Yesterday, Fianna Fáil’s chances of retaining the party’s two seats in Clare received a major boost when consultant psychiatrist Dr Hillery announced his intention to put his name forward for a selection convention this weekend at the West County Hotel in Ennis.
Dr Hillery’s entry into the race puts him in pole position to feature on the Fianna Fáil ticket for the four-seat constituency following the decision of Minister for Defence Tony Killeen to step down from politics for health reasons.
Dr Hillery bears one of the best known names in Clare politics, thanks to the achievements of his father, who was a native of Spanish Point and operated as a GP in the area before becoming a government minister.
If selected, Dr Hillery is expected to join incumbent Timmy Dooley as part of the Fianna Fáil bid to retain the two seats with a two-candidate strategy.
Dr Hillery works in Dublin and has lived in the capital since the age of three when his father was first appointed to Cabinet.
He is prepared to relocate to Clare if elected.
“Of course, but before I think any further on that, I will have to get the support of the convention,” he said.
If Dr Hillery does overcome the hurdle of the convention on Sunday and get elected, he will be repeating the feat of Sile de Valera, who was also Dublin-based before being elected by the Clare electorate to the Dáil.
Dr Hillery admitted he has never been to a Fianna Fáil selection convention before.
A current TD’s salary is €95,550 and Dr Hillery confirmed that if elected he would have to “take a hit of €100,000 in my income as I would take a leave of absence from my job”.
A former president of the Medical Council, Dr Hillery admitted he hadn’t given the idea of running any thought until Mr Killeen announced his retirement. He said: “I have been increasingly disturbed about what has been happening with the country and with the Fianna Fáil party and, rather than just muttering about it, and not doing anything, I have decided to run.”
Dr Hillery said his main concern was what kind of country will be in place for his children.
He also reportedly has concerns over the state of the health system “where people are afraid to get sick where there are ongoing problems with access”.