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Tuesday 25 April 2017

Cox's presidential dream in trouble before it starts

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

PAT Cox's bid to become Fine Gael's presidential hopeful is already in trouble before he's even started campaigning for support.

The former European Parliament president's chances are being damaged by internal party resentment about his lack of Fine Gael pedigree, including:

> His past membership of Fianna Fail and the PDs.

> His refusal to run for Fine Gael in the general election when asked.

> The backing for celebrity candidacy by party spindoctor Frank Flannery and other members of the party hierarchy.

FG MEPs Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness began intense lobbying of party TDs and senators this weekend.

The MEPs got out of the traps ahead of fellow contender Mr Cox by phoning Fine Gael politicians.

Mr Cox's application to join Fine Gael is expected to be ratified by the party's national executive tomorrow night.

Once he is admitted to the St Luke's branch in Cork city, he can then officially begin canvassing for support.

But a number of party TDs said yesterday he faced an uphill struggle to secure the nomination -- especially after Mr Mitchell's surprise entry into the race.

Supporters of Mr Mitchell and Ms McGuinness -- although not the candidates themselves -- are pointing out Mr Cox is not "real Fine Gael".

In the past, he was a Fianna Fail local election candidate, a Progressive Democrats TD and MEP and an Independent MEP.

Fine Gael is understood to have approached Mr Cox to run as a candidate in this year's general election in the Dublin South constituency, but he declined.

Without Mr Cox on the ticket, the party still went on to win three seats by signing up banker Peter Mathews as the third candidate.

Spindoctor

Mr Flannery, spindoctor and adviser to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is believed to have been involved in the consultations with Mr Cox and his advisers about him running.

But this isn't necessarily going to be an advantage as Mr Flannery has taken strategic decisions at a local level which would have upset some figures.

So Mr Cox's bid will be seen as an opportunity to give a bloody nose to FG's hierarchy.

And former Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan confirmed he campaigned for him in the last European elections. "Pat is very pro-European and he supported people who were of the same mind. He came out and he canvassed for me," he said.

Also last night, Fine Gael TD Derek Keating announced he was backing Mr Mitchell.

"Gay Mitchell. . . will consolidate and inspire our attitude to believe that we, every citizen, can make a difference in our recovery," he said.

Irish Independent

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