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Pat Casey says it 'wasn't easy to take' Stephen Donnelly joining Fianna Fáil

The former Social Democrat and independent TD has been sharply critical of Fianna Fáil in the past.

Stephen Donnelly (left) with Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin and Pat Casey at Leinster House yesterday.
Stephen Donnelly (left) with Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin and Pat Casey at Leinster House yesterday.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

FIANNA FÁIL TD Pat Casey has said it “wasn’t easy” for him to take the news Stephen Donnelly was joining the party.

Both men are based in the Wicklow constituency, which Donnelly topped in last year’s general election – when he ran as a Social Democrat, before leaving the party last September to become an independent TD once more.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Casey said: “While it came as an initial shock to me, I wasn’t surprised. I suppose this was mooted five months ago.

“On a personal level I have to take it on board. I equally have to agree with Micheál Martin on his vision for moving the party forward.

“We can all be cynical … It wasn’t easy for me to take this news yesterday.

On a personal level, my challenge of winning a seat for myself next time has got a lot harder as of yesterday’s result, but equally I have to look at the picture of the party moving forward and, if we are to form a credible alternative government next time, constituencies like Wicklow have to deliver two seats for Fianna Fáil.

“We now have two sitting Fianna Fáil TDs in Wicklow. This time last year we had no TD.”

Donnelly has been sharply critical of Fianna Fáil in the past. He is now on the party’s front bench as Brexit spokesperson. Casey is the party’s junior spokesperson on urban renewal and housing.

When asked about Donnelly immediately getting a front bench position, Casey said: “Stephen, I suppose, has done five years at national level ahead of me. Equally, I would have a lot more local government knowledge than Stephen would have so … swings and roundabouts. We do the best we can with what we have.”

Not all members are happy

Jennifer Cuffe, a councillor on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, was Casey’s running mate in last year’s general election. Casey said not everyone is happy with her being sidelined in favour of Donnelly.

Members of the party have been on to me and some of them are not very happy with the way this has happened and what Stephen has said in the past … but I suppose we have to learn from history, we have to learn from what we do in the past and try to move the party forward.

“Jennifer is a councillor in Dún Laoghaire … She came down to fill a void in Co Wicklow where we couldn’t find someone to run with me in the last election. Jennifer is back in Dún Laoghaire, where she is working hard.”

Casey added that other voters are happy with the news and likely to vote for Donnelly next time around.

“I think he clearly indicated yesterday that he believed in a lot of the policies we have … Stephen has made this decision. We as a party have taken him into the party because we believe that he can bring added value to the party,” he said.

Read: When asked why Fianna Fáil, Stephen Donnelly says ‘we need new thinking’

Read: Stephen Donnelly is joining Fianna Fáil but he hasn’t always been the party’s biggest fan

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Órla Ryan

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