Ahern's running mate criticises late FF move


One of the Taoiseach's running mates, Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, said last night that she was "very disappointed" at a last-minute notice sent by Bertie Ahern to all constituents in Dublin Central.

The notice, which was delivered to some houses as early as 5am yesterday, asked constituents to support the party strategy by giving their number one vote to him, number two to Cyprian Brady and number three to Ms Fitzpatrick.

Although the notice referred to "maximising our support in Dublin Central by voting in this area. . .", the same notice went to constituents in all parts of Dublin Central.

The Taoiseach traditionally gets a massive personal vote and in the last general election he received 10,882 first preferences compared with 2,590 for his then running mate, Ms Fitzpatrick's father, Dermot Fitzpatrick.

"I was very disappointed to see this leaflet," Ms Fitzpatrick said. "My team of canvassers and members of the Fianna Fáil organisation in Dublin were not consulted about this and didn't contribute to it."

She said she had worked hard to run a good campaign. "And I am really disappointed for my supporters and for Fianna Fáil because this is not going to help to secure a second seat for Fianna Fáil. My phone hasn't stopped ringing since this morning."

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said the leaflet was issued with the candidates' names in alphabetical order, hence the bottom placing for Ms Fitzpatrick. When it was pointed out that Mr Ahern had specifically asked for the number one vote in the accompanying letter, the spokesman said he had nothing further to add.

Inter-party tensions were also affecting Fine Gael after Dún Laoghaire candidate John Bailey delivered a controversial mail-shot on Wednesday night. It suggested that the Fine Gael organisation had requested that Mr Bailey receive the number one preference "to maximise the vote" in the area.

Yesterday morning, Fine Gael supporters in the constituency received a letter from Frank Flannery, Fine Gael's director of elections, and Paddy Hayes, Dún Laoghaire director of elections. It emphasised that voters were not being asked to support one candidate over another. "We wish to confirm clearly that you are asked to vote 1, 2 and 3 for our candidates IN THE ORDER OF YOUR PREFERENCE," it stated.

Fine Gael running mate Eugene Regan sent a letter to constituents yesterday morning with a copy of another letter from Mr Hayes, addressed to party workers.

In it, the Dún Laoghaire director of elections said Mr Bailey's letter had been sent "without my authorisation and in defiance of my expressed wishes". It went on to ask party workers to "take this serious breach of party discipline and unity into consideration when you express your preferences. . ."

Mr Bailey could not be contacted for his response.