TENSIONS Sources in Fine Gael say Minister Michael Ring (left) was unhappy that he was not asked to speak at the campaign launch of his running mate Alan Dillon (right) last Friday.
Candidates vying for a seat in the Mayo constituency have less than one month to prepare after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today (Tuesday) revealed the 2020 General Election will take place on Saturday, February 8.
Both Minister Michael Ring and Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader Dara Calleary told this newspaper yesterday (Monday) that they were anticipating a February election but few predicted it would be as early as February 8.
The date gives candidates in the county just over three weeks to get their canvassing and campaigning done.
To date, nine candidates have declared, with a possibility of an independent candidate joining the field this week.
And there are growing tensions in Fine Gael ahead of the election. It appears that a vote-management strategy is going to be difficult to agree among the three Fine Gael candidates.
A party source told The Mayo News that efforts to carve up the constituency between the three – Michael Ring, Alan Dillon and Michelle Mulherin – have proved unsuccessful thus far, and it is now likely it will be an open field, meaning no area will be off limits to the candidates.
The Mayo News understands that Fine Gael headquarters is still trying to impose a division, but it has failed to reach agreement with the candidates.
Sources in the party also say Minister Michael Ring was unhappy that he was not called on to speak at the launch of his running mate Alan Dillon’s campaign on Friday night last. Dillon’s campaign was launched in the TF Royal Hotel in Castlebar by former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, whose Dáil career is now in its last weeks.
Minister Ring and Senator Michelle Mulherin were both in attendance but neither spoke.
How such internal tensions play out will be one of the many fascinating aspects of the election in the Mayo constituency, which will be keenly watched at national level.
This will be Mayo’s first election without Enda Kenny since 1973, while the presence of a Fine Gael minister, the Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader, strong Sinn Féin and Green candidates, along with many more high-profile candidates, will all combine to make it a gripping battle – and a good barometer of the national mood.
Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had well-attended meetings last Friday, ready for an imminent election.
Dara Calleary said Fianna Fáil held a meeting of their Comhairle Dáil Ceanntair on Friday night last in The Ivy Tower Hotel in Castlebar, with the party’s two Mayo candidates, Calleary and Deputy Lisa Chambers, in attendance.
“We had a huge, packed hall and our team are gung ho. Lisa (Chambers) and I are going to leave no stone unturned in a bid to retain our two seats. We are confident but not complacent,” he said.
Across town in the TF Royal Hotel, there was a large crowd too for the launch of Fine Gael candidate Alan Dillon’s campaign.
It might be the end of the road for Enda Kenny, but Michael Ring rubbished talk this could be his own last election.
“Thank God I have my health, and as long as I feel people want me and I am able to represent them, I won’t be going anywhere. I have no notion of retiring. I’m in politics all my life. Sure what would I do without it?”
Four seats are up for grabs in Mayo, with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil holding two each at present.
The confirmed runners thus far are, in alphabetical order: Dara Calleary (FF), Lisa Chambers (FF), Rose Conway-Walsh (SF), Joe Daly (PBP), Alan Dillon (FG), Paul Lawless (Aontú), Saoirse McHugh (Green), Michelle Mulherin (FG), Michael Ring (FG).