YOU could see this one coming from a long way out. Ever since the Fianna Fáil party in Mayo decided not to run a candidate in the county’s most populous town, the rumour mill has been in overdrive, and last week it spun out of control with suggestions that controversial Minister Frank Fahey said Beverley Flynn ‘would not be obstructed by Fianna Fáil’.
No confirmation has been forthcoming from Minister Fahey in relation to the statement, but Cllr Frank Chambers has come out fighting this week, stating that Bertie Ahern has assured him that Deputy Flynn ‘will not be invited back in to Fianna Fáil’.
This whole matter has been simmering beneath the surface since last year’s selection convention when, by all accounts, Cllr Chambers surprised even his own party colleagues by securing a place on the ticket. It seems definite that it was not the plan of Fianna Fáil HQ not to have a candidate in Castlebar. Both current Director of Elections, Denis Gallagher, and long-serving councillor, Al McDonnell, were touted as potential candidates but Cllr Chambers’ victory put both their political ambitions on ice for now.
It was decided that it did not make sense subsequent to the surprise convention result for Fianna Fáil HQ to impose a candidate in the county town, because that would have been seen as going against the wishes of the grassroots of the organisation. And, perhaps more tellingly, HQ recognised that imposing a fourth candidate could result in the Fianna Fáil first preference vote being carved up in Castlebar, therefore playing into Fine Gael’s hands.
The content of Frank Fahey’s revelatory line last week was not surprising, but what was surprising was the fact that it was leaked. Minister Fahey’s ‘private meeting’ with Deputy Carty should surely have been kept private if all was right behind the scenes in Fianna Fáil. The reality is that someone wanted to raise the ire of Cllr Chambers, who had perceived that his selection at convention, and his proximity to the county town, would have meant that he would be awarded Castlebar in the electoral area carve-up. The fact that Castlebar Town Council’s top Fianna Fáil vote-getter, Blackie Gavin, is almost an ever-present on the shoulder of Cllr Chambers at the moment is another indication of Chambers’ thirst for Castlebar votes.
The end result of last week’s furore? It’s open season in Castlebar. There is no way that Cllr Chambers will toe the party line and allow Deputy Carty Castlebar to himself. It’s clear he will defy HQ if he has to. It is also clear that Fianna Fáil members will not be obstructed from voting for Beverley Flynn if they so wish. Fianna Fáil’s ultimate wish is for Beverley to be elected along with two of their candidates. In the home constituency of the opposition leader, that would be seen as a resounding victory, with obvious consequences for the result nationally.