independent

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Distinguished career could lead to the Aras

AVRIL DOYLE TO SEEK FINE GAEL NOMINATION

ANNE MARIE O'CONNOR

RETIRED Wexford TD and MEP Avril Doyle officially threw her hat into the ring for the Fine Gael Presidential nomination yesterday (Tuesday)

The Wexford-based politician's announcement adds extra colour in the race to be FG's Presidential candidate. Names already in the arena are those of Pat Cox, Gay Mitchell and Doyle's former MEP running mate Mairead McGuinness.

Perceived rivalry between Doyle and McGuinness is said to exist as previously the two women stood on the same ticket to run for the European Parliament, at a time when it was thought that only one seat could be gained for FG in the three seat East constituency. As it turned out, a stronger than predicted FG turnout saw both women elected in 2004.

Avril Doyle will appeal to oldschool Fine Gael, as her impeccable party credentials point to a long tailed familial involvement within the party.

Born into the Dublin-based Belton family, and educated at UCD – at a time when life-long friend and former party leader John Bruton was also a student – Doyle's father Richard Belton was a senator and her grandfather Patrick Belton was a TD.

Now living in Crossabeg, she came to Wexford after marrying her husband Freddie Doyle. She became a member of both Wexford County Council and Wexford Corporation in 1974 and two years later became the first female Mayor of Wexford.

From here she was elected to Dail Eireann in the 1982 general election. She lost her seat in 1989, but regained it in 1992. She again lost her seat in 1997 to North Wexford party colleague Michael D'Arcy. She was a member of the Seanad from 1989 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2002.

Her election as an MEP came in 1999 and she was re-elected at the 2004 outing.

During her tenure in the Dail she served as a Minister of State in the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government of 1982-87 and again from 1994 to 1997.

Her time in Europe made international news in June 2008 when the outspoken politician took on British Eurosceptic MEPs after the rejection of Lisbon by Irish voters. Doyle made the comment in the EU parliament: 'How the history books could have been written differently, if respect for the Irish vote from some of our British colleagues was always there.'

The comment drew criticism and applause in equal measure.

In January 2009 Doyle announced that she would not seek re-election to Europe, and at the time indicated how much she would look forward to retirement. She said it was time to 'reclaim my own agenda'.

'Sometimes I think the hardest thing for politicians is to know when it's time to go. There are certain addictive qualities to politics,' she said then.

However, just over two years of retirement has seen her reluctant to lessen her grip on politics and she was one of the main orchestrators in the campaign to get Dr. Liam Twomey re-elected to the Dail in the recent general election.

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