Tuesday 6 December 2016

Fitzpatrick vows to face down rivals

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

Published 11/01/2011 | 05:00

Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers

SQUEEZED and shafted, Mary Fitzpatrick has faced down the tenacious Bertie Ahern electoral machine and now has her eyes on the prized keys to St Luke's.

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The former Taoiseach's retirement has sparked a frenzied battle to fill the vacancy -- not least in Fianna Fail.

Ms Fitzpatrick learned the hard way about Mr Ahern's 'Drumcondra Mafia' in the 2007 General Election, famously culminating in an 11th hour successful request for transfers to her rival Cyprian Brady.

This time out, the Fianna Fail councillor is focused on getting a nomination to run in Dublin Central, which is not guaranteed when dealing with Mr Ahern's operation.

"This General Election is way more important than a small group of individuals in Drumcondra or anywhere else. I don't think the election should be about looking back into the past," she said.

The battle-hardened councillor rebounded from the 2007 disappointment by topping the local election poll in 2009.

On the same night she became one of the rare Fianna Fail councillors to top the polls, the brother of the former Taoiseach, Maurice Ahern, lost his council seat in the same Cabra-Glasnevin area, along with the Dublin Central by-election contest.

But on the eve of those Dublin City Council elections, the 'Drumcondra Mafia' tried to shaft Ms Fitzpatrick again, courtesy of a newsletter featuring a quote from the former Taoiseach strongly urging everyone to vote number one for Maurice.

The implication was blatantly clear -- Mr Ahern wanted his supporters to opt for his brother rather than constituency and party colleague, Ms Fitzpatrick.

In the immediate aftermath of the voters rebuking the St Luke's scheming in 2009, a triumphant Ms Fitzpatrick was posed the rhetorical question: "Will they now hand you the keys to St Luke's?"

The decisive showdown to determine who will take control of Dublin Central from Mr Ahern will come in the election, where Fianna Fail only has a chance of taking one seat.

If Fianna Fail headquarters opt for just one candidate, in order to retain one seat and avoid splitting the vote, Mr Brady would have enough votes to ensure the nomination.

"Dublin Central is a contrived organisation. It's a paper Cumann where members can be organised to vote certain ways," one source said.

Mr Brady insists he has "no preference" when it comes to the number of candidates, and stresses he is simply getting on with the business of canvassing.

Retirement

Prior to Mr Ahern's retirement announcement, some of Mr Brady's supporters were keen to keep Ms Fitzpatrick off the election ticket -- in the knowledge the sitting TD may not be able to stave off her challenge.

Since Christmas, there has been a growing acceptance within the Fianna Fail ranks that both Ms Fitzpatrick and Mr Brady -- who got elected on Mr Ahern's coat tails last time out with a mere 939 first preference votes -- will run.

"It's like the two of them (Brady and Fitzpatrick) are from two different parties and that could be their undoing. If Fianna Fail is going to hold even one of its two seats, they will need transfers but there's absolutely no co-ordination and no unity between the two sides," one constituency source said.

All the election candidates are now competing to soak up Mr Ahern's staggering 12,734 first-preference votes.

Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe is adamant that whoever runs for Fianna Fail is running as the "St Luke's representative".

"They are running on the back of the culture of St Luke's that has brought the country into this crisis," he said.

Strategists across the parties are divided on the numbers game but all agree the safest seat is that of Labour's Joe Costello.

His running-mate Aine Clancy may take a second seat if the Gilmore Gale blows.

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan, who retained the seat vacated by the late Tony Gregory, held a meeting of her supporters last week and has vowed to run again.

Former Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald could lose much-needed first-preference votes and transfers to a former Sinn Fein councillor, Christy Burke, who will run as an independent.

Other independent councillors, Nial Ring and Cieran Perry, have yet to make up their minds on an election run but would attract votes the larger political parties are relying on.

Constituency profile

Dublin Central

- Number of seats: 4

- Electorate: 56,077

- Voters per TD: 14,019

Potential candidates

FIANA FAIL

Cyprian Brady TD

Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick

FINE GAEL

Sen Paschal Donohoe

LABOUR

Joe Costello TD

Cllr Aine Clancy

SINN FEIN

Mary-Lou McDonald

GREEN PARTY

David Geary

INDEPENDENTS

Maureen O'Sullivan TD

Cllr Cieran Perry

Cllr Christy Burke

Cllr Nial Ring

Last time

- Then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern topped the poll with 12,734 votes.

- Massive surplus got Ahern’s running mate Cyprian Brady elected on just 939 first-preference votes.

- Labour’s Joe Costello and the late Independent TD Tony Gregory also re-elected.

Irish Independent

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