'Put me on ticket or lose power at general election', ex-minister tells Fine Gael chiefs
Former junior minister John Perry has warned Fine Gael it risks losing power at the general election if he is not on the party ticket in Sligo-Leitrim.
"If Fine Gael is serious about winning two seats [in Sligo-Leitrim] that's the question they've got to answer," Mr Perry told the Irish Independent. "If they don't win two seats here they won't be in government."
Mr Perry, who previously took a High Court action against Fine Gael over a dispute about him running in the general election, has not ruled out running as an independent if he is not added to the ticket.
He claims that private polling puts him in a strong position in the constituency.
"The party is greater than any one person," he added.
"But I feel that I am the best person to ensure that it wins two seats - I am the only man that can deliver that."
Mr Perry's declaration follows the shock departure of former TD and senator Gerry Reynolds who quit the Fine Gael Dáil election ticket last week.
Mr Reynolds said when he made the announcement that it would not be possible to continue to expand and protect his business interests and serve as a TD.
Mr Perry faces competition from Senator Frank Feighan, the former Roscommon TD, who has also confirmed that he would be interested in contesting the next election in Sligo-Leitrim.
"I would be interested. I got elected twice in Roscommon-South Leitrim," Mr Feighan, pictured below, said.
Mr Feighan's home town of Boyle in north Roscommon was moved into the Sligo-Leitrim constituency in the most recent redrawing of boundaries.
But Mr Perry argues that his political base in Ballymote in south Sligo means he is best placed to win votes for the party.
Fine Gael has already selected Sligo councillor Sinead Maguire to run in the constituency, where sitting TD Tony McLoughlin is retiring at the next election.
Asked what would happen if the party did not add him, Mr Perry refused repeatedly to rule out the possibility of running as an Independent.
"In that situation I would deal with that situation when it comes," he said.
"In that event it would be a personal issue, it would be a personal battle.
"It would be personal if I am not added and very hard to deal with that situation. At the end of the day all parties must do the intelligent thing."
Mr Perry was a TD for 19 years prior to losing his Dáil seat at the 2016 election.
He fought a high-profile court battle against Fine Gael in December 2015, challenging the results of a selection convention where he had failed to get on the ticket.
The costly court case was eventually dropped after Fine Gael agreed to add him to the ticket, but he then lost his seat in February 2016.
Other local figures who have expressed an interest in being on the ticket include councillors John McCartin, Ita Reynolds and Enda McGloin, as well as Noel Merrick, a former chairman of the constituency executive. Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran is expected to visit the constituency as early as today to meet potential candidates.