Thursday 23 May 2019

Simon Coveney dismisses claims of European Election split in Fine Gael following row about rally

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Mark Condren

Ralph Riegel

TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney dismissed claims of a European Parliament election split within Fine Gael following a row about attendance at a town hall-type rally in Cork.

Two of Fine Gael's Ireland South candidates - Sean Kelly MEP and Minister Andrew Doyle - have been asked not to attend the Thursday evening election debate in Cork.

Cork-based Deirdre Clune MEP will address the rally.

Some Cork voters claimed they were being denied their right to hear what every candidate has to say about their election priorities.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune

Several have demanded that Fine Gael allow all three candidates on their Ireland South ticket to attend the meeting.

However, Mr Coveney insisted the handling of the town hall meeting was in full accordance with long standing Fine Gael election strategy plans.

In 2014, the party similarly ran three candidates from Cork, Kerry and Wicklow - and captured two of the four seats on offer.

On that occasion, Minister Simon Harris outpolled Deirdre Clune on the first count - but she overhauled him by the tenth count and won the party's second European Parliament berth.

Ireland South is now comprised of 12 counties with a total of 23 candidates, 12 of whom are independents.

“There is no secret here," Mr Coveney said.

“This is an election strategy. We have three really good candidates in Ireland South.

“They are geographically placed in different areas in that overall constituency and so the candidates have agreed that they would focus their campaigns on those geographical areas."

He was adamant that the party applied the same rules to everyone on a geographic basis with absolutely no favouritism shown.

“Deirdre Clune is the candidate from Cork, the debate is taking place in Cork, and just like if the debate was taking place in Kerry, Deirdre wouldn’t be there or if it was up in Wicklow, Deirdre and Sean wouldn’t be there either because Andrew Doyle would be there.

“Sean Kelly, Deirdre Clune and Andrew Doyle are three really good candidates.

“They are placed geographically in different places in a very large constituency so when big events take place in those localised areas well then the candidate that is campaigning in those areas, linked to the overall party strategy, is the person who is at the debate.

“There is no big secret about that,” he said.

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