Two seats ‘a must for FG’ in South constituency - Coveney

Taoiseach won’t rule out a voting pact with Labour for local and European elections

Fine Gael  Senator Deirdre Clune, who is to run in the South constituency in the European elections, told the selection convention she was born with a Fine Gael membership card in her hand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Fine Gael Senator Deirdre Clune, who is to run in the South constituency in the European elections, told the selection convention she was born with a Fine Gael membership card in her hand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 08:10

Anything less than two seats out of four in the South European elections constituency will be a failure for Fine Gael, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney made his comments at yesterday’s selection convention in Clonmel, when the party chose sitting MEP Seán Kelly and Senator Deirdre Clune to run in the expanded constituency which stretches from Wicklow to Kerry.

The convention also heard from Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who said he favours another term for the Fine Gael-Labour coalition after the next general election and didn’t rule out a voting pact for the local and European elections.

A third candidate for the South constituency will be selected by Fine Gael headquarters in the next forthnight and the current favourite is Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle, with his Wicklow colleague Simon Harris also being mentioned, along with Senator Michael D’Arcy from Wexford.

Both Waterford TD John Deasy and John-Paul Phelan of Carlow-Kilkenny have ruled themselves out of the running.

Proposing Senator Clune for one of the two nominations yesterday, Simon Coveney said she was “highly-electable” and pointed to her base in Cork, which has “100,000 Fine Gael votes” across the city and county.

“Fine Gael needs a team that can deliver two out of four seats in this constituency. Anything less will be a failure,” Mr Coveney said at the convention, which was chaired by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan.

Ms Clune, a daughter of former minister for foreign affairs Peter Barry, told delegates: “I was born with a Fine Gael membership card in my hand and grew up in a house steeped in Fine Gael and its politics.”

She spoke about emigration and said she has children who have moved abroad, like many other families across the country and said she wanted a situation where all who live in other countries can come back and help “rebuild our economy”.

In his speech, Seán Kelly MEP said that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan - who formally proposed his nomination - had “turned this country from hero to zero on the world stage” and helped restore our international reputation.

Mr Kelly said two out of four seats in the South constituency “has to be the target, is the target and can be achieved by united and concerted effort”.

Mr Kenny told the convention that Europe now sees Ireland as “a small country where the people of the country, working with the Government, have moved a long way in a short time towards resolving their difficulties”.

He said “a lot of the heavy lifting” has been done and hoped that, when the Government term ends in two years’ time, “the people would be prepared to put this Government, the make-up of this Government, back for a second term”.

Later, he said Fine Gael will “consider that later on” when asked if the party wants a vote-transfer pact with Labour for the local and European elections.