Fine Gael in North Tipperary has denied there is any disquiet within the party over selecting five candidates for the Thurles / Templemore area, or any problems with Cllr Joe Bourke being added to the ticket.
Independent Templemore town councillor Cllr Bourke, a former member of FG, was added to the ticket along with fellow Templemore councillor Maura Byrne, last month.
The party selected sitting Thurles councillor Michael Cleary along with Dovea farmer Liam Brereton and Michael Madden from Roscrea at its convention last December, with HQ reserving the right to add others.
However, with the addition of Cllr Bourke and Cllr Byrne, who are both in the Clonmore / Loughmore area, some in the party locally are wondering if they are running too many candidates. There are also questions over how Cllr Bourke was selected and whether or not he was approached to run or came back into the fold of his own accord.
While Cllr Bourke told the Tipperary Star he had “nothing to say at the minute”, Cllr Byrne denied there was any disquiet in the ranks. She said there would always be “rumblings” in every party about the number of candidates but “you accept ratification (by head ofice) and that’s how it goes”.
However, one source told the Star that had Cllr Byrne indicated her willingness to go last September when it was first proposed to hold the convention, she would have been selected and only four candidates would have been chosen. “They were both added to stop a major split in the area,” said the source who added the party had been caught with the decision by stalwarts Denis Ryan and Pauline Coonan not to seek re-election. “It is a bit of a mess, but if they didn’t nominate the two, they were afraid the party diehards would pull away.”
Cllr Michael C Ryan said he was “not happy with the process”, and felt local FG people had been “bypassed”. He had decided not to run anyway and wished all the candidates well, but he felt HQ was taking democracy away from the local party.
He maintained the same was happening in other parties where head offices were deciding who to add to the ticket.
“There are questions to be asked and questions to be answered,” he said in relation to Fine Gael. Cllr Ryan said he was a “loyal member of the party”.
Cllr Lily O’Brien of Templemore Town Council said she had no comment to make.
Deputy Noel Coonan said he hadn’t heard that there was any disquiet surrounding the selection process or who had been nominated.
“There may have been some surprise that the party decided to add two names, but there is no question of anyone having been bypassed,” he said.
“I would question any FG person who would say that. It was all open and transparent. They all had the option of putting their names forward at the selection convention and only three did so,” saisd Deputy Coonan.
He pointed out that Cllr Byrne was in Loughmore while Cllr Bourke was in Clonmore and ther was about six miles between them.
“We have five formidable candidates,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cllr Michael Cleary said it had been agreed at convention that HQ could add or remove candidates. In relation to the decision to add two names he said: “They feel they want to maximise the FG vote and give as many people as possible a choice to vote for in Fine Gael.”
Cllr Cleary said he wished all the party’s candidates the best of luck in the election.