Tony's successor up in the air
Nominations for the Sligo/Leitrim convention close this coming Friday but it's far from clearcut who will be on the party's ticket for the next general election.
With speculation always about when the next election will be called, Fine Gael will want to be ready as soon as possible but its convention would appear to be very much up in the air following the decision by outgoing TD Tony McLoughlin to step down after this Dáil term, concluding a 45 year career.
Given that Cllr Sinead Maguire took Deputy McLoughlin's seat on the County Council following the local elections in 2014 and with gender quota rules in mind, it appeared she would be the front runner to stand in a Dáil election for the party. But Cllr Maguire has not yet made up her mind if she would like to run.
She told the Sligo Champion yesterday (Monday): "It is something that I am strongly considering. It's a decision that requires considerable thought for someone of my age who is a mother. I would not jump into it lightly. Although it would be a privilege and a wonderful opportunity I would have to look at the sacrfices involved and as a mother balance those."
Cllr Maguire hasn't made the impact at council level many within the party expected and there was that unseemly row last year when she failed to get the party nomination to become Mayor of Sligo Municipal District losing out to Cllr Hubert Keaney. It would be difficult for her to seek all party support now and she would also need the strong backing of the McLoughlin camp if she is to succeed and there's speculation this may not be readily forthcoming.
It's thought the convention to be held in the Clayton Hotel on Thursday July 19th might seek the 1,000 or so delegates to nominate two candidates, one from Leitrim and one from Sligo.
Former TD, Gerry Reynolds will seek the Leitrim nomination and will be buoyed by his close run last time when he came within 400 votes of a seat. Others said to be interested at this stage include former senators Michael Comiskey, Imelda Henry and current senator, and former TD, Frank Feighan. Sligo businessman, Noel Merrick, Director of Elections for the party in 2011 when the party won two seats has also put his name in the ring.
There may be just one seat in any event for the party in the constituency and FG need to have a strong Sligo candidate in the field. To that extent the party has taken its eye off the ball with no new talent coming through for the party at local level. Blaine Gaffney has to win a council seat first so he's out for the medium term while it's a return to the past for the party in terms of its other possible candidates. Former TD and Minister John Perry is expected to go before convention again and it remains to be seen if he can get enough grass roots support behind him.
He went to the High Court after he failed to win the nomination last time out but was subsequently added and failed to get elected in 2016.