War of words erupts in Fianna Fáil over number of candidates
Lisa McDonald says Malcolm Byrne's suggestion of four candidates is 'daft, nonsensical and naive'
Councillor Lisa McDonald, one of two candidates selected by Fianna Fáil to run in the next general election, has rubbished the idea made by her party colleague Malcolm Byrne that the party should run four people in the election.
Cllr Byrne put the cat among the pigeons last week by calling for the Fianna Fáil party to run a candidate from each of the New Ross, Gorey, Enniscorthy and Wexford electoral areas in the next general election.
The North Wexford man, who ran a strong European election campaign, suggested that consideration should be given to Fianna Fáil running four candidates in the general election.
He said one from each of the county's four main areas - Gorey, Enniscorthy, New Ross and Wexford - should run in order for the party to maximise the vote at the next election.
The North Wexford based councillor pointed out that the New Ross Local Electoral Area delivered the second highest percentage vote for Fianna Fáil in May's local elections - at 38.6 per cent. This was second to Gorey, where Malcolm led a Fianna Fáil team to 45.3 per cent of the local vote.
In the other local electoral areas, Kilmuckridge saw the party's vote at 33.8 per cent, Enniscorthy at 28.1 per cent, Rosslare at 19.5 per cent and Wexford at 14.7 per cent.
Cllr Byrne said: 'Votes win elections and we need a strong team that can attract votes if we are to ensure that Fianna Fáil wins two seats in Wexford at the next election. It makes sense for us to have a candidate based in Gorey, where our strongest vote is located. But our second highest percentage vote is in New Ross and there is a good case for us also to have a candidate added from there as well as from the north of the county.'
He added: 'I know New Ross very well and the local organisation was very supportive in my European campaign. The area has three strong Fianna Fáil councillors. It could make sense for the party to run four candidates in a general election and I will make that case to party headquarters. If we could poll at Gorey levels in a general election, we would be fighting for three seats, and a strong New Ross vote would help that. This is essential if we are to have a change of government.'
Lisa McDonald said that any suggestion that the party run four candidates in the next general election in Wexford is simply 'daft, nonsensical and politically naïve', adding that it could potentially prevent the party from winning any seats at all in the constituency.
She said any suggestion that Fianna Fáil could take three seats at the next general election is deluded. 'I'm concerned those making such a suggestion have not learned anything from the last ten years. The days of carving up a county and expecting people to vote as they are told are, thankfully, are long gone. I'm a great believer in democracy. It is the people who will decide how many seats we get, not the party. It's a privilege to be on a ballot paper for Fianna Fáil. It was an honour to be democratically selected by the membership who had a choice to select other candidates and they were rejected.'
If elected, Cllr McDonald said she will be a representative for all of the county.
'I'm very concerned at the attempt here to introduce identity politics by pitting districts against each other. This is old politics and it has proven to have failed our county. We need to work together for the entire county. For example my own district of Rosslare serves parts of New Ross and Wexford and we can already see how working together can benefit the entire area through projects such as the recently announced greenway.
'Running four candidates runs the real risk of splitting the vote and Fianna Fáil coming back with no seats. Personal ambitions needs to be set aside and County Wexford needs to be put first. We know, for example, Malcolm's election record. He has run in three national elections, a general, a Seanad and a European, and while he put in an excellent effort he has consistently fallen short. On this occasion Fianna Fáil has chosen a woman candidate, a mother and a successful businesswoman. I understand in particular the pressures that families are under today and in particular women. I am very strong on gender equality and standing up to gender based violence against women and, for that matter any violence.'
Cllr McDonald, who has been selected as one of the party's two general election candidates, also questioned Cllr Byrne's motivations for the proposals.
'Malcolm sought a nomination last year at the convention. He did not win enough votes to get selected. If he wants to be added to the ticket, he should be honest about it,' she said. 'But running four candidates is nonsense.'
'If Malcolm's ultimate aim to is to get the party to run three candidates, he should just say so. I neither have the time nor the inclination to list the fifty reasons why this silly four candidate suggestion is a bad idea. I don't think it's a serious proposition. It is just daft. Even the suggestion that we run three candidates does not make any sense, but I suspect that is ultimately what Malcolm is looking for.'
In the last general election, Fianna Fail ran three candidates, with two of those, including Cllr Byrne, not getting elected. Despite winning more votes than Fine Gael, the party won just one seat.
'The party learned from this failure and took the decision to run two candidates with the intention of taking two seats - one in the north of the county and one in the south. Malcolm sought a nomination. He lost. He should just deal with it and support the candidates selected. If this proposal is just about getting himself on the ticket as a third candidate, he should just say so,' Cllr McDonald said. 'This is not about personalities but about maximising our vote to return a second seat so that we can get what we all want - a change in direction for this county for the better.'