FF to resist return of former top figures

Ex-office holders standing for election an ’appalling vista’, says party source

Attempts by former senior Fianna Fáil office holders to return to elected office are expected to be firmly resisted by party headquarters.

“We need candidates without baggage,” said a party source yesterday. “Running people associated with the previous government could see public anger towards us reignited.”

Another source described running former office holders as an “appalling vista”, adding that it would provide the other parties with anti-Fianna Fáil material.

This follows the revelation that former tánaiste Mary Coughlan has not ruled out seeking a nomination to contest the next general election in Donegal. Asked if she intended to run again, she replied: "I don't think so. We need new blood, but the door isn't closed entirely."


She made the remarks in a recorded interview with Radio na Gaeltachta, to be broadcast tomorrow at 11am.

European elections
Former ceann comhairle

John O'Donoghue, who resigned over an expenses controversy, is pursuing a comeback in Kerry, while former minister Mary Hanafin has expressed an interest in contesting the Dublin constituency in next summer's European parliament elections.

Ms Coughlan lost her seat in Donegal South West to Independent Thomas Pringle, as the Fianna Fáil vote declined by 28 points. Donegal will be a five-seater next time with a battle royal between the parties, given the loss of the seat.

An obvious candidate will be TD for Donegal North East Charlie McConalogue, while Ms Coughlan’s running mate last time, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, is expected to throw his hat in the ring.

A local political source said that while an attempt by Ms Coughlan to return would be resisted, she still retained support within the party organisation.

In Kerry, where Mr O'Donoghue has made no secret of his desire to return to the Dáil, it will also be a hard-fought five-seater the next time. He lost his seat in Kerry South, where Tom Fleming, who had left Fianna Fáil and ran as an Independent, was returned to the Dáil. Mr O'Donoghue's departure speech, carried on RTÉ, noted that the count had taken place in a building for which he had provided funding when a minister.

As Fianna Fáil constituency public relations officer, Mr O’Donoghue has access to local media and has been active in criticising the Government. He received a standing ovation at a recent Fianna Fáil gathering.

There is speculation that Fianna Fáil might attempt to entice Mr Fleming, who came close to winning a seat for the party in 2002 and 2007, back into the fold in an attempt to block Mr O’Donoghue.

Lack of support
Ms Hanafin lost her seat in Dú

n Laoghaire, which was reduced from a five-seater to a four-seater. Although politically close to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, when they served in cabinet together, he has clearly declined to support her campaign to run for Europe in the capital.

Speculation is that Senator Averil Power will be the candidate, but it is understood she would prefer to run for the Dáil in the next general election.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times