Cowen’s convention victory leaves FF with Euro dilemma

World of Politics with Harry McGee

A wet Monday night in Mullingar, early February; probably not the most inviting of sentences I’m ever going to write. It did have its compensations, though; it was a good example of democracy in action.

The Westmeath town was the venue for the Fianna Fáil convention to select its first candidate for the European Elections in the Midlands North West constituency.

It’s a sprawling behemoth of a constituency going all the way from Kildare to Donegal and going across from Louth to Galway – essentially the top half of the country, excluding Dublin.

It used to be 13 counties but is now 15 counties, thanks to the addition of Laois and Offaly this year, thanks to the Electoral Commission.

The addition of two counties to Midlands North West makes a little more sense now as the hinterland of Laois-Offaly are in the northern half of the island rather than the south.

All of the other conventions held by parties so far have been pedestrian with no contests. But there was more than normal interest in this one because three relatively prominent figures in Fianna Fáil had expressed and interest.

The first was the highly-regarded Lisa Chambers from Mayo, the party’s leader in the Seanad. Then there was Niall Blaney, the Donegal Senator and member of the well-known political dynasty. He had put in mountains of work.

The fly in the ointment was Barry Cowen, the TD for Laois-Offaly. He is also a member of a powerful Fianna Fáil family and has maintained a high profile, even after being sacked as Minister for Agriculture days after this government took office.

From the moment he announced, Cowen was the front-runner.

Fianna Fáil has not held a seat in this constituency for ten years, since Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher lost his seat in 2014.

Pictured: Fianna Fáil Director of European Elections Minister Darragh O’Brien and Fianna Fáil Midlands North-West candidate Barry Cowen TD.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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