Controversy surrounds FG selection convention

CONTROVERSY has surrounded yet another Fine Gael selection convention in the Dun Laoghaire constituency, with supporters of one county councillor claiming they were “disenfranchised” on the basis of the candidate’s gender.
Local Fine Gael branch members in Monkstown claimed their support for Cllr Barry Ward at the general election selection convention for the Dun Laoghaire constituency was disregarded. They described the selection process as undemocratic.
Cllr Ward came in second place after a ballot of local party members. However, Fine Gael party headquarters directed that Cllr Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who came in third, be put on the ticket.
Incumbent Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett succeeded in topping the poll in a vote of about 300 party members at the convention at the Stillorgan Park Hotel.
After the first count Cllr Mary Mitchell O’Connor was in second place with Cllr Ward in third.
Following the first and second counts, Cllrs John Bailey and Marie Baker were eliminated from the contest and their votes were distributed. The distribution of votes eventually resulted in Cllr Ward receiving the second highest number of votes in the contest ahead of Cllr O’Connor after the third and final count.
But those who voted for Cllr Ward were shocked when a diktat from party headquarters was read out instructing members to select just one male and one female candidate.
The direction effectively means that although Cllr Ward came second in the contest, party members had no choice but to select the third placed candidate, Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
This is the latest in a series of controversial Fine Gael conventions in the constituency.
Last year, at the convention for the local elections in the Dun Laoghaire ward, an instruction from the Fine Gael executive council directed that sitting councillors John Bailey, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Tom O’Higgins were to be automatically selected as the only three candidates.
This left Naja Regan – daughter of Monkstown based senator Eugene Regan – off the ticket, despite the fact it was commonly believed she would have comfortably won any vote at the convention.
Patricia Stewart, who is chairperson of the Monkstown branch of Fine Gael, said many members of her branch had supported Cllr Ward’s bid to be selected for the general election. They felt that the selection process was undemocratic.
“I spoke to a couple of dozen people after the meeting who were dismayed,” she said. “They said that they felt disenfranchised by the directive. I feel that we have to select our candidates openly and democratically and the party came up short on that. The meeting was not run as a democratic process.”
Cllr Ward told Southside People he was very disappointed with the result of the convention. He believes this was the first time that a candidate from any political party in Ireland had lost a selection convention on the basis of gender.
“I am obviously very disappointed,” he said. “It is still open to the party to add a third candidate. I hope they will bear me in mind for that.”
Terry Murphy, the Dublin director of Fine Gael, said: “Our executive council decided that the convention should select two candidates but in light of our commitment to increasing the number of women representatives we also decided that one of the candidates should be a woman.
“It is not true to say that members were disenfranchised,” he added. “The issue of selecting a third candidate will be considered carefully.”
Meanwhile, sitting TDs Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter have been selected to run for the party in Dublin South, while the Labour Party also selected Senator Alex White to run in the constituency.
Fine Gael is due to hold one of its final selection conventions in the Dublin South East constituency on January 11.

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