Wednesday 24 May 2017

'We have a sound legal basis for what we have to do' - Fianna Fail on 'gendermandering' at selection conventions

Mary Hanafin
Mary Hanafin
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fianna Fail believes it has a 'sound legal basis' to issue a gender diktat ahead of the party's selection convention in Dun Laoghaire, Independent.ie has learned.

Senior Fianna Fáil figures are now firmly of the view that former minister Mary Hanafin should be the party's sole candidate to contest the three seat constituency.

The matter has been discussed at length among the Fianna Fáil top brass in recent days amid accusations that the party is responsible for 'gendermandering'.

On the back of claims by councillor Cormac Devlin that he will legally challenge any gender diktat, the party has sought its own legal advice ahead of Monday's convention.

"We have a sound legal basis for what we have to do," a senior party source said tonight.

"There should be one candidate and that is Mary Hanafin," the source added.

The comments are the clearest indication yet that the party is preparing to direct the selection convention to select a sole female candidate. Party strategists believe Ms Hanafin will defeat her council colleague Kate Feeney and therefore represent the party as its sole candidate in the three seat constituency.

Ms Feeney told Independent.ie that she will personally back any decision by Mr Devlin to launch a legal challenge against a gender diktat.

“If Cormac does proceed with a challenge, I would support him. It is only fair that members select who their candidate is,” she added.

Meanwhile, it’s now emerged that a party member in Dún Laoghaire has formally objected to the date of the convention because up to 30 members are to be denied a vote.

It’s understood that up to 10 of these individuals are Feeney supporters, while the majority of the rest are Devlin supporters. The members have been told that their votes do not become active until October 1 – just days after the convention is due to take place.

However, Ms Feeney said that a number of these individuals are long-standing party members who just failed to pay their fees on time.

“These people feel disenfranchised and it’s very disappointing,” she said.

Responding to a threat from Mr Devlin that he is considering mounting a challenge against any form of "gendermandering", Mr Martin yesterday said he does not foresee a scenario unfolding that involving legal action.

"First of all, all of our decisions in terms of selection conventions are evidence-based. And that means we are doing research in the constituencies. We are polling constituencies just like other political parties are as well," Mr Martin said.

"We've had no legal cases to date. Obviously in the context of conventions, there will be tensions and people will be arguing their position and so on. But I don't see any necessity for that kind of actions, nor will there be any necessity for it," he added.

Pressed again about the prospect of a challenge from Mr Devlin, Mr Martin replied:

"I don't see any scenario unfolding where there will be such legal action."

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