Tuesday 22 January 2019

Collins steps back from general election contest but not FG politics

Decision by former Fine Gael TD is a u-turn on recent position to run again despite entry of popular councillor John Paul O'Shea into party

Maria Herlihy

The former FG TD for Cork North West, Aine Collins, will now not put her name forward at the party's selection convention but she will "support all candidates" who get the nod for the next general election.

Collins' revelation comes after she recently stated that she was adamant she would put her name forward to contest the next general election - despite Cllr John Paul O'Shea now having joined the party, along with the  firmly established Minister Michael Creed. So was it a case of no room at the inn?

"At the back end of last summer  questions were being asked by constituents and party members about what my intentions were and this is never an easy decision; if the decision only involved myself, in a heartbeat it would be a resounding yes. But, however, I have to consider the impact on family," she told The Corkman.

She outlined that when Leo Varadkar became the leader of FG, it was a "game changer" for her and in October last year she confirmed her intention to contest the next general election when it looked likely there would be one at the end of 2017. She described herself as being "ready" to take it on and since then waited for the selection convention to take place. 

In anticipation of this, she said, in February this year, she was analysing the situation and felt it would be cautious and prudent to gather research across the constituency to see where she would stand when it came to winning a second seat for FG.  

"The research was very much clear in that it currently shows that I have the best chance of winning this second seat for Fine Gael in a two or three seat strategy," she told The Corkman.

When further asked about the intricacies of the research, she said she conducted two pieces, one in October and one in April. In October, it focused on key areas such as Newmarket and Kanturk and in pockets of regions in Cork North West that were not very positive in the last general election. 

"I am a believer in facts and feel that it always helps to make a decision. 

"In April, I did a wider piece of research on the whole constituency. Doing this type of research is nothing new to anyone who is running or has run as it is part and parcel of giving a clear snapshot of the region," she said. 

"The research also shows that the only hope that Fine Gael have of winning this second seat in the next general election is if we all work together. It has become clear to me that there is a cohort of individuals within the FG party who believe others have a better chance of the winning this much treasured second seat in Cork North West, which of course is the cut and thrust of politics, but it is also clear that continuing would only end up dividing the party, which is something that I have absolutely no interest in participating in." 

When asked about the "cohort of individuals" she said some people in the party would believe that others would have a better chance.

When further pressed on this statement, she said: "What I do not want is a split in the party as that is totally counterproductive. All must work together and be united in the party. The main objective is to win a second seat in Cork North West in the next general election."  

For the FG convention it is wildly accepted that the two candidates for CNW will be the long standing Minister Michael Creed and newcomer into the fold, Cllr John Paul O'Shea. Aine Collins said: "So, for all these reasons I have made the brave decision in the interest of the party at this point not to go forward to convention for the next general election. I informed members at our AGM. But I will fully support the FG candidates in the next general election and look forward to playing an active part in politics for many years." 

When asked if she was happy with the decision taken, she said: "I am fine with the decision that I have now made and I will still absolutely play my role in the FG party and I will support the candidates and the party. As I said, what is important is that the party is united and not split." 

She outlined that winning a seat has always been a challenge since the formation of the constituency in 1981 as it has always been either a two FG or two FF seater. In 2011, when she took a seat, it had been 14 years since FG had two seats in CNW. 

"While there has always been a healthy respect between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, it is always a challenge and always very closely contested," she said. 

After losing her seat and taking time out, she set up her own business advisory company last year, 'Blueprint Consulting', which specialises in finance and business strategy for SMEs and mid corporates. 

"The only bit I feel sad about is that it is one less woman contesting the general election but, who knows, there are always twists and turns in politics, as in life, so for now I just want to thank everyone who supported me back in 2011 and in 2016. But, as I said earlier, I will still be active in politics and in Fine Gael." 

When further pressed on a full-time return to politics she simply said that a "week can be a long time in politics." 

"As I was saying, there are always twists and turns but one thing is certain and it's that I will continue to support Fine Gael," she said.