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.
Addressing party members 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 year 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 last night, with members claiming Mr Kenny’s performance over the past four years has “saved the European concept” and ensured he is “synonymous” with the recovery in Ireland.
However, despite the party support, speaking to reporters before the event took place the Taoiseach was faced with 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”.
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.
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 a foreign phone calls controversy earlier this year — is in a less stable position.
Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesman Dara Calleary is likely to retain his seat, leaving Ms Mulherin to fight it out with Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne, Fianna Fáil councillor Lisa Chambers, and Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin.
Fine Gael has now announced all candidates for the upcoming general election, other than a small number of additions to raise its current 26% gender quota rate to the required 30%.
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