Cowen's ardfheis speech to be 'passionate'

 

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen’s keynote speech to the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis this weekend would “be passionate and will give clear direction”, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan said yesterday.

Commenting on speculation that Mr Cowen might use the occasion of the leader’s speech on Saturday night to make the equivalent of a “state of the nation” address, the Minister said: “As a man who writes his own speeches, we will have to wait until 8.30pm to see what he has to say.”

Launching the programme of the party’s 72nd annual gathering, which takes place at the Citywest Convention Centre outside Dublin, on the theme, Facing Challenges Together, Ms Coughlan said: “This will be a very serious ardfheis.”

She continued: “We will have a considerable number of candidates who will be going forward for the local elections and also for the European elections.

“At the moment we have, as things stand, 408 candidates who are selected. I think it’s important to say that 40 per cent of those are actually first-time candidates.”

A motion from the Howth, Co Dublin, cumann, supported by cumainn in Tipperary, Wexford and Cork, calls for a review of the candidate selection process “to ensure increased local output”.

This reflects dissatisfaction in some quarters in the party with the selection of candidates by interview, in consultation with the local organisation, instead of the traditional method of holding conventions.

Ms Coughlan said: “The ardchomhairle made its decision that on this occasion the best way possible was to, yes, take soundings from the local organisations and that we were holding an interview process as opposed to convention process.”

She continued: “We will evaluate this process once the election has been completed, and we are open to considering reverting back to the old process or even a formulation of both processes.”

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said: “I don’t think we would have had 40 per cent new first-time candidates if we used the traditional method.”

General secretary Seán Dorgan said party headquarters was “inundated” with requests for tickets to the ardfheis. “We are anticipating a very large number of delegates,” he added.

A video featuring first-time candidates from around the country was shown at the press conference.

The ardfheis will include “fringe” meetings on the economy, drugs and community issues, featuring contributions from external experts and commentators.

Proceedings will be broadcast on the web at www.fiannafail.ie