*Tony Killeen. Photograph: Joe Buckley

EX MINISTER for Defence, Tony Killeen (FF) served as the peace broker as Fianna Fáil members voted in a new officer board of the Comhairle Dáilcheantair as they stressed their intention of healing old wounds and ensuring the party elects two TDs in the next General Election.

Darragh McAllister was elected as the new chairman of the party’s branch in Clare after plenty of behind the scenes talks took place in advance of the AGM.

Kilnaboy’s Killeen who had been touted as a potential new Chairman led these discussions which were intended at creating a more united front between the party’s two Oireachtas members, Cathal Crowe TD (FF) and Senator Timmy Dooley (FF).

Addressing the AGM, Killeen a Clare TD from 1992 to 2011 admitted that it was his second time speaking at a CDC AGM since his retirement from politics. He stressed the need for the party to have “a united front” as was evident in the Shannon Municipal District for the local elections where three seats were won.

In conversations following the local elections, “we said there was a risk that the AGM would open rifts that are unhelpful, unnecessary and which would most certainly cost a second seat,” Tony said.

He informed the AGM that he sat down with Deputy Crowe and Senator Dooley with a plan on the election of a new officer board. He admitted that it was “some bit undemocratic and undesirable” that they were asking members not to have a contest for positions and instead to back the names they were putting forward. He explained, “in the circumstances we’re in we will only win one seat if we allow division to reign”. Should the party win two seats at the next General Election, the move “will be worth it,” the former TD said.

Michael Neylon, a member of the Ennis Fianna Fáil Comhairle Ceantair backed the call from Killeen and said the party should have a Minister and a TD rather than just one TD. He acknowledged that he had been vocal himself on “disagreements in the past”.

A plea was issued following Killeen’s address for him to “do us the honour” of going forward uncontested for Chairman following the “great job” he had done in assembling an officer board. The female speaker said “people arguing on Facebook were making fools of us”. Killeen said he would serve on the committee if asked but was not willing to become Chairperson, “I’ll do whatever is required to be done with a fresh team. The previous team did a good job in hard circumstances. When you get a choice you can make things better or worse”.

With plenty of praise voiced for Killeen during the meeting it prompted a quip from Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) who said, “will we take down dev’s statue and put up Tony Killeen instead”.

Mike Enright (right) celebrates with Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). Photograph: Joe Buckley

Outgoing Chairman, Mike Enright in his address thanked his fellow officers and key speakers at the Eamon de Valera commemoration during his eight year-term including Micheál Martin, Michael McGrath, Billy Kelleher and Kieran O’Keeffe. He singled out Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) and Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) for their efforts in getting Clare County Council to house dev’s dodge.

Election results were strong during his term, the Newmarket-on-Fergus native said with thirteen of fourteen candidates elected in the 2019 local election and fourteen of sixteen this year. “The bounce of the ball wasn’t with us,” he said when lamenting the defeat of Dooley in the 2020 General Election, “I believe we need a two candidate strategy for the next election, electing two is the way forward”.

Senator Dooley and his wife Emer were singled out by Enright for their support during his term as Chairman.

Praise of the officer board led by Enright was voiced by Cllr O’Brien, Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF) and Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF). “It wasn’t a fluke,” commented O’Brien on Fianna Fáil increasing their presence on the County Council.

On the local authority, Fianna Fáil now has “young new dynamic people,” Cllr O’Callaghan stated. “We can’t be saying we’re caught in the dark ages,” the Mayor of Clare added. He credited the support from the officer board as helping to retain three Fianna Fáil councillors in the Killaloe Municipal District. The party can elect two TDs if members “stay united,” he stressed. “We need to stop the bickering and back stabbing and work to win two seats,” the Kilmurry man said. “Unless we have two seats around the table we’re going nowhere. Row in together”.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can win two seats, it’s a guaranteed fact if we can pull together,” Cllr O’Gorman predicted. He told the AGM that their party leader, Micheál Martin (FF) told councillors on Friday at the Inn at Dromoland to “be on election footing”.

After Enright thanked members for their support of the Fianna Fáil draw and hailed the work of Senator Dooley on this, it prompted a reaction from Deputy Crowe who told the meeting “I wasn’t at home watching Coronation Street” to which there was loud applause from members in attendance, “there was great effort from two of us, I wasn’t sitting at home twiddling my thumbs”.

Cathal Crowe. Photograph: Joe Buckley

In his address, Deputy Crowe spoke of the bounce in Co Clare after Clare qualified for the All-Ireland final and went on to provide plenty of hurling analogies. “Long after I’m finished in politics and I plan to go bit further, I’d love to be like Tony Killeen, coming in here and doing his bit to avoid votes which might cause division,” the Meelick native said. “The one thing you ask for when you wear the Fianna Fáil jersey is loyalty and support; we have to have loyalty in the room, I look forward to working with the new Chairman and officers. We need the back up of our team, wouldn’t it be ludicrous if Tony Kelly went out to hurl for Clare with Brian Lohan knifing him, it wouldn’t happen on the hurling field so it can’t happen with Fianna Fáil”.

Ivan Yates’ predictions of a November election was referenced by Deputy Crowe who felt the General Election was “fifteen or sixteen weeks out” as he said the ex Fine Gael Minister “rarely gets it wrong”. Crowe said both he and Dooley are working “really well together” in Dublin. He said Micheál Martin was the party’s “greatest asset”.

Senator Timmy Dooley. Photograph: John Mangan

Senator Dooley said he was on “the one wave” with Deputy Crowe. He praised the outgoing officers, “they didn’t get it all right but they didn’t get it all wrong”. The General Election was one such example of getting it wrong, “I’ve to accept that as we did at the time, we ran three candidates, as the lead person who maybe stood back from areas to allow other candidates to progress”.

Disharmony has existed within the party, the Mountshannon native acknowledged. “People end up at both sides of the fence, it couldn’t continue as it was. I’m pleased that everyone has reached a consensus”.

 

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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