Tuesday 12 December 2017

FG TD's bid to get wife into his old council seat thwarted

Alan Farrell's partner loses out in vote

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A NEW government TD has been thwarted in his efforts to get his wife elected to his vacant council seat.

Fine Gael's Alan Farrell left a spot on Fingal County Council when he took a second seat for Fine Gael in the four-seat Dublin North constituency in last month's general election.

Mr Farrell was seen as an outside bet to win a seat. But strong vote management by his running mate -- Fine Gael deputy leader and new Health Minister James Reilly -- pushed him over the line.

His council berth, which can be worth around €30,000 a year in payments and expenses, was to be filled in advance of the first meeting of the council this evening.

Immediately after the general election count, Mr Farrell said his replacement was a matter for party members but claimed he had somebody with "authority and ability" in mind to fill the position.

The selection convention took place last week and Mr Farrell proposed his wife, Emma Doyle, to fill his seat.

Ms Doyle, a barrister by profession, worked on Mr Farrell's general election campaign and on previous local election campaigns.

In his proposal speech, it is understood he highlighted his wife's abilities as a barrister and said that she had been an inspiration to him.


However, some members of the local organisation thought it wouldn't send out the right message if Ms Doyle was put forward uncontested.

Brian Murphy, chairman of the Fine Gael national executive and also a Malahide native, nominated Anthony Lavin, a long-term party activist, and he won out at the convention, which was held in the Grand Hotel in Malahide last Thursday.

Mr Farrell, a former mayor of Fingal County Council, declined to comment and a Fine Gael spokesperson said he "wasn't available to talk to the media at all" yesterday.

Since the abolition of the dual mandate in 2004, councillors who make it to the Dail after running in a general election have to be replaced on the local authority by a substitute.

It is left up to the party to decide how to fill the council seat but it must stay with the party the councillor was originally elected from.

Political parties have become more wary about allowing family members replace TDs on councils and also about allowing TDs to hire family members as parliamentary assistants.

Labour has told its TDs not to put family members in their council seats or to hire them in Leinster House.

Fianna Fail, which only has four council seats to fill, is dictating from headquarters who is to fill the seats and sources say family members will not be allowed.

But Fine Gael leaves it up to individual organisations locally, and allows them to vote on it at party conventions.

Local Fine Gael sources were surprised by Mr Farrell's move and said it sent out the wrong kind of signal at a time when people are looking for the political system to reform itself.

"I don't buy this that family members can't be allowed take the seat," one Fine Gael source told the Irish Independent.

"You could have a very strong candidate being passed over. But there was a feeling that this wouldn't look right and most of the people there backed the other candidate."

In the days before last month's general election, Mr Reilly posted a letter in the Malahide and Kinsealy areas of his constituency asking voters to give Mr Farrell their first-preference vote, instead of giving it to him.

The strategy was enough to see off Malahide-based former Fianna Fail TD Darragh O'Brien and give the second seat to Fine Gael.

Irish Independent

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