Saturday 24 February 2018

FG's Mitchell 'would have stayed if she had been promoted'

TD Olivia Mitchell has announced her retirement from politics
TD Olivia Mitchell has announced her retirement from politics
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell would have served another term as a Dáil deputy if she had not been passed over for promotion, senior party figures believe.

Ms Mitchell yesterday announced her retirement from politics - 18 years after being elected a TD for the Dublin South constituency, which is to be renamed Dublin-Rathdown.

In a letter to FG members, the veteran TD said she is stepping down, having been part of a Government that implemented "difficult but effective" decisions to rebuild the economy.

"I believe now is the right time for me to pass the mantle to a new generation," Ms Mitchell wrote.

Ms Mitchell served as a TD for Dublin South for 18 consecutive years.

"While this was a difficult decision for me to make, I am consoled by the knowledge that we have in the constituency a number of excellent potential candidates who are more than qualified to retain the seat for Fine Gael," she added.

In her letter, Ms Mitchell wrote that she still intends to remain part of the Fine Gael "family", adding that she will campaign in the constituency during the upcoming election.

But senior party sources who have spoken to Ms Mitchell in recent weeks believe she would have served another Dáil term if she had been given a ministerial or junior ministerial position.

Ms Mitchell is one of a number of parliamentary party members who fell out with Taoiseach Enda Kenny after backing Richard Bruton during the leadership heave of 2010.

She was stripped of her frontbench position in June of that year after opposing Mr Kenny, who eventually won the internal vote.

"There's no doubt her perception of life in Fine Gael changed that day," a senior source told the Irish Independent.

But Ms Mitchell's decision to step down has surprised party members and created a dilemma for headquarters over the approach towards candidate selection.

Party sources fear the other sitting TD, former justice minister Alan Shatter, will be defeated at convention. Prominent councillors Neale Richmond, Josepha Madigan and Barry Saul are all expected to run.

Mr Richmond is the favourite to win the convention.

But any move not to add Mr Shatter, if he is defeated at convention, could be viewed as being vindictive.

The former minister is isolated within Fine Gael since his shock decision to step down from Cabinet following the publication of the Guerin Report into alleged Garda malpractice.

Fine Gael has already faced a scenario whereby a high-profile TD, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, was added to the ticket immediately in Dublin Bay North after being defeated and coming in at third place at the selection convention.

Dublin-Rathdown, however, will be hotly contested by a number of parties and Independents, with just three seats up for grabs.

Irish Independent

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