Fianna Fáil Election Selection Fallout
Fianna Fail TD, James Browne, has said the decision by his party to run four candidates in county Wexford in the next General Election will put everyone under a lot of pressure to win a seat.
The news that Cllrs Malcolm Byrne and Michael Sheehan have been added to the party ticket for the next election was met with scathing criticism by party member, Cllr Lisa McDonald.
She said she was in shock at the decision and claimed her party doesn't understand women.
While Deputy Browne said he wouldn't comment on Cllr McDonald's specific remarks he said he 'understood' where she was coming from.
'I can understand her frustration, absolutely,' he said.
'I mean, you go through convention, work really hard on your campaign and then you're informed two more candidates are running and I suppose she could ask 'what was that all about?'.'
'You work with a strong belief of what you have in front of you and to get told you have two more running, I would imagine that is deeply frustrating,' said Deputy Browne.
While he wouldn't be drawn on Cllr McDonald's specific remarks Deputy Browne said: 'She is a strong, capable candidate and is very capable of speaking for herself.'
Fianna Fail hasn't run four candidates in Wexford since 1987 and at that time the party had a return rate of around 45 per cent.
However, as Deputy Browne also pointed out in more recent times the party has recorded a percentage return vote rate of 'mid to high 20s'.
'With four candidates it means that everyone will have to fight tooth and nail to win a seat,' he said.
In the 2016, General Election, Deputy Browne received 13.71 per cent first preference votes with the quota being 11,944.
However, he pointed out that 'as a general rule' a candidate needs to get around 80 per cent of the quota to get elected.
'If you are below the 60 per cent mark you will not get elected,' he said.
With the addition of the two new candidates on the party ticket, and based on the return the party received the last time around, the four running mates could each receive much less than the minimum 60 per cent required to ensure they will be in the running at the end.
'It could lead to us being in serious trouble if we get less than 5,000 votes each,' said Deputy Browne.
However, with regard to his own position he said: 'I think I am in a good place to return a seat.'
'I have done a lot of work both nationally and locally but at the same time my seat is at serious risk,' he said.
'I will fight to try and keep my seat.'
Deputy Browne also admitted that having four candidates running and the inevitable and unavoidable incursion into each others areas will invariably lead to 'tension' within the party.
'There are four candidates, from the four towns, but no-one will be able to get elected from their own area,' he said.
'That means everyone will be pushing up against each other so that will cause a lot of tension; you can't get away from that,' he added.
He agreed that with not having secured two seats last time around the party could struggle to win two this time around.
'Well we didn't get two seats last time so we need to go up in votes to get elected [next time],' he said.
Deputy Browne also commented that the fact two of the candidates were not chosen by party members could lead to tension within Fianna Fail.
However, he described Cllrs Byrne and Sheehan as being 'honourable men' but added: 'The members have not had a say in selecting their candidates'.
'I would hope the members do have a say in choosing a candidate for a by-election,' he said.
He admitted to only finding out about the addition of Cllrs Byrne and Sheehan to the party ticket more-or-less at the same time as everyone else did.
'I got a call from someone in HQ on Thursday evening to say the two lads were being added,' he said.
'HQ tends to not consult with the sitting TD on these things,' he added.
He said is unaware of any plan being in place in the event of a by-election but did comment: 'I would hope that the party membership would choose who the candidates would be.'