Senator's fiancee and dad blocked from taking council seat
Published 27/06/2011 | 05:00
THE LABOUR Party hierarchy has blocked the father and fiancee of a newly elected senator from filling his vacant council seat.
Limerick senator James Heffernan narrowly missed out on a Dail seat in the last general election but won a place in the Seanad on the Agricultural Panel in April's election to the Upper House.
Mr Heffernan left a seat on Limerick County Council behind, and his father Pat first put his name forward as an alternative.
Mr Heffernan's fiancee Ciara Gahan -- to whom he proposed to on the night of the general election count -- also put her name forward.
This is despite a recommendation from the Labour leadership that council seats -- worth around €30,000 in payments and expenses -- left behind by new TDs and senators shouldn't be filled by family members.
Both were blocked by the party's organisation committee, which vets applicants for vacant seats.
The committee interviews candidates and decides who should go before selection conventions at local Labour branches. It can veto candidates it doesn't want.
Mr Heffernan said five members of his local party branch stood for the interviews, and that his family members were entitled to put their names forward like anyone else.
He said the main concern among local activists was not that his family members were going forward, but that nobody from his area of Kilmallock would take his seat.
Mr Heffernan said his father and Ms Gahan "were turned down because the party felt there were better candidates there".