Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told party delegates they must not "hand" the economy to "unknown quantities with unknown intentions" who might "wreck" any recovery after he and two other Fine Gael TDs in his constituency were selected unopposed to run in the upcoming general election.
Speaking to party members who repeatedly claimed he "saved the country" at the Mayo selection convention in Claremorris, the Fine Gael leader said the issue is not an abstract view but directly impacts on "yourselves, your families and your children" in the future.
The late night event became a de-facto walk-through as 300 Fine Gael members backed him, junior sports minister Michael Ring and backbench TD Michelle Mulherin to run unopposed on a three-person ticket in a constituency Fine Gael dominated in 2011, winning four of five seats available at the time.
However, despite the strong position, Mr Kenny - who is weeks away from his 40th years as a TD - insisted he and party colleagues must not assume they will still hold the political stranglehold after the next election and that Fine Gael will only obtain "back to back governments" if "you work for it".
The view was widely backed by Fine Gael delegates tonight, with members claiming Mr Kenny's performance over the past four years has "saved the European concept", "saved the country" and ensured he is "synonymous" with the recovery in Ireland.
And it was further emphasised by fellow candidate and TD, junior sports minister Michael Ring, who said Ireland must not hand the economy back to "the Germans or the Brits" and instead remember the era before the last election when Mr Ring said he was "backing Fianna Fáil in the Dáil" as he was "afraid" of what might happen to the country.
"Fine Gael has saved Ireland not once, not twice but three times," Mr Ring said, adding that he did not want to see "Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams sharing the taoiseach" position "or that Independent from Wexford [Mick Wallace] becoming minister for finance" - situations he claimed would lead to a repeat of the early 1980s political instability, when there were three elections in 18 months.
Despite the internal party support, speaking to reporters before event took place the Taoiseach was faced with a different issues such as rent certainty and concern in his own constituency that he has not ensured the recovery has reached his own area.
Mr Kenny rejected claims Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Environment Minister Alan Kelly continue to be at odds over how to solve Ireland's rental bubble crisis, insisting it only "seems" that way and "seeming is not happening".
Asked how the party will be able to address the related homelessness crisis when the focus is on longer-term supply instead of short-term need, he repeated the view that "the real challenge here is you have to increase the number" of houses, as "if you have 19 rooms [instead of one] it's a very different matter".
While Fine Gael dominated the five-seat Mayo constituency in 2011 - returning the three current candidates and John O Mahony, who has since moved to Galway West - and is aiming to retain its three seats in the now four-seater, the party is likely to face considerable competition for the positions.
Mr Kenny is almost certain to romp home in a region he has represented since November 1975 and Mr Ring is also predicted to comfortably retain his seat.
However, Ms Mulherin - who sparked controversy earlier this year over foreign phone calls to a work associate - is in a less stable position.
Fianna Fáil's jobs spokesperson is likely to retain his seat in the constituency, leaving Ms Mulherin to fight it out with Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne should he run, Fianna Fáil councillor Lisa Chambers and Sinn Féin's Rose Conway-Walsh for the final position.
The Fine Gael selection convention tonight means the larger Government party has now announced all candidates it is expected to run in the upcoming general election, other than a small number of potential additions to be decided by its executive council - likely to involve women needed to raise its current 26% gender quota rate to the required 30%.
Coalition colleagues Labour are also due to conclude their selection conventions, with tonight's walk through in Kerry for sitting TD Arthur Spring to be followed by conventions in Cork East and Cork South West later this week and Westmeath over the next month.