Fine Gael has been regularly referred to as the “Family at War”, and with the party’s election selection convention for candidates to contest the General Election in Galway West imminent, it has really pushed the boat out to live up to this billing.
For the last number of years the friction between sitting Galway West TD Pádraic McCormack and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has become legendary, but the party now has the added situation where Councillor Brian Walsh and Dep McCormack are also at each other’s throats.
Prior to the publication of the recent Fine Gael opinion poll, there was a concerted campaign, both locally and nationally, to exclude Sen Healy Eames from the ticket, and that suited McCormack and Walsh fine.
However the recent party opinion poll, which Insider knows was heavily manipulated and censored prior to its release to the press, has changed the whole thinking within the organisation. Indeed, a version was shown to another politician to keep them happy and some media (not this august organ ) carried this version.
Cllr Walsh may now be in a position whereby he has to lose gracefully at convention - an unenviable position for any politician who craves a Dáil seat.
So Sen Healy Eames will triumphantly stroll through convention with a questionable opinion poll as her greatest asset. The delegates then have the menial job of selecting the sitting incumbent, McCormack.
Over the last 20 years McCormack has stifled and suffocated any possible candidate who might pose him any threat. This is clearly outlined in his relationship with Sen Healy-Eames, and now Cllr Walsh who was always viewed as his heir apparent.
This has been to the detriment of the party even now when it is having a purple patch in the polls.
The normal housekeeping job of selecting another candidate could mean the surprise selection of Cllr Hildegarde Naughton and then FG HQ will add a sweeper candidate in the Gaeltacht at a later date. This will probably mean the inclusion of Seosamh Ó Laoi. Insider still expects Fine Gael to secure two seats so Sen Healy Eames will be safely installed in the Dáil as the obedient back bencher and Dep McCormack’s reward will be the job of ceann comhairle.
McCormack as Ceann Comhairle?
The job of Ceann Comhairle, or chair of the Dáil, is a very prestigious one and is normally given to any long and loyal serving TD, a position Dep McCormack would fit into comfortably.
It is somewhat ‘above politics’ so effectively it means he would not be lobbying on issues, major or minor. This would also sit well with Dep McCormack, as would the fact that the holder of the position of Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected at the next election.
So when the delegates sharpen their pencils at the convention they are possibly facing the prospect of guaranteeing Fine Gael two seats in Galway West for the next two elections.
This would be heaven on earth for the Blueshirt faithful. The fact that one of the candidates could end up as an 80-year-old man probably will not enter their minds.
It would mean that Sen Healy Eames would be the guaranteed Fine Gael seat in a four seat constituency, and all the other potential candidates - councillors Walsh, Kyne, Mannion, Conneely and Naughton - would be excluded for a possible 10-year period.
Currently the main parties are arguing over a four year plan so don’t even talk about a 10-year-plan as the return to Fine Gael would be huge, but the return to Galway West would be minuscule.
Insider believes that the convention will effectively end the political career of an aspiring politician in Cllr Walsh, and he will look back on the missed opportunity in 2007 when he rejected a safe seat as the defining moment in his short political career.
Insider also believes that the electorate are getting very clued in to their possible representatives but this is where the party system wins out and it presents a candidate to the electorate with a possible 10 year term of office of which the electorate would not be aware.
So in conclusion, Fine Gael, the party with a perceived vision for the country, is going to impose a mature politician on the electorate of Galway West purely for the sake of numbers in the Dáil. It is a pity that the party could not implement its proposed Dáil reform prior to the next General Election.