Donegal FF councillors say Peter Casey welcome to join party

‘Nothing to stop him’ becoming a member but election candidates already chosen

Fianna Fáil representatives in Co Donegal have said they would welcome presidential runner-up Peter Casey as a party member, but not as a candidate for the next general election.

In sharp contrast to its front bench which has been sharply critical of Mr Casey’s desire to join the party, seven Fianna Fáil county councillors in Donegal said on Tuesday that they would have no objection to him joining the party.

Mr Casey garnered 23 per cent of the national vote in the presidential election and 34 per cent in Donegal. Part of his high showing came in the wake of his contentious comments on Travellers and on social welfare recipients.

The Irish Times asked seven of the 11 Fianna Fáil members of Donegal County Council and all said they believed there would be no barrier to him joining the party.

“He has proven himself and now has a proven track record,” said Cllr Séamus Ó Domhnaill from Falcarragh, who is the chairman of Donegal County Council.

“It’s unfortunate that people are ruling him out and saying he should not be a member when we are a party of common people. If he wants to be a member, there is nothing to stop him being one.”

Mr Ó Domhnaill said Mr Casey should have the same opportunity as everybody else to join the party. However, he and his colleagues said the Fianna Fáil convention for the general election had already been held and chosen two candidates, sitting TDs Pat "The Cope" Gallagher and Charlie McConalogue.

Responding to his comments on Travellers, Cllr Martin McDermott from Malin said that a responsibility comes after being elected a public representative.

“There comes a time when you have to be careful about what you say,” he said.

“As a councillor you have to represent everybody. There are always a few in every walk of life that will cause difficulty.”

But while critical of his comments on Travellers, Cllr McDermott said Mr Casey was welcome to join the party, and seek a nomination at convention.

“It involves getting your hands dirty and doing the day-to-day work like getting potholes filled and the normal community work. It’s a 16- or 17-hour day, every day.”

Cllr Micheál Naughton from Laghey said there was no vacancy for the Dáil election but there was nothing to stop Mr Casey standing for local elections or in European elections.

Cllr Paul Canning said Mr Casey could apply the same as everybody else: “Nobody should be getting preferential treatment. You come, pick up your spade do your work, and we will object to nobody,” he said.

Councillors Rena Doherty and Liam Blaney both said there were procedures for joining Fianna Fáil and if Mr Casey wanted to become a member of the party, he would have to follow them.

Cllr Patrick McGowan from Ballybofey said Mr Casey’s comments after the presidential election, including his claim he would “top the poll” in Donegal and that he would set up a New Fianna Fáil party, were not taken very seriously but “we are following it with amusement”.