Surprise as FG selects three General Election candidates

Thursday, 2 August 2018

A BITTER internal Fine Gael contest is expected following the surprise decision of the party to field three candidates in the next General Election, two of them based in south Offaly.
Sitting TDs Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan and Kinnitty based councillor John Clendennen were selected without a contest at the Fine Gael General Election Convention in Clonaslee Community Centre on Monday night last.
A directive from party headquarters, read to the Convention by Chairman, Deputy Martin Heydon, indicated three candidates be chosen and when Laois based Thomasina Connell unexpectedly withdrew the three remaining contenders were declared selected unopposed.
The decision was greeted with unease among Deputy Corcoran Kennedy's supporters who labelled it a "disgrace" and "absolute suicide" for Fine Gael in Offaly.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy warned "of the dangers of splitting the vote" and said she "will be relying on the voters of Offaly and Laois to consider my work rate to date and to vote for me at the next general election."
Cllr Clendennen, speaking to the Tribune on Tuesday, stressed he did not see vote splitting as an issue and said Fine Gael had held its seat in Offaly in the "worst of days".
“I am going to be a strong, fresh voice," he promised and stressed, as he had in his speech to Convention, he would directly engage with the party's membership to give them "a full voice at all times."
At the Convention the party faithful were in buoyant form with Thomasina Connell telling cheering delegates that Fine Gael are the "party of the future" and Deputy Corcoran Kennedy urging voters to back the "winning team" of herself and Minister Flanagan.
“Remember in the next General Election there will be six TDs fighting for five seats . . . Minister Flanagan and I are a proven, winning team and before you cast your vote who must ask why change a winning team," she stressed.
Minister Flanagan received sustained applause when he firmly ruled out a coalition between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein after the next election.
“I will not support a Fine Gael/Sinn Fein Government under any circumstances,' declared the Justice Minister to cheers from the party faithful.
Cllr John Clendennen, described as "the complete package" by his proposer, former Tullamore based councillor, Molly Buckley, said Irish politics was undergoing a "sea-change", which he was part of as a supporter of Leo Varadkar.
He charted an ambitious programme for the economic transformation of Laois/ Offay with tourism, an area which he has been a long-time champion, having a key role to play.
Cllr Clenndennen had a team at the Convention giving out free mints to members to tie in with his election theme of being a fresh, new voice.
He said he had treated the lead-up period to the Convention like a General Election campaign and had spoken to every member in the county.
In a statement released yesterday, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy said she was "somewhat puzzled by the decision taken by the Executive Council of Fine Gael to direct that three candidates were selected at this convention. This goes against the recommendations of the local strategy team which had decided to recommend that one candidate was chosen from each county. This strategy would have been much more logical and straightforward, given that the likelihood is that six sitting TDs will be running for five seats."
"Afterwards many members expressed to their disappointment at the lack of a contest. It is the first time ever in this constituency that members of Fine Gael were denied the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate at a Dáil selection convention.
"I firmly believe that there is a significant period to run in the current Dáil and I share the views of many delegates at the convention that the convening of this selection convention by party headquarters was rushed and premature," she added.


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