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The general election is expected in the next 12 months. Alamy Stock Photo
Waterford

FG mayor at centre of €700k landfill row retracts Dáil bid after decrying 'crumbling' party numbers

Declan Doocey withdrew his candidacy for the party in the next general election just minutes before members cast their ballots this evening.

A FINE GAEL councillor who has been at the centre of controversy over a €700,000 bill with his own council withdrew his candidacy for the party in the next general election just minutes before members cast their ballots.

Declan Doocey made the decision after the party’s selection convention heard that it would be pursuing a single candidate strategy for the Dáil. 

Instead, senator John Cummins was selected to stand for the party in the election, which is expected to take place at some point in the next 12 months.

Doocey interrupted the chair of the meeting, Kildare South TD Martin Heydon, and said he would withdraw his candidacy “in the interests of unity” and support Cummins.

The decision was met with applause and Cummins was confirmed as the party’s nominee.

Earlier, outlining his bid to stand for the party in the Dáil, Doocey warned that the party had been “crumbling”, until Simon Harris became leader.

He pointed to a fall in membership “from 700 to 275 registered to vote” at this evening’s meeting in the Granville Hotel in Waterford city.

IMG_8400 Declan Doocey at tonight's meeting.

He had previously taken aim at the Green Party, saying that Fine Gael has been giving its coalition partner “too much power”, claiming that it has been “making it impossible to farm” in Ireland.

Cummins had been expected to receive the party’s nomination, and had himself pointed to having the support of many of the party’s Waterford councillors and its local election candidates ahead of tonight’s gathering.

The 36-year-old was elected to the Seanad in 2020 and is currently Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Prior to that, he had served as Mayor of Waterford on two occasions during an 11-year council career.

“I am honoured to have received the overwhelming backing of the Fine Gael membership in Waterford to contest the next General Election on behalf of the party I have been proud to represent for the past fifteen years,” Cummins said afterwards.

Local party reaction

A number of local election candidates expressed disquiet to The Journal about Doocey’s decision to stand for the nomination while his dispute with Waterford City and County Council remains live.

“That was not for me to [say], it’s up to himself but personally I don’t,” Councillor Frank Quinlan said.

Another election candidate said the issue had come up on the doorsteps, often as “people saying it under their breath”, with the issue raised directly on a small number of occasions.

IMG_8367 Local Fine Gael members at tonight's selection convention in Waterford.

Fine Gael has stood two candidates at every election in the constituency for several decades. However, the last election in 2020 was the first time since the 1960s that it had failed to take any seat in the county.

This has partly brought about the single candidate strategy leading to Cummins’s selection tonight.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Simon Harris paid tribute to Cummins in a statement: “John and I were both members of Young Fine Gael together and were elected to our respective councils in 2009.

“While we take nothing for granted, I believe a dynamic, diligent and enthusiastic candidate like John is well positioned to win back a Dáil seat for Fine Gael in the Waterford constituency.”

Cummins told local party members said that the upcoming retirements of a third of the party’s current Dáil representation could work in his favour after the next election.

While the “media make a virtue” of the party’s retirements, Cummins argued that the vacancies also mean he could be the region’s “most senior” Fine Gael TD if elected next time.

Doocey controversy

Doocey has been at the centre of controversy due to his plastic waste recycling company operating a toxic waste dump in his local area.

Costs arising from clearing the site came to €739,000, with a State auditor criticising Waterford City and County Council for its failure to collect those costs from Doocey over the affair.

Following fresh criticism from the Department of Housing and Local Government auditor, Doocey insisted to The Journal last January that he will be “exonerated” eventually.

He alleged at the time that he was “unfairly targeted” despite other cases of “hundreds of thousands of tonnes” of waste stored around the country, while he claimed his waste was “tidy, segregated” and ready to be disposed of before the council took action.

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