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Fianna Fáil in disarray following convention cancellation


Fianna Fáil HQ cancel convention at short notice

Delegates at loggerheards over strategy for election

Anton McNulty

Fianna Fáil’s pre-General Election plans in Mayo have been thrown into disarray following the cancellation of its selection convention and a now four candidate strategy approach which has split the grassroots.
The selection convention to select the Fianna Fáil candidates for the next General Election was due to take place on Sunday last. However, delegates received a letter on Thursday saying it was postponed until further notice. It is expected the convention will not now take place until late April or May.
The Party headquarters had insisted on a two-party candidate approach but that strategy was snubbed when east Mayo delegates successfully lobbied the grassroots to vote for a three candidate approach several weeks ago.
There was a further twist to the saga last week when the name of Westport councillor Brendan Mulroy was also added to the list of candidates by delegates to contest the selection convention. This came as a real surprise to the party faithful.
The four candidates whose names were forwarded to contest last Sunday’s cancelled convention are believed to be current TD Dara Calleary, Castlebar councillor Lisa Chambers, Cllr Mulroy and Leonard Ryan, a Dublin-based solicitor and a native of Knock. This is despite party leader Michéal Martin advocating a two candidate approach on a recent visit to Mayo.
The east Mayo delegates wanted Leonard Ryan added to the ticket as they feel he will be able to pick up votes in that part of the county with Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony tipped to run in the Galway West constituency.
However, the party has been split on the strategy with many believing a two-candidate approach is the only way they can maximise their vote in the new four-seat Mayo constituency.
A senior Fianna Fáil party strategist in Mayo told The Mayo News that with up to 10,000 votes from south Mayo now transferred to Galway West, it will be difficult to run three candidates with less votes.

Grassroots split
However, the party source said it was difficult to see if a compromise can be found which will suit all parties and a three-candidate strategy may be adopted by the party HQ to keep peace.
“The grassroots are split on it but HQ assumed that the organisation will go and run with two. The logistics of it and looking at the figures is that two is realistic and three will only fragment things in my opinion. I imagine the party will try and consult with the organisation in the county and the General Secretary Seán Dorgan will assist and there will be a debate on it. It is difficult to call [what will happen] when people’s backs are up when they are told what to do.
“If there is a feeling of stagnation, the party may go with three and not allow this to fester. My feeling on it is that at the present time if they did not agree with two they might go for three in order to keep peace.”
Cllr Brendan Mulroy told The Mayo News that Party headquarters confirmed to him that his name had been included by delegates to run in the now cancelled convention. He refused to comment on whether he would allow his name to go before convention for a vote, and said he was disappointed the convention was postponed and believed that the three-candidate strategy should be adopted as it was the wish of the delegates when the vote was taken.

‘No chance of three seats’
Another party member criticised the actions of the east Mayo delegates for insisting on a three-candidate strategy when they failed to get a councillor elected in Claremorris.
“In the local elections they failed to get their man [JP Kean] elected and while Leonard Ryan may pick up a few votes it will be a long way off 10,000 votes. We only won one seat in the last election and the best thing we can hope for is winning two seats, there is definitely no chance of winning three,” the member said.
The party member added there were a number of repercussions which could happen and one being that the party HQ insisting on Lisa Chambers being selected on a gender balance issue.
“If that happens the vote could go anyway and there is no guarantee Dara Calleary will be selected. Will the party add him to the ticket after the convention if that happens? HQ added Seán Carey in Belmullet for the local election after the local convention and it nearly cost us a seat.”