The souring of Paddy Kilduff’s lifelong relationship with Fianna Fáil can be traced back to one night in Strokestown three years ago.
For years, Paddy Kilduff was the consummate Fianna Fáil member – initially as a grassroots man, then in more recent years as a public representative.
He was a classic example of the type of fiercely loyal grassroots member who helped make Fianna Fáil such a formidable national movement.
Active within the party from the age of 16, he has lived and breathed Fianna Fáil. He was a proven fundraiser, a committed canvasser, and an official who served in a number of capacities.
Later, Kilduff switched from the trenches to the frontline and became a wily public representative who was returned by the electorate in three successive elections.
But now Paddy Kilduff has decided to walk away from the party he’s been a member of for over 52 years.
He says the party has lost respect for its grassroots. And he cannot forgive the party for its handling of what happened that night in Strokestown.
During early 2015 a meeting of Boyle LEA (Local Electoral Area) was held in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown.
It was a routine meeting, at which a number of party members spoke. The upcoming same-sex marriage referendum was very much in the news at the time.
When Cllr. Paddy Kilduff spoke, it was at some length. During his contribution, he expressed his forthright views on the same-sex referendum.
It later emerged that Cllr. Kilduff was being secretly recorded on the night. During his contribution on the same-sex referendum issue, Kilduff made controversial comments, views which many people would find offensive.
A secret recording of Cllr. Kilduff’s comments was later circulated to some members of the party and to sections of the media. The Irish Sun newspaper published a story on its front page and this was followed by a brief social media furore.
Cllr. Kilduff claimed that his comments were off the cuff, that he had been illegally recorded, and that a selectively edited extract of that recording had been circulated in an attempt to cause him political damage.
Cllr. Kilduff raised the matter with the party in Roscommon and Dublin, alleging that his contribution at the meeting had been illegally recorded without the knowledge or consent of those present and “certainly without my knowledge and consent”.
Furthermore, Cllr. Kilduff complained, the recording had been circulated to some party members and “selectively edited” in order to “inflict personal damage” on him.
Cllr. Kilduff also maintained that a failed attempt was made from within Fianna Fáil to use the recording to prevent his election as Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council in 2015.
As the fall-out rumbled on behind the scenes – and occasionally in the Roscommon media – Cllr. Kilduff made a formal complaint to Fianna Fáil HQ in January 2016, seeking an internal party investigation into the recording.
However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin subsequently told the Roscommon People that no complaint had been made to the party about the issue. Cllr. Kilduff vehemently disputes this. He was supported by Mary Clifford, who in her capacity as Secretary of Boyle LEA told the Roscommon People that Cllr. Kilduff’s complaint concerning an illegal recording had been reported to party HQ.
At the height of the controversy, the entire South Roscommon Fianna Fáil executive stepped down in protest over inaction by the party over the secret recording conducted during the Strokestown meeting.
Secretive stuff in Strokestown was not the only strain on Kilduff’s relationship with Fianna Fáil in recent years; a fellow party councillor, John Keogh, had also issued a formal complaint against the Lecarrow man.
In June 2015 Cllr. Keogh claimed to Fianna Fáil HQ that Cllr. Kilduff had made a derogatory remark about him to a third party (in October 2014).
Following a subsequent investigation, the Fianna Fáil ‘Rules and Procedures Committee’ upheld Cllr. Keogh’s complaint against Cllr. Kilduff.
Censuring the then-Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Fianna Fáil warned Cllr. Kilduff that if he repeated the comments complained of (by Cllr. Keogh) he could face suspension or even expulsion from the party.
Cllr. Kilduff rejected the findings and said the investigation had been neither fair or objective.
In November 2016 Cllr. Kilduff wrote to
Boyle Local Electoral Area (LEA) outlining his grievances over how he was being treated and seeking the support of the party locally.
His letter was read at a Boyle LEA meeting but the matter was ruled out of order, with no discussion permitted.
Relations between Fianna Fáil HQ and Cllr. Kilduff deteriorated badly due to these controversies in recent years, and there were a number of stand-up rows during meetings between both parties.
Cllr. Kilduff will not contest the next local elections (in 2019). He will continue now as an Independent councillor.