Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan has said that the main reason why he has decided not to contest the next General Election is because he had too much “baggage” over Roscommon Hospital.
Speaking to the Roscommon People on Wednesday, he said: “If I was on the ticket for the General Election, the A&E would be up at every doorstep. “I believe we need someone fresh, without baggage. I think Fine Gael need to be united for the next election and I think I had a bit too much baggage. “I feel we need a new name and somebody different.”
Deputy Feighan was non-committal on his future plans, refusing to rule out a rule out a return to the Oireachtas as a Senator or as Ceann Comhairle in the Dail. He also refused to respond to speculation that his decision not to seek to contest the General Election was based on private Fine Gael polling that had indicated he would not be re-elected.
The Boyle-based deputy announced on Monday night that, after much consideration, he had decided to bow out as a TD. He has served the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency continuously since 2007. Previously, he was a councillor for the Boyle area from 1999 to 2002 and a Senator from 2002 to 2007.
Deputy Feighan would have faced a tough re-election bid, following the Government’s decision to close the round-the-clock accident and emergency (A&E) Department at Roscommon Hospital in July 2011. Fine Gael had promised prior to the 2011 General Election that services at the hospital would not be reduced.
Deputy Feighan said that the hospital would always be associated with his name, but that the decision to bow out was a personal one. He said: “I have decided not to put my name forward to contest the General Election for Fine Gael in the Roscommon-Galway constituency. “This is a personal decision which is one I have not taken lightly but one I feel is taken in the best interests of my party and my constituency.
“Roscommon Hospital will always be associated with my name. And I’ll always take pride in the fact that not only is Roscommon Hospital safer, but has a long-term future with a €20 million investment plan taking place there. “The introduction of the air ambulance and advanced paramedics has saved dozens of lives.” The air ambulance service was introduced in the summer of 2012, a year after the closure of A&E at Roscommon Hospital. Deputy Feighan said that he was “honoured” to have been a member of the Government that “restored our nation’s sovereignty”.
He said that he had helped deliver €200 million in infrastructure projects, including the Ballaghaderreen Bypass and €20 million’s worth of funding to help to resolve Co. Roscommon’s water crisis. He added: “I have worked hard to constituents. I have always tried to be honourable and decent. “My work as a TD continues. I will continue to fulfil my mandate as a local Fine Gael TD right up until polling day, whenever that may be, with energy and pride.”
Message from FG poll: Back Maura to win seat
A private poll conducted by Fine Gael convinced the party that Deputy Frank Feighan was highly unlikely to be re-elected in the next General Election.
The party conducted the poll in Roscommon/Galway constituency earlier this year. Reliable Fine Gael sources indicate that Feighan did not fare well in the poll, confirming a long-held view that the party would have a better chance of winning a seat with a new candidate.
In the poll, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice came out on top (exceeding the quota on 27.5%) and looking good to take the first seat in the new three-seat constituency. The poll suggested that Independent TD Denis Naughten is set to take the second seat.
According to our sources the Fine Gael poll has Cllr. Maura Hopkins well placed to take the third seat, fighting off strong competition from both Sinn Fein (Claire Kerrane) who polled strongly and Fianna Fail.
Deputy Feighan this week declined to respond to speculation that his decision not to contest the General Election was based on private Fine Gael polling that had indicated he would not be re-elected.
Taoiseach pays tribute to Feighan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has paid tribute to Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan after he announced that he would not be contesting the next General Election.
Deputy Feighan announced on Monday in a “personal decision” that his term as a deputy will end at the conclusion of the Government’s term of office. The news will bring the curtain down on a career as a TD which saw Deputy Feighan serve Roscommon-South Leitrim continuously since 2007.
The Taoiseach said: “I was sorry to learn but fully accept Deputy Frank Feighan’s decision not to put his name forward to contest the next General Election for Fine Gael in the Roscommon-Galway constituency. “I want to sincerely thank him for his hard work and excellent service to the people of Roscommon-South Leitrim over the past 16 years, firstly as a councillor, as a Senator and then as a TD since 2007.”
Deputy Feighan was subjected to strong and relentless criticism for his decision to support the Government following the closure of the Accident and Emergency Unit at Roscommon Hospital in July 2011.
However, the Taoiseach said that the hospital was now safer as a result of Deputy Feighan’s input in recent developments there.
Mr Kenny said: “Frank has worked tirelessly to help this Government deliver infrastructure projects and enhanced services to the people of Roscommon and Leitrim, including making Roscommon Hospital safer and relentlessly working to resolve the water crisis in his constituency.”
The Taoiseach also commended Deputy Feighan for his work as chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and co-chairman of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. “The passion, energy and commitment he has brought to these roles have helped to foster greater British-Irish relation, which will be evident for many years to come,” he said.
The Taoiseach said that, on a personal level, he had know Deputy Feighan for his entire political career. “He is a man of great courage, integrity and loyalty,” he said. “I will continue to work closely with Frank over the coming months as he serves the people of Roscommon-South Leitrim and I wish him well for the future.”
FG organiser: ‘History will be kind to Feighan’
Fine Gael’s western area regional organiser, Darragh Kelly, from Tulsk, has paid tribute to Deputy Feighan following his decision not to contest the next General Election.
He said: “I think Frank Feighan has served the party with huge courage and dignity. I think history will be quite kind to him. “I would like to thank him for his contribution to the party, as a TD, Senator and councillor over many years.
“I think Frank has been a very good public representative and a very good representative for the party and a very decent individual as well.” Deputy Feighan has been a public representative continuously for 16 years. He was a councillor for the Boyle area from 1999 to 2002, a Senator from 2002 to 2007 and a TD from 2007 onwards.
Date set for Fine Gael Convention
Fine Gael have announced that their Selection Convention for the new Roscommon-Galway constituency will take place on Friday, September 11, in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon town.
After Deputy Frank Feighan’s decision to bow out of Dáil politics, Cllr. Maura Hopkins is so far the only confirmed candidate for the contest, which will decide who will represent the party in the next General Election.
She contested last October’s by-election. She gained 5,593 first-preference votes and finished third, behind Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, the winner, and Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, of Fianna Fáil.
Cllr. Hopkins has joined in the tributes to Deputy Feighan this week. She said: “Frank Feighan has been a diligent parliamentarian, advocating tirelessly on behalf of the people of Roscommon/South Leitrim. “Frank’s hard work and positive influence as a Government TD has made sure the needs of the people of this constituency has been continually highlighted at the top levels of Government. “His advocacy over the past few years has helped secure the delivery of many services, initiatives and projects in a very challenging economic environment. “He has served the people with distinction and dedication and I wish him every success with all his future endeavours.”