Sunday 4 December 2016

Row erupts in Ceann Comhairle's backyard over FF council seat

Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30

Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl. Photo: Maxwell's
Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl. Photo: Maxwell's

Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghail is at the centre of a bitter local row over who should replace his running mate on Kildare County Council.

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Supporters of first-time TD Fiona O'Loughlin believe that the Ó Fearghail camp scuppered the chances of her preferred candidate at a selection convention last Saturday.

It is normal practice that a councillor who becomes a TD is given the opportunity to co-opt their replacement.

The Irish Independent understands that Ms O'Loughlin favoured long-time party activist Anne Duggan Connolly, but votes piled in for Murty Aspell, who was seen as the favourite candidate of Mr Ó Fearghail.

Two other candidates, Noel Heavey and Ger Elwood, were also on the ballot paper.

As Ceann Comhairle, Mr Ó Fearghail is guaranteed a seat in the Kildare South constituency at the next election and, as such, is expected to steer clear of party politics. But a source said: "It was known that Fiona wanted Anne Duggan Connolly, who has over 30 years in Fianna Fáil, held officer board positions, worked with the GAA, schools and in other community groups.

"But the Ó Fearghail side made sure to get Mr Aspell elected. They just didn't need to do it, but they encouraged people to vote that way."

Mr Aspell was previously involved in a court case involving Newbridge Credit Union over an unpaid loan of €61,000, but he told the Irish Independent that the issue was now sorted.

Disappointed

He was an Independent town councillor in Newbridge and rejoined Fianna Fáil last year after an absence of a number of years. Asked about the convention, Mr Aspell said he was sure the new TD's preferred candidate would be "disappointed".

But he added: "I'm my own man. Nobody else put me forward. It was a democratic vote and I got across the line.

"Certainly, I wasn't aware of any rumblings going on in the background."

Mr Aspell did work with Ms O'Loughlin during the recent campaign and acted as her driver when Micheál Martin visited Newbridge in the latter days.

However, well-placed sources said there was a "bad feeling" locally over how the convention was staged and the outcome.

The vote was held in the Westgrove Hotel in Clane, which is actually outside the constituency.

Fianna Fáil was also due to hold a vote for who should fill the council seats vacated by new Kildare North TDs Frank O'Rourke and James Lawless. However, Michael Coleman and Carmel Kelly were selected unopposed.

Ms O'Loughlin said she respected the democratic process.

"We had a democratic process, which is always important. Four candidates put names forward," she said.

Mr Ó Fearghail said: "It would be inappropriate for me to comment or to be involved in the process in any way."

Irish Independent

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