Fine Gael blame game starts as former IFA President decides not to run in European elections
FINE Gael strategists are being blamed for former IFA President John Bryan's shock decision not to run for the party in the European elections.
The party's campaign in the Ireland South constituency is in disarray after Mr Bryan's announcement he won't be going forward.
Just a week out from the selection convention, the party has to go back to the drawing board to find a new candidate in the constituency that covers Munster and south Leinster.
Among the names being mentioned are Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe from Wexford, Oireachtas agriculture committee chairman Andrew Doyle from Wicklow, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, also from Wicklow and Kilkenny TD John-Paul Phelan, who ran in the last European elections.
Fine Gael is regarded as having no chance of attracting an outside figure with a high profile.
But there is a reluctance on the part of prospective candidates to step forward given the financial cost of running a campaign.
Party strategists are being blamed for breaking a promise to Mr Bryan to run only two candidates.
Mr Bryan was supposed to be the only running mate with Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly.
Mr Kelly would cover the Munster end with Mr Bryan in Leinster.
Instead, Fine Gael Senator Deirdre Clune is also set to run as a third candidate based in Cork.
Mr Bryan was supposed to announce his decision to run on Monday. But the recriminations have already begun in the party, with the change in the candidate strategy from two to three runners being blamed.
“That was the promise he was made back in November. It's back to the drawing board now. This is going on for the past three weeks. It's a disaster - just a disaster.
“With two candidates, we would have won two seats. Deirdre Clune is not going to win a second seat for Fine Gael,” a senior party source told Independent.ie.
Fine Gael is already under pressure to hold on to its four seats in the European parliament due to the redraw of the constituencies.
Today, party MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins will be selected as the candidates in Ireland Midland-North-West, which covers north Leinster, Connaught and Ulster.
But there are concerns about Mr Higgins ability to hold on to his seat.
Fine Gael had to persuade junior minister Brian Hayes to run in Dublin to ensure it had a credible candidate.