Wednesday 29 March 2017

Shock retirement of Upton upsets Labour's poll plans

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

THE Labour Party suffered another blow last night after a second TD announced plans to retire at the next General Election.

Frontbench spokeswoman and Dublin South Central TD Mary Upton followed Wicklow's Liz McManus in upsetting party strategists with a decision to retire at the next election.

Party leader Eamon Gilmore only learnt of the surprise move yesterday afternoon and is understood to have tried to convince her to run again. But Ms Upton (64) stuck to her decision to bow out after only 11 years in the Dail.

The departure of Ms Upton, Ms McManus and Fine Gael's Olwyn Enright will prompt further debate about the need for gender quotas across the political parties.Of our 166 TDs, only 23 are women.

Ms Upton last night claimed it was the right time to stand down and make way for others.

"The Labour Party is at its highest level ever in the opinion polls and I believe that Dublin South Central can return two Labour Party Deputies at the next election," she said.

Party sources said Ms Upton and Ms McManus chose to step down now, given the party's improved poll ratings. Despite the loss of big names, observers predict that seats will be won not on name alone but on the back of the party's popularity.

A selection convention in Dublin South Central is imminent. Prior to her surprise decision, the candidates had been narrowed down to Ms Upton, Ballyfermot councillor Michael Conaghan and Terenure-based councillor Eric Byrne.

Last time out, Mr Byrne missed out on a seat by 69 votes. He is favourite to hold Ms Upton's seat and will be hoping to get a second candidate elected.

But the party will have to decide whether to stick to its original plan to run three candidates or revert back to two.

If it decides to run a third candidate, South West Inner City councillor Rebecca Moynihan and Crumlin councillor Henry Upton could get the nod.

Mr Upton is a nephew of Ms Upton and son of the late Deputy Pat Upton. She won back her brother's seat in 1999.

The Labour leader Mr Gilmore last night paid tribute to Ms Upton, describing her as an outstanding representative for the people of Dublin South Central since she first elected in a 1999 by-election.

"She was an able and articulate deputy and a very effective spokesperson originally in Agriculture and later in Tourism, Culture and Sport," he said.

He added that while her retirement would be a loss, ''I know that there are a number of able public representatives within the Labour Party in Dublin South Central and I am confident that we will be able to win two seats there at the next election."

Irish Independent

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