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Why Fine Gael left this 'fraught' internal battle until the end

Former minister John Perry is in danger of not being selected by Fine Gael at Friday’s Sligo-Leitrim convention

John Perry was Minister of State for Small Business until the reshuffle last year.
John Perry was Minister of State for Small Business until the reshuffle last year.
Image: RollingNews.ie

FORMER MINISTER JOHN Perry faces an uphill battle to ensure he is on the Fine Gael general election ticket in Sligo-Leitrim in what’s being described as one of the party’s most difficult internal selection conventions.

Perry, who was dropped as a junior minister last year, said he has “no doubt” he will be selected by members at the convention, which is Fine Gael’s second last, this Friday.

However, the party is likely to issue a directive that would pit him against his fellow Sligo TD Tony McLoughlin in the redrawn constituency and Fine Gael sources believe Perry may be unable to win enough support to finish ahead of McLoughlin.

Four-seat Sligo-Leitrim (formerly three-seat Sligo-North Leitrim) has been redrawn ahead of the next election with the constituency now incorporating parts of west Cavan and south Donegal.

Fine Gael is likely to favour a two-candidate strategy with one candidate from Sligo and one from Leitrim. While Perry and McLoughlin are both based in Sligo, two candidates have emerged in Leitrim, senator Michael Comiskey and former TD, senator and county councillor Gerry Reynolds who lost his Dáil seat in 2002.

McLoughlin and Comiskey both told TheJournal.ie they favour a two-candidate strategy where one is from Sligo and the other from Leitrim. Perry declined to express a view while Reynolds could not be contacted.

comiskey Micheal Comiskey Source: Twitter

One Fine Gael source with knowledge of the situation has told TheJournal.ie that Perry could be “finished” saying the “collective view around the party” is to run two candidates, with one from the Sligo end and the other based in Leitrim. They added:

This is one of the most difficult conventions in the country, there’s no point denying that.

Last month, the Irish Times reported that supporters of Perry had threatened a court injunction against Fine Gael in a dispute over the eligibility of members who are expected to support the long-serving TD.

Members from a number of Sligo branches have been excluded from voting as, according to party rules, they have not been registered and paid-up members for two or more years.

There are over 1,000 Fine Gael members in the constituency with over 500 of these based in Leitrim, around 300 based in Sligo, 140 in Cavan and roughly 40 in Donegal.

File Photo Fine Gael TD John Perry appointed his wife to a 38,000 euro a year position after losing his job as minister for small business in a Government reshuffle. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The informed Fine Gael source described the legal process as “fraught” but said the party was confident in its stance and that the members in question will not be allowed to vote.

John feels the party is out to get him but these members were not affiliated on time.

Perry distanced himself from the reported legal action, saying he had not been aware of it and was not responsible “for what anyone else does”.

The former small business minister insisted he was confident he will be the candidate, telling this website:

I have a huge level of support of the region. I am confident I’ll be selected… I have no doubt at all about it.

But Perry would not comment on whether a two-candidate strategy, with one from Sligo and one from Leitrim, should be pursued, saying: “I have a view, but I wouldn’t be expressing the view to you.”

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tony mcl Tony McLoughlin Source: Twitter

McLoughlin said if he would prefer if there was only one candidate from Sligo, and another from Leitrim.

He said: “I certainly hope, as a sitting TD, to be able to be on the ticket. I know, with the size of the constituency now, that a two candidate strategy may be the preferred option but with two sitting TDs in Sligo it’s hard to know how it will pan out.”

Comiskey said there “definitely” has to be a candidate from Leitrim and said he was “quietly optimistic” it will be him. He added:

I am out talking to delegates, putting in a huge campaign and I am reasonably confident that I will come through. So I’m not going to comment on John Perry.

If Perry fails to be selected by members, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, whose own convention in Mayo next Monday night is Fine Gael’s last, could come under pressure to add the former minister.

However, a three-candidate Fine Gael ticket would likely make it more difficult for the party to hold its two seats.

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin is hoping to take two seats with the party running Martin Kenny and Chris MacManus. Fianna Fáil has selected senator Marc MacSharry and Eamon Scanlon, Labour is running senator Susan O’Keeffe. Renua has picked Finbar Filan, brother of Westlife’s Shane Filan.

Analysis: Why nobody is a winner after Enda forgoes a cheeky election

Read: Sinn Féin selects Cork East candidate, as TD at centre of bullying storm confirms she won’t run

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Hugh O'Connell

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