Unease grows within FG as Mitchell trails Byrne in polls
FRESH doubts were yesterday cast over the ability of Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell to win the presidency -- from within his own party.
The wounds from the party's bruising selection contest -- in which Mr Mitchell triumphed over Pat Cox and Mairead McGuinness -- have still not been healed.
And the internal pressure on Mr Mitchell has increased after an opinion poll this week showed him trailing behind Gay Byrne, who has so far not even officially entered the race.
One senior Fine Gael TD said Mr Mitchell could not win because he did not have enough appeal for voters outside of Dublin.
"He is not the right candidate. Fine Gael got it wrong," he said.
Another of the party'sTDs said Mr Mitchell's campaign so far had failed to capture the public's imagination.
"The only one with the X factor at the moment is Gay Byrne. It's awful to be running a campaign for someone you know isn't going to win," the TD said.
However, a spokesman for Mr Mitchell denied that there was any division in Fine Gael and said he had won the party nomination convincingly last month.
"The party is now united behind him," added the spokesman.
According to Mr Mitchell's supporters, his campaign is going well and he has already clocked up thousands of miles by travelling to 15 different counties in the past four weeks.
His spokesman said Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be taking part in the campaign in his role as Fine Gael leader, but that no details of this had yet been decided.
However, according to party sources, Mr Kenny is most likely to get involved in Mr Mitchell's campaign once August is over.
His schedule over the next two weeks includes a large focus on rural Ireland, with visits to shows taking place in Boyle (Roscommon), Swinford (Mayo), Bansha (Tipperary), Moate (Westmeath), Cappamore (Limerick) and Roscarbery (Cork).
One Fine Gael senator said yesterday: "I never knew there were so many f***ing shows."
Mr Mitchell will also be at the Connemara Pony Show, the Rose of Tralee contest and this weekend's hurling semi-final between Dublin and Tipperary at Croke Park.