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Thursday 22 August 2019

Row in FG over phoney 'official' vote plea

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

THE oldest dirty trick in the book is the 'official' party letter telling supporters how to vote, and it started a Fine Gael civil war in the suburbs of Dun Laoghaire yesterday.

It involves sending a letter to backers the night before polling day telling them to vote for a particular candidate in that area to maximise the party vote.

The letter isn't authorised, however - it's a fake from one of the candidates, trying to grab support from running mates.

A bitter row broke out in Fine Gael yesterday when Dun Laoghaire candidate John Bailey circulated such a letter on Wednesday night. Appearing to be an 'official' party directive, it recommended that people vote for Mr Bailey, ahead of his running mates, Sean Barrett and Eugene Regan.

Counteracting Mr Bailey's move, a disgusted party organisation delivered 5,000 copies of a follow-up letter telling Fine Gael supporters to ignore it. Mr Bailey's letter in a regular envelope featured the Fine Gael logo, and a photo of party chief Enda Kenny with the candidate. "In order to maximise the Fine Gael vote we ask you to vote BAILEY, JOHN No 1 in this area and to then continue your preferences for the other Fine Gael candidates," the letter said.

The retaliatory letter, signed by FG national director of elections Frank Flannery, says: "Despite any communication to the contrary, there is no divide in the constituency, and we are not asking voters in any particular part of the constituency to support one candidate over the other."

In an angry email to party members informing them of Mr Bailey's actions, FG's local director of elections Paddy Hayes said the letter was issued "in defiance of my expressed wishes. I am asking you to take this serious breach of party discipline and unity into consideration when you express your preferences for the Fine Gael ticket," he wrote.

Mr Bailey's letter was meant to look official, Mr Hayes told the Irish Independent. "It doesn't help and it causes a lot of ill-feeling." Former Minister Sean Barrett, the party front-runner, said Mr Bailey's letter was "totally misrepresentative".

Mr Regan said the letter from Mr Bailey was "entirely dishonest". Mr Bailey was not available for comment and a party source said he was "gone to ground".

In the most noted such case in the past, former Fianna Fail Minister Lorcan Allen was suspended from the party for a year after sending out a forged letter from the Taoiseach in Oireachtas envelopes.

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