PARTY LINES Michael Ring congratulating party colleague Patsy O'Brien on topping the Claremorris Electoral Area vote in the 2009 local elections. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Four names confirmed for March 25 election convention
FINE Gael Minister Michael Ring has not threatened that he will resign from the party and run as an Independent if colleague Cllr Patsy O’Brien is selected as a candidate for the next general election. The closing date for candidates to be put forward for the selection convention, which is taking place on March 25, is Sunday next, March 4.
The four names confirmed so far to go forward for selection are Minister Ring, Senator Michelle Mulherin, Cllr O’Brien and former Mayo senior footballer, Alan Dillon.
Speaking to The Mayo News, yesterday (Monday) the Minister for Rural and Community Development said ‘there’s no truth in that’, when the rumour printed in February 23 edition of The Phoenix Magazine was put to him.
“I’ll be standing for the convention and I’m hoping that delegates in Mayo will select me,” he said.
“It hasn’t been decided, but probably three [candidates] will go forward,” said one FG member last week, when asked what the party’s strategy was ahead of the next election.
Asked if there’s any ‘bad blood’ between himself and colleague Cllr Patsy O’Brien, following O’Brien’s decision to run, Minister Ring denied this and said the councillor has ‘the right to put his name on the ballot paper’ and added that other FG candidates, Senator Mulherin and former Mayo footballer Dillon, have the same right.
“The convention will decide who they want, me or him [Cllr O’Brien], or Alan, or Michelle.”
Minister Ring told The Mayo News he was ‘delighted’ that Dillon has put his name forward for selection and said it was ‘great to see young people getting into politics’.
Speaking about the number of names put forward so far, Minister Ring was critical of having a fourth candidate for convention.
“You can’t have four candidates in a four-seater, we have to show we’re going for three [seats] so the big issue would be to hold the two [seats] and if we could get three that’s fine, you need three candidates to do that … they’ll be picking three on the night.”
Successfully selected by delegates in 1992, '94, '97, 2002, 2007 and 2011, 2015, Minister Ring believes delegates will be ‘as loyal as I have been to the party’.
Asked if he would request FG HQ to put him on the ticket instead of contesting his place, the Minister said, “I’d prefer to have the contest, they could put me forward and could put Michelle Mulherin and let the other two [candidates] fight it out but I’m prepared to go to convention. My numbers are a bit scarce but I’m still confident that delegates will vote for me,” he added.
The four who currently have their hat in the ring ahead of March 25, have a pot of approximately 1,199 delegate votes - 429 in the Ballina District, 307 in the Castlebar area, 252 in Claremorris and 211 in Westport.
Setting out his stall, Minister Ring outlined he is confident in taking a seat again for his party. “I’m there since 1992, I’m a cabinet minister, I’ve been a Minister of State … I put John Bruton in as Taoiseach and Enda Kenny, they can say what they like but only for my support of Enda Kenny, he wouldn’t have been Taoiseach either,” said the Westport native.
Responding to rumours of a breakdown in communication, Cllr O’Brien said he has always had a ‘good working relationship’ with the Minister.
“It isn’t my position to have anything against any candidate. I feel the south and east of the county has the right to representation as much as any other area,” said O’Brien.
He added: “It’s not about candidates, it’s about the Claremorris Municipal Area. It’s up to the people to decide what they want to do.”
The Robeen-based councillor said he was delighted with the response from canvassing so far.
Dillon covering ground
Speaking to The Mayo News ahead of the March 4 deadline for candidate names, Alan Dillon said he is ‘covering a lot of ground’, meeting delegates and attending meetings.
Dillon has said there is a need to represent ‘a lot of my generation’ and try to get them home to live and work in Mayo.
In an extensive interview in the Irish Examiner newspaper at the weekend, the political hopeful outlined the pluses of living in Mayo, but also the need to harness job creation.
Meanwhile, Senator Michelle Mulherin is also meeting delegates and believes she has ‘done the hard work’.
Asked if Dillon’s inclusion for nomination phases her, the Ballina based politician said she first has to win a place on the ticket and ‘doesn’t mind who I face’.
Ms Mulherin told The Mayo News she has ‘come up through the ranks’ and that this approach is looked upon favourably. Responding to comments about the gender quota, Ms Mulherin said ‘regardless of quotas’ she will be fighting her corner and ‘fighting for the people of Mayo’.
Many Fine Gael members had expected that long serving Senator, Paddy Burke, would also be putting his name forward at the convention, but Senator Burke could not be reached on Monday to see what his intentions were.