Friday 23 March 2018

TD Perry was 'reassured by Taoiseach all sitting TDs could contest general election' - court hears

Fine Gael TD John Perry at the High Court yesterday on the first day of the hearing
Fine Gael TD John Perry at the High Court yesterday on the first day of the hearing

Tim Healy

John Perry has told the High Court he was reassured by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's promise that all sitting TDs would be allowed to contest the general election before he attended last October's selection convention for the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

This is because that commitment had already been applied for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, who had been added to the ticket in Dublin North Central after failing to be selected at convention.

Mr Perry is continuing to give direct evidence in his legal action against the trustees of FG seeking that the result of the October 16 convention, at which he failed to be selected, be set aside because it was fundamentally flawed, unlawful and involved serious irregularities.

Mr Perry said the Taoiseach's commitment arose out of a parliamentary party meeting on the 5th floor of Leinster House in December 2014 in the aftermath of FG having lost a large number of council seats in the local elections and a Seanad seat.

He said there was "quite a lot of tension" particularly over the impact of the party's electoral strategy on those lost seats.  There was also issue with the requirement for 30 per cent gender balance and how that might lead to the deselection of sitting deputies.

The Taosieach said clearly that sitting TDs would be allowed contest the next election, he said, which was very well received by the meeting.

"I think it was very reassuring, I was delighted to hear it as it was the precedent I expected", he said.

No sitting TD have ever been denied the opportunity to seek a mandate since the foundation of the State, he said.

He believed this commitment had the effect on delegates voting at the Sligo-Leitrim convention in Drumshambo on October 16 of ensuring they were quite aware sitting deputies would be candidates.  The main concern of delegates was to select a candidate from the Leitrim area, he said.

Mr Perry said he always believed there would be three candidates, two from Sligo and one from Leitrim.

Following the convention he met the Taoiseach but said he did not get any comfort from his response. 

He sought a follow through from his December 2014 commitment that sitting TDs would be added to the ticket but was "very disappointed" and somewhat surprised by the response, including by the Taoiseach's suggestion an opinion poll would be carried out in the constituency.

"He said he would look into it, he did not say yes or no".   He still had not received a decision on that matter.

He said he also spoke to a number of people on the FG national executive, which the court heard only adds people to the ticket on the proposal of the party leader (Taoiseach), and while they were supportive there was "nothing beyond that".

Earlier Mr Perry said he was concerned the strategy adopted by the party for Sligo-Leitrim was designed in such a way to eliminate him.

He had no role in the meetings to devise this strategy although he was aware of it.

He tried to express his concern about it to FG general secretary Tom Curran over a six month period but Mr Curran did not return his calls.

He regarded one of three options suggested in the strategy as "a stitch-up directive" which meant he could not win the selection.

The demographics of the constituency, particulary with the addition of part of Cavan to it, meant with a certain strategy he would "have no chance".

The hearing continues.

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