going forward to contest the convention unless the party had a strategy to maximise the votes to win two seats.
Dr Hillery convened a meeting with his own supporters last Thursday night in The Falls Hotel attended by Deputy Dooley but not by any of the other convention candidates.
Asked about Deputy Dooley’s attendance at the meeting, Dr Hillery said the party’s current TD spoke for about 10 minutes, outlined his commitment to maximising the vote and doing his utmost to make sure the party won two seats, before leaving the meeting.
Dr Hillery said it would be highly unusual for him to invite other candidates to a meeting where he was devising his own strategy to try and secure his selection against them at convention.
Having met about 40 Fianna Fáil people over a four-day period, he said who was invited to this meeting hadn’t come up as an issue and added he wouldn’t expect to be invited if other candidates held their own strategy meeting.
“Timmy Dooley is the sitting TD and we should work to get him re-elected. I am putting myself forward to the convention in my own right. I will be looking for the nomination but I may not get past the convention.
“I felt there was no point in going forward unless there is a strategy for candidates to work together to win two seats. I believe it is important that two candidates contest the next General Election for Fianna Fáil in Clare,” he said.
Deputy Dooley and Dr Hillery were selected as the two party candidates for the 2011 General Election, which saw the East Clare public representative hold onto his seat without reaching the quota.
However, Dr Hillery has pointed out the current situation is totally different as there was no contest at the 2011 Selection Convention as they were the only two candidates at the time.
Having left his job as a consultant psychiatrist with the HSE, Dr Hillery is hoping to start off a new private practice in the Saffron and Blue Clinic on the outskirts of Ennis.