Kenny says FG will ‘reflect’ on adding John Perry to ticket

Former junior minister claims he was ‘hung out to dry’ on hospital issue

 Fine Gael  leader Enda Kenny  with former minister of state John Perry. File Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with former minister of state John Perry. File Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Fine Gael hierarchy will “reflect” before deciding whether it should add former junior minister John Perry to a general election ticket.

Mr Perry lost out at the selection convention for Sligo-Leitrim in a close contest this weekend.

Speaking at the Fine Gael annual presidential dinner in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, Mr Kenny would not commit to adding Mr Perry to the ticket, as happened when Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton lost his own convention earlier this year.

Mr Kenny said Mr Perry’s convention was “very closely fought”.

“Obviously Fine Gael reflect on all of these things before they finalise all the tickets in every constituency. We consider all the aspects of every convention, as we always do.

“Constituencies have changed and conventions are run by the party and delegates vote and make their choices in accordance with directions given by the executive council of Fine Gael.”

Mr Perry, a TD since 1997, lost out to his constituency colleague Tony McLoughlin TD at the Fine Gael convention in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, where delegates waited until the early hours of Saturday morning for a result.

In a spirited address before the vote, Mr Perry had told the packed convention that he had been “hung out to dry” by former minister for health James Reilly over the issue of mammography services at Sligo General Hospital.

He said that Mr Reilly had promised on a visit to Sligo that the service would be returned but had failed to deliver. “I took the hit for that,” he said.

Former Leitrim-based TD Gerry Reynolds was also selected after delegates were told the directive from party headquarters was that two candidates should be selected – one each from Sligo and Leitrim.

Mr Reynolds topped the poll with 228 first preference votes, with Leitrim-based Senator Michael Comiskey second on 188, Mr McLoughlin on 140 and Mr Perry trailing in on 130.

Despite getting the bulk of Mr Perry’s transfers , Senator Comiskey was adrift of Mr Reynolds by eight votes at the end of the count.

An estimated 1,000 people attended the convention with just under 700 party members voting. They were told the party wanted to retain two seats in the re-drawn four seat constituency, which takes in south Donegal and West Cavan.

In his address Mr Reynolds pointed out that there were 30,000 potential voters in south Leitrim and west Cavan and he argued that he was the party’s best chance of securing a second seat.

Senator Comiskey had told the meeting it was his third time to contest a convention , adding: “I am not looking to retain a family seat”.

While party officials did not release the results, it is understood Mr Perry secured the lowest vote, coming 10 short of Mr McLoughlin.

It is unclear whether party headquarters will now add him to the ticket. While he refused to speculate on this scenario before the convention, Mr Perry did point out that Sligo-Leitrim is geographically the largest constituency in the country “taking in two provinces and four counties”.

Last month, The Irish Times revealed supporters of Mr Perry had threatened to seek a court injunction against the party in a row over the eligibility of a significant number of his supporters to vote at the convention.

The former junior minister with responsibility for small business had distanced himself from the legal threat. However, this week he questioned how people who had been in the party for 30 years could be ineligible to vote . “In fairness, it is not morally right.”

Party sources have estimated up to 60 of Mr Perry’s supports were excluded from voting because of the rule.

Speaking early on Saturday after the result was announced, both Mr Reynolds and Mr McLoughlin said they did not know whether the party would add a third candidate but both said they believed a two-candidate strategy was Fine Gael’s best chance of taking two seats.

While widely expected to face an uphill battle at the convention, Mr Perry got a warm reception from delegates. He was cheered when he rebuffed attempts from the chairman, Galway West TD Sean Kyne, to cut short his speech which was almost three times longer than the allotted five minutes . ”I am 18 years in office and I am finishing,” he declared.

A former chairman of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, Mr Perry lost his position as minister of state for small business in a reshuffle in July 2014.

In 2013, he and his wife consented to a judgment of €2.47 million against them at the Commercial Court over unpaid loans to Danske Bank. He later confirmed that he had reached an agreement with the bank in respect of his outstanding loans.