Tuesday 20 August 2019

'I had my own reasons for not wanting a snap election' - FG's Jerry Buttimer is on his wedding countdown

Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer. Photo: Tony Gavin
Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ralph Riegel

ONE high profile Fine Gael politician had a very special reason for heaving a sigh of relief that Ireland isn't facing into a snap Christmas general election.

Senator Jerry Buttimer (50) is due to marry his long-time partner Conchobar Ó Laoghaire in Cork on December 29.

The Cork senator, who narrowly lost his Dáil berth in Cork South Central in the 2016 General Election, was Fine Gael's only openly gay TD before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came out in advance of the marriage equality referendum two years ago.

Sen Buttimer was one of the leading lights in that historic referendum campaign and described the 'Yes' vote as one of the highlights of his political career.

He announced his engagement last July - and was formally congratulated on his impending wedding in the Seanad.

Famed for his constituency work, he has been undertaking constituency clinics, handing out information leaflets and attending various public events around Cork as Ireland was poised for the countdown to a shock festive election.

Privately, he admitted he was relieved any election won't take place until into the New Year with his wedding due to take place in just over four weeks.

"Look, there's no election campaign on at the moment - but that doesn't mean that everyone isn't preparing for one," he said.

"I certainly didn't want a general election before Christmas - I have my own reasons for not wanting one in December.

"Every single householder in Cork that I have spoken to over the past few days also didn't want a Christmas election - no one did.

"But I'm not afraid to fight an election campaign if I have to - and that is true for the entire Government and the Fine Gael party."

Fine Gael has now fast-tracked all its selection conventions while across Ireland its senators and TDs are preparing their constituency machines for a possible 2018 general election.

Fianna Fáil, for its part, will host a series of selection conventions nationwide this week.

Numerous Fine Gael TDs have erected posters over recent days - but in support of constituency information work and clinics rather than a general election candidacy.

"Sometimes events take on an unstoppable momentum of their own as we have all seen from general elections in the past."

Sen Buttimer served in the Seanad from 2007 to 2011.

In 2011, he was elected to the Dáil for Cork South Central alongside his constituency running-mate, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

However, he narrowly lost his seat in 2016 after key elements of his support base were transferred to Cork North Central as part of a controversial boundary review.

Sen Buttimer has vowed to try to regain his Dáil berth in the next general election.

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