D-Day for Hanafin at selection convention
Martin denies legal threat by Devlin influenced FF
Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin has insisted that a threat of legal action by councillor Cormac Devlin had no bearing on the party's strategy ahead of tonight's selection convention in Dún Laoghaire.
Mr Devlin is being challenged by former minister Mary Hanafin and councillor Kate Feeney for a single place on the Fianna Fáil ticket. The party will later decide whether to add a second candidate, depending on its ability to meet the controversial gender-quota targets.
Senior party figures with a direct role in election strategy last night claimed Ms Hanafin was the preferred candidate - fuelling speculation that a gender diktat would be issued, which would prevent Mr Devlin from contesting the convention.
Party sources have described such a move, which took place in Dublin Central and Dublin South Central, as a form of "gendermandering".
Last week, Mr Devlin met his legal team to discuss a possible legal challenge to any such gender diktat.
However, the party announced on Wednesday that it would allow all three candidates to contest the convention.
Speaking at the Séan Lemass commemoration in Dublin yesterday, Mr Martin said the party never intended to interfere in the selection process in Dún Laoghaire.
The Cork TD also denied suggestions that the prospect of a legal challenge from Mr Devlin had an impact on the decision.
"Look, you are going to get that. It had no impact whatsoever. Absolutely none because we weren't going down that route in this particular constituency," he said.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Devlin said the strategy being taken by the party was the correct one.
"I think it was the only fair position to take in this circumstance, given that there is only one candidacy available, which is also a strategy I agree with."
Meanwhile, Ms Hanafin yesterday said selection conventions were often more difficult to win than elections.
"The one thing that I have learnt over my life is never to depend on the Fianna Fáil selection. It is easier to get elected than to get selected, I can tell you that," she said.
The former minister refused to say whether she would accept an offer from the party to be added to the ticket in the event of being unsuccessful.
"We don't know what way it is going to go. There will be three candidates but only one will come out," she added.
Ms Feeney said she expected 170 out of a possible 190 members to turn up and vote at the convention, which is being held at the Killiney Castle hotel.
"I am nervous but I think it is good for the party that we are having the convention. It is important that we pick a candidate and we all rally behind whoever comes through," she told the Irish Independent.
Separately yesterday, Mr Martin accused the Government of being obsessed with the idea of re-election.
He said the Coalition was the most "aggressive" to date and consistently tried to shut down debate.
"They will try to bribe and spin their way back to power.
"As things stand, they are likely to run what is to be the most negative re-election campaign in our history," Mr Martin said.
"This is by some distance the most political Government we have ever had. It is completely obsessed with trying to manage news headlines and it is more aggressive than any previous Government when it comes to shutting down debate and hiding information."