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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
Trouble Brewing

Enda Kenny's secret list of women is causing ructions in Fine Gael

It’s not just Fine Gael TDs who are annoyed about the special group of potential election candidates, some of those on it are equally displeased that details of it leaked.

LAST MONTH, THE Irish Independent reported on the existence of a secret group of potential Fine Gael general election candidates who are being offered advanced training by the party.

The 24 potential candidates are mostly councillors and 17 of them are women with the group dubbed ‘Enda Kenny’s secret list of women’. The two dozen party members are being provided with training by the Fine Gael party in anticipation that some – but not all – will be selected as candidates for the next general election.

The first training session was held at Dublin’s Red Cow Hotel in October last year with the group given an economic briefing by the Taoiseach’s senior advisor Andrew McDowell and some media training by the PR firm run by Terry Prone, the Communications Clinic.

Further sessions have been held since and another one is planned for next weekend with an ‘away day’ in Kerry also mooted for the spring. The potential candidates are encouraged to keep in touch and have even set up a private Facebook group called ‘Advanced Cllrs’.

The emergence of the group’s existence has caused disquiet in Fine Gael circles with neither the parliamentary party nor the national executive formally told of its existence prior to it being reported on the Irish Independent’s front page. However its existence had been discussed in political circles weeks before it was reported.

The party’s general secretary Tom Curran is understood to have taken criticism from a number of backbench TDs, including those particularly concerned that their Dáil seats could be at risk from the addition of some of the training course participants to their tickets.

Tom Curran Moriarty Tribunals Photocall Ireland! Photocall Ireland!

Curran (above) is understood to have been annoyed that the existence of the group and the training courses was leaked and is likely to raise the issue at the meeting this weekend.

Who leaked it? has also learned there has been considerable unease among some members of the group that its existence was leaked.

A source said there was “shrieking” from some members who demanded that the leaker reveal themselves when the Irish Independent published its story on 6 December. Grievances were aired on the Facebook group with one councillor urging whoever leaked the story to come forward.

“Just pull the plaster off and tell us how it came about,” they said, adding it was important that “we figure out who did it and why”.

While others agreed with the need to find the leaker, some councillors have since expressed surprise at the fuss being created over the story’s emergence.

A source said the course is “nice to be on, but it’s nothing to get too giddy about” while another said it was never stated “the list of members was a secret”.

A further training session is planned at the Red Cow Hotel next Saturday, 17 January. Candidates have been told to work on analysing the profile of their local electoral area and look at how they can input into party policy.

One party source said that the existence of the group is likely to cause much rancour at forthcoming selection conventions where Fine Gael will be attempting to add a number of female candidates to tickets in order to meet the 30 per cent gender balance target.

This is why the ‘advanced councillors’ group is dominated by females with some dubbing them the ‘Elite 17′.

Here’s how the Fine Gael councillors in the group might cause problems in incumbent TDs in various constituencies if they are selected at conventions in the coming months:


Dublin Bay North

Stephanie Regan, the only non-councillor in the group, and councillor Keith Redmond could pose an issue for incumbent TD and jobs minister Richard Bruton in a new five-seater that incorporates all of Dublin North–Central and most of Dublin North–East.

Dublin Bay South 

koc-e1420634550322 Fine Gael / Flickr Fine Gael / Flickr / Flickr

Councillor Kate O’Connell is highly-rated within the party and many expect her to be added to the ticket with incumbent TD Eoghan Murphy. But Fine Gael would struggle to win two seats in the constituency formerly known as Dublin South-East with its former minister Lucinda Creighton sure to poll strongly.

Dublin Mid-West

Fine Gael has two sitting TDs here, including justice minister Frances Fitzgerald and backbencher Derek Keating. The addition of councillor Emer Higgins to the ticket would hamper the party’s chances.

Dublin North West

Councillor Noel Rock has no sitting Fine Gael TD to contend with in this three-seater where he will face a clear path to being selected as the party’s candidate. Rock has a strong local base and is held in high regard by many in the party.

Dublin Rathdown 

Councillors Josepha Madigan and Neale Richmond are based in the constituency formerly known as Dublin South where Fine Gael already has two sitting TDs Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter who hasn’t yet confirmed if he is running again.

Dublin South-West 

AMD Ann-Marie Dermody Ann-Marie Dermody

Fine Gael curretly has no TDs in this constituency after Brian Hayes’s election to the European Parliament, but councillor Anne-Marie Dermody‘s emergence could harm Senator Cait Keane’s ambition to run for the party as she did in the recent by-election.

Dun Laoghaire

Councillor Maria Bailey‘s emergence would be problematic for sitting TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Ceann Comhairle and Fine Gael TD Seán Barrett would be automatically re-elected if he retains his position, although he has recently hinted he could resign before the next election and run on his own merit.


Kildare South

Ambitious councillor Fiona McLoughlin Healy‘s potential selection would pose major issues for incumbent TD Martin Heydon who topped the poll in this three-seater in 2011. However, some believe she is a dead-cert to be nominated.


Councillor Liam Quinn‘s potential addition to the ticket would surely impact on sitting TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy’s hopes of re-election in this new three-seater.


stolan1 Sharon Tolan Sharon Tolan

The addition of one of two councillors, Sharon Tolan (above) or Dolores Minogue, to the ticket here would put the squeeze on incumbent Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick and the disillusioned Fergus O’Dowd who hasn’t been shy about hammering his party over Irish Water. Many expect at least one of the female councillors to run.

Meath East 

Councillor Paddy Meade, who added himself to the group having not originally been invited, is hugely ambitious but what are his chances of being selected in a constituency which includes the equally ambitious TDs Regina Doherty and Helen McEntee.



Councillor Mary Howard‘s emergence would pose a threat to incumbent TDs Pat Breen and Joe Carey and what of Senator Martin Conway who is determined to be a candidate?

Cork East

ss Fine Gael / Flickr Fine Gael / Flickr / Flickr

Councillors Susan McCarthySinead Sheppard (above) and Kay Dawson are all part of the group in a constituency where Fine Gael already has two sitting TDs, David Stanton and Tom Barry. Adding even one of the three to the ticket would be problematic if the two incumbents are also running, but at least one is expected to be added.


Councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen would hope to be added to the Fine Gael ticket in this hugely competitive, redrawn five-seater where incumbent TD Brendan Griffin is already facing an uphill task to retain his seat and has even flirted with quitting the party altogether.

Limerick City 

Finance Minister Michael Noonan says he’ll run again and that’s also likely to be the case with Kieran O’Donnell. So what room, if any, is there for councillor Maria Byrne? Her recent appointment to the European Committee of the Regions suggests she will not run for the Dáil on this occasion.


Galway East

It was reported that incumbent TD Paul Connaughton was particularly unhappy with the emergence of the secret list of candidates, with local councillor Peter Roche involved with the group. Fine Gael also has former minister Ciaran Cannon in this constituency.

Galway West

nb Niamh Byrne / Facebook Niamh Byrne / Facebook / Facebook

Councillor Niamh Byrne would theoretically be the third name on a Fine Gael ticket in a constituency that already includes TDs Brian Walsh and Seán Kyne.


Having performed strongly in the recent by-election, councillor Maura Hopkins, is being tipped to run here. But where does that leave incumbent TD Frank Feighan?


What impact would councillor Sinead Maguire‘s emergence have on the incumbent Fine Gael TDs John Perry, a former junior minister with high-profile financial troubles, and Tony McLoughlin?

First published 8am

Read: Who are the Fine Gael five-a-side club – and just what the hell are they up to?

Read: Is Fine Gael facing an election bloodbath?

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