Nally holds emergency meeting to alter course of campaign

 

Mr Derek Nally considered dropping out of the presidential race because of the infighting in his camp over the past few days, he has revealed.

Mr Nally and his supporters met in emergency session in Wexford last night to try to resolve the policy disagreements which have knocked his campaign seriously off course.

A "restructuring", and possibly a relaunch, are expected to be announced today.

The crisis in the Nally camp follows the resignation of his publicity director, Mr John Caden. He telephoned Mr Nally early yesterday morning to tell him of his decision.

Mr Nally had earlier told RTE that he accepted the denial made by his presidential rival, Ms Mary McAleese, that she had any links with Sinn Fein.

This denial, made in response to suggestions in a leaked memo from the Department of Foreign Affairs, is not accepted by Mr Caden.

Speaking to local radio yesterday, Mr Nally conceded that he had had "bad days" this week. If it had been constitutionally possible, he would have said "dayday" to his campaign.

"But I awoke this morning in a new frame of mind. I'll be driving this campaign from now on."

Mr Caden's resignation is the culmination of a series of disagreements since the weekend.

On Tuesday evening Mr Nally had rejected a script which had been prepared for him for a speech at Trinity College, Dublin. He said yesterday he was forced to "cobble together" his own version at short notice.

In this, he said of Ms McAleese: "I accept her word. If she categorically denies the claim, and unless we hear anything from the other person [the Department official who wrote the memo], we must accept her version of events."

Mr Nally also told CKR radio that his campaign had concentrated too much on Dublin, "against my own better judgment. Sometimes, people make decisions which may not be the best ones, and you go along with them."

It is apparent from Mr Nally's remarks, and those of his main backer and campaign manager, Mr John Dunne, that both men feel control of the campaign had been wrested from them by Mr Caden and his friend, the media commentator, Mr Eoghan Harris.

Mr Nally said yesterday that Mr Harris was not a member of his campaign team, nor had he any "direct" part in the campaign. He met him just once in his life.

On RTE yesterday Mr Harris described himself as Mr Caden's "oldest and closest" friend. Both men worked for many years in RTE, when they were said to be linked to the Workers' Party.

Mr Harris said he had drawn up a three-page strategy document which stated that the public would want a return to a traditional Presidency. Mr Nally should play to his strengths and highlight his role in securing the State.

According to Mr Dunne, Mr Nally's bid for the Presidency was turning into a "single-issue campaign" and this was undesirable.

Mr Nally continues to call on the Department of Foreign Affairs to publish the controversial memo on Ms McAleese.

Yesterday, he said he was "appalled" that such a "misleading" memo had been sent. The Government would have to "look at" the Department if this was the kind of information it was receiving.

The turmoil enveloped the Nally campaign throughout yesterday's canvass in Carlow. A series of crisis meetings with his advisers meant that the candidate was late for appointments in the local RTC and the Braun factories. He arrived in the town over an hour behind schedule, looking drawn and tired.

To add to Mr Nally's woes, the Sinn Fein leader, Mr Gerry Adams, yesterday described him as a "token male." Mr Nally said he took "grave exception" to the description.