Fine Gael would appear to left have left itself in a bit of a dilemma for next year’s local elections following the decision by party headquarters to instruct the local organisation to select only three candidates for the new Nenagh Municpal Area at its selection convention on Monday, and the decision by sittting councillor Phyll Bugler to withdraw from the race.
The party selected sitting councillor and current Mayor Ger Darcy, former councillor Tom Berkery and Nenagh town councillor Tom Moylan to run in the expanded Nenagh / Borrisokane / Newport area, a spread that goes from Portumna bridge in the north to Ballina bridge in the south, and takes in Newport and Cloughjordan.
The national executive asked that only three candidates be selected, allowing HQ to add at least one more name later.
Sitting Nengh town councillor Conor Delaney and Louis McCormack, who failed to take a seat last time, were the ones to lose out, and it is understood the mood of the selection covention was that either one of those should be added.
However, the party now faces the difficulty of deciding which geographical area it should go for if only one extra candidate is added. If it ignores Lower Ormond, where Louis McCormack ran unsuccessfully in 2004 and 2009, it is leaving huge swathes of voters to Cllr Michael O’Meara of the Lowry Team. And if it leaves out Ballina, it will allow Cllr Jonathan Meaney from nearby Portroe a more or less free run.
Added to this is the fact that, as things stand, Labour’s Cllr Virignia O’Dowd is, so far, the only female candidate that looks certain to be running. Cllr O’Dowd first ran for the old Nenagh / Newport area in 2004, polling 821 votes. In the 2009 elections, she moved to the new Nenagh / Borrisokane district and took 1,502 votes.
FG will now have to do the number crunching. Cllr Bugler was elected in 2004 on 1,450 votes, coming in fourth, but increased this in 2009 to top the poll with 1,580. McCormack’s votes remained more or less static, gaining 854 votes in 2004 and 863 in 2009.
Tom Berkery, who is making a comeback, is a veteran, having served on the council from 1991 until 2004, and contested Dail elections as a running mate for David Moloney and Noel Coonan. However, he is regarded as a rural candidate and will probably be tasked with going after votes in places such as Templederry and across to Newport. How effective he would be at picking up Cllr Bugler’s Ballina base remains to be seen.
Town councillor Tom Moylan lost out in 2009 falling short of the quota by around 400 votes, and a lot will be expected of him next time round.
Fianna Fail has yet to choose its candidates, but it is likely to field sitting councillor John Carroll, with Mattie Ryan “Coole” assured of a nomination if he runs. The difficulty it faces is veteran Cllr Jim Casey from Cloughjordan is not standing and the party has no new Nenagh face to seek the town vote. One replacement would be former councillor, TD and Junior Minister Maire Hoctor, but the secondary school teacher has married since losing her Dail seat and has so far shown no appetite for returning to the political stage. Another option would be former councillor Tom Harrington, who, it is beleived, is interested in the nomination.
Meanwhile, Cllr Darcy paid tribute to Cllr Bugler, saying: “She was a good worker for her area.”
However, he pointed out that HQ would add a candidate or candidates at a later stage, though that there would be no great rush to make a decision.
Cllr Delaney also thanked Cllr Bugler for her contribution to FG.
“Naturally enough I am disappointed but I respect the wishes of the members who voted and wish the three candidates selected the best of luck in next May’s elections.
“I also want to thank everyone who voted for me at the convention. There is the possibility of adding candidates to the ticket and if FG asks me to run I would be privileged and honoured to do so. In the meantime, I will continue working as a Fine Gael councillor and serve the people who elected me in 2009.
“On Cllr Bugler withdrawing from the contest, I would like to thank her for her contribution to Fine Gael down through the years and wish her and her family well for the future”.
Cllr Moylan said he was delighted to win a nomination and that his campaign to gain a third seat started last Monday.
He was surprised at Cllr Bugler’s decision not to seek a nomination.
“She is a sitting councillor. The party has the option of adding someone to the ticket,” he said.