Fine Gael continue to surprise in its ongoing candidate selection process after sitting councillor Colm Arthur was defeated in his effort to return to his party’s ticket for next year’s local elections.
Cllr Arthur was pipped by former councillor Michael Newman from Kilbeggan, and poll-topper Chris Murtagh from Mullingar, at the selection convention in the Newbury Hotel last Friday, November 8.
Newman, a retired public servant, was defeated in the 2011 elections as Fine Gael tried to shoe-horn three candidates into the four-seat old Kilbeggan area, where the returned Joe Flanagan and Cllr Arthur were successfully elected.
Farmer and landscaper Murtagh (47 ) missed out on the last seat in 2011 to Fianna Fáil’s Ken Glynn on the last count, after polling a respectable 460 first preferences.
Many within the party who have spoken with the Advertiser this week believe the party’s ticket will be extended by at least one before the hustings, with the majority favouring sitting Cllr Arthur.
“I certainly would expect I would be added to the ticket. No reason to think otherwise. Everybody was asking was the windfarms the issue, but if that was the case Andy Duncan [the anti-windfarm candidate] would’ve walked away with it... At the end of the day, I backed the Government position, and continue to back it, and I feel the Government will reward councillors who take this position,” Cllr Arthur said.
However, noted contrarian Michael Newman - who knows the difficulties of being a third candidate in a tight constituency - believes the only place for another name would be in urban Mullingar.
He feels Andy Duncan, defeated behind Cllr Arthur in Friday’s convention, will benefit greatly from his apprenticeship under the experienced wing of the patrician Cllr Fintan Cooney, who is stepping down after this term of service.
“I can’t see anybody added between Rochfortbridge and Horseleap,” he said.
The party will holds the last of its conventions on November 28 in the Clonkill GAA Club when it chooses for the Mullingar-Coole area, only putting forward councillors Peter Burke and Frank McDermott.