Cllr Dara Murphy, one of two Fine Gael candidates running for election in Cork North Central, sent a letter to voters in the parish of Mourne Abbey, an area earmarked for fellow candidate Cllr Pat Burton, calling for their number 1.
The letter, signed by FG Senator Paul Bradford, recommended voters in Mourne Abbey give Mr Murphy their first preference. In fact, the party had already agreed Mourne Abbey was Burton territory and Mr Bradford had already endorsed Mr Burton in the area and asked parishioners to give him their first preference.
However, the letter that voters in Mourne Abbey received yesterday morning emphasised how Mr Murphy was “singularly successful” during his time as Lord Mayor of Cork city and that Mr Bradford would “personally recommend” people vote for him.
Mr Murphy sent the same letter to voters in Glenville and Watergrasshill, Co Cork last week, but this was in accordance with FG’s vote management strategy.
Last night Mr Burton said “maybe guys are doing things a little beyond themselves in the heat of the moment” but that he was “not bitter”.
“These things happen in elections. My attitude is I want to get on with the job,” Mr Burton said.
Mr Bradford said he was disappointed if the incident had caused any embarrassment to Mr Burton, but that he accepted the explanation from Mr Murphy that the letters had been sent in error. “I’d be disappointed if it caused any confusion in Mourne Abbey where I have been asking people to give Mr Burton their number 1,” Mr Bradford said.
However outgoing FG TD Bernard Allen said the incident “could put the quest for two seats at risk”.
“People should realise that these areas are allocated by HQ and people should respect that,” he said.
FG’s director of elections in Cork North Central, Owen Cafferkey, said Mr Murphy had assured him he would rectify the matter by this morning by sending another letter to the Mourne Abbey electorate pointing out the error he had made and asking that Pat Burton get their number 1.
“As director of elections, I wanted the electoral divide to last, so of course I was annoyed, but these things happen,” Mr Cafferkey said.
Mr Murphy said the letter was sent to Mourne Abbey parish in error.
“I am still very happy to be endorsed by Paul Bradford in most of Cork East,” Mr Murphy said.
“The letter was sent our in error and we are remedying it with local people,” he added.
He said the letter would “explain the error” but “doesn’t actually apologise”.
The FG party strategy is for the Mr Burton, a Blarney-based councillor, to target voters west of a line through Shandon and Blackpool in the city and in western parts of the four-seat constituency, while Mr Murphy is focusing his efforts east of that line, including his own north-east ward of the city.