Political People: Unconventional democracy, but what’s new?


Seriously, if (some) Fianna Fáil Selection Convention candidates in Roscommon were blushing brides or grinning grooms, they might never get married – because they’d keep failing to turn up at the altar.

  Yet again, FF convention candidates are downing tools before battle even commences.

  First there were five; now, as we go to press on Wednesday evening, there are just two candidates standing ahead of this Friday’s Fianna Fáil Selection Convention.

  Of course, at the root of this to-ing and fro-ing is the latest example of democracy Fianna Fáil-style!

  At this stage, the party’s grassroots in Roscommon are well used to the pretence that they have power.

  To no-one’s great surprise, FF HQ recently issued another of its directives to the party faithful in Roscommon.

  Whatever solemn language they actually used, it can be ‘translated’ as follows:
  “You are very important to us…you will decide who represents us in Roscommon/Galway…but…er, you can only select one candidate”.

  If you were to take the directive at face value, you’d think that FF HQ actually only intends to run one candidate in this constituency in the next General Election.

  In actual fact, they almost certainly have every intention of running two.

  It’s just that HQ doesn’t trust the local foot soldiers to make the right decisions in the battleground.

  Once the ‘one only on the night please’ directive had whizzed from Dublin to Roscommon, the inevitable domino effect followed.

  Cllr. Orla Leyden had already withdrawn in mid-January. Cllr. John Keogh was next to withdraw. On Wednesday, Sean Og Higgins followed suit.

  That just leaves sitting TD Eugene Murphy and Galway councillor Michael Connolly.

  The convention will be held in the Abbey Hotel this Friday evening. Up to 600 delegates are entitled to vote. There are only two possible scenarios now. Either Deputy Murphy will be selected unopposed (with Cllr. Connolly withdrawing) or the Galway man will push it to a vote.

  If Cllr. Connolly actually contests the convention, Deputy Murphy will win the vote.

  But the real ‘game’ here relates to the inevitable adding on of a second candidate later in the year.

  This is where FF HQ exerts its power, effectively disregarding its grassroots. Once Deputy Murphy has been selected, FF HQ will take time to ‘reflect’ on the party’s approach to this constituency. Following this period of ‘mature reflection,’ the gurus in Dublin – citing internal polls – will add a second candidate.

  Cllr. Connolly and his supporters are considering which approach they should now adopt. A dignified withdrawal, making the case for Cllr. Connolly to be added later? Or alternatively, contest the  convention and gamble on a strong showing in the hope of giving FF HQ plenty to think about.

  Waiting in the wings is Cllr. Keogh, who remains the favourite to be added on as Deputy Murphy’s running mate.

  Indeed there is speculation locally that it may already be a ‘done deal’ and that Cllr. Keogh is the chosen one.

  So, the state of play as we go to press: Cllr. Connolly is still standing, waving the Galway flag with determination; Deputy Murphy is a certainty to be chosen, whatever course Friday’s convention takes; and the odds still favour a two-candidate ticket, with Keogh being added on. 

  The grassroots will (not) have spoken!