* Party ‘not fit for purpose’ * Conventions are a sham * ‘I have been held back’
Cllr. Ivan Connaughton is on the brink of quitting Fianna Fáil and running as an Independent in the upcoming General Election.
The 31-year-old, who topped the poll in last October’s Roscommon-South Leitrim by-election, said that he had become “disillusioned” with a party that he said was “not fit for purpose”.
In another dramatic Roscommon People interview, he said that the party was “non-existent” with regard to policies and added: “As Fianna Fáil members, the only contribution we are being asked to make is a financial contribution.”
He said that the party’s hierarchy were not listening to the grassroots of the party and accused them of manipulating selection conventions. As a result of these grievances, he is on the point of severing ties with Fianna Fáil, a party for which he also contested the 2011 General Election.
He said: “In the last number of months, I have had people in and outside Fianna Fáil asking me what my intentions are. “I tell them that I am not contesting the General Election Selection Convention under the Fianna Fáil banner. A lot of people asked me would I consider going as an Independent. I am giving it serious consideration.”
Cllr. Connaughton received 7,334 first preference votes in last year’s by-election, but narrowly lost out on transfers to Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, a Galway county councillor at the time.
He dropped a bombshell two months later when, in an interview with the Roscommon People, he called for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to resign. Cllr. Connaughton’s disillusionment with the party has heightened since then, it appears.
“I am not happy with the direction of the party,” he said. “There are issues with party leadership, structure and organisation from headquarters. “It’s making fellow members like myself disillusioned in that, as Fianna Fáil members, the only contribution we are being asked to make is a financial contribution. In relation to policies, it (the party) is non-existent.”
He was particularly criticial of the party’s leadership. “Up in Dublin, they can’t give a definite definition as to who the members are, who are not, under the ‘one member, one vote’,” said Cllr. Connaughton.
Selection conventions, he indicated, were a sham. “They have a set agenda in relation to getting candidates on tickets for elections – who they want and pushing their own agenda,” he said. “They are not listening to the grassroots of the party. That’s not just now – that is continuously for the past number of years.”
Cllr. Connaughton said: “There is an area in south Roscommon – from Curraghboy to Brideswell, down into the centre of Moore – where there is no Fianna Fáil organisation, no Fianna Fáil member.
“That is a large chunk of Co. Roscommon. “There are other areas where there was large units of the organisation in the past, and they have all left. There has to be a reason for it.”
Cllr. Connaughton is also annoyed with the party over their handling of the falling out between south Roscommon councillors Paddy Kilduff and John Keogh, in which he is indirectly involved.
Cllr. Keogh has made complaints to Fianna Fáil headquarters against both councillors, but little progress has been made in the investigation.
Cllr. Connaughton said: “The way headquarters are dealing with it, has copperfasted what I always believed – that they are not fit for purpose. “I believe in all honesty that, in its current structure, leading up to an election, Fianna Fáil are not fit for purpose.”
Cllr. Connaughton said that he would make a definitive decision on his intentions in the next four to six weeks but, judging by the level of ill-feeling with the organisation, it seems he has already decided to leave Fianna Fáil.
He said: “If I was an Independent, I would be able to express my views better and give people an opti
on. I think I have been held back as a Fianna Fáil candidate and as a Fianna Fáil councillor. “I have been held back in expressing what my own plan would be in relation to health, jobs, families in financial difficulty, agriculture and mental health.”