Monday 22 January 2018

Embarrassing U-turn for Kenny as Perry added to FG general election ticket

No confidence: Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran. Photo: Tom Burke
No confidence: Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been bounced into an embarrassing U-turn as TD John Perry was added to the Fine Gael General Election ticket following a High Court battle.

Fine Gael yesterday announced that Mr Perry, the former Minister for Small Business, will now contest the Sligo/Leitrim constituency after an out-of-court settlement.

While the details of the settlement are being kept confidential, legal sources last night estimated that both parties have racked up a combined bill of up to €500,000.

Mr Perry took legal action against the party over the result of the selection convention in October.

Speaking on Breakfast on Newstalk this morning, John Perry TD said if he hadn’t taken his case against Fine Gael, he never would have been added to the Fine Gael ticket for next year’s general election.

“I met Brian Hayes just last week and he said he was looking forward to meeting me in court. It’s a major change of heart from his point of view.”

He claimed that if he hadn’t taken the court case, he would not be a candidate today. Mr Perry said he wouldn’t comment that he could be looking at a huge legal bill for his five-day High Court action against the Fine Gael party.

“I couldn’t comment on the figures being bandied about but my sole objective from the very start of this was that every sitting TD would be allowed to contest the election. It was a major disappointment for me when that didn’t happen in my case.”

Mr Perry said he spoke to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his response was “not encouraging”.

“I was there on the Flannery Commission in 2002 when the party had only 30 seats. I played a very active role in re-establishing the brand of Fine Gael. Obviously I was there as the anchor man in the critical leadership struggle in 2010. I met him in his office on the Tuesday after the convention and his body language was less than encouraging.”

He refused to criticise the Taoiseach directly.

“He is the majority leader of the party and he has my full support.”

Earlier this morning on the same programme, Fine Gael Director of Elections Brian Hayes said a “good old pow wow” solved the dispute the party and John Perry TD.

“In politics there are always things you need to learn,” he said. “It was always an open question as to whether other candidates could be added to Sligo Leitrim and we are already looking at about five other constituencies where we could do the same.”

Fine Gael yesterday agreed  to add Mr Perry to its election ticket after withdrawing its defence in a five-day High Court case.

Brian Hayes refused to be drawn on who will pay the legal costs - and says Deputy Perry was never actually turned down by the party

Following his defeat at the convention, Mr Perry alleged that the contest was plagued by serious inadequacies and that the outcome was "seriously flawed".

He also claimed that the Taoiseach had given a commitment that all sitting Oireachtas members would be allowed to defend their seats.

Fine Gael contested Mr Perry's High Court challenge and the case was heard in front of Mr Justice Paul Gilligan over five days.

But the party yesterday performed a spectacular U-turn and agreed to add Mr Perry to the ticket.

The decision will be ratified by the National Executive tonight following a formal recommendation by Mr Kenny, who is also the party's president.

Mr Perry yesterday said he feels "vindicated" after his bitter legal row with the party was settled.

Speaking on the plinth of the Dáil, Mr Perry thanked God for the decision, adding that he has had candles lit by supporters in recent weeks.

"The amount of Mass cards and bouquets and candles that have been lit ... People that know John Perry know I fight for my constituents, it's true to form of John Perry that I felt wrong was done, incorrect actions were taken and I just could not rest with myself without taking the actions I took," Mr Perry told reporters.

"And I would like to thank God for this day. This day is a day for justice in ensuring people who have genuine beliefs in their faiths, had Mass bouquets offered and candles lit and I respect that," he added.

The legal bill of €500,000 will be a headache for Fine Gael but, more significantly, the party's electoral chances in the constituency are now diminished because of the addition of a third candidate in Mr Perry.

Sitting TD Tony McLoughlin and former TD and senator Gerry Reynolds are both on the ticket having been successful at the convention.

The addition of Mr Perry will create particular difficulties for Mr McLoughlin, as both TDs have similar geographical bases.

Fine Gael sources last night said Mr McLoughlin was "not happy" over the decision but he had no intention of withdrawing from the election despite previous speculation.

"Tony will just get on with things but it is not good for any of the other parties who have been impacted by this," said a source.

During the High Court case, Mr Perry claimed that Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran "danced with rage" when the TD complained a sister of a rival had been seen putting a number of votes into a ballot box at the convention.

Mr Perry said that during the convention in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, on October 16 last, another party member told him to go into the voting area because he had just seen Ita Reynolds, sister of Gerry Reynolds, putting four votes into a ballot box.

Ms Reynolds said she was only assisting elderly people who wished to vote on the night.

Mr Perry said he was met by Mr Curran "who said to me 'get out', that I was canvassing". Mr Perry replied he had just been told four votes had been put into the box "and it would be more in his f***ing line to check what was going on in the voting area".

At this, Mr Curran "danced with rage on the floor", Mr Perry told the court.

Mr Perry declined on two occasions to express his confidence in Mr Curran.

Irish Independent

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