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Mitchell unlikely to attend Fine Gael's post-election meeting

The party’s failed presidential candidate has returned to Brussels as Fine Gael looks set to examine where it went wrong in the Race for the Áras.

L-R: Gay Mitchell, James Reilly, Enda Kenny and Charlie Flanagan in September (File photo)
L-R: Gay Mitchell, James Reilly, Enda Kenny and Charlie Flanagan in September (File photo)
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

FINE GAEL’S FAILED presidential candidate Gay Mitchell is unlikely to attend a meeting of the parliamentary party tomorrow evening as it looks to assess what went wrong during the election campaign.

The regular Wednesday night meeting is expected to focus on the reasons why its candidate polled so badly in the presidential election. Mitchell polled just 6.4 per cent of first preference votes, making it the party’s worst ever result in a presidential election.

It is understood that Mitchell will not attend tomorrow’s meeting and has already returned to Brussels to continue his work as an MEP for Dublin.

Director of Elections and party chairperson Charlie Flanagan told TheJournal.ie there were a “multitude of reasons” for the poor result but insisted the party had not made the wrong choice in selecting Mitchell ahead of fellow MEP Mairead McGuinness and former European Parliament president Pat Cox.

“Probably the greatest reason [for failing to win] is people opted for someone who wasn’t active in parliamentary politics. That is a feature of presidential elections, they are not party-based elections.

“That has happened in the last two with Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese,” Flanagan said.

‘No craic’

Flanagan said the party had made a “democratic choice” based on the view that Mitchell was “best placed to contribute to the economic recovery” because of his work in European politics and also insisted that the party leadership was fully behind the former government minister.

“From the outset, Enda Kenny showed his support for Gay Mitchell,” Flanagan, TD for Laois-Offaly, said.

“Enda was seen more with Gay then Eamon Gilmore was seen with Michael D Higgins or Gerry Adams was seen with Martin McGuinness. It is wrong to say the leadership didn’t actively canvass with Gay.”

Flanagan, who will draft a report on the election outcome as is normal procedure, also rejected claims by one senior campaign source in yesterday’s Irish Independent that “there was no craic with Gay” on the campaign trail.

Flanagan said: “It’s not about that at all. It’s about the presidency. It was a serious election as we are in a serious position.”

Read: Chief whip says there is no rift in Fine Gael >

Read: What’s in store for the presidential losers?

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Hugh O'Connell

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