'Ructions' in FF over Wexford constituency split
There are ructions in Fianna Fáil ahead of the party's Wexford selection convention, which is due to take place tonight.
Party chiefs have ordered that the county be split in two using an east-west divide, meaning Gorey councillor Malcolm Byrne is guaranteed a place on the ticket, but four other candidates will have to fight it out in what has become a bitter battle.
Sitting TD John Browne, who has been in Leinster House for 33 years, is retiring at the next election, but his son James is favourite to win the contest on the west side of the constituency, which is based around Enniscorthy and New Ross.
Three other Fianna Fáil councillors - Michael Sheehan, Michael Whelan and Barbara-Anne Murphy - are also based on this side of the county.
Sources say there is massive annoyance that the four councillors are being made to battle it out while one gets a "free pass".
It is understood that Cllr Sheehan is considering a possible run as an Independent if he not selected tonight.
However, he told the Irish Independent that his focus is on the convention.
"I'm a member of Fianna Fáil for almost 20 years and I have always worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Co Wexford as a councillor. I am standing before convention as a member of the party and that is all you are considering at this time," he said.
Party members have held furious discussions since the dividing lines were chosen last week, with many questioning why a candidate isn't being selected from the north and south of the county instead.
"Nobody predicted that it would be this vicious. The Gorey and Wexford members are united behind Malcolm, meaning he should be the automatic choice, but there are ructions on the other side," said a source.
It is believed that private polling carried out by Fianna Fáil suggested that Mr Byrne and Mr Browne have the best chances of taking seats. They both topped the poll in their respective areas at the local elections.
Mr Byrne told the Irish Independent he is "not happy" with the way the convention is being run, but said he was ready for it and, if all goes to plan, the election. "If I am given the opportunity, I'll get out there and deal with the real issues such as jobs, homelessness and education," he said.