Barry Cowen narrowly selected as Fianna Fáil European election candidate in keenly contested convention

Offaly TD edged out nearest rival by 70 votes in Mullingar count

Offaly TD Barry Cowen has been chosen as the Fianna Fáil candidate for the Midlands North West constituency of the European Parliament, after edging out Senator Niall Blaney by only 70 votes in a keenly contested convention in Mullingar.

In the most competitive convention to date, a total of 2,267 Fianna Fáil members in the constituency cast their votes during Monday for the three candidates.

With a quota set at 1,134 for the single seat, Mr Cowen won 894 votes in the first count compared to 803 for Mr Blaney. The Mayo Senator Lisa Chambers won 570 and was eliminated.

Ms Chambers’ votes were distributed in the second count and were almost evenly divided between the two remaining candidates. Mr Cowen won an extra 248 votes to finish with 1,140 compared to 1.070 votes for Mr Blaney who received 268 transfers from Ms Chambers.


Party members cast their votes in four centres across the sprawling constituency - Navan, Mullingar, Sligo town and Athenry - between 11am and 4pm on Monday. The votes from the three other centres were then transferred to the Mullingar House Hotel where counting began after 6pm.

Fianna Fáil has not held a seat in this constituency for 10 years. The then-sitting MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher was not successful in retaining his seat in the 2014 elections.

Several hundred people were present when the first count was announced shortly after 8pm, including former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, a brother of Barry Cowen. He received a prolonged standing ovation from the delegates after being announced.

The party is expected to add an additional name to the ticket and Ms Chambers, the party’s leader in the Seanad, is seen as the favourite to be the second candidate, notwithstanding the strong performance by Mr Blaney.

Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy urged the party leadership to finalise the ticket without delay saying the party needed to “move on swiftly”.

The Fianna Fáil director of elections for the European parliamentary elections, Darragh O’Brien, said all three candidates were strong but reminded the delegates the party had “a battle ahead of ourselves, no question”.

When nominations closed, the former MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher was also a candidate but withdrew early in the race.

With Midlands North West now becoming a five-seat constituency, the party is confident it can win at least one seat. The constituency is currently represented by Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Sinn Féin’s Chris McManus and Fine Gael’s Colum Markey and Maria Walsh.

“We will work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that Fianna Fáil wins back a seat,” said Mr Cowen, adding that he wanted the party to win a second seat.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times