Monday 1 May 2017

FG faces legal action if election race is cut short

Some members are concerned that if Enda Kenny does not step down in time to allow for an orderly transition there may be efforts to confine the vote on his successor to the parliamentary party. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney
Some members are concerned that if Enda Kenny does not step down in time to allow for an orderly transition there may be efforts to confine the vote on his successor to the parliamentary party. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael could face legal action if there is any attempt to fast-track the election process for appointing a new leader.

Some members are concerned that if Enda Kenny does not step down in time to allow for an orderly transition there may be efforts to confine the vote on his successor to the parliamentary party.

The idea was first discussed during the formation of government negotiations last year when Fine Gael ministers were concerned about how they could remove Mr Kenny if a second election was necessary.

It was secretly agreed among ministers that they should hold a vote of the parliamentary party on potential candidates.

The losers of that vote among TDs, senators and MEPs would not formally put their names forward, thereby cutting out the grassroots vote.

However, Daniel Sullivan, the chairperson of Fine Gael's Dublin Bay North branch, has suggested that such a scenario could result in a court challenge.

Martin Heydon. Photo: Tom Burke
Martin Heydon. Photo: Tom Burke

He said any attempt to "truncate" a leadership contest and cut out councillors and membership would "make a mockery of the party constitution and get any new leader off on the wrong foot with ordinary members who believe their feedback and warnings were ignored before 2014 and 2016".

The Fine Gael constituency allows for a weighted voting system whereby the parliamentary party accounts for 65pc, party membership 25pc and public representatives 10pc.

Read more: Rebel TD won't push 'no confidence' motion - if Taoiseach steps down after St Patrick's Day

Candidates will be expected to take part in a 20-day campaign involving hustings in different parts of the country.

Mr Sullivan said if this process is not followed it is possible "some might consider taking legal action to force that the contest follows the party rules".

The chair of Education Minister Richard Bruton's constituency told the Irish Independent it was "striking" that ordinary members of the party have not been central to the current debate about leadership.

"It should be about what the party stands for and where it is going, not just who should lead it there. The whole party has to be part of the discussion on where we're going," he said.

A spokesperson for Fine Gael had no comment to make in response.

Under the Fine Gael rule book each member is issued with a ballot paper and polling centres will be set up on a fixed date.

Polling day is set by the party's executive council but must be within 20 days of a vacancy arising.

In exceptional circumstances, the executive council and the chairperson of the parliamentary party Martin Heydon can agree to extend this time.

Councillors vote on the same day and at the same venues as the party membership, while parliamentary party members cast their votes at a special parliamentary party meeting.

Irish Independent

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