FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin says he does not think the contentious selection convention of the Adare-Rathkeale area will be held again despite calls from some quarters that the result be declared null and void.
There were furious scenes at a meeting of the Adare-Rathkeale cumann last Thursday after delegates were told that party headquarters had pre-selected three candidates ahead of next summer’s local elections.
The decision resulted in a straight contest between the two remaining candidates – sitting councillor Kevin Sheahan from Askeaton and barrister Emmett O’Brien from Pallaskenry. Cllr Sheahan took the fourth seat following a vote.
“It was a very tight vote – 43 to 38 and that’s a margin of five votes which is nothing,” said Micheál Martin last Friday during a visit to Kilmallock.
“Clearly, feelings ran high as a result of that. Numbers were very close so I think that inevitably creates tension and what it really represents is competition. In many ways, it is good that we have competition in the party now – people wanting to represent us in communities.”
The convention descended into chaos and a group of members formed a “human chain” in order to prevent the counting of ballots outside the convention room.
“I don’t know why that happened – I don’t think that makes sense,” said Mr Martin.
“Clearly there were a lot of unhappy people – some win, some lose, but 81 voted. Overall in that area there are about 120 delegates – they are not all in the Askeaton Estuary area – there are about 95 and of those 81 voted. Not all of them turned up but that is a very large number of voting for one area.”
The National Constituencies Committee, the Fianna Fail leader said, will assess the situation.
“We will have a report back from Robert Troy who chaired it. Michael Moynihan who is director of elections, chairs that committee and they will take that report and examine it but the balance we have to strike all the time is to make sure that we have a geographical spread of candidates and that we don’t have too many candidates either because that can split your quotas.”
Mr Martin said that irrespective of what model was going to be adopted there was “always a challenge in the Askeaton area because you have a very strong candidate in Emmett O’Brien and an outgoing strong candidate in Cllr Kevin Sheahan.
“I don’t think that we will run the convention again but I am not making decisions on it – a report will go back and the National Constituencies Committee will examine it,” he said.
Speaking following the selection convention which took place at Rathkeale House Hotel, Emmett O’Brien said that the feeling of the delegates was that they were let down by Fianna Fáil headquarters.
“I understand where he [Emmett O’Brien] is coming from as an individual in the sense that obviously we would love to run people of his quality but equally, sitting councillors have rights and entitlements to go to conventions as well and we have to make sure we have a balanced ticket,” said Mr Martin. “In the end of the day, you have a larger area to cover so you have got to watch the geography of that to make sure that areas like Croom, Adare and Ballingarry are covered as well.”
Speaking to the Limerick Leader following his canvass on the streets of Kilmallock, Mr Martin said that the reaction on the doorstep had been “positive”.
When asked if the party are still feeling the backlash over the economic crash, he said it is dying down “very substantially”.
“People are concerned about their future and the future of their children,” he said. “In Kilmallock, the issue is about the regeneration of rural towns – what is the future of rural Ireland? They feel that there is a certain degree of neglect from the Dublin government vis-a-vis rural Ireland, particularly the towns that are not sharing in any nascent economic recovery – that is a big issue. There are a lot of shops closed in many rural towns – we picked up a bit of that in Kilmallock today,” he added.
During his visit to County Limerick, the Fianna Fail leader also gave a speech in Anglesboro Hall dedicated to Liam Lynch who fought for Irish freedom and was shot dead in the Knockmealdown Mountains in 1923. “The people of this area are right to be proud of their most famous son, Liam Lynch. What he learned here was a love of his country and a commitment to its cause,” said Mr Martin.
The Fianna Fail leader also visited Hospital, Ballylanders, Galbally and Knocklong during his visit to County Limerick.