The chairperson of Fianna Fáil in Mayo says he believes there will be no overruling decree from headquarters in Dublin on who the local party should send forward for the next General Election.
The Fianna Fáil selection convention in Mayo was scheduled to take place last Sunday, but was cancelled at short notice on Friday morning, via a letter from party headquarters to members stating more time was needed to consult with the party locally on the best election strategy.
Party leader Micheál Martin had indicated that a two-candidate ticket was the preferred option in Mayo and for some time, Castlebar based Cllr Lisa Chambers and sitting TD Deputy Dara Calleary were widely regarded as sure things for selection.
However, at a meeting of Mayo Fianna Fáil last month, that was all thrown up in the air when a large gathering of the party’s grassroots members voted 129 to 104 for a three-candidate strategy.
Now, at least four potential candidates have emerged in Mayo with Westport’s Cllr Brendan Mulroy and Knock native Leonard Ryan joining Cllr Chambers and Deputy Calleary in the mix.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week, Gerry McGuinness, chairperson of the Mayo Dáil Cheantair, said it is still the intention to go through a selection convention and use the democratic process to determine the party’s election strategy.
“There will be no imposition from headquarters. I would certainly be opposed to that,” he stated.
Mr McGuinness said the debate remains wide open on whether Fianna Fáil should run two or three candidates.
“There are no dates set yet for the convention. Over the next few weeks there will be meetings between the organisation on the ground and headquarters to tease out the reasons and take into account the vote [to run three candidates] that took place.
“They will listen to the grassroots and why they think a three-candidate strategy is best.
“We would hope to get this done as soon as possible and have those meetings within the next week or two,” he outlined.
Mr McGuinness said the party would also be taking into account the sizeable attendance at the meeting where members opted for a three-candidate strategy.
“Party headquarters is open to listening. They want to come back to the people and not ignore the grassroots.”
He said the vote for three candidates was not by any overwhelming majority.
“The vote was close on whether it should be two or three. It wasn’t 100 per cent definitive.”
He said the eventual decision, whether it is for a two- or three-candidate ticket, is not likely to cause any lasting rift within the grassroots support of the party in Mayo in the run-up to the election and that the good of the party structure was “greater than any one person”.
He said he was not aware of any internal polling by the party in Mayo and they are very much relying on the last local election to try and get an indication of the level of support for Fianna Fáil and decide the best strategy.
“We have to go by the local election results and try and translate that support, but it doesn’t give a clear indication.
“It is a whole new ball game with a four seat constituency in Mayo.
“If you run three do you pull in more votes? If you run two, do you leave pockets of votes behind?”
Support for a three-candidate strategy over two was very much driven by Fianna Fáil members in the east of the county.
They claimed votes in east Mayo would be lost without a candidate covering that area, particularly as there is much talk of Fine Gael TD John O’Mahony moving into the Galway West constituency to contest there.
“John O’Mahony’s decision is still up in the air,” said Mr McGuinness.
“East Mayo may yet be open. Although you have to take into account that a strong Independent candidate may come through there but there doesn’t seem to be one coming forward so far.”