McGinley, O'Neill on 'bad calls'

Fine Gael's Dinny McGinley TD and Cllr Barry O'Neill have criticised the party's handling of the John Perry case, while Minister Joe McHugh declined to comment.

Reports in national media this week stated that Sligo Leitrim TD John Perry’s High Court case against the party could cost the organisation around €500,000.

Fine Gael TD for Cork East, Tom Barry has called for an independent investigation into the handling of the selection convention, where Deputy Perry lost out by just ten votes to fellow TD Tony O’Loughlin.

The party’s General Secretary, Tom Curran, who is from Letterkenny, was also said to be coming under fire for his role in events.

As the case was set to resume for its sixth day, it was announced that it had been settled. The previous day, the court had heard that Mr Curran had written to Sligo Leitrim returning officer Darragh Kelly, stating that the convention organisation had been “chaotic” with a “catalogue of mistakes”. On earlier days, the court had been told that the convention was well run, with some minor irregularities.

Asked for his views on the issue yesterday, Deputy McGinley told the Democrat. “I thought it was handled very badly by the party. It is a terrible thing that John had to go through five long days in the High Court to get justice and to be added onto the ticket.

“I was always of the opinion that he should have been on the ticket.

“He stood in four elections and won all of them, topping the poll in the last one. I thought the people should have been the ones to decide his future.

“I’ve been travelling all around the county in the last few days and I know party members are delighted that John got through.

“But they are also quite annoyed that they sold Super Draw tickets and that money’s been squandered on the High Court case.

“I think lessons need to be learned, that it would be more helpful if party HQ conferred more with people who are long-standing in the party. You get the impression that decisions are being made without adequate consultation with people at local level.”

Barry O’Neill, who proposed Deputy Perry at the convention in Drumshanbo, also criticised the party’s handling of the issue, as well as the controversy over John McNulty’s appointment to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

“These were organisational mistakes, bad calls, whatever you want to call them, and they dog every party.”

The convention, he believes, was mishandled from the start.

“One of the key factors was the directive read out at the beginning of the convention, that there was to be one candidate from Sligo, South Donegal and the second from West Cavan/Leitrim.

“My problem is that, because of the directive, one TD - John Perry or Tony McLoughlin who are both from Sligo - was going to lose the opportunity to contest their seat. I’ve never seen that happen before.”

The Democrat also spoke with a number of other party sources in the county, who asked not to be named.

One said, “A lot of the party here are still annoyed with the John McNulty scenario. A lot of people are not happy with Tom Curran either and this might be the opportunity they’re looking for to get rid of him.

“At the same time, though, you have to ask yourself who was he listening to, to let the High Court case go for five days and then take the stand and say that Option A, putting John Perry on the ticket, was still on the table.

“In fairness to John Perry, he would have been the first sitting TD not to get the nomination from HQ.”

Another party member said “it’s crazy” to “waste so much money fighting a High Court case, “especially when there’s an election coming up”.

He backed Tom Curran, though. “Tom Curran has had a job to do down the years. Some of his decisions might not be popular but he has to make tough decisions. I’ve always found him very straight to deal with and very effective.”