CHAIRMAN AND CANDIDATES ?Pictured at the Fianna Fáil Convention 2015 which was held in the Welcome Inn, from left: Cllr Brendan Mulroy, Dara Calleary, TD; Barry Cowen TD, Convention Chairman, Cllr Lisa Chambers and Leonard Ryan. ?Pic: Ken Wright
Fianna Fáil go with a two candidate election strategy
East Mayo delegates stage walk out but convention chairman Cowen states party ‘have to be strategic’
IT was hard not to reflect on the irony as Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen closed last Friday night’s Fianna Fáil convention in Castlebar with a call to arms to the large attendance in the Welcome Inn Hotel.
His brother Brian was Taoiseach of the country during a most turbulent time for the Fianna Fáil party between 2008 and 2011 but now the younger Cowen is playing a central role in rebuilding the party - and he pleaded with Fianna Fáil in Mayo to unite behind the two chosen candidates.
Cllr Lisa Chambers was elected unopposed at the convention after the withdrawal of Cllr Brendan Mulroy, leaving sitting TD Dara Calleary to fight it out with the east Mayo based candidate, Leonard Ryan.
It was no surprise the Calleary won the vote relatively easily in the end, 179 to 84 votes, but Mr Ryan did use the occasion to voice his objections to headquarters ignoring the grassroots decision to have three candidates on the ballot paper, and instead order a two candidate ticket for the Mayo constituency.
Mr Ryan and his east Mayo cohort left the Fáilte Suite swiftly after his speech to the convention, well before the victors Chambers and Calleary, and Convention Chairman Cowen, addressed the gathering.
Mr Ryan said he was glad that democracy has taken place and that is what he always wanted from his campaign anyway.
“There are a lot of questions to be asked about this convention and about its format but tonight is not the night for those questions. It is an honour to represent Fianna Fáil and be from a part of the county that has and will continue to have a strong Fianna Fáil tradition.
I am first and foremost a Fianna Fáil man and I would never do anything to damage our party. I want to congratulate the two candidates who have been nominated and I will be putting my shoulder to the wheel for the next General Election.”
However, Mr Ryan went on to say ‘he is not going anywhere, I will be here again’.
He then proceeded to explain the reason for his leaving the convention before the addresses of candidates Calleary and Chambers.
“This is not sour grapes, this is not a walk out or a split in the party, it is simply a nod to the vote that took place whereby a three candidate strategy was selected. My business is finished here at convention and I am going to leave the room. I want everyone here to do all that they can for Fianna Fáil going forward but I still believe there is a seat for Fianna Fáil in east Mayo.”
In closing the convention, Chairman Cowen did, in a general way, explain why party headquarters lay down rules for particular conventions across the country.
“No conventions are easy. There are difficulties in all constituencies. Some can hack it and some can’t. But we have to respect the core rules of the organisation. Everyone has the best interests of the party at heart but nobody has a greater right than anyone else.
“We need candidates who want to represent their communities but we have to be strategic in how we do that. We have to acknowledge that we are not as dominant as we were 20, 30, 40 years ago. We have to look at how we can fully rebuild the organisation and we did receive the highest vote of any party in the recent local elections and in the recent by-election.
However, we have to be strategic in the manner we select candidates, to maximise the vote of this political party, and then maybe at the next election, we can have three candidates here, and maybe four candidates. But we have to earn that right, and that respect, and you will only earn that from the electorate. They are ones who will tell us if we have made the right decisions.”
Earlier, Westport councillor Brendan Mulroy addressed the convention to explain the reasons why in the end he did not let his name go forward.
“I made it clear to my own Cumann in Westport that I did not want to seek the nomination for the Dáil. Cllr Lisa Chambers put her name forward at the last General Election and put up a great performance, and since then she has been elected to Mayo County Council. I could not pull my name out of the race until I had the opportunity to address ye the delegates.”
Cllr Mulroy said it was ‘an absolute honour to be nominated to run for a General Election’. “Not a lot of people get that honour but I have ran in four elections to date and have been elected on all four occasions. In the end I did not let my name go forward out of loyalty to Lisa Chambers, to the party and to you the delegates.
“I am going to now row in behind this party and Lisa Chambers in west Mayo but I will say in five years time it will be a different Brendan Mulroy that will be standing here, one who will be seeking the nomination. There is a big Fianna Fáil vote in west Mayo and it is our job to get that vote out for Lisa Chambers. We are coming for Fine Gael.”
In a wideranging address, Cllr Chambers said it was a ‘huge honour and privilege’ to be a Fianna Fáil candidate and it was her intention to maximise the Fianna Faíl vote and secure a second seat for the party in Mayo.
She said: “I can’t do this alone, I need all of yer help and let us build on the foundation we set four years ago.”
Deputy Calleary’s address was a focussed attack on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his delivery to Mayo during this term of Government.
“We will see people from not too far up this street at football matches wearing the Mayo jersey this weekend, fist pumping and shouting ‘Up Mayo’, but when it coming to writing the cheques, when it comes to going to the ATM machine, when it comes to supporting jobs, when it comes to supporting our airport, he (Enda Kenny) might as well be wearing a Dublin jersey. I can assure you Lisa Chambers and I are proud of the Mayo jersey and I promise you we will not forget where we are from if we ever get to that level of Governance.”
Deputy Calleary thanked Leonard Ryan for his part in the convention but added that Lisa Chambers ‘showed she has courage in the last General Election and she showed she has a groundswell of support in the County Council election.’