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Dan Neville Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Dan Neville

Here is the surprise choice for Fine Gael's new chairman

Charlie Flanagan’s elevation to Cabinet creates a vacancy within Fine Gael that has been filled this evening.

Updated 7.40pm 

DAN NEVILLE HAS been elected as the new chairman of Fine Gael in a surprise move that saw the leadership’s favoured candidate, Paudie Coffey, defeated by a vote of the parliamentary party this evening.

Limerick TD Neville was vice chair to the deputy he now succeeds, Charlie Flanagan, following the Laois-Offaly TD’s elevation to the Cabinet.

Flanagan was made Children’s Minister last week following Frances Fitzgerald’s appointment as Minister for Justice in the wake of the resignation of Alan Shatter.

As reported earlier, Coffey, a TD for Waterford, was seen as the most likely to be elected chair having been the favourite of the party leadership.

However it’s understood members of the five-a-side group of outspoken backbench TDs and those involved in the attempted heave against leader Enda Kenny in 2010 helped to sway the vote in favour of Neville.

Coffey tweeted his support for Neville this evening:

Neville was first elected to the Dáil in 1997 after serving as a Senator on the Labour Panel since 1989.

He was appointed Fine Gael Spokesperson on Mental Health in 2007 and has been outspoken on the issue of suicide, serving as President of the Irish Association of Suicidology. He also sits on the Oireachtas Health Committee.

Neville is a popular figure within the Fine Gael parliamentary party but is unlikely to operate the same way as Flanagan did, the outgoing chair having been outspoken and regularly making himself available to broadcast media to defend the government, as well as criticise the coalition on certain issues. 

Others who put their name forward included Laois-Offaly’s Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Dublin South-Central deputy Catherine Byrne.

Byrne emailed members of the parliamentary party on Sunday evening seeking their support, saying she believed she could be an “effective, impartial chairperson, in listening to and allowing all strands of opinions and ideas to be heard and discussed”.

Cork North West TD Áine Collins, who sits on the Public Accounts Committee, and Galway East deputy Paul Connaughton, a member of the rebel five-a-side group of backbench TDs, had also been speculated about as possible candidates in recent days, but they did not formally submit their names before yesterday’s deadline.

Read: Fine Gael councillor scratched in face while canvassing in Clonakilty

Read: These Fine Gael TDs will serve on banking inquiry – but no decision on second Labour member

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