Chaos at FF selection contest as human chain formed to block count
A FIANNA Fail selection convention descended into chaos after a group of members formed a "human chain" in order to prevent the counting of ballots outside the convention room.
Party bosses are now facing calls to have the results of a convention in Limerick declared null and void amid a dispute over candidate selection.
There were furious scenes at a meeting of the Adare-Rathkeale cumann last Thursday after delegates were told that party headquarters had pre-selected three candidates ahead of next summer's local elections.
The decision resulted in a straight contest between the two remaining candidates -- sitting councillor Kevin Sheahan and barrister Emmett O'Brien.
Mr Sheahan marginally won the vote. However, the convention descended into chaos over the party's pre-selection strategy.
A number of Mr O'Brien's supporters formed a human chain in a bid to obstruct a party official from leaving the room to count the ballots.
The official was left with no option but to count the ballots at the top table of the meeting, which was being chaired by the party's children's spokesman, Robert Troy.
The angry scenes continued after the result was announced, with members claiming it should never have been a contest between just the two candidates.
A number of sources who were at the meeting confirmed that there were angry scenes and that members attempted to block the official's exit from the room.
"There was holy f***ing war but if party headquarters think they can act like a dictatorship, they have another thing coming," said one member who asked not to be named.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr O'Brien said members were "deeply unhappy" over the selection strategy.
"Democracy has been denied here. This was a blatant disregard for long-standing members," he said.
Local Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins was present at the meeting but he did not formally address the delegation about the party's decision to pre-select candidates.
Members are now attempting to have the result declared null and void and have tabled a motion scheduled to be debated at a meeting in Rathkeale tomorrow night.
One of the proposers of the motion, Tadhg Keating, last night called on party bosses to "seriously consider" the motion.
"I was one of about 10 people who left the meeting in protest. It seems totally undemocratic to have a contest between two people and to allow three candidates to get on the ticket without a vote," he said.
"The one member one vote strategy is how things are supposed to be done," he said.
Mr O'Brien said that as a result of the carving up of the constituency into different districts, up to 40 delegates were denied a vote in the contest.
However, a senior party source said that members had been told in advance that some candidates were going to be pre-selected. "This is how selection conventions work. There is always going to be dissatisfaction from the candidates who lose out," the source said.