Well, the selection convention season is in full swing.
I have often thought this is where the real dogfight occurs. Over the past number of years, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael instituted a practice of one member, one vote. Once a convention date has been announced, there is huge scurrying around to meet with the signed-up voters before the actual convention.
Galway West is really up to the mark. Fine Gael have selected three TDs: Sean Kyne, Brian Walsh, and the incoming John O’Mahony; as well as Senator Hildegard Naughton. So that is four Fine Gael candidates in a five-seater constituency. It is a really ambitious task and my instinct tells me that the newcomer, that is, John O’Mahony will be one of the favourites to win.
Fianna Fáil has also concluded its Galway West selection – Éamon Ó Cuív, Mary Hoade (presently Cathaoirleach of Galway County Council ) and John Connolly. A good spread with good candidates.
"In Mayo, the line-up for Fianna Fáil is Dara Calleary and Lisa Chambers and we await the Fine Gael outcome."
Back to Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael have not had a selection convention yet. Fianna Fáil HQ have issued an edict that there is to be just one candidate to come forward from Westmeath and one from Longford. This is a four-seater and it seems a most unambitious target.
There were ructions in Athlone based on the fact that over the last number of decades, there has always been a candidate from Athlone, a candidate from Mullingar and a candidate from Longford based on the three urban areas of population. Apart from the edict from on high, no date has been set for the Fianna Fáil convention.
Likewise, there is neither a diktat or a date for Fine Gael in Longford-Westmeath; however Sinn Féin have selected Cllr Paul Hogan as their standard-bearer.
In Dún Laoghaire Fine Gael have selected only one, the popular TD, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor.
Fianna Fáil are playing shy of Dún Laoghaire because whatever way it turns out it is going to cause an upset. There are four candidates already being talked about: Cllr Cormac Devlin, Cllr Mary Hanafin, Cllr Kate Feeney, and Cllr Jennifer Cuffe. That is a case of an embarrassment of females, though I will be chided for calling those lovely women that.
However Fianna Fáil seem in a bind about what to do here because for the local elections, less than 12 months ago, Mary Hanafin was not favoured but she went on and stood and got a great vote. Now is she needed in the face of the fact that Cormac Devlin looks assured to be a candidate at the selection convention?
"It takes the immediate sting out of the triumph/disappointment of a selection convention."
Remember, Eamon Gilmore has bowed out of this constituency and furthermore it is down from a four-seater to a three-seater because the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, sits in this constituency and therefore he is stated and goes in without an election.
There is a trend developing which is quite obvious. The two larger parties are deciding in many cases just to pick one and later have the option of adding one. It takes the immediate sting out of the triumph/disappointment of a selection convention. After all, if a candidate still has a chance of being added, s/he will not play bold. An executive of any political party always has the right to add on or indeed to delete if that is required.
Between now and the end of July, there will be a huge rush of selection conventions. Nothing in August and the momentum picks up again in September/October.
I was at a wonderful women’s Fianna Fáil conference recently at the Red Cow in Dublin. Yes, you read correctly, a women’s Fianna Fáil Conference. There were over 94 women there – many of them councillors, many of them selected candidates, many hoping to be selected candidates and all fired up with the will to win.
A sort of an organic movement and all the better for that. It is hoped that the next conference will be in Galway followed by one in Athlone. So – watch this space.