Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is confident Fine Gael can achieve the “Herculean task” of winning three out of four seats in his home constituency of Mayo in the general election.
Mr Kenny was speaking as he was selected, along with Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring and Michelle Mulherin TD, as a Fine Gael election candidate at a selection convention for the constituency in the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris.
There was no vote at the convention, as there were only three potential candidates and the party’s executive council had directed that three candidates be selected in the constituency.
Mayo drops from a five-seater to a four-seater for the next election.
Fine Gael won four out of five seats at the last election. However, outgoing TD John O’Mahony will stand in Galway West in the next vote.
In his speech to delegates, Mr Kenny said: “We expect to rise to the challenge of being able to elect three TDs out of four.
“This is a Herculean task, it’s one that our strategy and our team will be able to deliver on. We’ll follow that plan very carefully.”
Mr Kenny said that “there is no victory in electing one, there is no victory in electing two” and stressed to local party activists that they must work to achieve the three seats.
“If you want this Government back, you will get it, provided you work for it,” Mr Kenny said.
“You gave got to go out there and engage with people,” he said, adding that activists have to make voters “understand that we are serious about our business”.
The Taoiseach said voters will face a choice of “continued stability, continued growth and jobs or a vote for something they don’t know about and that might lead to instability and confusion”.
He claimed that, if re-elected, Fine Gael will “spread the benefits of a growing economy to all parts of the country over the next period of government”.
Mr Kenny said other European leaders often asked him about the progress made by the Irish people.
“They say to me: ‘How is it that the Irish people can make these sacrifices to pull themselves out of the difficulties they were handed.’”
He also said that the Opposition either “wrecked our economy or would wreck our economy”.
The Mayo convention was the final Fine Gael convention to be held, but the party is still short of the required number of female candidates to meet gender quota rules.
The rules stipulate that 30 per cent of a party’s candidates must be female, or else its State funding will be reduced.
Fine Gael currently has 26 per cent female candidates and it is expected the party’s executive council will add more women candidates in the coming weeks.
Mr Kenny said he expects Fine Gael to meet and surpass the gender quota rules.
“Obviously the executive council of Fine Gael look at all the constituencies when the conventions are over and decide in the best interests of seats and vote management what might be appropriate in terms of additions to any individual constituencies,” Mr Kenny said.
When asked if former minister of state John Perry TD, who lost his own selection convention at the weekend, could be added, Mr Kenny said: “I won’t make a comment on that, because that is part of the analysis the executive council will do.”
However, senior party sources say it’s highly unlikely that Mr Perry will be elected.