Fianna Fáil councillor Rachel Doherty has revealed that she is “extremely, extremely unhappy” with Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, her party colleague, describing his recent behaviour as “most unhelpful and extremely self-serving.”
She strongly criticised the Athleague man after he said earlier this week that he would contest the forthcoming Fianna Fáil Selection Convention in Roscommon-Galway if he received a number of commitments from the party.
It marked a remarkable about-turn from Cllr. Connaughton, who had previously called on party leader Micheál Martin to be replaced, and said that he was considering becoming an Independent.
In fact Cllr. Connaughton, in a Roscommon People interview last Christmas, clearly stated that he would not contest a General Election for Fianna Fail as long as Mr. Martin remains leader.
This week, Cllr. Doherty, then a declared candidate for the Selection Convention (she has since withdrawn), made clear her annoyance with her colleague.
The Cootehall woman said: “Clearly, I am extremely, extremely unhappy with the way that this story is changing every week or every fortnight. “It is most unhelpful and extremely self-serving.”
Cllr. Doherty made her feelings known personally to Cllr. Connaughton at a Fianna Fáil councillors’ meeting recently.
She said: “I clearly said to him a number of weeks ago that he needed to make his mind up whether he was staying in Fianna Fáil or not. “A person can’t have the luxury of staying within the ranks of Fianna Fáil and our councillors’ group in Roscommon, and at the same time sniping from the sidelines. “It doesn’t serve the best interests of the party going into a General Election.”
Cllr. Connaughton’s latest attack on Fianna Fáil came just six weeks ago. He said that he had become “disillusioned” with a party that was “not fit for purpose”.
He said that the party was “non-existent” with regard to policies. He consistently called for Deputy Martin’s head.
This week, however, he said that he would contest the forthcoming convention if he received pledges that, if Fianna Fáil were elected to government, they would reopen the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital and the psychiatric unit at St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe.
Cllr. Doherty said: “Ivan said that he had been nominated and accepted the Fianna Fáil nomination and now he is declaring he is the best candidate who can win a seat for Fianna Fáil. “I frankly think that, because of the twisting and turning with his story all the time, it completely lacks credibility. It is like as if: ‘If one option doesn’t work for me, I will look at another option.’ “The latest comments are giving the impression that there is still an opt-out.”
In relation to the commitments he sought on health matters, Cllr. Doherty said: “To be quite honest with you, Ivan Connaughton doesn’t decide Fianna Fáil policy in relation to health or any other matters in Roscommon.”
It is known that some local Fianna Fáil members believe Cllr. Connaughton should be expelled from the party.
Cllr. Doherty stopped just short of echoing that stance. “There is already enough rifts and factions within Fianna Fáil,” she said. “For me to come out and call for someone’s head, all I am doing is adding to that.”
However, she did imply that Cllr. Connaughton should have been punished for his remarks about Deputy Martin last December, just two months after his narrow defeat in the Roscommon-South Leitrim by-election.
“I don’t think that should have been let go,” said Cllr. Doherty. “If you lose a by-election, you move on. If you lose any election, you move on. “But you are not the absolute heart and soul of the party. You have to allow the party to be able to progress and you have to be able to allow people that are involved in the party to progress.”
Last October’s by-election was the second Dáil ballot Cllr. Connaughton had lost: he was also unsuccessful in the 2011 General Election. That, Cllr. Doherty suggests, may have contributed to his controversial criticisms of Deputy Martin in the Roscommon People last December.
She said: “I feel that, because Ivan came out and made those comments back in December, I would say that people understood that Ivan may well feel bitter about the result and naturally disappointed. “But that is the nature of politics. Nobody has a God-given right to be a candidate and be a person that should be unanimously supported all the time. “I think Ivan has to put aside the reasons why he believes he was unsuccessful on two occasions and become a team player.”
‘Rachel should reflect on her own actions’
Cllr. Ivan Connaughton was remaining tight-lipped when asked about Cllr. Doherty’s trenchant criticism of him, although he did say that his party colleague “should reflect on her own actions.”
He said he will continue to fight for the reinstating, retention and enhancement of health services and other serious issues faced in Roscommon and Galway, “as is my duty as an elected representative.”
Cllr. Connaughton added: “My constituents will always come first.”