Flaherty: “I was purposely
ousted from election race”

Former Fianna F�il councillor Tony Flaherty will seek election as an Independent candidate at the forthcoming local election. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
Cllr Tony Flaherty has accused his former colleagues in Fianna Fáil of “deliberately ousting” him from the 2014 local election race.

Cllr Tony Flaherty has accused his former colleagues in Fianna Fáil of “deliberately ousting” him from the 2014 local election race.

In a candid and exclusive interview with the Leader this week, the long serving Longford Town Councillor spoke of his anguish at seeing his own nomination hopes disappear and why, after two decades of service, he feels the time is right to sever all ties with the party.

“I feel bitterly disapointed at how I have been treated,” he said, as he prepared to officially tender his resignation to Fianna Fail headquarters last night (Tuesday).

“I am disappointed and horrified to think that since the Fianna Fail convention (in November) I have had absolutely no correspondence in relation to not getting nominated.”

That selection contest saw Cllrs Padraig Loughrey, Michael Connellan and former county representative Seamus Butler get the nod from party delegates.

That rebuff, two months later, is one which still troubles him.

“To be not even considered to be added to the party ticket is very hurtful,” he added as he called into question the events of last November.

“There were 53 voting delegates there on the night and 60 per cent I can honestly say I had never seen at a Fianna Fail meeting in my life.”

More cutting though, is the upset he still harbours in the lead up to the local elections of 2004 after former TD Peter Kelly’s election to the Dail.

“At the time I was the only other councillor in the mid Longford area for Fianna Fail and I was shafted for Peter Kelly’s county council seat,” he alleged.

“I had topped the poll for the party ticket but ten minutes later I had lost 12 votes when it came to the co-option convention.

He claims what annoyed him most of all was that a senior Fianna Fail person contacted him two days in advance of the Convention, “saying I would top the poll but that I wasn’t getting the co-option.”

Fast forward a decade and Flaherty believes history is repeating itself once again.

“For the last ten years, in my opinion, Fianna Fail has been trying to get rid of me. I am an ordinary person, I am not a wealthy businessman or professional.

“It hurts me to think that my grandfather, Frank Flaherty who was a founding member of the party in Longford they (Fianna Fail) just seem to have no love or appreciation for ordinary people to represent them anymore.”

As the county’s youngest ever councillor, elected at 22 years of age, the Flaherty name has been synonymous with Fianna Fail for some time.

His uncle Michael worked alongside former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds during the local elections of 1974 until his retirement in 2002.

A long and deep seated association it may be, it’s one the urban representative after 25 years of party membership, is not afraid of breaking.

“I’ve been left out in the cold, that’s for sure,” he maintained, before confirming his intention to run as an Independent candidate.

“After giving it a lot of thought and from the many approaches I have received from various people, I will be seeking election.”

His refusal to canvass for the party in the 2011 General Election only served to add deepening cracks to an already uneasy relationship.

“I refused to canvass for F.F. in the last general election on a matter of principal because they reduced the social welfare payments in the budget prior to the election and the budget before that too.

That went against me, but I was never a yes man and never will be.”

Based on that statement alone, it would seem Flaherty believes his chances are as good as any of those flying the Fianna Fail flag.

“If you look at it, there is no voice for the ordinary person. I am from an ordinary background and I will continue to represent the ordinary people of Longford,” he said.

Cliched it may be, it’s a statement Flaherty clearly believes in. Equally, it’s one he hopes will prove his doubters within Fianna Fail wrong.

“In their eyes I am yesterday’s man,” he states candidly.

“Let me tell you this, while their three nominees have 17 years’ experience between them, I have 20.

“ I am far from being yesterday’s man, far from it.”