Wednesday 22 October 2014

FF goes from chaos to shambles to open civil war with Mary Hanafin

David Andrews reignites feud by backing rival Kate Feeney

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

Published 11/05/2014 | 02:30

Kate Feeney and (inset) Mary Hanafin on the streets of Blackrock, Co Dublin.  Picture:  GERRY MOONEY/MARK CONDREN
Kate Feeney and (inset) Mary Hanafin on the streets of Blackrock, Co Dublin. Picture: GERRY MOONEY/MARK CONDREN
Kate Feeney on the streets of Blackrock, Co Dublin.  Picture:  GERRY MOONEY.
Kate Feeney on the streets of Blackrock, Co Dublin. Picture: GERRY MOONEY.
Kate Feeney, Fianna Fail candidate in Blackrock, Dublin.

FIANNA Fail's civil war with Mary Hanafin has intensified, with her long-time local arch- rivals in the Andrews family weighing in behind the official party candidate, Kate Feeney.

Fianna Fail chiefs desperately tried to physically take back Ms Hanafin's letter of party affiliation from the nomination papers that she lodged with the returning officer last weekend, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The move to retrieve the official party affiliation letter, just an hour before the close of nominations, would have forced Ms Hanafin to either pull out or be stranded as an independent.

But the returning officer in Dun Laoghaire said it was illegal to remove the party letter without the candidate's permission.

Fianna Fail has also allocated a staff member to work full-time on Ms Feeney's campaign in Blackrock, Dublin.

Its equality and youth officer, Christabelle Feeney, a former Rose of Tralee contestant, will co-ordinate her namesake's campaign.

Kate Feeney has now been endorsed by the former foreign affairs minister David Andrews, whose family have represented the party in the area for almost 50 years.

The backing of Ms Feeney by the party grandee is viewed as a rekindling of the feud between the Andrews and Ms Hanafin. Mr Andrews and his son Barry were constituency rivals of Ms Hanafin for almost 15 years.

Barry Andrews and Ms Hanafin were involved in a spat at the last general election over one or the other moving to the neighbouring Dublin South constituency in an effort to salvage a seat.

In the event, neither moved and both lost their seats.

David Andrews met Ms Feeney last Wednesday and posed for official pictures with her for use in her campaign.

"David Andrews met her for coffee at his house and took a picture. It's a full endorsement. It's rekindling the fire there between the Andrews and Hanafin," a senior party source said.

Further details of the debacle around Ms Hanafin's candidacy are now emerging.

After agreeing to her candidacy last Wednesday week, Fianna Fail's general secretary Sean Dorgan signed Ms Hanafin's letter of affiliation as he was going to be away in Galway until late on Friday.

Every candidate gets an official letter from their party, confirming that they are approved as a candidate and can be listed under that party's name on the ballot paper.

Ms Hanafin picked up the letter of affiliation on Friday afternoon from Fianna Fail headquarters.

In the intervening period, objections to her addition to the ticket were raised by Ms Feeney and other party figures.

On Friday night, the party's national constituencies committee had a telephone conference meeting and decided that it was sticking with Ms Feeney as the one candidate in Blackrock. Ms Hanafin was notified of the decision.

On Saturday morning, another Fianna Fail candidate in the adjoining council area of Dun Laoghaire saw that Ms Hanafin's nomination papers had been submitted.

Fianna Fail general secretary Sean Dorgan contacted Ms Hanafin, who told him that she had already handed in her nomination papers that morning, so she was already a candidate.

Just an hour away from the noon nomination deadline, Mr Dorgan, who lives in Blackrock, went to the Dun Laoghaire County Council offices to check the final list of nominated candidates.

Returning officer Kathleen Holohan confirmed that there were two Fianna Fail candidates in Blackrock – Ms Feeney and Ms Hanafin – and that the paperwork was in order.

Mr Dorgan then asked if it was possible to withdraw the party's certificate of political affiliation.

But the returning officer checked the relevant legislation and said that this was not allowed without the candidate's approval.

Candidates could still withdraw their nominations by noon the following Tuesday.

The internal committee met again on Saturday and Sunday. The party tried to get Ms Hanafin to withdraw but she refused.

However, contrary to suggestions of Ms Hanafin's emergence as a candidate being a late development, it has also been learned that the party had been in talks with the former minister about running in Blackrock since February.

At that time, Ms Hanafin had decided against seeking the nomination to run for the European Parliament in Dublin and the second local election candidate in Blackrock, Barry Conway, had just withdrawn.

She spoke with Mr Dorgan in February and again at the Fianna Fail ard fheis in Killarney in March.

The party carried out polling in the area and found that she was getting 16 per cent of the vote, with Ms Feeney on just six per cent.

The strategy behind running Ms Hanafin was to salvage a seat and potentially bring in Ms Feeney.

After Ms Hanafin's refusal to withdraw her nomination, Fianna Fail is now throwing all its resources behind Ms Feeney. A meeting of the local organisation in the South 1 Bar in Blackrock on Wednesday night was described as "the best-attended party meeting in Dublin for years".

Ms Hanafin also had a meeting of supporters, which included a number of party activists who are close to the former education minister.

Sunday Independent

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