Independent Offaly councillor sensationally joins Fine Gael
Fine Gael members in Donegal have resisted a move by party headquarters to run independent councillor Frank McBreaty Jnr in the local elections.
Ballybofey councillor Martin Harley threatened to quit the party and run as an independent after it emerged that senior party figures from outside the county had held talks with Cllr McBrearty in the recent months.
Local party sources said yesterday that a move to add Cllr McBrearty to the ticket was over following the resistance to it.
Speculation emerged over the weekend that the party was close to announcing Cllr McBrearty as a candidate in the Stranorlar municipal district.
The party had already announced that it is running Cllr Harley and Garvan Connolly from Killygordon.
Senior figures in the party in Donegal said on Monday and Tuesday that they were unaware of a move to add the former Labour councillor. Party sources said the local organisation had been left in the dark.
Cllr McBrearty has not been available for comment.
News of the move was discussed at a party meeting in the county on Monday night where local party members voiced their disapproval at the prospect of adding Cllr McBrearty.
A party source said members at the meeting were “gobsmacked”.
Cllr Harley (pictured right) said he was aware of talks taking place two months ago.
Speaking yesterday afternoon he said he hoped the matter is now closed.
“This is nothing to do with Frank. We work with each other on different issues. This is to do with the fact that headquarters went into these negotiations without my knowledge and without the knowledge of the party members.
“I am hoping this is the end of the issue and that we can move on with the two candidates that were selected, myself and Garvan Connolly, and that we can get out there and canvass for votes.
“ It is disappointing but we will just have to get on with it and put it to bed. That is the important thing.”
He said he has been inundated with calls and messages of support from Fine Gael members in the party and “from other parties as well”.
“I am aware that there has been ongoing discussions between senior party officials and Cllr McBrearty but deeply disappointed that neither myself, my running mate Garvan Connolly or my local branch have been informed.
“Fellow councillors have also been on to me expressing their annoyance. It seems that headquarters now make all the decisions,” he said.
Cllr Harley had first expressed his frustration at the situation on Tuesday. Speaking on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta he said he told headquarters that if Cllr Mc Brearty is allowed to join the party he would be considering his own position within Fine Gael.
He said he would be a candidate, even if he had to contest the election as an independent candidate.
“I have spent ten years representing the Fine Gael party, and I am not happy they didn’t seek my input on this,” Cllr Harley said.
Fine Gael General Secertay Tom Curran confirmed to Raidió na Gaeltachta ahead of a meeting of the Fine Gael National Executive on Tuesday night that no invitation will be extended to Cllr McBrearty to join the party to run as a candidate in the Stranorlar municipal district.
Speaking on Tuesday Cllr Harley said: “I have been a Fine Gael councillor for the past 10 years and have served the people of the Finn Valley well.
“I am proud of my Fine Gael roots and I do not want to find myself in this position.”