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Election threat exposes Fine Gael vacuum

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WHO WILL FILL HIS SHOES? The identity of Enda Kenny's political successor in his constituency remains unclear.

‘No obvious replacement’ for Enda in county town

Áine Ryan and Anton McNulty

WITH ‘no obvious replacement’ for Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael party is on the back foot in Co Mayo, no matter when the next general election happens. That is according to the party’s Killala-based councillor, Jarlath Munnelly, whose concerns appear to be at odds with his senior party colleague, Minister Michael Ring.
While Minister Ring told constituents in Achill on Sunday that ‘the party is ready to fight the election’, Cllr Munnelly was more reticent when questioned by The Mayo News last night.
Significantly, Minister Ring, also said ‘this is not time for a General Election’ and, moreover, that that ‘the people of Mayo don’t want one’.
Speaking about the vacuum left by the former Taoiseach, Cllr Munnelly said: “An election, at the moment, wouldn’t be ideal for Fine Gael as there probably isn’t an obvious replacement for Enda Kenny identified yet. But there is a very strong vote base in Mayo for Fine Gael, and I’m sure whenever the election is held, Fine Gael is at the very least well placed to hold two [seats] and challenge for a third.”
The Fine Gael selection convention is due to take place on Thursday next, with long-time Senator Paddy Burke and Senator John O’Mahony tipped to be possible contenders.
Senator O’Mahony failed to gain a seat in the redrawn Galway West constituency in 2016 and, along with former TD Michelle Mulherin, was appointed to the Seanad by Mr Kenny.  
The tricky logistics of an early election would be further compounded by the fact that a new recommendation by the Boundary Commission means that roughly half of the section of South Mayo that was moved into Galway West in 2016 is set to be returned to Mayo – but, significantly, the legislation has not passed through the Oireachtas yet.

Accountability
PRESCIENTLY, Fianna Fáil was out-of-the-traps first, with The Mayo News reporting on its convention in last week’s edition. Its two candidates are sitting TDs Dara Calleary and Lisa Chambers.
Senator Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin confirmed to The Mayo News that her party’s convention has been brought forward to Saturday next, December 2, in the Gateway Hotel, Swinford. She confirmed she is the only candidate so far.
“Absolutely none of us want a general election now before Christmas, and neither do the constituents of Mayo. This is about the accountability of a government department and its minister, and the row has certainly expedited the next general election,” Ms Conway-Walsh said.
For Fianna Fáil Deputy Dara Calleary, Fine Gael’s constituency strategy is ‘a matter for Fine Gael’ while ‘accountability’ is also the core issue.  
“Lisa [Chambers] and I are focussing on delivering for Mayo. Government accountability shouldn’t require a general election, and that is all we are seeking – government accountability,” Mr Calleary said.   
For county-council poll-topper, Castlebar-based Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, the vacuum left by Enda Kenny certainly clears the way to a bid for national politics.
He told The Mayo News: “If and when there is a general election, I certainly will have to consider putting my name forward, as the people of Castlebar need to be represented.
“Everything has changed since the last election, and it is even more likely that neither of the big parties will return an overall majority and the role of Independents will become even more important.”  
Stressing Government’s neglect of the west, and of Co Mayo in particular, Cllr Kilcoyne cited the fact that yesterday’s annual budget meeting of Mayo County Council had to be adjourned because of (Monday) cutbacks that would affect communities throughout the county.
“The Manager [Mr Peter Hynes] proposed in the draft budget to hugely reduce the GMA [General Municipal Allocation] by almost 50 percent, while looking for an increase of 7.5 percent in the rates. Councillors use these GMA monies to help communities with all sorts of initiatives.”
In another development, Castlebar native Joe Daly confirmed on social media over the weekend that he plans to run for People Before Profit in Mayo.
 
Snap election
THE threat of a snap general election was ignited last week when Fianna Fáil followed Sinn Féin’s decision to table a vote of no confidence in Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. It relates to the former Minister for Justice’s lack of response to an email that she received in May 2015 during the O’Higgins Commission investigation into garda wrongdoing, towards whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.   
The Killala-based councillor said it was ‘lunacy’ that a general election was being discussed at this stage.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “If Fianna Fáil proceed with a no-confidence motion, the Confidence and Supply deal is dead, and, of course, there will be an election. This can be avoided by Fianna Fáil withdrawing this motion right away.
“There needs to be a proper examination of the actions of the Department of Justice, and there needs to be accountability. An election or a symbolic ‘head on a plate’ is not the answer. That’s just opportunism by Fianna Fáil.”

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