FG prepare for government with Galway West convention

Critical convention for Brian Walsh if he is to get a place on the FG ticket alongside Padraic McCormack.

Critical convention for Brian Walsh if he is to get a place on the FG ticket alongside Padraic McCormack.

At a time when there is hardly any certainly in our political system, we can bank on one near certainty. Enda Kenny will be the next Taoiseach.

The Mayoman has been put through the ringer by many politicos, but his determination has paid off. Perhaps his stamina and determination are just what we need in a leader at this time. His rejuvenation of FG from its 2002 meltdown may have given him just the skills to guide Ireland out of its current wilderness.

FG will choose its candidates in early December and it will be interesting to see what direction is given to the convention by party strategists Frank Flannery, Phil Hogan, and Tom Curran.

In Galway West, there are 25 branches with c700 members. Included in this are the three large branches of Clifden, Maree, and Turloughmore. The decisions of these three branches will be vital in determining the final outcome of this convention. Let us now review the chances of each of these candidates in detail.

Dep Pádraic McCormack is currently the chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary party, and the party’s elder statesman in Galway West. He is a wily politician who works tirelessly for his constituents. Despite not courting constant media attention he is recognised as honest, hardworking, and approachable.

His main support base is his local branch in Renmore and the Ballyconneely branch, from where his wife Eilish originated. McCormack’s great asset is that he has support in every branch in the constituency, not least in Maree which is the home of Senator Healy Eames. McCormack’s support in this branch would be the traditional FG members.

He will have the backing of his good friend Cllr Pádraig Conneely in the city; a good spread of the vote from across Connemara; and in areas like Castlegar, Annaghdown, Currandulla, Carnmore, and Coldwood. Insider expects McCormack to stroll through the convention.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames is widely known for her very high profile PR machine on issues surrounding education and public service cuts. Outside the FG party she is perceived as a one woman press release machine. Inside the organisation she is seen as divisive and not a team player.

During the last General Election she had the support of councillors Liam Carroll, Jarlath McDonagh, and PJ Naughton (Father of Cllr Hildegarde Naughton ) at the head of her campaign team.

She has since lost their support and just how she will fare without these influential characters this time around remains to be seen. She will have good support from the large Maree branch, which is a great starting point. She will also have support in Clarinbridge and Claregalway, but the lack of support in Oranmore may be to her detriment. She will have some support in the city and across Connemara.

Insider feels that even if she does not make it through convention we may instead see her name on a General Election ballot paper as an Independent.

Cllr Brian Walsh is fighting for his political survival at this convention. He knows that if he doesn’t make the cut, then the likelihood is that he will not be added by party HQ before a General Election.

Cllr Walsh has built a reputation of being a competent councillor and as Fine Gael leader in Galway City Council he has over the years been both peacemaker and policy maker. He clearly regrets not running in the last general election, and knows he needs to regain the trust of the members. However, he put family before party at the last election and many respect this.

FG needs a city candidate and Walsh fits this bill. He will get good support in his small home branch of Mervue. His close alliance with the master tactician Cllr Jarlath McDonagh should reap dividends in the large Turloughmore branch.

He is also close to the Mannion clan which should deliver good support from the large Clifden branch. He has a good following throughout the city members and is known for having no enemies.

Cllr Hildegarde Naughton is the new kid on the block who has made a great impression since her dramatic victory in the local elections. Insider feels this convention could be the making of her political career.

She is widely liked throughout the party and is seen as a perfect addition to any Dáil ticket. The weakness of the Labour ticket in Galway West is seen as a clear reason to have Cllr Naughton on the party ticket, as she would appeal to people in the city across the political divide.

Her base in Knocknacarra is seen as strategically pivotal to a party strategy to win two seats. Her profile as a national school teacher and involvement in musical and dramatic societies are all seen as assets.

She will have strong support in Salthill and will also have support in Oranmore and Maree due to her family connections to the Oranmore branch.

Cllr Pádraig Conneely is one of the highest profile local councillors in the country. His determination in pursuing incompetence and waste in the public service is widely admired.

He is a strong critic of the health service and his constant calls for reform are to be applauded. He is often perceived as Pádraic McCormack’s right hand man, and for this reason is likely not to contest the convention.

Cllr Sean Kyne’s popularity inside and outside the party is undoubted, but he seems reluctant to take on his close ally Pádraic McCormack. Since his election in 2004, he has worked tirelessly for his local community and this was recognised and rewarded in the 2009 locals with a massive first preference vote.

The key question now is whether Cllr Kyne has the determination to keep his higher profile running mates out of Connemara. His star is certainly on the rise, but the big question is will he be true to his word and not contest a convention against McCormack?

Seosamh O’Laoi polled a very respectable 1,200 votes as a first time candidate in the last local elections and could play an important role in attracting votes from the Ó Cuív stronghold of South Connemara.

Keith Stephens is the equivalent of a low profile parachute candidate in the Galway West political scene. He has served as an aide to MEP Jim Higgins in Brussels and seems to be trying to establish himself as a candidate at the next local elections.

In conclusion, Insider believes that Dep Pádraic McCormack will head the poll at convention through his vast experience and contact base. The outcome of the rest of the convention is less clear, however, and will very much depend on the directive from FG HQ.

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