*Cllr Alan O’Callaghan, Cllr Pat Hayes & Cllr Tony O’Brien.
FIANNA FÁIL members in East Clare have voted to select their three sitting councillors as the party’s representatives on the ballot paper in the Killaloe Municipal District for the 2024 local elections.
A total of 128 votes were cast at Friday evening’s selection convention of the Fianna Fáil East Clare Comhairle Ceanntair held at Cnoc na Gaoithe cultural centre in Tulla.
Broadford native Matthew Moroney who now resides in Killaloe was unsuccessful in his first bid to usurp the sitting trio of Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) and Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF). The meeting was told that the directive from party headquarters was to nominate just three candidates.
Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) and Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) were present for the vote as was the Chairman of the party’s branch in the county, Michael Enright. The selection convention was chaired by Tipperary TD, Jackie Cahill (FF).
Hayes topped the poll with 39 first preference votes and exceeded the quota of 33 on the first count along with O’Callaghan who received 38 votes. O’Brien had 28 first preferences with 21 for Moroney.
Of Hayes’ surplus of six, four went to O’Brien and two to Moroney. The surplus of five votes from O’Callaghan’s vote was not enough to make up the difference so Moroney was eliminated and O’Brien added to the ticket without reaching the quota.
Poll topper Hayes who currently serves as the Chairman of the Rural Development Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) said he was delighted with the turnout in Tulla and to be put forward to contest the 2024 local election. “Like all elections, you get nervous going to selection convention, you have to put trust in people and the democratic process which is a really important element of our party”.
First elected in 1999, Pat is the longest serving of the trio. He praised the challenger, Moroney for “creating the vote” and testing “the strength” of the nominees. He said the working relationship between him, O’Brien and O’Callaghan is very positive and pointed to the funding which saw a €1.75m investment in Cnoc na Gaoithe, allocations for Holy Island, Scariff’s regeneration project and the Killaloe Bypass as areas that will help them when seeking votes. He added, “My view of a politician is to go and support communities and individuals, to grow communities”.
Huge investment has been made in the Killaloe MD over the past decade, Cllr O’Brien stated. “We’re on the right trajectory but we are finding it hard to get our message across, for sure”. The Killaloe man said, “the strength of the organisation is the membership and the grassroots membership”.
Addressing the convention, Cllr O’Callaghan became quite emotional. He noted that the membership was comprised of persons aged 18 to 90. He asked for a minute’s silence be held for Paschal Lenihan, “he was Fianna Fáil from the cradle to the grave, I wouldn’t be here only for the likes of Paschal”.
Acknowledging all members for voting, Moroney said, “three very good candidates have been selected back in, I’m disappointed I am not one of them but I will do my best to help them along the way”.
Deputy Cahill said the party was facing a very important twelve to eighteen months. Although he admitted the polls could be worrying for Fianna Fáil, he was confident their fortunes would change when they knocked on doors in advance of the next General Election provided a clear manifesto with their plans for the next decade was visible.
Senator Dooley said the efforts of the four candidates have ‘energised’ the party in East Clare. He believed it would be challenging for Fianna Fáil to retain their three seats in the Killaloe MD.
Deputy Crowe expressed the view that Cllr O’Brien’s ability to embrace the role of Mayor of Clare will stand to him at the local elections, he described Cllr Hayes as “a real community man” and noted that Cllr O’Callaghan has brought colour to Clare County Council since his election in 2014 while capitalising on the areas added to the MD such as Quin. He encouraged Moroney not to give up and to stay involved at a community level.
Meelick native Crowe was critical that the Fianna Fáil CDC in the county has not held regular meetings, “we haven’t had one for far too long,” he remarked. He said Sinn Féin were the party they are “very much competing with on the ground” against and accused them of being hypocritical and maintained their Government record in Northern Ireland goes against them claiming to represent middle Ireland.
He tore into Sinn Féin’s “hijacking” of different historical figures and said they were “bastardising” the name of Peadar Clancy by having it as the name of their cumann in Ennis despite 115 family descendants of Clancy writing to Mary Lou McDonald on the matter.