There is strong speculation that Malachy Hand and Sean Mahon will be added to the Fianna Fáil ticket for the Athlone area in next year’s local elections.
Three candidates who had been nominated for Monday night’s selection convention – including Mr. Hand and Mr. Mahon – withdrew prior to the meeting, as party grassroots reacted with frustration and some anger to the strategy adopted by FF HQ. Fianna Fáil HQ had directed that members choose just one candidate at the convention.
Three of the five contenders responded by withdrawing ahead of the formal proceedings. Darragh Glynn was first to withdraw, followed by Sean Mahon and Malachy Hand. When the convention went ahead on Monday night, sitting councillor John Keogh was the sole candidate selected, defeating Seamus Kelly. Sources say that FF HQ is now expected to add both Malachy Hand and Sean Mahon.
The convention, held in the Hodson Bay Hotel, was chaired by Deputy Barry Cowen. There was a valid poll of 114 and the quota was 58. Cllr. John Keogh received 66 votes and the only other candidate, long-time party activist Seamus Kelly, received 48 votes. Accordingly, Cllr. Keogh was elected on the first count.
The convention was overshadowed, to a degree, by disquiet over the selection strategy. In a statement issued over the weekend, Darragh Glynn (who is PRO of Fianna Fáil Comhairle Ceanntair in South Roscommon) said that the party was “completely wrong” in directing that just one candidate be selected.
He complained that the strategy lacked appreciation of the geography of the constituency.
“The strategy of the NCC to select only one candidate makes a mockery of the selection convention process”.
Mr. Glynn said that he was withdrawing out of respect to, and in deference to, Cllr. John Keogh, and in the interests of party unity. Mr. Glynn said that he would be available to be ‘added on’, should FF HQ pursue that option.
Malachy Hand, South Roscommon Fianna Fáil Chairman, also withdrew in protest over the party’s strategy.
“In light of the strategy and directive issued by the Fianna Fáil National Constituencies Committee to select only one candidate, and out of respect to the sitting councillor, I have come to the decision to withdraw my name from contesting this convention…I am strongly of the view that this strategy taken by the party is the wrong one.
“I will be contacting the NCC and will be making myself available for selection and wish to be considered if the party decide to add a second candidate to the ticket at a later stage” he said.
Solicitor Sean Mahon, a party activist, also withdrew ahead of the convention, citing the need for party unity. Mr. Mahon said that FF HQ had imposed a flawed undemocratic strategy. He said he was withdrawing in order to ensure that there is no disharmony.
As we went to press, FF sources indicated that Mr. Hand and Mr. Mahon are set to be added on, joining Cllr. Keogh on a three-person ticket.