Sunday 18 March 2018

Fine Gael returning officer disputes claims that convention was run in disorderly manner

Fine Gael TD John Perry
Fine Gael TD John Perry

Tim Healy

THE returning officer at the Fine Gael selection convention for Sligo-Leitrim has disputed claims it was run in a disorderly manner.

Darragh Kelly told the High Court he had made preparations well in advance for the convention including having stewards to provide crowd control

He said while there were efforts to move people in the main hall of the Mayflower Ballroom in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, on the night of October 16 but "I would not call it chaotic or out of control".

He is giving evidence on the fourth day an action against the trustees of FG in which Mr Perry, TD for Sligo-Leitrim,  seeks to set aside the result of the convention which he lost.  He claims there were serious irregularities in the conduct of the convention which was to select two candidates for the general election.

It was claimed by the Perry side the convention was quite disorderly because of the number of people, around 800-900, in what was an unsuitable venue.

Mr Kelly said the decision to use this venue was taken locally based on geography and finance and because it had been previously used in the last convention for the constituency in 1996.

In response to claims of people being ushered into the hall, he said efforts were made to get people in but it was "not done out of any sense of panic".

Mr Kelly also said a local group came to the view, as part of the strategy directive, there should only be two candidates.   While there were already two sitting TDs and four candidates, it did represent a bit of a political conundrum, he said.  

The convention had been postponed for a month not because of "any diktat" but because the local group decided so, he said.

In relation to claims of people canvassing in the voting area, he said it was important that people's privacy be protected when they are voting.

He said it was common practice that the strategy directive be read out on the night of the convention.  Mr Perry rang him beforehand to ask about what was in the directive but Mr Kelly said he didn't know what it was until the night.

The case continues.

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