Claims that former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan only got a late in the day call to attend a Fianna Fáil think tank in Glenties have been rubbished by her furious former director of elections.
Party leader Micheál Martin was rallying the party faithful at a gathering in Glenties when Ms Coughlan arrived ten minutes after the event started. She sat in the main body of the hall but eventually took her place at the top table, sitting alongside party leader, Micheál Martin.
Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Brendan Byrne told this newspaper that Ms Coughlan had been fully aware of the event in Glenties and had a prior engagement which she had committed to attend after Mr Martin’s original trip to the county three weeks ago was postponed.
Cllr Brendan Byrne, who directed Ms Coughlan’s disastrous failed general election campaign, was quick to rubbish the claims the former Tánaiste was asked to attend the gathering in Glenties at late notice.
Cllr Byrne was emphatic in his denial of the suggestion that there had been any snub to Ms Coughlan: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion but I think the views expressed are absolute rubbish. I must point out that this meeting was scheduled to take place three weeks ago on the very day that Micheál Martin buried his late father. Obviously it had to be postponed.
“Mary Coughlan had a prior engagement but was there at exactly 8.40 pm, ten minutes after the meeting commenced. She is very active within the party and is prepared to do whatever has to be done to restore it to its former position in the political landscape. She is totally committed to this and was in no way either embarrassed or reluctant to take her seat at the top table.
“I might add that she was the last person to leave the room that night.”
Cllr Byrne also refuted claims by unhappy Fianna Fáil supporters who contacted the Democrat to say they were disappointed that leader Martin had failed to address the key issues that had led to the demise of the party in the last election - in particular in Donegal South West.
Robustly defending the conduct of the meeting, Cllr Byrne, who shortly after the failed February election, had himself had raised issues with the pre-election decision to run two candidates in Donegal south west, said Micheál Martin has already instituted many changes within party structures.
In particular, he said, the process of “one man, one vote” now allows everybody to have their say - there are no more selection committees, he said.
“Everybody in this party has their say on all aspects including the selection of the leader. Micheál Martin held an open forum meeting last Thursday without any pre-conditions. He was not there to pontificate and lecture from the platform. He was there to listen to what the main concerns of the people of Donegal were and he never shied away from any topic no matter how difficult.
“If people had concerns or issues there was absolutely nothing to stop them raising them at the meeting - that is what democracy is all about.”
Fianna Fáil sources speaking to the Democrat since the meeting last Thursday in Glenties, took a very different view, expressing disappointment at the topics raised at the Questions and Answers session, suggesting that it was back to the “same old parish pump politics” and that none of the issues concerning the rejuvenation of the party were raised. The sources refused to be identified for fear they would be disciplined for speaking to the Democrat.