FF TD says she is being pushed aside in favour of running mate
Anne Rabbitte and Brendan Smith standing in Midlands North West as party chases seats
Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East: ‘Pressure was put on’ by people who wanted to support Mr Smith and not her, she claimed.
The party had split the sprawling constituency between the two candidates but has now opened up the territory to both for the final week of the campaign.
Ms Rabbitte said the existing split was working well and claimed an “old guard” who want to work for Mr Smith were behind the move.
“There is an old guard who believe in a rite of passage,” she said. “I had no issue with the way it was working.”
She said “pressure was put on” by people who wanted to support Mr Smith and not her, but were restricted by the divide.
Last week’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI European election opinion polls showed an underperformance of the Fianna Fáil ticket in Midlands North West.
The poll showed Fine Gael has a chance of taking two seats in the four-seat constituency, with sitting MEP Maireád McGuinness on course to be easily re-elected, and newcomer Maria Walsh, a former Rose of Tralee, also in contention for the party.
Ms McGuinness was on top on 26 per cent, followed by Independent Luke “Ming” Flanagan on 16 per cent, Matt Carthy of Sinn Féin on 14 per cent, Ms Walsh on 11 per cent, Independent Peter Casey on 9 per cent and Mr Smith and Ms Rabbitte on 8 per cent and 5 per cent respectively. It followed internal Fianna Fáil chatter that its two candidate strategy was stuttering.
Previously, Fianna Fáil had allocated Leitrim, Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan and Louth to Mr Smith, with Ms Rabbitte given Galway, Roscommon, Mayo and Sligo. Counties Kildare, Meath, Longford and Westmeath were open to both candidates.
Now, the entire constituency – aside from Ms Rabbitte’s home county of Galway and Mr Smith’s Cavan-Monaghan Dáil constituency – has been opened up as the party tries to nail down one seat.
In Fine Gael, its director of elections Regina Doherty had earlier said Ms McGuinness should be allocated Meath, Kildare, Longford, Westmeath, Cavan and Monaghan. Ms Walsh was to get Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal – but she was also given Longford and Westmeath this week.
Meanwhile, a debate between most of the Dublin MEP candidates on Thursday heard exchanges on issues such as climate change, immigration, housing, defence, social media and other issues.
The hustings was hosted by European Movement Ireland in the Davenport Hotel and was moderated by broadcaster Pat Kenny. Hermann Kelly, who advocates Ireland leaving the EU, was attacked by others for “dog whistle” tactics on immigration. Mr Kelly called for tighter controls on immigration but the Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe said people should be very careful about using phrases such as “more room” in Ireland. Mr Kelly also said he would not expect a “free house” if he wanted to live in Tenerife and was also accused by Fine Gael’s Mark Durkan of having an “issue with human diversity” and bringing prejudice into politics. On claims that he was using dog-whistle tactics, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t do dog whistle, I just do foghorn.”
Labour’s Alex White said phrases such as “control” are “straight out of the playbook of debate across the water”.
On the issue of the recent banning from Ireland by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan of Steven Anderson, a US preacher accused of spreading anti-LGBT hate speech, Mr White said he is “very uncomfortable about banning people for what they think and what they say”. He stressed he is strongly opposed to what Mr Anderson stands for.
Separately, Fianna Fáil launched its Dublin manifesto for the local elections. The document outlined a number of commitments, such as building 60,000 homes – half of which would be social or affordable – by 2024, establishing a transport police, and reducing property tax for apartment owners and those paying management fees. The party also promised to “revamp” the controversial BusConnects plan.
People Before Profit also launched its plan for Dublin on Thursday, and it emphasised investment in transport, air and water quality, arts and culture, street life, housing, leisure and waste.