Saturday 17 November 2018

'You can't just rock up to political parties' - Fianna Fáil rebuffs advances from Peter Casey despite massive vote

Presidential Candidate Peter Casey at the count centre for the Presidential Election in the Convention Centre, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Presidential Candidate Peter Casey at the count centre for the Presidential Election in the Convention Centre, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks with presidential candidate Peter Casey at Dublin Castle. Picture: Damien Eagers
Presidential election candidates Joan Freeman, Liadh Ní Riada, Michael D Higgins, Sean Gallagher, Peter Casey and Gavin Duffy
BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED: Defeated presidential candidate Peter Casey in Dublin Castle yesterday for the election count. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

Fianna Fáil won't be making space on their election card for Peter Casey, despite his massive vote.

Senior party figures have rejected the idea of adding the presidential election runner-up to their ranks.

But some TDs have warned that his message - which attracted more than 340,000 first preferences - cannot be ignored.

After his second place finish, Mr Casey said he wants to join Micheál Martin's party and contest the Dáil election for the Donegal constituency.

He expressed an ambition to ultimately take over the leadership of "a renewed and revitalised Fianna Fáil".

The main Opposition party has already selected sitting TDs Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher and Charlie McConalogue to run in Donegal when the next general election is called.

Peter Casey. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Peter Casey. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sources told the Irish Independent the "clear strategy" for the five-seat constituency is to limit the ticket to "two candidates to ensure the retention of two seats".

Mr McConalogue declined to comment yesterday but Mr Gallagher said: "If Mr Casey wants to join Fianna Fáil he can contact the party headquarters and make his application in the usual way.

"We have already had our selection convention in Donegal and chosen our two candidates, the sitting TDs, but if the constituency organisation decide to add a third candidate - well, so be it," he said.

Just 2,100 votes separated Mr Casey and incumbent Michael D Higgins in Donegal, the smallest margin in the country. The businessman received 32.8pc of the vote.

BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED: Defeated presidential candidate Peter Casey in Dublin Castle yesterday for the election count. Photo: Gerry Mooney
BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED: Defeated presidential candidate Peter Casey in Dublin Castle yesterday for the election count. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Mr Gallagher said he understood why he proved so popular and it was not directly related to his controversial comments about Travellers.

"They voted for him because they believe 'middle Ireland' is being squeezed," he said. "Leo Varadkar promised the people who get up early, the PAYE workers, he'd do a lot for them - but he's done nothing for them."

But Mr Gallagher was also insistent that Mr Casey's success would not be repeated in a Dáil election: "An election to pick a government would be an entirely different matter."

Mr Casey suggested to the Irish Independent yesterday he would like to take the seat occupied by Mr Gallagher.

"When I'm Taoiseach I'd offer him the job of Ambassador to America," he said.

The ex-'Dragons' Den' investor also ran the President close in Roscommon-Galway with 3,000 votes separating them.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy said he understood why his constituents flocked to Mr Casey - but said it had to be seen "in the context of a very poor campaign".

"Peter Casey ignited a debate which people got involved in. I wouldn't dismiss his vote, there is quite a percentage of people who are unhappy with the way things are."

However, Limerick TD Niall Collins was emphatic in his rejection of Mr Casey as a future party colleague.

"You can't just rock up to political parties and think you can get your way," he said.

"Personally, I would not like to see Peter Casey join. There is no place for blanket prejudice in Fianna Fáil."

The RTÉ exit poll showed one in three Fianna Fáil supporters voted for Mr Casey.

He wants to join Fianna Fáil because the party "was always about the people of Ireland", but added it had to start "listening again to real people".

Irish Independent

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