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Late call-up rankles FF’s rank and file



Shane Curran, Fianna Fáil General Election candidate in the Roscommon-Galway constituency, during his canvass at Ballinasloe Mart at the weekend.

Fianna Fail is going into this week’s election, split down the middle in the new Roscommon/Galway constituency – over the late addition of a second candidate to the ticket.

The party had first nominated Strokestown’s Eugene Murphy as their sole candidate – but then in the last minute they added former Roscommon goalkeeper Shane Curran.

That has seen a clear division within the Fianna Fail ranks in Roscommon, with many grassroots members feeling that Murphy has been badly treated by the party.

All of this follows a series of fraught Fianna Fail meetings in the constituency over the past few months at which former bye-election candidate Cllr Ivan Connaughton from Athleague and Cllr Rachel Doherty, daughter of the late Justice Minister Sean Doherty, openly clashed.

It ended up with neither of them being on the ballot paper.

Curran has been somewhat of a controversial addition to the Fianna Fail ticket in that it was assumed that Fianna Fail were going to run just one candidate in the three-seater.

Recently Curran caused some bemusement on an RTE discussion panel when he managed to include a political and religious reference to the GAA championship structure.

He said that football could not exist in 20 years’ time and the game might go the same way as the church and Fianna Fail unless there were radical changes.

The new constituency of Roscommon-Galway has independents Mick Fitzmaurice and Denis Naughten as odds-on favourites, joined by Fine Gael’s Maura Hopkins from Ballaghaderreen.

But there is a major push behind the Fianna Fail candidates in a desperate effort to try and win one seat in the constituency although many of the party faithful are not best pleased with the selection process.



Naughten asserts his independence at fifth time of asking



It took poll-topper Denis Naughten five elections and a third different constituency to win the vote of the people as an independent.

And it was all the more sweet for him as a result, admitted the former Fine Gael TD, who polled 2,515 first preference votes over the quota in the newly formed Roscommon-Galway constituency.

“People are sick and tired of being taken for granted – that this is a Fianna Fáil house, that is a Fine Gael house – young and old people want a change, they want strong individual TDs who are going to fight for their area,” he insisted, minutes after his election.

“Whichever TD comes out, we will work together on a non-partisan basis for the betterment of the constituency rather than the age old practice of criticising each other. We cannot deliver for this constituency if we bicker among ourselves.”

Deputy Naughten said he was particularly heartened at the phenomenal vote he won from the Galway side of the electorate, having won election previously in Roscommon-Longford and Roscommon-Leitrim.

“I didn’t want to be seen as a Roscommon candidate. The people of East Galway felt abandoned in this constituency. I’ve always reiterated whoever’s elected represented both parts of the constituency, after all Ballinasloe is the economic driver of the region and we have an awful lot in common in terms of pressure on our health services and the need to shore up Portiuncla Hospital and improve the ambulance service.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Fine Gael’s geography lesson



New Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon Galway Eugene Murphy being congratulated by newly weds Niamh Kiernan and Seamus Anderson at the Abbey Hotel Roscommon after a big day for all three of them.

Fine Gael is reviewing the decision which effectively resulted in the party not running a candidate in Ballinasloe – a move which many feel cost the party a vital seat.

Fine Gael headquarters issued a directive to select just one candidate for the Roscommon-Galway constituency and it proved to be a disastrous move.

But not having a candidate in the Ballinasloe end of the constituency meant that Deputy Denis Naughten mopped votes that enabled him to end up more than 2,000 votes more than required to exceed the quota.

The clear run resulted in Naughten sweeping up more than 1,000 first preferences in Ballinasloe town alone. In the Creagh NS box he received almost 400 first preferences, according to the tally figures.

There were two nominated to contest the Fine Gael constituency in the Roscommon-Galway constituency – Cllr Maura Hopkins from Ballaghaderreen in the north of the constituency and Senator Michael Mullins in Ballinasloe.

But then a directive came down from FG headquarters instructing that only one candidate be selected at convention which prompted Senator Mullins to withdraw from the race.

“We left the goal wide open for Naughten to score . . . and by jaysus did he take up the opportunity,” declared Fine Gael’s Cllr Michael Finnerty who had been pushing for a FG candidate in Ballinasloe.

The tally figures show that Maura Hopkins received just over 850 votes in the Ballinasloe area and only lost out on a seat to FF’s Eugene Murphy by a relatively small margin.

Fine Gael now accept that had they run ‘a sweeper’ in Ballinasloe, they would have probably won a seat in the constituency.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Fitzmaurice warning on future of rural Ireland



Michael Fitzmaurice in a buoyant mood after being elected.

Victorious Galway/ Roscommon Independent candidate Michael Fitzmaurice – re-elected to Dail Éireann for the second time in 14 months – has insisted that if smaller towns in rural Ireland are not given “a leg up” then the country is going to lose part of its rural tradition and way of life.

Mr. Fitzmaurice has been one of the strongest campaigners for rural Ireland in recent years and this certainly was not lost on the voters of the hybrid Galway/Roscommon constituency as they bestowed a first preference vote of 9,750 on the Glinsk man.

Indeed, with other Independents around the country securing similar tallies, including Denis Naughten who topped the poll in the Galway/Roscommon constituency with 13,936, Mr. Fitzmaurice believed the message from rural Ireland was very clear.

“Health is obviously a huge issue – be it mental health and general health – but the revival of rural Ireland and providing jobs is another,” said Mr. Fitzmaurice at the count centre in Hyde Park Roscommon.

“I have a document ready to go that I have done on rural Ireland and the revival of it. If we don’t get broadband, if we don’t have banking infrastructure and if we don’t basically give a leg up to the smaller towns, then we are going to lose part of our rural tradition and way of life.

“So, these things have to be done. If we don’t have regional development there will be more of a magnet going to Dublin which causes its own problems. It has to happen and Governments for too long are talking about it and not delivering on the principles we stand for.”

Mr. Fitzmaurice, elected on the sixth count last Saturday, stressed it was time for those in power to listen to the people and begin to embrace the proposals put forward by Independents such as himself with a view to reinvigorating rural communities.

“Our proposals are not revolutionary or anything. They are pretty straightforward stuff. A lot of politicians will agree with it but none of them have delivered on it for the past 20 or 30 years.

“Everyone touches on all these things but the one thing we want to do in a programme for Government is make sure they are pushing it and make sure they are adhered to.”

He hoped though that he and other Independents would now be in a position to push for measures to improve the plight of people in rural Ireland. “Our hand will be getting stronger. There are other Independents I have spoken to today in different parts of the country and there is a responsibility on us to work together and make sure we deliver for the people.

“If the opportunity comes that we are given the opportunity to be in Government or put together a programme for Government we have to make sure that is right for the people.

“If it doesn’t happen, and the two big bedfellows (Fine Gael and Fianna Fail) go together, then there is also a need for an opposition that makes the Government accountable. I think there are equally opportunities coming if the two big parties come together. We can be the largest opposition (group).”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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