Fine Gael is aiming to take two seats in Donegal North East with the addition of John Ryan as a second
candidate to its line up. The party reversed the decision it made less than three weeks ago when headquarters sent a directive to the constituency selection convention that sitting TD Joe McHugh would be the only candidate.
John Ryan said at the time he was disappointed not to be running and a series of party meetings in Inishowen registered strong support for an Inishowen candidate.
Fine Gael’s change in strategy came on Tuesday after Fianna Fail selected Charlie McConalogue from Inishowen to run in a case where the local organisation attempted to force the hand of headquarters by holding an unofficial selection convention just days ahead of the one sanctioned by headquarters.
Cllr. Ryan denied yesterday that there had been talk within the party organisation in Inishowen of him running as an
independent candidate if he was not added to the ticket.
Inishowen is now set to become a fierce battleground with John Ryan facing Padraig MacLochlain of Sinn Fein as well as Charlie McConalogue as the local candidates from the main parties.
Fine Gael topped the poll in Donegal North East in 2007 after adopting a one-candidate strategy. Speaking after his election Joe McHugh said Inishowen had been key to his success.
Yesterday Deputy McHugh said he was happy with the strategy and denied that the move was a sign of panic by the party.
“The addition proved how volatile politics in Donegal North East are,” he said. “It is very evident that an hour is a long time in politics in Donegal North East.
“The discretion of headquarters is always there to add as appropriate and after taking soundings from the Inishowen
peninsula, they have made that decision.
“A lot of people were prepared for a one-candidate strategy but everything is changing and there may be a few more twists and turns before the final line up.”
John Ryan said the two candidates would now split the constituency in two at the Manorcunningham roundabout in a bid to take two seats.
He said that following the convention it became abundantly clear that the party in Inishowen wanted two candidates.
“I am only going on the support on the ground that people wanted their own candidate. I made it very clear from the start that I was going to support Joe. Joe did not know what way it was going to go, but to be fair he did not put any particular pressure on the executive council in Dublin and they have come out in favour in two.
“We are looking for two seats. It is going to be a big ask but we are in with a big shout,” he said.