“No Stone Unturned” in SF By-Election Bid

Deputy Pearse Doherty, Cllr. Martin Kenny and Cllr. Paul Hogan
Deputy Pearse Doherty, Cllr. Martin Kenny and Cllr. Paul Hogan

Sinn Fein’s Director of Elections for the Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election, Deputy Pearse Doherty has vowed that the party will leave no stone unturned in their quest to win the Dail seat.

“We have a TD in waiting, with Martin Kenny, and there’s no doubt about that, and I look forward to the day he comes into the Dail,” said Deputy Doherty at the Sinn Fein convention, which was held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Monday night.  “I intend to ensure that we will the election, and it’s about throwing everything we have at it, and leaving no stone unturned.”

There was just one candidate for the convention, Cllr. Martin Kenny from Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim.  Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, attended the convention along with Matt Carthy MEP and another TD, Michael Colreavey from Sligo/Leitrim.  Westmeath was represented by Cllr. Paul Hogan and several of his local party members.

“I’ve no doubt we will take a seat, we have the best candidate, and look at the interest shown by our leadership in being here,” said Roscommon’s Cllr. Michael Mulligan.  “Gerry Adams left a meeting in Belfast to be here.”

Much talk was made by the speakers of a 1917 Roscommon by-election when a Sinn Fein candidate, Count George Plunkett won the seat.  That was the year before Sinn Fein had their breakthrough election, winning 73 seats.

“This people of Roscommon, and South Leitrim can’t wait two years for change, this is our opportunity, and by-elections can change people’s lives and Martin Kenny is an outstanding public representative who has shown that he can deliver for the people of Leitrim,” said Matt Carthy MEP.

A long time councillor in Leitrim, Martin Kenny, has ran for the constituency twice before, gaining 4,637 first preference votes at the last General Election.

Gerry Adams had a hugely positive message for the gathering by saying that it’s crucially important that everybody has it in their heads that the party could win the seat.

“If we don’t think we can win it, one thing is for certain, we won’t win it, and this seat is winnable,” said the Sinn Fein President.

He commented on Donegal unexpectedly winning the match, to the laughter of the gathering.

“Nobody saw Frank Maguire die, the poor man, and out of that came a by-election and the election of Bobby Sands, which is one of the moments that presented to us at that time,” said Adams.

Frank Maguire was a native of Athlone town, and went on to become a Nationalist MP in Fermanagh/South Tyrone.  He died suddenly in 1981, leading to the by-election success of hunger striker Bobby Sands, who also died shortly after his election.   He was succeeded by his election agent Owen Carron, who won the subsequent by-election.

Interestingly Carron was at the Roscommon/South Leitrim convention, and seconded the Kenny nomination, after he was proposed by Cllr. Michael Mulligan.

The by-election is expected to take place on Friday, October 10th.

FF Leader Visits Roscommon/South Leitrim Ahead of By-Election

Cllr. Orla Leyden, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Deputy Michael Martin, FF Leader, Senator Terry Leyden and former Roscommon Mayor Martin Connaughton (father of Ivan)
Cllr. Orla Leyden, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Deputy Michael Martin, FF Leader, Senator Terry Leyden and former Roscommon Mayor Martin Connaughton (father of Ivan)

The Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election is believed to be taking place on October 10th next, and the first party candidate out of the traps was Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Ivan Connaughton at the end of July.  Last week, he and his party colleagues were assisted in the campaign by their leader Deputy Micheal Martin, who visited the constituency. 

Speaking to irishsmokefill, while on the canvass, Deputy Martin said that the party is putting in a significant effort early on with Ivan Connaughton’s canvass.

“I’m struck here by the strength of our councillors on the ground, and I’m thrilled with the interaction our councillors have with communities on the ground,” said the FF leader.

He said that while the party has to build up the ground again in Dublin, with the Dublin South West by-election, the party doesn’t have a seat in Roscommon, and are not taking anything for granted.

Political punters believe the Roscommon/South Leitrim by-election is Fianna Fail’s to lose.

“We didn’t win a seat in Roscommon at the last General Election, so we are fighting to win a seat, and we have a young and energetic candidate here, who is out with councillors who are held in high esteem,” said Deputy Martin.

When asked about what the government should do with the extra €971 million tax-take, the Fianna Fail leader said that first of all the government should so something about school guidance counsellors.  He also said that medical cards should be a priority, and they have to stop taking discretionary medical cards.

About the heightened tension in Golan Heights and the involvement of Irish troops there, Deputy Martin said the Minister for Defence needs to speak to the Dail or at least give clarity as to their understanding of the situation.

“Risks are now there as regards the safety and security of our troops, which is our No. 1 priority, but I think the fact that the mandate has changed means we have to give urgent consideration to our participation in any new mandate,” said the Fianna Fail leader.  “In terms of any new mission going out to replace the existing mission, we need to be very clear as to what the objectives are, and to make sure that the UN has sufficiently equipped and resourced the mission, that’s very important.”

He said the FF spokesperson on defence, Sean O’Fearghail, has been in touch with the Minister, and that they would like to also get greater clarity from the UN, in terms of the new situation that has emerged.

“It is much different now from what was agreed, and it was a Chapter 6 mission, does it become a Chapter 7 one, which is the difference between peacekeeping and peace enforcement, and these are big issues here which we can’t shirk and we can’t ignore,” said Deputy Martin.

Cllr. Connaughton, is a native of Athleague and represents the Athlone Municipal area of Roscommon County Council.  He ran unsuccessfully in the 2011 General Election for Roscommon/South Leitrim, and got 4,070 first preference votes.  He was first elected to the council in May 2014.  The by-election was caused by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan winning a seat to the European Parliament, and thereby resigning his Dail seat.

FG Choose Maura Hopkins for “Difficult” Roscommon By-Election


Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cllr. Maura Hopkins
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cllr. Maura Hopkins

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and other Oireachtas members were in Co. Roscommon last week to witness one of their newest Fine Gael councillors becoming the party’s by-election candidate for Roscommon/South Leitrim.

30 years old, Cllr. Maura Hopkins became the party’s choice, when the two other candidates, Sean Finan, and former councillor Michael McGreal pulled out of the race on the night, thereby ensuring no vote was needed.

Ballaghadereen based Cllr. Hopkins previously worked as an Occupational Therapist in St. James Hospital, Dublin before returning to Roscommon to fight the recent Local Elections, where she became one of the county’s three FG councillors.

Fine Gael got 10 councillors elected in the 2009 elections, but two defected, following the government’s decision to close Roscommon’s Accident and Emergency unit in 2011.  Cllr. Hopkins was newly elected in 2014, alongside Cllr. Michael Creighton and Athlone’s Cllr. John Naughten.

“This is a by-election we can very much win, and it’s a great privilege to be the candidate and I’m very proud to fly the FG flag, but we do need to work together as a team in this campaign and the crowd here is hugely encouraging,” said Cllr. Hopkins, to the gathering, at the Percy French Hotel, Strokestown.  “We have a very strong team in Roscommon/South Leitrim, and I will be giving all of my energy to it.”

She acknowledged the Taoiseach opening the Ballaghadereen bypass road earlier that day.

“I’m a young person, ambitious for our future, and my parents instilled in me, an ethos of hard work, and honesty,” she said.  “I started to create a life and home in Dublin, but I came home to Co. Roscommon to run for the council, and to represent our constituency.  Too many young people have been forced to leave with no options, which are a direct legacy of Fianna Fail’s recklessness in government.”

She told two anecdotes about spending time recently with former Roscommon TD, Joan Burke, who represented Fine Gael in Dail Eireann between 1964 and 1981, and about her grandmother’s first cousin being the late Monsignor James Horan of Knock.

“I spent time with Joan Burke last week, and she spoke about the strong support she received, and I am reminded of Joan’s message, which was ‘teamwork is the key to success,” said Cllr. Hopkins.   “My grandmother’s first cousin, Monsignor James Horan was a man with a vision of positivity, who saw how Knock Airport would develop.”

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny said that the Minister Michael Ring, who also chaired the convention in Strokestown would be the Director of Elections for the by-election.

“Ring will be outside your house at 6.15 in the morning wondering why you weren’t canvassing,” said the Taoiseach to laughter from the gathering.  “We’ll have an office in Roscommon, and everyone will have an equal part to canvass.”

Speaking directly to Cllr. Hopkins, the Taoiseach said that Maura has personality, and is professional and articulate.

“You have understanding, and are exactly the type of candidate that politics needs, and you speak for a different generation that you understand better than others,” said the Taoiseach.  “Let candidates be judged on their merits, and we are going to win this by-election because the people will see that we have the best candidate for the future.  I heard you at the FG Ard Fheis, and I said, there is a candidate with a future who believes in herself and what she says.”

The Roscommon/South Leitrim and Dublin South West by-elections are believed to take place on Friday, October 10th.