Monday 22 January 2018

Failed coup reveals deep schism in FG constituencies

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE fallout from the failed Fine Gael leadership heave will leave those on the losing side wondering about the impact in their constituencies.

Certainly, a number of the frontbenchers involved in the coup can expect to be sacked for their disloyalty.

But TDs and senators will also be left worrying if their actions this week will have repercussions at the next general election.

The party leadership has enormous influence over the selection of candidates, the carve-up of territory and the amount of assistance given to individuals.

The media exposure afforded to candidates can also be heavily influenced by the party centrally, as it decides who is sent out to bat on various issues.

The selection and location of running mates at the general election can have a massive say on the prospects of a sitting TD.

But the dividing line can be crucial to determining how loyal party supporters, not aligned to any particular candidate, will vote.

Over the past week, it was notable how many constituency counterparts wound up on opposite sides -- particularly where the party had two TDs or senators. Despite the legendary local rivalry between the Mayo pair, Michael Ring stood firmly by Mr Kenny. And the third TD, John O'Mahony, was also onside, along with MEP Jim Higgins. Outside of Mayo though, it was a different story.

In neighbouring Roscommon-South Leitrim, frontbench member Denis Naughten led the Gang of Nine against Mr Kenny, while Frank Feighan backed the leader.

In Galway East, Paul Connaughton stood by Mr Kenny, as did Senator Ciaran Cannon although he didn't declare his intentions. Ulick Burke stayed quiet but is thought to have canvassed against Mr Kenny.

Next door in Galway West, party chairman Padraic McCormack stayed out of the debate, due to the position he held. Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames turned up at Mr Kenny's side after his victory, but never declared her intentions and was widely perceived to be backing Mr Bruton.

Key members of Mr Kenny's war cabinet, Phil Hogan and Paul Kehoe, were on the opposing side to their colleagues. Mr Hogan's Carlow-Kilkenny running mate Senator John Paul Phelan was believed to be on Mr Bruton's side and Mr Kehoe's fellow Wexford TD, Michael D'Arcy, strongly backed him too.

The same pattern was repeated in another half dozen constituencies.

Irish Independent

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