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Did Fine Gael shaft women in Louth last night?

The party insisted today it was “strongly committed” to increasing the number of female TDs in the next Dáil.

Peter Fitz and Fergus O Fergus O'Dowd and Peter Fitzpatrick Source: RollingNews.ie/Inpho

FINE GAEL HAS been accused of ‘shafting’ women after a controversial directive to members in Louth saw the two sitting male TDs selected to run for re-election.

Incumbent deputies Fergus O’Dowd and Peter Fitzpatrick were last night selected to run for re-election in the Louth-East Meath constituency, leaving some spurned female candidates questioning the party’s commitment to gender quotas.

At a stormy selection convention in Dundalk, constituency members were given a directive from Fine Gael headquarters that one candidate should be from Dundalk and the other from Drogheda.

This led to the selection of the two sitting deputies at the expense of a number of local councillors who had been nominated, including Paddy Meade, Sharon Tolan, Dolores Minogue and Colm Markey.

Ardee-based Minogue told TheJournal.ie this afternoon that she believed her area and women in the party had been “shafted”.

dolores minogue Dolores Minogue Source: Ardee Town Council

“We are sandwiched between the two big towns the whole time. I feel that Fine Gael has now neglected mid Louth again. We’ve missed an opportunity to have a political representative at a national level for mid Louth.

We’ve missed a woman’s voice in mid Louth too. That’s very worrying when when we are supposed to be the party supporting women. I feel women and mid Louth have been shafted by Fine Gael.

Minogue said she was especially disappointed given she had been one of the councillors selected for special training by the party.

“It is disappointing especially when I was one of Enda’s people that was picked to do these meetings. They were a great insight into how the party runs and you’re being trained up for something,” she said.

It’s like being on the football team and you were told to get off. But the team was picked before we went in.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 14.46.41 South Dublin county councillor Emer Higgins said last night was a lost opportunity Source: Facebook

By law, a third of each political parties’ candidates for the next Dáil elections must be female with some observers projecting that Fine Gael will have to add at least three or four women to election tickets across the country.

The party insisted today it was “strongly committed” to increasing the number of female TDs in the next Dáil.

Another failed nominee, Bettystown-based councillor Sharon Tolan, said she was disappointed that members had not been directed to pick three candidates. She described the convention as a “missed opportunity”.

I would have had mixed views on gender quotas because I am anti-token women, but last night showed the importance of quotas in this country. Most incumbents are male and we’re never going to get decent female representation without gender quotas.

Tolan said that members were very angry at not being allowed to vote for the candidates they wanted. She also claimed that some had been in contact with her today to say they’d thrown their Fine Gael membership cards in the bin after last night’s events.

“People were very angry,” she said.

sharon-tolan Sharon Tolan Source: Twitter

Both councillors are hopeful the party might add one of them to the ticket for the five-seat constituency. Minogue said she had been approached by “other people to go in a different direction” but insisted that it is not on her agenda at present.

Speaking to LMFM this morning, Fitzpatrick denied that anyone had been shafted.

The former county football boss u-turned on a decision to step down as a TD last month amid reports he was assured Fine Gael would only pursue a two-candidate strategy in Louth.

He insisted that last night’s directive came on foot of a recommendation of the Fine Gael executive in the constituency. He added:

I would never shaft anybody in my life. I’m a very honest individual.

In a response to questions about the directive to members in Louth, a Fine Gael spokesperson said:

The Fine Gael Executive Council determines candidate strategy, including directives and additions, in each constituency on a case-by–case basis in the interest of seeking to ensure the best possible electoral outcome. The Executive Council is a representative body, elected by the Fine Gael membership.

They added that in government Fine Gael has introduced the gender quotas requirement and insisted: “We are strongly committed to increasing the number of female TDs in the next Dáil.” 

Read: This Fine Gael TD WILL contest the next election after all

Read: Fine Gael hopeful told to ‘get the queers to vote for you’

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Hugh O'Connell

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