Senator may not run
The Roscommon People can exclusively reveal that Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins is considering not running for the party in the next General Election.
Senator Hopkins has had a number of conversations with party HQ over her intentions. Sources have told the Roscommon People that Senator Hopkins has thus far declined to commit to seeking a nomination. Roscommon/Galway constituency is one of only one or two in the country in which a Selection Convention has not yet been held by Fine Gael.
As speculation about Senator Hopkins’ intentions intensified, Fine Gael HQ held talks with former TD Frank Feighan, who had decided to switch his focus to Sligo/Leitrim. Senator Feighan, a controversial figure since the closure of Roscommon A&E, says he has an open mind about running in Roscommon/Galway. Senator Feighan will be included in a mock ballot paper in internal Fine Gael polling over the coming weeks.
Speaking to the Roscommon People from Strasbourg, Senator Hopkins said: “I’m considering whether or not to put my name forward. As you know, a convention hasn’t taken place yet. I work very hard in my job (as a senator). That has been my focus. I believe I am honest, committed, informed and competent”.
Asked why she is not in a position to definitively say that she will seek a nomination, Senator Hopkins said: “I need to consider whether or not to put my name forward. With any such decision…you want what’s best for Fine Gael representation in Roscommon/Galway…ultimately that will be a decision for Fine Gael members at convention…with regard to my own decision, I have to decide what’s best. Politics is very demanding and I’m working very hard as a full-time Senator, and as a member of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I need to consider whether or not I am going forward. That is the honest position at this time”.
It is understood that, in a number of exchanges with party HQ, Senator Hopkins has declined to commit to making a new Dáil bid. She has told the Roscommon People that she is considering her position.
With no prospect of a Selection Convention any time soon, Fine Gael HQ will now conduct internal polls to try to establish what candidate is best placed to regain a seat for the party in Roscommon/Galway.
A number of meetings involving Fine Gael HQ and locals in Roscommon/Galway and regionally have thus far failed to provide clarity as to who will be the party’s preferred front-runner in this constituency.
In terms of its political strength in Roscommon, Fine Gael is still dealing with the fall-out of the Roscommon A&E controversy, which peaked with the closure of the facility in 2011. Fine Gael has always had strong support in Roscommon, and in recent years this peaked with the then ‘dream team’ of Frank Feighan and Denis Naughten, who secured a historic two seats for the party in 2007 (repeating the feat in 2011). Such heady days are now but a memory, with Naughten losing the party whip and joining the Independent ranks, and Feighan opting not to contest the 2016 election.
That’s where the then Cllr. Maura Hopkins came in. The Ballaghaderreen woman ran for Fine Gael in the 2016 General Election – a daunting enough task, given the hospital fall-out – and while it was certainly a respectable enough showing (she attracted 6,812 number ones) Hopkins failed to win a seat. While Ms. Hopkins was subsequently successful in the Seanad elections, the 2016 loss, preceded by a third-place outing in the 2014 by-election, gave party strategists food for thought and divided opinion as to whether or not Senator Hopkins can deliver a Dáil seat for the party.
Amidst speculation that she will not contest the next General Election, the Roscommon People contacted Senator Hopkins on Wednesday.
As Senator Hopkins ponders on her position, it is clear too that Fine Gael strategists remain to be convinced as to what individual provides the best prospect of the party regaining a Dáil seat.
A Fine Gael source told the Roscommon People that party HQ will be “ruthless” on this issue.
“The party will not allow anyone to be on the ticket if HQ doesn’t believe that person can win the seat” the source said.
Internal FG polling in the constituency will now take place as the party tries to line up a candidate who can unseat one of the incumbent trio of Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy and Denis Naughten.
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