FINE Gael has persuaded backbench TD Peter Fitzpatrick to contest the General Election just days after he announced his decision not to put his name forward for selection in the Louth constituency.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he had a change of heart following talks with senior party figures and after being inundated with support at a local level.
The former county football manager shocked party colleagues last week after he announced he was not putting his name forward for the upcoming selection convention.
He claimed that he felt pressurised by the party into declaring for the election before he had fully discussed his plans with his supporters and family.
Fine Gael last night said it takes “full responsibility” for the events in recent days, adding that Mr Fitzpatrick felt “bounced” into making a decision too early.
In an interview with the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Fitzpatrick said some of his supporters have contacted him to say they felt “betrayed” by his decision. He said the support he has received both within Fine Gael and in his local town of Dundalk strongly influenced his u-turn.
“This has been a difficult couple of few days,” Mr Fitzpatrick said in an interview at the Fine Gael headquarters in Dublin.
“Basically, I wasn’t clear on the party strategy for Louth and I felt like the convention was being rushed. So I pushed for the convention date to be changed until September. When that didn’t happen, I was still very unsure about the party strategy so I decided to withdraw,” he added.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he has considered in recent weeks whether to leave politics and return to running his business.
The first time Dail deputy he found the early part of the Dail term difficult and admitted that he submits very few parliamentary questions to ministers. He said this is because he feels more comfortable contacting ministers directly to sort out issues.
“People will say, ‘look at Fitzpatrick doing a u-turn’. I don’t feel I’ve done a u-turn. I feel I’ve done myself justice. I wanted to wait and make the right decision for myself, for my constituents and for my family. What really shocked me were the people who have contacted me over the last number of day,” he said.
The Louth constituency will produce five TDs following the election with Fine Gael now set to run Mr Fitzpatrick and former junior minister Fergus O’Dowd.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he has a “very good working relationship” with his constituency colleague.
“When I let my intentions known I was withdrawing from convention, I had ministers, junior ministers, the Opposition (contacting me).” He added that he discussed his concern with a number of senior party figures, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes, who is leading the party’s election strategy.
Mr Hayes last night said the party is “delighted” with Mr Fitzpatrick’s decision.
“We take some responsibility in the way in which Peter may have felt being bounced into an early convention. The fault was ours in terms of communicating that to both Peter and Fergus who are both key people to us,” he added.