Fianna Fáil's candidate selection convention took place on Tuesday night, December 5, but Athlone will once again be left without a Fianna Fáil candidate in any upcoming election.
A party issued directive issued recently stating its intention to run only one Westmeath candidate in the local constituency.
Mullingar-based TD Robert Troy was set to contend with Athlone councillor Frankie Keena for the nomination, however, Keena withdrew his name from contention on Tuesday night in response to the directive. Cllr Joe Flaherty was selected earlier this month to run in the Longford portion of the constituency.
Speaking at the convention on Tuesday night, Cllr Keena talked of "annoyance, anger, disappointment, frustration and disbelief" with the directive.
"The word on the street is that Fianna Fáil is not interested in contesting for a Dáil seat in this area anymore. If it continues we can kiss goodbye the opportunity of ever winning a seat for FF in South Westmeath," Cllr Keena commented.
Prior to the 2016 election, Fianna Fáil always ran three candidates in the Longford-Westmeath constituency, a strategy that Cllr 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. "South Westmeath has a population of approximately 38 to 40,000 people, and to leave this large population base without their own local Fianna Fáil candidate is unbelievable."
The party’s decision to run one candidate in Westmeath had been previously criticised by Fianna Fáil councillor and Mayor of Athlone, Aengus O’Rourke, who said the strategy “lacks ambition” and “flies in the face of logic”.
With Fianna Fáil HQ unwilling to change direction, Cllr Keena concluded: "I do not want to cause a split within the party in Westmeath, and thus taking account of the horrendous directive from HQ in relation to a one candidate strategy for Westmeath, it is with deep regret that I am withdrawing my name this evening at this convention. I will not contest the convention against Robert as I feel the party will only lose out if I did."