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Kenny appoints former running mate as a judge

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night appointed his former four-time running mate, local party strategist and member of the Fine Gael board of directors as a District Court judge.

Former Fine Gael senator Patrick Durcan is the third judge to be appointed in the past month with political and personal links to the coalition.

The Irish Independent revealed last month that a judge appointed to the High Court by the Government has political and personal links to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Aside from his political career, Mr Durcan has served as a solicitor since 1973 and has been a partner in Patrick J Durcan & Co Solicitors in Westport, Co Mayo. Mr Durcan is a Fine Gael party trustee, appointed to the party's board of directors by Mr Kenny a year after he became leader.

He was a key strategist on the Fine Gael team in Mayo that helped deliver an historic four seats for the party in Mr Kenny's constituency in the general election.

He served as election agent and sub-director of elections for junior minister Michael Ring in the general election.

At the count in Castlebar, Mr Durcan heaped praise on Mr Kenny saying he was "a much stronger person than anybody realised", "a true nationalist", had "immense parliamentary experience" and was a "committed team builder".

"It is a great day for Ireland, as Ireland is now led by a Taoiseach who is incorruptible, honest and who has a vision for the country," he said at the time.

Mr Durcan (60) was Mr Kenny's running mate in four general elections in the 1980s, but was never elected as a TD. Mr Kenny retained his seat on each occasion.

Mr Durcan went on to be appointed as a senator by then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

He also served alongside Mr Kenny for five years on Mayo County Council.

The appointment of Mr Durcan was announced last night by the Taoiseach's department.

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The last line of his official biography pointed out he was a "Fine Gael councillor on Mayo County Council from 1979 to 2004 and a member of Seanad Eireann from 1983 to 1987".

But there was no mention of his membership of the Fine Gael board of trustees under Mr Kenny's leadership or his history as the Taoiseach's running mate.

The Taoiseach's spokesman said any party political contacts of the appointees were stated.

"There are clear biographical details as to previous service," the spokesman said.

Mr Kenny's spokesman dismissed any suggestion the Taoiseach would have influenced the decision.

"He is eminently qualified. Government sign off on these matters," the spokesman said.

The Government nominated Mr Durcan, Michael Coghlan and Grainne Malone for appointment by the President as judges of the District Court.

The appointments are to fill the vacancies that arose from the retirements earlier this year of judges William Hartnett, Tom O'Donnell and Michael Patwell.

Government sources said Mr Durcan's name had been put forward twice before.

"There is no nervousness at all about this appointment," the source said.

Last month, the Government appointed judges Michael White and Kevin Cross to the High Court.

Judge White is a former Workers Party colleague of the Labour leader but he also represented Mr Gilmore as a solicitor in a dispute with the TD's neighbours over a plot of land where he built his house.

Judge Cross made a political donation of €1,200 to European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton in the run up to February's general election.

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