Sunday 19 November 2017

Disquiet grows in FG over Cox campaign

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FORMER PD and Labour Party spindoctors last night denied advising former European Parliament president Pat Cox on his bid to become Fine Gael's presidential election candidate.

Mr Cox, a former Fianna Fail candidate, PD TD and Independent MEP, is expected to announce this morning he will seek the party nomination for the Presidency.

Fine Gael will hold its convention to select the candidate on July 9, in the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin.

But the opposition within Fine Gael towards Mr Cox's campaign is continuing to mount with growing disquiet over the party hierarchy's decision to bring in an outsider.

Fine Gael MEP's Gay Mitchell and Mairead McGuinness continue to garner support from the party's grassroots.

"What the organisation wants is one of our own," a senior party source said.

Within Fine Gael, it was suggested Mr Cox was being advised on his campaign by former Labour Party senator and general secretary Brendan Halligan and former PD press officer Stephen O'Byrnes.

Mr Halligan serves as chairman of the Institute of International and European Affairs and Mr O'Byrnes is director and head of public affairs at MKC Communications.

Both said it was well known they were friends of Mr Cox but were not advising him on how to secure the nomination.

"I'm a friend of Pat Cox for 30 years. No, I haven't been advising him," Mr Halligan said.

"We are close friends. That doesn't even arise at this stage," Mr O'Byrnes said.

Mr Cox and Mr Halligan were seen together in Leinster House this week.

But Mr Halligan said this encounter was not related to Mr Cox's campaign.

"I was in Leinster House. I walked out the door at the same time," he said.

Irish Independent

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