Friday 24 January 2020

'Dumped by text': McDonald fury as party selects Byrne for by-election

Cllr Lisa McDonald was selected as Fianna Fáil’s general election candidate, but will not contest the by-election for the party
Cllr Lisa McDonald was selected as Fianna Fáil’s general election candidate, but will not contest the by-election for the party

Maria Pepper

Cllr. Lisa McDonald has accused Fianna Fail headquarters of dumping her by text after selecting Cllr. Malcolm Byrne as the party's candidate for the forthcoming Dáil bye-election in Wexford.

Chosen as the general election candidate by the party membership at convention last year, Cllr. McDonald received a text message from a member of staff in party headquarters last Friday evening, informing her that following meetings of the NEC and ratification by the officer board of the Ard Comhairle, Gorey-based Cllr. Byrne had been selected as the bye-election candidate.

The staff member texted that he would have preferred to speak to her by phone but he understood she was in a meeting.

Cllr. McDonald, a practising solicitor, said she was in a difficult meeting and received a number of missed calls which she was unable to answer so she asked an assistant in her office to telephone and say she would ring them back a few minutes after 5 p.m.

But instead, she received a text shortly after 4 p.m. telling her of the NEC decision.

'I was astounded by the ignorance and rudeness as someone who has devoted 80% of my free time to Fianna Fail since the age of 18', she said.

'Firstly, they wouldn't give me a fair crack of the whip by holding a convention when I was selected as the general election candidate at an earlier convention. Fairness and logic would have dictated that, at the very least, they should have held another convention', she said.

'The delegates were all waiting for a convention to be held because they were told by the CDC that there would be one'.

Cllr. McDonald rang the party staff member back and told him 'you wouldn't treat a dog like that'. She said people talk about being 'dumped by text' in terms of relationships, but that is exactly what Fianna Fail had done to her after she had been a loyal supporter of the party over many years.

'He apologised and said he was sorry. I told him he wasn't the one who should have been making the call, it should have been the general secretary'.

'I asked him for an explanation but he couldn't give me one. He just repeated the text', she said.

Party members in Wexford, including Cllr. McDonald's mother and other family members, were also informed of the decision in a text sent out later, at 6.30 p.m. on Friday.

'I was so busy on Friday evening that I hadn't got around to telling my mother yet. I was involved in the Denis Collins poetry book project which was being launched that evening.'

'I collected her at 6.40 p.m. to go to the event and she had just got the text. She was shocked. I said we have to put it out of our minds now and do this for Denis and his family', said Cllr. McDonald whose legal practice is across the street from where the art gallery run by the late Denis Collins was situated.

'It makes no sense because if Malcolm gets elected we will have four TD's in north Wexford and in my view that shows a lack of commitment to south Wexford where more than 50% of the county's population lives'.

Cllr. McDonald said she will not be canvassing for Cllr. Byrne. 'As I see it, Dublin selected him and Dublin can elect him. The delegates were not given a choice and therefore they can't reasonably be called upon to go out and stomp the ground, when they made their voices heard last year and that has been ignored. This is a diktat from head office'.

She said that if Cllr. Byrne fails to get elected, 'he should get off the pitch as he will have had so many chances at that point - the Senate, Dail and European elections and now a bye-election.'

'If he gets elected, then fair play to him. I wish him the best of luck but it will leave a huge vacuum in south Wexford and I will be addressing that by being a candidate in the general election'.

'It will be a matter for me and my supoporters as to whether that will be within Fianna Fail or outside it'.

'If he loses, we need to revert back to the decision of the selection convention and forget this vanity project. The strategy to run two candidates (Cllr. McDonald in Wexford and Deputy James Browne in Enniscorthy) was designed over two years and based on geography and maths', she said.

While still regarding herself as the Fianna Fail general election candidate, she said she will be forced to reconsider her position if Cllr. Byrne wins the bye-election seat.

'Once this vanity project is over and we see what the electorate decide, the path forward will be clearer. I'm not going to create a civil war just now'.

'I still have a council seat that I won on my own in a non-Fianna Fail area.'

'I have a huge number of supporters and the amount of support they have given me over the past few weeks has been unparalleled.'

Re-iterating that she will not canvass for Cllr. Byrne, she said: 'I think it would be the absolute height of cheek to ask any of the party delegates including my good self to canvass, particularly when the vacancy exists in south Wexford and they didn't have the courtesy to run someone from south Wexford.'

'I have absolutely no interest in supporting what is a vanity project. I have enough work to be doing down here for my constituents on the issues that matter to them. I'm going to forget about this side show for a while'. said Cllr. McDonald.

Wexford People

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