Hoctor Sees Off Smith Challenge

DEPUTY Máire Hoctor has survived a crucial nomination vote to lead Fianna Fail into the next General Election in North Tipperary.

DEPUTY Máire Hoctor has survived a crucial nomination vote to lead Fianna Fail into the next General Election in North Tipperary.

Deputy Hoctor won the FF nomination at a party selection convention in the Ragg, near Thurles, on Friday night, fending off a strong challenge from Cllr Michael Smith.

Cllr John Hogan - who came close to defeating Deputy Hoctor for the nomination in 2007 - decided not to run, leaving a straight vote between the two other contenders. The final tally was 176 votes for Hoctor, 131 for Smith, with one spoiled vote.

Some observers had predicted a win for Smith, whose father, Michael Smith Snr, served in Cabinet and who has deep political connections across the county.

More than 300 delegates packed into the Ragg's ballroom for the nomination contest. At the request of Convention Chairman, Minister Noel Dempsey, media were excluded from hearing the nomination speeches.

Deputy Hoctor upped the political ante last week when she ruled out the possibility of running two candidates on the party ticket, given Fianna Fil's ratings in the polls. Cllr Smith will not be seeking to be put on the party ticket, as that decision is "final and irrevocable," according to a party source.

In her acceptance speech, a triumphant Deputy Hoctor paid tribute to the other candidates and said she would mount a vigorous campaign. "This seat is winnable. We will retain it. We must believe it." Deputy Hoctor, who was disappointed to be dropped by Brian Cowen as Minister of State for Older People in 2009, paid tribute to the Taoiseach's leadership during the economic crisis. Deputy Hoctor is backing Brian Cowen during this week's Fianna Fail leadership contest.

"This has been a very difficult and challenging week for our party. We have a great focus on our leadership at the moment. But I want to say this about Brian Cowen, our Taoiseach. I know very firmly he has always acted in the interests of our country. Indeed, in the interests of our country, before our party. We have had to make very difficult decisions and he has done that. I would never ever question the integrity of those decisions."

Full story in this week's Tipperary Star.