Former minister Mary O’Rourke said that she believes the party is “running scared” over filling the female gender quota.
Selecting a candidate for Dún Laoghaire, and the gender quota issue, are expected to be raised at a meeting today of senior party strategists, finalising an approach to potential candidates in up to 12 Dáil constituencies.
Three of the four hopeful candidates declared, even before nominations open in Dún Laoghaire, are female.
A senior source warned of a possibility of FF’s national constituencies committee issuing a directive for a female-only candidate.
Councillors there include ex-minister Mary Hanafin, Kate Feeney, and Jennifer Cuffe, along with male candidate Cormac Devlin.
Ms O’Rourke yesterday said: “The democratic process has to win out. The party is running scared when it comes to the female candidate.
“This gender issue is making the matter in Dún Laoghaire very partisan, which is not helpful to the party there and indeed countrywide.
“If Fianna Fáil want to have a candidate elected to the constituency then they need to put forward the strongest person. While all the candidates are strong, such as Mary Hanafin, who has a track record, I believe Cormac Devlin will have the majority vote at the party convention.”
Sources said the party was in a conundrum.
“A recent constituency poll placed Devlin ahead of Hanafin but, worryingly for the party, the results suggest if the party runs both candidates they might split the vote and fail to take a seat,” the source said.
The constituency is a four-seater but the automatic re-election of the Ceann Comhairle, Fine Gael’s Seán Barrett, will effectively reduce it to a three-seater.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett
The constituency was once a Fianna Fáil stronghold, returning two seats, but the party’s share of the vote was down to 15.23% at the last election.
Ms Hanafin held a seat from 1997 until 2011 and was elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in last year’s local elections.
Mr Devlin said: “There has been a lot of ill-informed speculation in the media. Fianna Fáil is a democratic party and its rules don’t allow for discrimination based on gender.
“I fully expect a free and fair convention to take place in the coming weeks.”