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Defiant Verona Murphy has sights set on general election - but Leo and Paschal don't sound too keen

She’s been in the headlines again today over a Rocky-themed social media video – so can we expect a sequel?

Verona Murphy in the Wexford count centre this evening.
Verona Murphy in the Wexford count centre this evening.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

IN THE WAKE of a controversial campaign, a defiant Verona Murphy insisted tonight she had her sights set on the general election after finishing in third place to Fianna Fáil and Labour in the Wexford by-election. 

That’s in spite of lukewarm responses to questions about her prospects from Fine Gael director of elections Paschal Donohoe and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. 

Donohoe, the finance minister, said in response to a question on Murphy’s election status this evening:

“Every candidate is of the view that they should be the candidate.”

He said Murphy had many qualities and praised the “vigour” of her campaign, but he said the party would review the status of every candidate.

“Her status is no different to any other,” he said in an interview on RTÉ’s Six One News. “It is up to the party.”

Donohoe was more positive when asked about Emer Higgins, who finished second to Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward in Dublin Mid-West, saying he was “hopeful for her prospects in the future”.

Speaking alongside Higgins at the Dublin Mid-West count centre meanwhile, the Taoiseach said that in keeping with party rules a review of Murphy’s performance would take place and that under usual practice it was always open to the executive council, on his recommendation, to add or delete candidates from an election ticket.  

Varadkar also criticised a Rocky-themed social media video produced by ‘supporters of’ Murphy and shared by the candidate herself on her Facebook page.

“I only saw it last night. I have to say I thought it was kind of bizarre but it wasn’t approved by the party I’m not sure it was approved by the candidate,” the Taoiseach said. 

He said the video would form part of a review that the party will carry out, before adding that similar post-mortems would take place in all four by-election constituencies.

Senator James Reilly, Fine Gael’s former deputy leader and an unsuccessful candidate in Dublin Fingal, said Verona Murphy’s comments about immigrants had come up on the doorstep in the constituency, going on to describe them as “very hurtful”. 

Murphy, the head of the Irish Road Haulage Association, was named last April alongside serving TDs Paul Kehoe and Michael D’Arcy on the Fine Gael general election ticket. 

She made a series of controversial comments about asylum seekers on the trail, and despite several swiftly-issued apologies many Fine Gael backbenchers were unhappy she retained the backing of the party for the campaign. 

Speaking to reporters at the count centre this evening Murphy insisted she and her campaign team were delighted with her performance and that she intended to build on it ahead of the general election. 

She said she was now focused on the national vote and that she would be back working on issues raised by locals on the doorsteps from Monday. She did not answer a question on whether she would consider running as an independent. 

Speaking to the hall after the final result had been announced Murphy again insisted she would continue working on the issues raised by voters and that that would keep her busy “until May”. 

In his speech, Fianna Fáil’s newly-elected TD Malcolm Byrne told the remaining count centre crowd: 

Racism and the language of division and hate has no place in Wexford politics. Wexford is better than that and Ireland is better than that.

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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