CONSIDERING HIS OPTIONS Former Fine Gael councillor, John O'Malley, pictured at the Count Centre in Castlebar when he lost his seat on Mayo County Council in 2014, is now debating whether to run as an Independent on May 24. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Former councillor feels ‘betrayed’ by Fine Gael
A former Fine Gael Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council is considering leaving the party and running as an Independent in May’s local elections.
Westport-based John O’Malley says he feels ‘betrayed’ by the party in the aftermath of the Westport electoral area convention in January.
On the night, O’Malley, from Carrowholly, outside Westport, was pipped by just one vote for the second of two spots up for grabs by Louisburgh’s Austin Francis O’Malley.
Peter Flynn topped the poll while current councillor Tereasa McGuire did not have to contest on the night following a gender quota directive by Fine Gael’s National Executive Council.
John O’Malley has slammed the party’s decision to impose the directive and the manner in which it was revealed on the night.
In a letter to Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran on January 18, O’Malley argues that while gender-quota legislation applies to general elections, local elections are not bound by that legislation. He asked the party to either add him to the ticket or to hold another convention with all candidates, including Cllr McGuire, contesting for three places on the party’s Westport ticket.
“I never heard one word back. I have been treated as if I am a total nobody. It has me very disappointed. I feel very used and betrayed.
“I have been a member of Fine Gael since I returned from exile to this country in 1980. I worked every year for the party, sold tickets and bought tickets for them, and was a councillor for ten years … and this is all the thanks I got.
“I think they know they are completely in the wrong; their silence speaks for itself. They know what they did is wrong,” he told The Mayo News last night (Monday).
O’Malley said he plans to decide over the coming days whether he will leave the party.
“I am absolutely considering running as an Independent. I’ll have to consider my position as a member of the Fine Gael party,” he stated.
Responding yesterday, Fine Gael’s Regional Organiser for the Midlands/North West Area, Enda McGloin, said that the party is entitled to impose gender directives.
“Under current Government legislation, political parties, in order to draw down their full funding, have to have 30 percent female candidates in the next General Election and 40 percent in the election after that,” he said.
“A decision was taken by the party leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in conjunction with the party’s Director of Elections, John Paul Phelan, to bring in that 30 percent requirement for local elections even though it is not required by law,” he explained.
McGloin went on to explain the strategy behind the decision: “The thinking is that if the party is to be in a position to field 40 percent female candidates in the General Election after the next one, it would need to boost its candidates at local level, so we self-imposed a 30 percent requirement in order to be in a better position to reach the 40 percent target in the General Election after this one.
“The party’s decision-making body is its National Executive Council. John O’Malley may go down the legal route if he wishes, but this requirement for 30 percent female candidates is under the constitution of the party, and in order to try to have as many females as possible running, we imposed a gender directive in many local-election areas.”
‘Out of touch’
John O’Malley is also unhappy about the way the gender directive was revealed at convention only after the candidates had made their speeches. This meant, he said, that he was unable to canvass Tereasa McGuire’s supporters.
“Why did they tell us this only one minute before the vote at convention? They could have told us at the start of the night before the speeches were made. If I knew I’d have canvassed Tereasa McGuire’s supporters, as they didn’t need to vote, but I didn’t get the chance.
“I only lost to Austin Francis O’Malley by one vote, so every single vote was crucial. I had no business asking Tereasa McGuire’s people for support in advance, and when it was revealed just a minute before the vote that she was not in the contest, I had no time to do it then.
“The carry on they went on with on the night is not fair to Fine Gael supporters. They were treated with contempt and arrogance. Fine Gael at national level are absolutely out of touch. Fine Gael in Dublin don’t care about rural Ireland, especially the west of Ireland.”
He also criticised the party’s decision not to allow one of his supporters to vote on the night. Mr O’Malley said that Fine Gael deemed that his supporter was not eligible to vote because he had not been a member of the party for two years, a prerequisite for casting a vote.
However, Mr O’Malley argued that because his supporter had been a member of Young Fine Gael before transferring into the local branch, he did meet the criteria.
John O’Malley was a county councillor from 2004 to 2014 and was cathaoirleach of the council from 2013 to 2014, losing his seat in May 2014.