Are these the record-breakers?
You read it here first…not in another Roscommon newspaper, and not even in The Phoenix, both of which have been playing catch-up!
Speculation, that is, about the return of that immensely popular series – ‘Fun and games at Fianna Fáil Conventions.’
Over recent weeks we’ve been leading the way with our insights into the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring ahead of the upcoming FF Selection Convention.
“A boisterous convention” is expected, the latest edition of Phoenix magazine muses. What really interested us was the magazine’s confident assertion that the three sitting TDs –Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy and Denis Naughten – will all be returned at the next election.
That may well be the case (we’ll tell you in due course!) but it’s an interesting prediction, because it has never happened before! Roscommon, famously, has never once returned the same ‘team’ to Dáil Éireann!
I’ve been covering general elections in Roscommon since 1989, and here’s how the drama has unfolded.
Going into 1989, Sean Doherty, Terry Leyden and Liam Naughten were the sitting TDs. That 1989 election saw the historic success of Tom Foxe of the Hospital Action Committee, at the expense of Sean Doherty. Leyden retained his seat, while John Connor outgunned Naughten, his sparring partner within Fine Gael.
In 1992, Roscommon was rather uncomfortably aligned with Longford. Foxe held his seat, Sean Doherty made a winning comeback, John Connor reclaimed the traditional Fine Gael seat and Albert Reynolds topped the poll.
Change again in 1997; Reynolds and Doherty retained their seats, Tom Foxe lost out. Denis Naughten, in his first general election, reclaimed the seat which his late father, Liam, had traditionally battled for with John Connor; and the dapper Kenagh gent Louis Belton regained his seat after falling victim to the largely loveless Longford/Roscommon marriage five years earlier.
2002 was notable for the surprise triumph of Mae Sexton (Progressive Democrats), who caught Fianna Fáil’s Dr. Greg Kelly just as he, quite reasonably (as it seemed at the time), was about to rehearse his acceptance speech. By now, FF giants Reynolds and Doherty had left the Dáil stage. Naughten retained his seat and Fianna Fáil had two newcomers, in Peter Kelly and Michael Finneran.
Roscommon was back in with South Leitrim for the 2007 election; a famous triumph for Fine Gael, with Frank Feighan joining Naughten in a two-seat swoop. Michael Finneran retained his seat.
Maybe in 2011 we’d finally, and historically, see the same team being elected in Roscommon? No! Well, circumstances intervened. Finneran opted to retire. Ivan Connaughton replaced him on the Fianna Fáil ticket, but didn’t make it. The Fine Gael duo were not for moving; they were joined by a certain Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
Finally, to 2016, and it’s victory to Independents Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice, and a long-awaited breakthrough for Eugene Murphy.
Is this the ‘dream team’ that – for the first time since the foundation of the State – is set to get the ‘green light’ from Roscommon’s famously discerning electorate?