An internal war has broken out in Fine Gael over election selection for Cork North West, with former TD Áine Collins declaring she feels “betrayed” by a party decision to woo an independent politician onto the ticket.
Fine Gael consider regaining a second seat in the three-seater as crucial in its “trench warfare” with Fianna Fáil if it is to regain lost positions in Munster and ultimately succeed in the next general election.
Local businesswoman and former TD Ms Collins told the Irish Examiner, however, that she felt “betrayed” and “shocked” by Fine Gael’s decision to try and get Independent councillor John Paul O’Shea on board for the party’s election hopes.
Ms Collins was elected alongside Michael Creed, the agriculture minister, in Cork North West in 2011 when Fine Gael swept into power with 48% of votes in the three-seater. She was the first women to get elected there. But the 2016 vote returned Mr Creed and two Fianna Fáil TDs, Michael Moynihan and Aindrias Moynihan. Ms Collins and Mr O’Shea both missed out on the last seat.
Senior Fine Gael sources confirmed over the weekend that Mr O’Shea has been asked to apply to join Fine Gael and that a selection convention will take place by the summer.
Mr O’Shea told the Irish Examiner yesterday he was weighing up his options.
“They were in touch with me; discussions are ongoing,” he said.
But the prospect of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael headquarters turning to an independent to try and regain two of the three seats in Cork North West has astonished Ms Collins, who warned of the effect on local support.
“I was a bit surprised, and first saw this in the media. I was ready to run when asked before Christmas. I’ll be contesting the convention and will let members decide. I stood for them in tough times. I would feel betrayed [by this]. That is politics.”
“The local members will decide this. Fine Gael is in a good place now.”
Ms Collins confirmed she is waiting to speak to the Fine Gael leadership on the matter and has concerns that the party may allow one candidate be selected and then add another name later.
But sources at party headquarters say they must do the best to win back a second seat. Party figures believe Mr O’Shea could be well placed to help do this, based in Lombardstown in the north of the constituency, running alongside Mr Creed, based in Macroom in the south. Mr O’Shea also picked up significant transfers in 2016.
No final decision has been made on who will contest the selection convention or whether HQ will add a name. A senior Fine Gael source said: “This is trench warfare and we need to make gains in Munster. If we do, we can put Fianna Fáil back in their box for 10 years and end [Micheál] Martin.”
Similar FG second-seat retrievals are being sought in Cork East and South West.
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