Fianna Fáil bosses hatch plan to secure Mary Hanafin win in a dramatic U-turn
Published 04/04/2015 | 02:30
Fianna Fáil strategists are hatching a plan to return Mary Hanafin to the Dáil - almost 12 months after the party tried to scupper her political comeback.
After commissioning a series of private polls, senior party figures believe Ms Hanafin is one of just five Fianna Fáil candidates with a chance of taking a seat in Dublin in the general election.
But their attempts to ensure she is on the ticket in Dún Laoghaire are jeopardised by the local selection convention.
Ms Hanafin is likely to be beaten on members votes by councillor Cormac Devlin, who party figures do not believe will secure one of three Dáil seats.
The Irish Independent can reveal that Fianna Fáil strategists believe Ms Hanafin could beat Mr Devlin - if she can convince fellow councillor Jennifer Cuffe to "step off the pitch" and pledge support to the former minister.
"If Hanafin struck a deal with Cuffe, then the arithmetic changes entirely," said a senior party source.
The battle for a place on the Fianna Fáil ticket could become more intriguing if councillor Kate Feeney also contests the convention.
Ms Feeney has had a fraught relationship with Ms Hanafin, after she entered the local election campaign last May despite major internal opposition.
The pair were both elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but have had little personal dealings with each other since. Ms Feeney is meeting her supporters next week to discuss her intentions.
Senior party sources do not believe Ms Feeney has the capacity to take a seat and may seek to convince her to wait until future general elections before running.
The prospect of adding Ms Hanafin to the ticket if Mr Devlin wins is not being ruled out. However, a one-candidate strategy is the preferred option.
The polling carried out by the party shows it is likely to take five seats in the capital.
These include Darragh O'Brien in Fingal, Jack Chambers in Dublin West and John Curran or Trevor Gilligan in Dublin Mid-West. The party also says it has a chance with Charlie O'Connor or John Lahart in Dublin South-West and Paul McAuliffe in Dublin North-West.
The dilemma facing Fianna Fáil in Dún Laoghaire is also replicated on the northside of Dublin. The recent party polling suggests that Dublin Bay North is one of the five key areas in which the party should win a seat.
But the preferred candidate, Senator Averil Power, also faces an extremely competitive selection convention. Ms Power, who the party are convinced would poll extremely well in the election, is being challenged by former minister Seán Haughey, as well as councillors Deirdre Heney and Tom Brabazon.
In a striking similarity to Dún Laoghaire, sources say Ms Power may lose out at the convention to Mr Haughey.
She has also come under fire from some local members for her criticism of Mr Brabazon's recent controversial article on childcare and female politicians.
The Donaghmede-based councillor infuriated Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin after he said the public should want "real women" politicians with "experience" in areas including childbirth. He rejected claims by Ms Power that his remarks were deeply offensive to women.
If Ms Power does not win the convention, party sources say they are considering adding her to the ticket.
But they are adopting a "wait and see" approach until Mr Haughey makes his decision.