Since the foundation of the party in March 1926 and the subsequent election in June of 1927 when Patrick J Ruttledge, Michael Kilroy, and Eugene Mullen were returned to the fifth Dáil, the Fianna Fáil party have always had at least two members returned to Leinster House at general election time from Mayo. But as the spectre of the 2011 General Election looms ever larger on the horizon that proud record looks to be ready to fall in the county.
The announcement by Deputy Beverley Flynn that she would not be running has left the party with a big gap to fill on the ballot paper. Fianna Fáil Dáil Ceanntar chairman Sean Staunton, when asked by the Mayo Advertiser about the possibility of having only one candidate, said: “It is a possibility, but we are hoping that it doesn’t happen, but you can’t deny that it is a possibility.” The short lived candidacy of Dermot Flanagan, along with a number of party members then opting out of the race, has left Fianna Fáil in a bind. However Mr Staunton is hopeful that the party will have at least one more face alongside that of sitting Minister of State Dara Calleary on the ballot paper. “The only thing that is certain at the minute is that Dara Calleary will be on the ballot paper,” Mr Staunton said. “Nobody else has come out and said they are going to stand, but we are in discussions with a number of people and we are hopeful that we will have at least one other good candidate to run with Dara for the election,” said Mr Staunton.
The Finance Bill has also led to a change in the date for the Fianna Fáil selection convention. “We had originally scheduled the convention on this coming Sunday, but with what happened last weekend and the impending dissolution of the Dáil we decided to bring it forward to Thursday (January 27 ), but I was contacted by both Dep Calleary and Dep Flynn on Monday to say that they would be involved in debates in the Dáil on Thursday night in relation to the Finance Bill. While we could have held it without Dep Flynn as she’s not seeking re-election, we could not hold it without Dep Calleary.”
So it will be Sunday before Dara Calleary knows whether he will have a running mate, and Fianna Fáil will have only four weeks to launch a campaign for a second candidate should someone come forward.