Fianna Fáil Election Selection Fallout
Fianna Fáil Councillor Malcolm Byrne has described accusations of sexism within the party as 'disappointing' and 'over the top'.
The Gorey councillor was last week confirmed as one of the party's four candidates for the next general election, a move which saw the two original candidates, Deputy James Browne and Cllr Lisa McDonald, joined by Cllr Byrne and Cllr Michael Sheehan.
In the wake of that announcement, Cllr McDonald said the decision to add two male candidates to the ticket 'smacked of sexism' and accused the party leadership of having 'a problem with women'.
'I have an understanding of where she's coming from but I thought her comments were a bit disappointing and over the top,' said Cllr Byrne. 'It was particularly unfair to the female members of Fianna Fáil and the parliamentary members, people like Deputy Lisa Chambers who visited Gorey Community School to discuss Brexit during her time here.
'There was always a question of a review of the general election ticket after the local election and it was known this was going happen in Wexford. But my plan is to work with Cllr McDonald and the other candidates and try and get two or three party members elected. I don't want to get caught up in internal party rows. I will work with the entire ticket, I'm a team player.'
Reacting to news of his nomination, Cllr Byrne said, 'I am delighted to be added to the party ticket to contest the next general election. I look forward to bringing a young, modern and energetic voice to the next general election campaign and Dáil Éireann for the people of Wexford.'
However, before any general election can take place a by-election to fill the seat vacated by former Wexford TD Mick Wallace must be held. And Cllr Byrne reiterated his desire to represent his party if and when a by-election is called, a desire which is shared by Cllr McDonald.
'Given Fine Gael's failings on health and housing it seems unlikely the people of Wexford will elect a third TD (from that party). I believe I can make a contribution at a national level. I had a strong vote locally and in the European election and I believe I am best placed to win a seat for Fianna Fáil,' he said.
The 45 year-old Gorey native is the Cathaoirleach of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District, having topped the polls in Gorey during May's local elections. The Councillor also ran in the European elections, polling sixth with almost 70,000 first preference votes.
And now, with potentially two opportunities to gain a seat in the Dáil, Cllr Byrne said he is in a good position to effect change at both a national and local level.
'I'd like to be a TD. I make no apologies for being ambitious, ultimately I'd like to be in a position as a Minister to effect change using both my political and professional experience in education. And I have ideas at a policy level which will help our community. But I'm taking nothing for granted, I've been close to winning before and not made it,' he said.
Outlining the issues he will prioritise when his campaign for election to Dáil Eireann begins, Cllr Byrne said, 'The housing crisis, overspending on the National Children's Hospital and the National Broadband Plan, the lack of support for rural communities are all symptoms of Fine Gael leadership. It is time for a change.'
Citing his time working in the Education sector, which included a stint as Head of Communications with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the Councillor vowed to bring that experience to bear should he be elected.
'This is a sector which has experienced turbulent times with school builds being delayed, timetables being cut, and poor treatment of school secretaries.'