John Perry fails to get FG nomination at Sligo-Leitrim convention
Gerry Reynolds and Sinead Maguire selected as party’s two candidates in the constituency for next election
In 2015, John Perry, then a TD, took a High Court challenge after failing to gain a spot on the ticket. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Former junior minister John Perry failed to get a nomination but polled well, coming in second place to Mr Reynolds in the first count.
Senator Frank Feighan withdrew from the race but told delegates he would be writing to the national executive seeking to have his name added to the ticket.
Mr Reynolds, a businessman based in Carrick on Shannon, who is also a former senator and country councillor, said he believed “very strongly” that a two-candidate strategy was the best one.
But he added that Mr Feighan was perfectly entitled to ask the national executive to add him to the ticket.
While party headquarters did not issue any directives regarding gender or geographical area, Mr Reynolds said he believed the outcome was a good result for the party from both points of view. “I think it was the result Fine Gael was looking for. I think the Fine Gael members had the vision to vote strategically rather than on personality,” he said.
Ms Maguire, a native of Blacklion, Co Cavan, who has been a member of Sligo County Council since 2014 , surprised many with her performance . She did particularly well on transfers. Having entered the race late she said she was “chuffed” with the outcome and with the response she had got from party members.
It was a disappointing night for Noel Merrick, chairman of the constituency council who had been tipped as a contender .
An estimated 1,000 delegates attended the convention on Thursday night and the final result was not announced until close to 2am on Friday.
First count figures had Mr Reynolds in first place with 241 votes. The votes achieved by the other six candidates were Mr Perry 135, former senator Michael Comiskey 122, Ms Maguire 113, Noel Merrick 110, Blaine Gaffney, parliamentary assistant to Tony McLoughlin TD 68, and Cllr Hubert Keaney 14.
At the end of the final count, Mr Reynolds had 267 votes, Mr Perry 222 and Ms Maguire 285.
Mr Reynolds, who came within 400 votes of taking a seat in the last election, said he believed it was possible to win a second seat for the party in the constituency. “Sligo Leitrim is one of the swing constituencies and if Fine Gael want to be back in government it is one of the constituencies where they need to win a second seat,” he said. The party had made a good start choosing candidates based in Carrick on Shannon and Sligo town, the two main population centres, the former TD added.
The 2015 convention sparked a crisis for the party when Mr Perry, then a TD, took a High Court challenge after failing to gain a spot on the ticket, claiming he had been unfairly treated. He later settled with the party and unsuccessfully contested the election.