'I was called a blow-in' - FF candidates in heated row while on the canvass
Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30
Fianna Fáil has been rocked by a bitter feud between two of its own candidates which resulted in a heated stand-off in a Dublin estate.
The party is now investigating claims by Dublin Fingal candidate Lorraine Clifford-Lee that she was verbally abused by the campaign team of her own running mate, Senator Darragh O'Brien.
The altercation is alleged to have taken place in Portmarnock on Monday night after supporters of both candidates attempted to canvass residents in Limetree Avenue.
Ms Clifford-Lee claims she was described as a "blow-in" by members of Mr O'Brien's team, who allegedly used foul language during the altercation.
She also alleges that members of her campaign team felt intimidated.
There have been tensions between the pair since Ms Clifford-Lee was added to the ticket by party headquarters last year.
Witnesses to the altercation say members of Mr O'Brien's team took issue with the fact his rival was canvassing in the same estate.
Members of the public are understood to have watched on as both sets of supporters argued on the street.
Mr O'Brien was in the vicinity at the time but is not accused of the verbal attack.
The incident is highly embarrassing for Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and is understood to have been referred to the party's general secretary, Sean Dorgan, for investigation.
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Ms Clifford-Lee said a number of members of her campaign team felt "intimidated" and "shaken" following the altercation.
"This is the old-style politics that we saw in the past. What sort of message does it send out to women looking to get into politics?
"One of my youngest canvassers is aged just 18 and he no longer wants to canvass after experiencing that," she said.
"There was bad language and at one stage it was suggested that I am a simply a 'blow-in' who shouldn't be canvassing the area," she added.
Ms Clifford-Lee lives in Portmarnock with her husband and young daughter, having previously contested the local elections on the south side of the city.
Following the incident, she contacted a family member who arrived in the area soon after.
She and her supporters then left the scene.
"What really annoys me about this incident is that we have a good shot at taking two seats. But this type of thing is really damaging," Ms Clifford-Lee said.
Mr O'Brien did not respond to calls yesterday.
A party spokesperson said: "We have received a number of reports regarding an alleged incident in the Dublin Fingal constituency involving canvass teams from our two candidates in Dublin Fingal.
"These allegations are being looked into.
"As far as the party is concerned, we have two excellent candidates in Lorraine Clifford-Lee and Darragh O'Brien and we expect both to work together to maximise the party's vote in Dublin Fingal."