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Thursday 18 October 2018

Defection of O'Connor to Fine Gael is a fresh blow for the PDs

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE Progressive Democrats have been dealt a fresh blow after a councillor quit the party for Fine Gael.

Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who was the party's only representative on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, sent her letter of resignation to the party.

It is understood that she is leaving because she believes the PDs have no future.

She is expected to have her membership application to Fine Gael approved within the coming months.

The PDs are already reeling from the loss of six of their eight seats in the general election; from the departure of party president Tom Parlon to the Construction Industry Federation; and from the revelation that its Galway West TD Noel Grealish has had discussions about joining Fianna Fail.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor joined the Progressive Democrats three and a half years ago and was elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on her first attempt in 2004.

The school principal has been approached by a number of parties about leaving the PDs and has been urged by her supporters to move on.

A close friend said that she had the highest regard for party leader Mary Harney and for former leader Michael McDowell.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor was in contact with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny about her decision as well as the party's general secretary Tom Curran and director of strategy Frank Flannery. Her defection will increase the number of Fine Gael councillors on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county council to 10 out of 28.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor may be in the running to become a general election candidate for Fine Gael, but the party already has Sean Barrett TD and Senator Eugene Regan in the constituency.

Last July, the PDs lost another Dublin-based councilor when Wendy Hederman announced she was retiring.

The party was been dealt a further blow this month with the news that Dun Laoghaire senator Fiona O'Malley has ruled herself out as a candidate to become the party's next leader. Galway West TD Noel Grealish and Galway East senator Ciaran Cannon have also ruled themselves out, leaving no obvious candidate for the leadership election next month.

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