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Alan Shatter's fight for redemption in south Dublin

The former justice minister could struggle to win the backing of Fine Gael members in his own constituency.

ALAN SHATTER IS facing a tough internal battle to ensure he can even be in the race to retain his Dáil seat at the next election.

The former justice minister has already declared his intention to run for re-election, but securing enough support from party members in Dublin Rathdown may prove problematic.

The constituency, formerly known as Dublin South, has been reduced from five seats to three and will be hotly-contested by all parties with as many as five sitting TDs and one senator going for the three seats. Unsurprisingly, it’s been labelled the ‘constituency of death’.

Despite this it’s considered one of the few in the country where Fine Gael can take two seats at the next election having taken three four years ago.

The party has scheduled a selection convention for 2 October with nomination papers distributed in the last week. Party headquarters is also currently conducting private polling in the constituency to determine candidate strategy.

At least two Fine Gael candidates will run and this is considered by many to be the optimum ticket. However, picking those candidates may prove the most interesting battle with at least four names in the running.

Olivia Mitchell, who has represented the area as a TD since 1997, has confirmed to TheJournal.ie this week that she intends to run again despite speculation to the contrary.

George Lee steps down Olivia Mitchell Source: PA WIRE

She is almost certain to win the overwhelming backing of party members at convention.

But Shatter‘s selection is far from certain with constituency sources claiming he may not have sufficient support among the members.

“This time last year everyone assumed he would retire so some people are worried that it’s him trying to get redemption,” said one.

The constituency redraw has reduced the number of Fine Gael members from over 400 to around 230 with some of Shatter’s supporters now moved into Dublin South-West.

Historically, Shatter has not always performed strongly at selection conventions despite having been a TD for the area since 1981 with the exception of five years out of the Dáil between 2002 and 2007.

The veteran Fine Gael TD has sought to increase his profile both nationally – with poetry readings and an appearance on ‘The Restaurant’ – and in the constituency since losing his cabinet post in a blaze of controversy last year.

He made a passionate speech on abortion and divorce to local members in February and very publicly came out in support of the family of Ibrahim Halawa. The father of the jailed teenager is imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh.

He also recently circulated a leaflet that was notably devoid of the level of Fine Gael branding that others TDs have:

Shatter’s strongest opponent for the Fine Gael nomination appears to be the two-term Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillor Neale Richmond.

The Ballinteer-based councillor, who got married this summer, has been quietly building up support and a national media profile in recent months. Richmond is expected to declare his intention to contest the convention shortly.

He is also a close ally of Mitchell’s having previously worked as her campaign manager and parliamentary assistant.

fg-video-6 Neale Richmond appeared in a Fine Gael video on the art of canvassing last year. Source: This helpful video tells Fine Gael candidates how to behave on the doorstep

Another councillor who is hoping to be on the ticket is Josepha Madigan who was elected for the first time last year and declared her intentions on Facebook this week.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the family law practitioner said she had been building up support and momentum since she was elected last year.

However, Madigan admitted there is a lot of uncertainty about who party members will nominate, saying:

I think there are a lot of imponderables in our constituency. There are two incumbent TDs, both with very high profiles. The other two contenders, Neale and I, have considerably less of a profile but we both have a lot to offer. It’s up to the members, this is the reality of it.

madigan Josepha Madigan Source: Facebook

Another potential contender is Barry Saul, a Stillorgan-based councillor, who was first elected in 2009. However, he told us this week he will not be putting his name forward if the two sitting TDs follow through on their intentions to run again.

“It’s one of the constituencies in the country where Fine Gael has a very strong chance of getting two seats out of three. In fact it’s probably the only constituency where Fine Gael can do this, but I think that would require both sitting TDs running,” he said.

He does not believe the controversies surrounding Shatter will impact the former minister or Fine Gael’s hopes of winning two seats. Saul added:

“He has gone through the mill with a little bit of controversy but I think people will have serious choices to make and it might not necessarily about personalities, but about whether you want a Sinn Féin-led government or a Fine Gael-led government. I think Alan has strong support.”

Shatter was out of the country this week and did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Outside of Fine Gael many observers expect that independent TD Shane Ross will easily retain his seat.

Bank of Ireland AGM Shane Ross Source: Niall Carson

He topped the poll in 2011 and is hoping that his new Independent Alliance project will help return him to the Dáil.

Labour party minister Alex White is considered to be in big trouble and would upset the odds if he retained his seat.

Fianna Fáil hopes that senator Mary White can help the party regain a foothold in a constituency represented by the late Seamus Brennan for over 25 years.

Sinn Féin is running Dundrum-based councillor Sorcha Nic Cormaic, while Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin is hoping to regain a seat the party lost in 2011 when Eamon Ryan (now running in Dublin Bay South) was dumped by voters. People Before Profit is running Nicola Curry.

Finally, the intentions of ex-Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews, who was a late and ultimately ill-fated addition to the FG ticket four years ago, are unclear although he has previously said he will run.

Read: Will these men lose out in Fianna Fáil’s desperate hunt for women?

Revealed: How Fine Gael plans to fight the next general election

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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