Just what is Fine Gael at in Roscommon?
The party – riding high in Government and more often than not doing likewise in opinion polls – appears to be in some disarray in Roscommon.
Fine Gael has earmarked this constituency as a serious target for a vital gain in the next General Election – but the party is struggling to get out of the blocks here when it comes to prospective candidate(s) strategy.
Roscommon/Galway is the only constituency in the country in which Fine Gael has yet to hold a selection convention. The convention scheduled for last Friday night (25th of January) was postponed.
Fine Gael supporters are growing increasingly frustrated with the impasse that has arisen. Fine Gael’s dilemma is that the party has no idea who its front-runner will be in Roscommon/Galway.
Senator Maura Hopkins has still not committed to running again, and there are indications that patience may be wearing thin with her within Fine Gael HQ.
Senator Hopkins, who ran for the party in the 2014 bye-election and in the 2016 General Election, has yet to confirm that she will go before convention.
Senator Hopkins had a number of discussions – some of them very tense – with party HQ last year. The party gave Senator Hopkins a number of ‘deadlines’ by which she was expected to confirm her intentions, but these deadlines have passed without any clarity on the issue.
It is understood that Fine Gael HQ and Senator Hopkins have been unable, thus far, to agree on issues to do with the next General Election campaign. Fine Gael supporters locally are deeply worried that the ‘Will she? Won’t she?’ saga could damage the party’s chances of winning a seat.
Senator Hopkins’ supporters say that she has performed well in national elections for Fine Gael, particularly given the difficult circumstances that prevailed following the departure of Denis Naughten from the party. While she is keeping the party guessing, Senator Hopkins is maintaining a relatively high profile and remaining vocal on local issues.
Last November, Senator Hopkins was diplomatic on the issue of her intentions when she spoke to the Roscommon People, saying: “I am strongly considering putting my name forward as a candidate for selection at convention for the next General Election”.
Meanwhile, there is ongoing speculation locally that former Roscommon GAA County Board Secretary Brian Carroll could yet emerge as the Fine Gael front-runner.
The Roscommon People revealed last November that Fine Gael HQ has approached Mr. Carroll about the prospect of him being an election candidate for the party.
Senator Frank Feighan could also be a convention candidate. Ballinasloe-based councillor Michael Finnerty declared in last week’s Connacht Tribune newspaper that he intends to contest the Roscommon/Galway Convention.
The Roscommon People tried to contact Senator Hopkins earlier this week, but she was unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Fine Gael HQ told the Roscommon People: “There is no date set for the selection convention in Roscommon/Galway. We plan to hold it in the near future”.