Hanafin pipped at post by Devlin for tilt at seat in Dún Laoghaire
Councillor Cormac Devlin was selected as the Fianna Fáil candidate for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown last night. In a close count he was elected by four votes, narrowly beating former minister Mary Hanafin by 68 votes to 64.
It marked the end of a tense race for the single slot on the ticket among three high-profile candidates - councillors Mary Hanafin, Kate Feeney and Cormac Devlin.
Around 130 party members arrived at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel yesterday evening for the proceedings, which were chaired by senator Thomas Byrne. The vote was expected to be close; the first count gave Hanafin 60 votes, Devlin 52, and Feeney 21, but almost all of Feeney's votes transferred to Devlin.
However, given the closeness of the result, speculation immediately began that party bosses, who have the option of adding another candidate to the ticket, may give Mary Hanafin the nod later this week.
Thanking the members afterwards, the victorious Devlin said: "We've all been through a lot since 2011, that wasn't an easy time to be a member of Fianna Fáil. I would like to acknowledge the wonderful and spirited campaigns Mary and Kate ran."
This was something of an understatement, considering that the three-way dogfight has hit the headlines more than once over the past few months.
Tensions among the trio further rose last week when Cormac - who had been tipped to win the selection convention - warned party bosses that he would consider legal action if a diktat was issued from headquarters instructing delegates to select a female candidate - a form of "gendermandering".
However, no such ruling was applied to the ever-controversial constituency, although party leader Micheál Martin insisted this weekend that the legal threat had "no impact whatsoever" on this decision.
Although he looks a lot younger than his 35 years, father-of-three Cormac, who was elected to the council in 2004, had shown a flash of Hanafinesque steel.
Despite the tense run-up to last night's convention, the three rivals posed together for photos in the hotel lobby before the convention began. "We're beside the wedding table," observed Mary Hanafin. And the canny operator immediately lifted a white sign spelling 'LOVE' from the desk-top, holding it aloft in front of herself and a startled Kate and Cormac.
"It's a new kind of marriage equality, you can marry anyone you like," she joked.
However, when the votes were counted, Mary was not so amused with the photo-finish. She is too ladylike to actually spit nails, but it was a close thing. She had a list of the unfortunates who were as láthair from the vote, being on holidays in various places, and read it out during her post-game speech. "Don't bother sending me a postcard, I would much rather you had been here tonight for the sake of four votes," she half-joked. "But I'm not bitter, I hope ye have a lovely holiday."
Mary added: "It is not true to say there is a Fianna Fáil vote in this constituency. We didn't win one last time - though I came close - and we certainly won't win one, unless we go out and persuade people to vote for us."
This was in response to the previous speech from Kate Feeney who had said she believed there is a Fianna Fáil seat to be won in the constituency.
"I firmly believe in our one-candidate strategy," Kate added pointedly. "We must offer something new to the electorate."
Hmm. There wasn't a PEACE sign available for the photo-shoot, but it might be still a tad too early for anyone concerned to be waving that one in the vicinity of Dún Laoghaire.