Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice has confirmed that he will contest Fianna Fáil’s Selection Convention for the next General Election, prompting an expected contest with Dr Keith Swanick, his fellow Castlerea native.
Cllr. Eugene Murphy is also a declared candidate for the Fianna Fail nomination to run in the upcoming General Election.
Just a week after Dr Swanick, a long-time party activist, revealed that he was strongly considering contesting the Fianna Fail Convention, Cllr. Fitzmaurice has officially thrown his hat into the ring.
“I am going forward for the convention,” he exclusively told the Roscommon People this week. Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that he had been approached by several people over the past six months, urging him to run.
Deputy Frank Feighan’s announcement that he would not be contesting the election has contribution to his decision.
“Originally, I held back because I wanted some clarity as to how many seats there would be in Co. Roscommon,” Cllr. Fitzmaurice said. “It is pretty clear now that there will be three seats. There wouldn’t be a situation where Frank Feighan would have got Ceann Comhairle, and there would only be only two seats.”
A Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected as to the Dail.
Cllr. Fitzmaurice topped the poll in the Roscommon Municipal District in last year’s local elections, with 1,576 first-preference votes, to retain the seat he first won in 2009.
“I got the highest Fianna Fail vote in Co. Roscommon at the last local election,” he said. “That was very heartening to get that kind of vote. “I had great support from all of the delegates in west Roscommon, as I have going forward for the convention.”
Cllr. Fitzmaurice is the third person to confirm their intention to contest the Fianna Fáil Selection Convention: Cllr. Eugene Murphy, and Alan Kelly, a newcomer from Rathbrennan, Roscommon, are the others.
Cllr. Fitzmaurice has urged the party to adopt a one-candidate strategy. “I think Fianna Fáil should pick one candidate and every member should back that candidate fully,” he said. “We shouldn’t dilute our vote too much because number 2s mightn’t come back to Fianna Fáil.”
There is a strong rumour, however, that Dr Swanick is so highly regarded by the party on a national level that, even if he failed to come through the convention, he would still be added to the ticket.
However, Cllr. Fitzmaurice said that he would not approve of such an approach. “I have heard this rumour that, come hell or high water, Dublin was going to try to put Keith Swanick on the ticket,” he said. “There is a bit of resentment within grassroots members of the party about that. “There is talk of deals being done and I would be disappointed if this is what is going on. All I want to see is whoever wants to go forward, that it is a fair playing field for everybody.
“At the end of the day, grassroots members pay their membership and they are being told, when they do this, that they would have a decision on who would go forward. That is the way it should be. “I think it would be totally unfair if this is what is going on – that people who pay their membership would be disregarded.” A Castlerea native, Dr Swanick is a GP in Belmullet, Co. Mayo.
Fianna Fáil locally were plunged into disarray recently when a dispute arose between Cllrs. John Keogh and Paddy Kilduff. The party headquarters are currently adjudicating over a complaint made by Cllr. Keogh against his south Roscommon colleague, while Cllr. Ivan Connaughton has been indirectly implicated in the row. There are genuine fears that the impasse between the three councillors could result in at least one of them severing ties with the party.
However, Cllr. Fitzmaurice said: “Fianna Fáil is not in crisis in Co. Roscommon. We are very, very healthy. “There is obviously an issue between two councillors in south Roscommon. I think a lot of that is a personal issue between them. It shouldn’t encroach on the Fianna Fáil grouping in Co. Roscommon.”
Fitzmaurice vows to fight to have A&E re-opened
Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice has pledged to fight to have the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital re-opened if he succeeds in his ambition to become a Fianna Fáil TD.
Though stopping short of promising that the party would deliver such a measure, he said: “If I get elected, it will be top of my agenda. “I will be fighting tooth and nail to see that we have a proper A&E and a proper emergency service in Co. Roscommon. “That would be one of my top priorities.”
Cllr. Fitzmaurice says he has succeeded in receiving a commitment from Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher that, if elected to government, the party would vastly improve the county’s ambulance service.
Deputy Kelleher told Cllr. Fitzmaurice: “Fianna Fáil commits to provide additional support in the form of ambulances and personnel.” Cllr. Fitzmaurice described the county’s ambulance service as “absolutely pathetic” at present. “We need more ambulances,” he said.