Fianna Fáil abandons Athlone again

Fianna Fáil’s candidate selection convention was cancelled on Tuesday night, but Athlone will once again be left without a Fianna Fáil candidate in any upcoming election, after the party indicated it intends to run only one Westmeath candidate in the Longford-Westmeath constituency.

Mullingar-based TD Robert Troy was set to contend with Athlone councillor Frankie Keena for the nomination, however Keena had previously said that he would withdraw if the party only ran one candidate in Westmeath.

Longford’s Joe Flaherty had already been selected earlier this month to run in the Longford portion of the constituency.

The convention had been scheduled at short notice due to the crisis in Government involving the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and the subsequent threat of a general election, but was postponed after the Táinaiste resigned on Tuesday afternoon.

Knowing that Troy’s selection was all but assured before any convention even began, Cllr Keena said on Monday that he was “saddened and annoyed not only for himself but also for the people of South Westmeath”.

Prior to the 2016 election, Fianna Fáil always ran three candidates in the Longford-Westmeath constituency, a strategy that Keena saw as fruitful for the party.

“It is so frustrating that after deputations and numerous submissions were made to HQ looking for this three candidate strategy that they just don’t seem to listen,” he said.

The party’s decision to run one candidate in Westmeath had been previously criticised by Athlone-based Fianna Fáil candidate and Mayor of Athlone Aengus O’Rourke, who said that the party’s strategy “lacks ambition.” and “flies in the face of logic.”

“There is no good reason to exclude Athlone and no matter what gloss or spin one puts on this strategy the truth of the matter is that the well-engineered, well-oiled, and professional Fianna Fáil electoral machine in south Westmeath has now ground to a halt,” said O’Rourke at the time.

A new convention will now be held on December 5 at the Bloomfield House Hotel in Mullingar.

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