Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was in Longford today where he confirmed that a “strategy” had been used to select Aengus O’Rourke to run in the Longford-Westmeath Constituency By-Election in three week’s time.
The move caused annoyance and dismay among Longford party faithful, particularly since Pat O’Rourke and Padraig Loughrey had signalled their intent to seek a place on the by-election ticket, prior to the announcement from headquarters that only candidates in the Athlone area would be sought.
“The National Constituencies Committee met to discuss the matter in Longford/Westmeath and the general electoral position is 66% in Westmeath and 34% in Longford,” said Mr Martin.
“Therefore it was decided to run a candidate from Athlone in the by-election. It is important to remember that this is a by-election, not a general election which is far more important, and I see the party as being fully committed to Longford.”
During Tuesday’s convention in Mullingar where Mr O’Rourke was elected uncontested after the two other candidates withdrew from the race, calls were made for a candidate to run in Longford.
While the Fianna Fáil leader refused to be drawn on any outcome so far, he did concede however, that the situation was currently being examined by the constituencies committee.
“Look the last thing anyone needs is another government TD,” added Mr Martin.
He continued, “In fact to elect another government TD at this point would only serve to endorse what they are doing. There has been no support from the IDA in Longford for example for some time now and that is something that really needs to be addressed. Jobs, emigration and the education of our young people are very real issues on the doorsteps, so job creation must be a priority. Jobs need to be created in Longford and a lot more credence must be given to enterprise in this region.”
Asked if Aengus O’Rourke would receive the support of the party faithful on the canvass trail in Longford, Mr Martin said that all the work that had been done over the past couple of years to rebuild the party, would now pay off.
“We have a strong candidate in Aengus O’Rourke and he will be supported, I have no doubt about that,” he continued.
“We have very strong candidates here in Longford in the Local Election also. Four candidates in Granard - Cllr PJ Reilly, Cllr Luie McEntire, John Coyle and Cllr Martin Mulleady; three in Ballymahon - Cllr Tom Victory, Cllr Mick Cahill, Pat O’Toole and in Longford town we have Seamus Butler, Padraig Loughrey and Michael Connellan. I also want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Cllr Barney Steele and Cllr Denis Glennon both of whom are retiring from politics. They have both been hardworking, decent councillors and I want to thank them for their hard work and dedication.”
On a final note, the Fianna Fáil leader said that towns like Longford were now paying the price of an “anti rural attitude” at government level.
“Longford has lost three seats in its local authority; down from 21 seats to 18 and the abolition of town councils will have a very negative impact on local communities,” he said. “There has been a demise of the rural town in recent times and Longford town is the same.”
More by e-election analysis in next Wednesday’s Leader.