Kenny may play key selection role in Mayo
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny could find himself adjudicating as Fine Gael leader on candidate selection in his own constituency at the next general election.Mayo has lost a seat, becoming a four-seater, and Fine Gael has four outgoing TDs. The fifth seat is held by Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary.
Fine Gael secured a remarkable 65 per cent of the vote in the last election, an increase of 11 points.
Kenny polled 17,472 first preferences, taking the first seat on the first count. Michael Ring, who is now Minister of State for Tourism, polled 13,180 first preferences and was also elected on the first count. Michelle Mulherin took the third seat, and John O’Mahony took the last seat for the party.
With Fianna Fáil on the ropes, Fine Gael was rampant in the constituency. It was an extraordinary performance, unlikely to be repeated.
Running four candidates from the same party in a four-seater would not make political sense at the next election. So who among the four Fine Gael TDs should stand aside?
Clearly, not Kenny nor Ring. The case for Mulherin would be that she has an all-important Ballina base and came in ahead of O’Mahony the last time.
But O’Mahony, who is from Ballaghaderreen, could argue that he did very well to take a seat against the odds in 2007 before Fine Gael’s fortunes took off.
Kenny will be leading the Fine Gael team in Mayo as outgoing Taoiseach, with, as of now, every prospect of returning to the job given the size of the Government majority. But even with that significant electoral advantage, securing the four seats would require a political miracle not to mention the kind of tight vote management rarely seen these days.
It would also mean dislodging Calleary, from Ballina, the party’s sole TD in the one-time Fianna Fáil stronghold. That would be an impossibility. In fact, a rejuvenated Fianna Fáil could put in a strong bid for a second seat if the party’s fortunes improve and Fine Gael suffers the downturn in popularity that being in government sometimes brings.
A possible way out for Fine Gael would be if the party’s North West MEP Jim Higgins (67) decided to retire at the next European elections in 2014. This could pave the way for O’Mahony, or even Ring, to seek a nomination.
O’Mahony’s credentials would be strong given his huge GAA involvement. He won two All-Ireland medals with Mayo, and he managed the Galway senior footballers to All-Ireland titles in 1998 and 2001. He managed two under-21 winning All-Ireland teams, Mayo in 1983 and Galway in 2002. He also holds the record of being the only manager to manage three counties to provincial titles, Mayo, Leitrim and Galway.