Observe the sons of Fianna Fáil marching towards Donegal…
Tanaiste Mary Coughlan insisted Fine Gael voters would not transfer to Sinn Fein in parts of Donegal South-West in the upcoming by-election, sources at a Fianna Fail meeting on Tuesday night confirmed.
At the well-attended meeting, TDs and Senators responded enthusiastically to an appeal for assistance ‘on the ground’ with the campaign of Fianna Fail Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill.
At the weekend, Mr Ó Domhnaill was selected as the party candidate for the by-election which will take place on November 25th, following a High Court ruling that a delay of 18 months was “inordinate”. The High Court challenge was brought by Sinn Fein Senator Pearse Doherty, who is also a candidate in Donegal South-West. The other candidates are Fine Gael Cllr Barry O’Neill, Labour Cllr Frank McBrearty jnr and Independent Cllr Thomas Pringle.
Ms Coughlan said voters who traditionally backed Fine Gael TD Dinny McGinley, who is from Bunbeg, and would probably opt to support Mr O’Neill in the by-election, would be most unlikely to give any preferences to Mr Doherty, from Gweedore.
The meeting, one of a series of pre-Budget briefings by Ministers, was addressed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv and Donegal North-East TD Niall Blaney, as well as Ms Coughlan, who is a deputy for Donegal South-West.
The Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting, normally held on Tuesday evening, will this week take place tomorrow (Thursday) morning, and is likely to be dominated by the issue of whether or not the old age pension will be cut in the upcoming budget.
Mr O Cuiv, who is Mr Ó Domhnaill’s director of elections, told the meeting Fianna Fail would be “going back to its roots” with the Donegal South-West campaign, according to a source at the meeting.
“He said the campaign would be an eclectic mix of old-style, people-driven campaigning, combined with modern technology, but it would be all on a low budget,” the source said.
Mr O Cuiv said the campaign would be led by Fianna Fail’s “army of ordinary party members in Donegal”. He insisted upon a huge effort in the constituency, with canvassers “knocking on every door in every valley and in every housing estate”.
There was said to be a “huge response” from the party’s TDs and Senators willing to travel to Donegal this weekend and the following weekend to canvass for Mr Ó Domhnaill. Members of the parliamentary party were asked to indicate days on which they would be available to campaign and many put their names forward.
“We are going to be given our patch to canvas. We don’t care about the weather. We’re to bring oil skins and wax coats and we’re to canvass until midnight every night,” one of those present said.