Thursday 19 April 2018

FF backs Coughlan for return to politics

Mary Coughlan
Mary Coughlan

Barry Whyte and Michael Brennan

FIANNA Fail is willing to bring back former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan for the next general election – as she becomes the latest of the 'Old Guard' to suggest a return to politics.

Speaking about her future in politics for the first time since losing her seat, Ms Coughlan did not rule out a return.

Fianna Fail sources are insisting that the former Tanaiste will be able to overcome the 'baggage' of being the second-in-command during former Taoiseach Brian Cowen's reign if she runs again in the new five-seater Donegal constituency.

But they said it would still be a challenge to win back her seat.

Ms Coughlan suffered the loss of around 1,000 first-preference voters in the constituency redraw.

She is based outside Donegal town but the nearby towns of Bundoran and Ballyshannon have been transferred to the new Sligo-Leitrim-Donegal-West Cavan constituency.

Speaking at a meeting aimed at encouraging women to get involved in politics in Letterkenny, Ms Coughlan signalled that she was still interested in a political comeback.

"I still have politics in my blood, and I am still involved in the party locally and at grassroots level," she said.

A Fianna Fail spokesman left the door open for Ms Coughlan's return by saying that the selection of candidates for all future elections was "entirely a matter for the membership".

Ms Coughlan is not the only former FF TD to consider re-entering politics. Former Arts Minister John O'Donoghue, former Cavan-Monaghan TD Margaret Conlon and former Kerry North TD Tom McEllistrim are all expected to seek the party nomination again for 2016.

Her husband, David, passed away in September 2012 after a short illness. A few months after his death, it was believed that Ms Coughlan had told close friends that she had no intention of returning to politics.

But the former Donegal South-West TD, who is from a well-known political dynasty, said she missed politics.

"I do miss political life, and I do miss political representation," she said.

"Although a lot has changed over the past three or so years, that still doesn't mean I don't still have a keen interest in politics."

Ms Coughlan (48) is not yet receiving a TD's or ministerial pension due to her age. Both pensions are only payable from the age of 50.

However, she has received just under €100,000 in severance payments during the two year period after losing office. The latest figures show that she was paid €54,451 in 2011 and €45,000 last year.

Irish Independent

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