Row in FF as councillor told to drop out of election race
Fianna Fáil has directed a sitting councillor to withdraw from a General Election selection convention in order to pave the way for the daughter of a former TD.
Party chiefs put pressure on Ballyfermot-based representative Daithí de Róiste to step aside in a move designed to leave councillor Catherine Ardagh unopposed in Dublin South Central.
But Mr de Róiste point blankly refused the request - prompting the party to postpone the selection convention which had been scheduled for Wednesday night.
The row has been brought to the attention of Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin who met Mr de Róiste in Leinster House yesterday to discuss the issue.
Fianna Fáil sources last night said the attempt to persuade Mr de Róiste to step aside for a female candidate illustrates the party's struggle to meet the gender quota targets.
But the move will also raise concern for other potential candidates who may lose out as a result of future directives from headquarters.
There is speculation in the party that a directive may be issued to the party's Dún Laoghaire branch that a female candidate be put forward for the election.
Such a move would undermine the chances of councillor Cormac Devlin, who is being challenged at convention by former minister Mary Hanafin, as well as councillors Kate Feeney and Jennifer Cuffe.
The gender quota rules, which state that 30pc of parties' candidates must be female, have proven particularly challenging for Fianna Fáil.
The Irish Independent revealed in January that a study commissioned by Fianna Fáil warned the party it was facing a "stark challenge" to find enough female candidates to run in the election.
This is evident by the decision by the party to ask a prominent male councillor to withdraw his name from the selection convention.
Mr de Róiste, who is chairman of Dublin City's Joint Policing Committee, was elected with almost 1,300 votes in the Ballyfermot ward in the local elections last May. Ms Ardagh secured just over 850 votes in the Crumlin/Kimmage ward.
Contacted last night, Mr de Róiste said he did not wish to comment on "internal party matters".
"My focus is on serving the people of my constituency and on tackling the many issues facing our city," Mr de Róiste told the Irish Independent.
Ms Ardagh, whose father Sean was a Fianna Fáil TD for 15 years, could not be reached for comment.