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Thursday 14 December 2017

Bonfires in west would have left party's city voters cold

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

The manner of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's victory celebrations has exacerbated the view that he will be a 'Mayo Taoiseach'.

The whoop of 'Up Mayo!' was the first reaction to his dramatic survival as party leader -- heard on live radio from one of Mr Kenny's staunch Mayo allies, Cllr Joe Mellet.

It didn't help that many of those leading the rebellion against Mr Kenny were Dublin-based TDs, including Richard Bruton himself, Brian Hayes, Leo Varadkar and Olivia Mitchell.

That led some in the Kenny camp to brand it as an 'East Coast, Dublin 4 thing', versus 'the West of Ireland'.

As if to underline the gulf, it emerged that Mr Bruton's supporters gathered in the posh Merrion Hotel while Mr Kenny's fans opted for the more 'country' Buswells Hotel.

Mr Mellet, an auctioneer based in Swinford, said he had shouted 'Up Mayo!' on hearing of Mr Kenny's victory because, "We win so little".

He believed it was important to "stick with your local man if at all possible".

"If Mayo ever was to get anything, the Taoiseach has to be from rural Ireland. Enda's the guy," he added.

"That's why I would be highly critical of (Fine Gael Roscommon South Leitrim TD) Denis Naughten and others from outside the Pale who suggested they would vote for a fellow inside the Pale. I don't know what in the name of God they were thinking about," he said.

But there is a danger that the raucous celebrations of his Mayo supporters will alienate voters in the rest of the country -- especially the 1.5 million people in the greater Dublin area.

This is one of the reasons the Kenny camp decided yesterday not to have bonfires blazing or a wild party on Mr Kenny's return to his native county.

Fine Gael desperately needs to increase its level of representation in the capital at the next general election. It has no seats in three of the 12 Dublin constituencies (Dublin Central, Dublin Mid-West and Dublin North West) and just 10 out of 47 seats in total.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore (Galway-born but Dublin-based) will see Fine Gael's difficulty as his party's opportunity -- and he is touring some key Dublin constituencies today.

Mr Kenny will be able to deal with the Dublin problem to some degree by appointing another deputy leader from the capital to replace his defeated challenger Richard Bruton.

Health spokesman Dr James Reilly is the favourite. But if Mr Kenny opts to leave most of the Dublin-based rebel TDs out in the cold when he reshuffles his frontbench, that will again draw attention to the issue.

Fine Gael Mayo Cllr Peter Flynn said the last time there had been real investment in the county had been the days of Fianna Fail minister Padraig Flynn -- who served as Minister for the Environment.

"The reality is that unless you've somebody in the cabinet, the money isn't coming our way," he said.


He is a director of finance at the Allergen plant in Westport, which is the biggest manufacturer in the world of cosmetic surgery medication Botox.

The company has complained, along with others, that the uneven state of parts of the N5 Mayo to Dublin road have caused damage to its products.

Fine Gael Mayo TD Michael Ring has promised that, if Mr Kenny becomes Taoiseach, he will ensure the road is upgraded. But Fine Gael Cllr Michael Burke, who is based in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, said: "We see him as a Taoiseach for the 26 counties."

Mr Burke pointed out that Mr Kenny had returned to work yesterday at his desk at 8am yesterday in Dublin and was getting on with his job.

"There's no celebrations . . . just a bit of excitement on the evening," he said.

Irish Independent

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