FF ends selection saga in Wicklow and confirms three candidates


The saga over who Fianna Fáil will include on the party ticket for the general election in the Wicklow constituency ended yesterday with confirmation that two local councillors have been selected to run alongside sitting TD, Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche.

The chairman of Wicklow County Council, Joe Behan from Bray, and Arklow town councillor Pat Fitzgerald will contest the five-seater alongside Mr Roche. The second Fianna Fáil TD in Wicklow, Joe Jacob, is not seeking re-election.

There was intense competition for places on the ticket and the Fianna Fáil National Constituency Committee, chaired by Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, interviewed four candidates in August. As well as Messrs Behan and Fitzgerald, Glendalough-based councillor Pat Casey and councillor Pat Doran from Carnew were interviewed.

There was surprise that Mr Behan was selected ahead of Mr Casey, a former independent who joined Fianna Fáil earlier this year.

Last month it emerged that rugby star Shane Byrne from Aughrim turned down an approach by the party to run. He declined, saying his rugby contract in England doesn't expire until June of next year.

The local party organisation was annoyed at the approach.

Fianna Fáil had been planning to run two candidates in Wicklow, but the surprise announcement by Independent TD Mildred Fox in November that she would not be seeking re-election, forced party officials to re-evaluate strategy.

With Ms Fox's organisation unlikely to run a candidate to replace her, Fianna Fáil feels that on a good day and with efficient vote-management, it could win Ms Fox's seat.

However, the party has a history of infighting in Wicklow and last night sources said there would be tension between Cllr Behan and Mr Roche as they are both from the Bray area.

Mr Fitzgerald told The Irish Times last night that he was delighted to be selected and said that if all the candidates work hard together as a team they can retain their two seats and possibly pick up the third.

The other Wicklow TDs are Billy Timmins of Fine Gael and Liz McManus of Labour.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has still to finalise candidate selection in Dublin North-East, Cavan-Monaghan and Cork South-West. This is not likely to happen until the New Year.