Party members angry as Fianna Fáil selection conventions planned for bank holiday weekend

Party members angry as Fianna Fáil selection conventions planned for bank holiday weekend
Billy Kelleher pictured with Michéal Martin

Fianna Fáil members are furious that the party has organised EU parliament selection conventions for St Patrick's weekend.

While the party has chosen former minister Barry Andrews to contest in the Dublin constituency, there is still a long list of candidates who are seeking the nomination to run in the two remaining electoral areas.

The Ireland South Convention will take place on Saturday, March 16 - the same afternoon as Ireland play their last Six Nations rugby match. The Midlands North-West will take place the night before on March 15 in Longford.

Nominations closed this week with seven people put forward in the Ireland South constituency including sitting TDs Billy Kelleher and John McGuinness.

Seamus McGrath, the brother of sitting TD Michael, has also been selected as has Malcolm Byrne, Jason Fitzpatrick, senator Ned O'Sullivan and Ciarán Hartley who was Fianna Fáil's substitute for Brian Crowley.

It is expected that Billy Kelleher will be selected at the convention which will take place in Clonmel, Co Tipperary. However, supporters are worried that many conservative members of the party may move to block Mr Kelleher's nomination given his vocal support of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Party officials are also worried that there may be a low turnout at both conventions because of the weekend they are being held. However, it is understood that the Fianna Fáil constituencies committee are eager to pick candidates as soon as possible.

Nine people have received nominations to run in the Midlands North-West region. This includes sitting TDs Anne Rabbitte and Brendan Smith, sitting senator Aidan Davitt and former Donegal TD Niall Blaney.

John Comer a former chairman of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) will also contest along with Dundalk-based Dr Dilip Mahapatra Gerry Bridgett, Sean Hennelly and councillor Naoise Ó Cearúil.

Fianna Fáil's national constituencies committee has directed that one candidate be selected to run in each area, however, it is expected that other candidates could be added after convention.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has selected seven candidates across the country including former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and former leader of the SDLP Mark Durkan who both hope to take a seat in Dublin.

The Green party has selected one candidate in each of the three constituencies.

Outgoing general secretary of the INTO, Sheila Nunan, is among Labour's candidates in the May elections.

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