FF candidate says ‘old guard’ behind European campaign change

Sprawling Midlands North West opened to two candidates in last week

Anne Rabbitte  at an Ibec-hosted debate in the  Clayton Hotel, Galway earlier this month. Photograph: Michael Dillon

Anne Rabbitte at an Ibec-hosted debate in the Clayton Hotel, Galway earlier this month. Photograph: Michael Dillon

 

A Fianna Fáil TD standing for the European Parliament has said the party has given into pressure of the “old guard” to favour her running mate.

Anne Rabbitte, a Galway East TD, is standing in Midlands North West alongside her party colleague Brendan Smith.

The party had split the sprawling constituency between the two candidates but last night opened up the territory to both candidates 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” party headquarters 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 under-performance 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.

The poll put Ms McGuinness 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.

Midlands North West comprises Leitrim, Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan, Louth, Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Kildare, Meath, Longford and Westmeath.

Previously, Fianna Fáil had allocated Leitrim, Monaghan, Donegal, Cavan and Louth to Mr Smith, with Ms Rabbitte was 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.

“As we head into the final week of the campaign it is my view as national director, having discussed the matter with our steering group, that our strategy must evolve to give a final boost to both candidates,” Lisa Chambers, the FF director of elections, said in an email to the candidates. “We must ensure that we maximize our vote and I believe that the best way to do that is to remove the divide and open up the constituency to both candidates for the remainder of the campaign. It is my view that this gives both candidates the best possible opportunity to increase their vote and perform to the best possible level.”

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.