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Sunday 25 August 2019

Explained: The senior Fine Gael figure accused of sending abusive tweets and his role in the party

Kate O'Connell reported abuse from (inset) Barry Walsh
Kate O'Connell reported abuse from (inset) Barry Walsh
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

As Fine Gael considers a complaint from TD Kate O'Connell about a member of its executive council, takes a closer look at the man allegedly behind a string of abusive tweets, and his role in the party.

Barry Walsh, is a long time Fine Gael member and while he has never served as a public representative he has held a number of significant roles within the party.

Mr Walsh, aged in his 30s, first joined the party aged just 16.

He currently sits on the executive council and was once its vice-chair. He also served as Young Fine Gael's president from 2007-2010.

He was elected to the executive council to represent Dublin members for the first time at the last Ard Fheis in 2012.

Originally from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, he has lived in Clontarf, Dublin since 2005.

According to his bio in literature produced ahead of Fine Gael's 2014 Ard Fheis he is a rugby fan and "also enjoys cinema, opera, and lots of reading in his rare moments of spare time".

Mr Walsh is a pro-life advocate and previously published an article in the Irish Catholic newspaper entitled "‘If we believe that we are deserving of a right to life, how can we deny it to others?". He penned the article in a personal capacity.

The executive council is described by Fine Gael as the body that "takes core organisational decisions for the party".

The council comprises of up to 28 members including a mix of elected public representative and party members from around the country. Members of Young Fine Gael are also represented — while working with Young Fine Gael Mr Walsh secured an additional seat for the organisation on the executive council.

One of the roles that the council undertakes is to determine the maximum and minimum number of candidates in any elections. It is also up to the council to ratify any candidates who are selected to run for office — without this ratification they cannot promote themselves as a Fine Gael candidate.

Another of the council's roles is to deal with and adjudicate complaints and matters of dispute within the party apart from disciplinary matters, which are dealt with by a separate committee. The council does hear appeals about decisions taken by the disciplinary committee.

Members are elected to the council at the party's Ard Fheis.

Most recently the council oversaw the process which saw Leo Varadkar elected as party leader. Leadership candidates agreed to a "code of conduct" which was drawn up by the council.

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