Ivan Connaughton is officially quitting Fianna Fáil and will run as an Independent candidate in next year’s local elections.
Cllr. Connaughton, who said last October that he would not be contesting next year’s elections, now says he has changed his mind after coming under “intense pressure” to run as an Independent.
Formally announcing his decision in the Roscommon People today, Cllr. Connaughton reveals that he ceased being a member of Fianna Fáil earlier in the summer.
Cllr. Connaughton, who ran for Fianna Fáil in two national elections, says the party has now lost its way. He also says that party leader Micheál Martin is wrong to continue with his ‘confidence and supply’ facilitation of the Fine Gael-led Government.
Declares as Independent
Speaking to the Roscommon People on Wednesday evening, Cllr. Connaughton said: “I wish to declare as an Independent candidate for South Roscommon in next year’s local elections…I announced earlier this year that I would not run for Fianna Fáil. My views in relation to the party leader (Micheál Martin) are well-known. It’s well-known that I haven’t been happy with the direction the party has been taking”.
Cllr. Connaughton (36), who had also cited work commitments when announcing that he wouldn’t contest next year’s elections, has now embarked on a new political journey.
“I genuinely did not intend to run next year. However, over the past six weeks or so, a number of individuals and community groups have approached me. I was asked not to walk away from politics, to reconsider my position. One community activist I spoke to put it this way…he asked ‘Is your issue with Fianna Fáil or is it with the local community and the people?’
“That made me think. I have reflected on the situation. I am conscious that no candidate has yet declared in my area. I have decided that my community comes first. This area of South Roscommon needs representation. Fianna Fáil cannot provide that, not the way the party has been going. I am totally disaffected with Fianna Fáil’s approach on issues such as agriculture, on rural affairs in general”.
Ivan Connaughton ran for Fianna Fáil in the 2011 General Election and in the 2014 bye-election. He was elected to Roscommon County Council in 2014. (His father, Martin, had served on the Council from 1999 to 2014). However, in a dramatic interview in the Roscommon People at Christmas 2014, Cllr. Connaughton exposed behind the scenes tensions that had dogged the bye-election bid. In that interview he said that he would not contest a national election again for Fianna Fáil as long as Micheál Martin remained in charge.
This week, he says: “I have been beating this drum for a number of years. Fianna Fáil have been drifting…away from the party’s grassroots. There are great people in Fianna Fáil in Roscommon, but they have been let down by the leadership and by the handlers”.
‘Not a member’
Cllr. Connaughton said he did not renew his membership of the party when it came up for renewal in June of 2018. As such, while considered a Fianna Fáil councillor still – indeed a Fianna Fáil Cathaoirleach of the Council at present – he sees it in less ‘black and white’ terms.
“I was elected (for Fianna Fáil) in 2014 but I didn’t rejoin the party last June”.
Asked if FF HQ, the party organisation locally and/or Deputy Eugene Murphy had sought clarity from him or indeed encouraged him to renew his membership, he said “No”.
“I deem myself to be elected under a mandate from the people. I have honoured and will continue to honour voting commitments (on the Council) that I entered into. Others can view it (his current status as a councillor) any way they want”.
Officially he’s a Fianna Fáil councillor, but he argues that it should be obvious to people that he’s not just disaffected, but in fact out on a limb.
“I didn’t make it public knowledge that I hadn’t rejoined the party. I think anyone observing my public utterance in recent times will know that my views are contrary to Fianna Fáil policy”.
Will he also contest the next General Election?
“My focus is on the local elections. As for a General Election, it’s too early to say. Let’s see what happens. Let the people decide, let the people judge me now”.
So, Ivan Connaughton’s shaky relationship with Fianna Fáil is officially over. He’s officially a Fianna Fáil councillor, but not a ‘signed up’ member of the party. He’s Cathaoirleach of the Council. He was meant to be walking away, but, far from it, he’s going before the people, as an Independent candidate.
“I am happy that it’s the right decision. I am now free to express my own views. I can be myself”.