Tuesday 16 July 2019

Pat The Cope to get nod for FF Dáil return challenge

Pat The Cope Gallagher
Pat The Cope Gallagher

Greg Harkin

Former MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher is certain to be on the ballot paper at the next general election amid bitter divisions in Fianna Fáil in Co Donegal.

The county's two constituencies have been merged into one with just five seats up for grabs, one fewer than last time.

The party has just one sitting TD in Donegal, their education spokesman Charlie McConalogue.

Nominations to stand at the next election opened yesterday, with McConalogue certain to be nominated again.

But there are bitter divisions within the party. A meeting to merge the two constituency groups in March descended into farce when members couldn't agree on how to elect party officers, eventually pulling names out of a hat.

Gallagher (67) has remained active in local politics despite narrowly losing his European seat last year.

Party sources say he will be seeking a place on the ballot paper following party research in the county found he was the best candidate to get a second seat for Fianna Fáil.

He has continued to lobby on behalf of former constituents, saying earlier this year: "I'm busier than ever. If people ask for your help, you help."

However, his return may prove a headache for party leader Micheál Martin.

Gallagher openly criticised the party leadership over its decision to run two candidates in the Midlands-North West European constituency.

Thomas Byrne took the seat for the party.

The party has just over 1,000 members in the county, with nomination papers being sent out to them next Tuesday.

Nominations close on September 4 and the selection convention takes place at a Letterkenny hotel on October 4.

"There are more than enough members in the west of the county to get The Cope onto the ballot paper and internal party research has shown he has enough support across the county to be in with a good chance of taking a seat," said one party stalwart.

Last night Gallagher would only say: "I will be making a decision over the weekend."

Irish Independent

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