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Saturday 23 September 2017

FF backbencher lays out demands to Cowen

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and ine Kerr

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen was dealing with another election snag last night after a backbencher made his election run conditional on certain demands being met.

Amid an exodus of TDs and two cabinet ministers, Wexford poll-topper John Browne has told the Taoiseach he won't run until he gets assurances about the future of acute psychiatric services in his constituency.

Fianna Fail was forced to postpone the Wexford selection convention, due to be attended by up to 500 party members in Enniscorthy last night, after Mr Browne raised his concerns.

The postponement of the convention came as yet another opinion poll put Fianna Fail at an historic low of 17pc, which would amount to a staggering loss of seats countrywide.

Backbenchers such as Mr Browne will be targeted by Fine Gael and Labour for a seat gain -- prompting major nervousness among sitting Fianna Fail TDs.

Ahead of a general election in the new year, Noel Dempsey, Dermot Ahern, Beverley Flynn, MJ Nolan, Sean Ardagh and Rory O'Hanlon have announced their retirements in recent weeks.

On top of the surprise exits of two ministers, Mr Cowen must now grapple with Mr Browne.

He has told Mr Cowen that former junior health minister Tim O'Malley "promised" in 2007 that an acute psychiatric unit would be provided in Wexford General Hospital.

Fianna Fail will be anxious not to lose Mr Browne as an election candidate, having already had Wicklow TD Joe Behan resign from Fianna Fail to become an Independent.

Convention

The party last night confirmed the selection convention was off because Mr Browne was "not available to attend".

Mr Browne told the Irish Independent it was "too early" to say if he would run as an Independent.

"I wouldn't be known for holding Fianna Fail up to ransom," he said. "But what I do believe in is credibility and that Wexford patients need to be able to access acute admissions in their own county."

He discussed the issue with Mr Cowen last week.

"He accepted it was an issue of credibility and that a promise had been given to have an acute psychiatric unit in Wexford General Hospital," Mr Browne said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael senator Liam Twomey won the nomination to contest the general election in Wexford alongside sitting TDs Michael D'Arcy and Paul Kehoe.

The party is directly targeting a Fianna Fail seat, leaving Mr Browne under huge pressure to retain his seat.

Irish Independent

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