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Coughlan vows to fight on in politics for another 20 years

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan last night vowed to keep going in politics for another 20 years as she was selected to contest the upcoming general election in Donegal South West.

And at the Fianna Fail Kerry South convention, a jubilant former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue pledged he was ready for battle.

Tanaiste and Education Minister Ms Coughlan dismissed as a "non-debate" any question over the leadership of Fianna Fail as she was selected uncontested to run.

At a low-key selection convention in Glenties, Co Donegal, Ms Coughlan insisted that Brian Cowen had her full backing as leader of the party, as president of the organisation and as Taoiseach.

"He will be continuing in that role with the full support of me. Let us move on from this debate. It is a non-debate," she told more than 350 delegates in the Highlands Hotel.

Ms Coughlan, who was selected with Senator Brian O Domhnaill to contest what she admitted would be a difficult election, also insisted she was "in it for the long haul".

"I am still only 45. I have at least another 20 years in me and I am as committed to going forward as anyone else and honoured to do so," she said.

Mr O'Donoghue was selected at yesterday's Kerry South convention in the INEC in Killarney beating county councillor Michael Cahill by 160 votes to 138.

Kenmare-based senator Mark Daly and Kerry county councillor Tom Fleming formally withdrew their names before the vote was cast.

Mr O'Donoghue, who resigned his position as Ceann Comhairle in October 2009 amid controversy over various expenses claims, told the convention that the previous 15 months had been the most difficult for him and his family.

He conceded he had a fight ahead of him to retain his Dail seat but said he was up to the challenge.


"I'm absolutely delighted that Fianna Fail in South Kerry has put its trust in me and obviously I have called upon every member of the party to fight for every vote to retain the seat," Mr O'Donoghue told the Irish Independent.

"I do have a mountain to climb but I have my climbing boots on and I'm ready to climb."

Mr O'Donoghue said the memory of his mother and father and their association with Fianna Fail had made him decide to run again.

"In October 2009 when I was forced to stand down as Ceann Comhairle I made the promise that only the people of South Kerry could decide my future.

"With this decision today I want the message to go out to the constituency and to the rest of the country that I came, I'm here and I've kept my promise," he said.

Defence Minister Tony Killeen, who chaired yesterday's convention, said he got a "strong impression" from supporters that Mr O'Donoghue had been treated unfairly in the controversy relating to his expenses.

"There's a great sense of fair play in Kerry and I get a strong impression here that people feel he was unfairly treated and this will benefit him enormously in his general election campaign," Mr Killeen said.

Meanwhile, in a spirited address to the Donegal South West convention, Mr O Domhnaill, who failed in his bid for a seat in November's by-election, called for bankers who had done wrong to be held accountable and brought before the courts to "face the full brunt of the law".

"We are a republican party and they did not serve the republic," he said.

Irish Independent