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Fine Gael faces challenge as Cannon announces exit


Ten TDs elected for Fine Gael in the 2020 General Election have now announced that they are not going to contest the next one.

The latest to stand down is former minister of state Ciarán Cannon and it is something of a surprise.

It had widely been expected at Leinster House that there would be at least one more announcement of a sitting Fine Gael TD bowing out of politics.

However, Ciaran Cannon’s name was not among the names being mentioned.

The affable Galway East TD, who is a passionate cyclist, cited “a coarseness, a toxicity in politics” as part of the reason he was exiting.

He added: “At times it feels like it’s open season on you and your family. That’s not acceptable, nor indeed sustainable, if we want to have good people choosing politics as a career.”

However, that is precisely what Fine Gael strategists have to do, find maybe a dozen new candidates who have a realistic chance of holding those existing seats.

The last Fine Gael TD to announce he was leaving was Paul Kehoe, TD for Wexford since 2002, who has decades of experience at Cabinet.

His departure threw up some stark questions for the party.

Who will stand in the reduced Wexford constituency in the General Election and who will be the candidate in the new oddly named constituency of Wicklow-Wexford?

The departure of some Fine Gael councillors has made the job more difficult.

The party strategists also have to resolve similar problems posed by the departures of Richard Bruton in Dublin Bay North, Fergus O’Dowd in Louth, Brendan Griffin in Kerry, Charlie Flanagan in Laois-Offaly, Joe McHugh in Donegal, Michael Creed in Cork North West, David Stanton in Cork East, and John Paul Phelan in Carlow-Kilkenny.

That is not including former Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy who called time on his parliamentary career in April 2021.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is bullish when asked if he has any concerns about his depleted ranks.

He steadfastly maintains that his party prides itself on its ability to regenerate and, in the past, has pointed to Cllr James Geoghegan as a good example, contending he is highly likely to win back a seat for Fine Gael in Eoghan Murphy’s old stomping ground.

The Taoiseach dismissed any question that his party will struggle to identify similar candidates to carry the standard into the electoral battle.

Time will tell, but it is certainly going to be a challenge.

Fine Gael will be watching the results of the upcoming local elections very closely, which are due to be held on Friday 7 June.

It should not just give the party a sense of its electoral standing but also who its future General Election candidates might be.

Fine Gael sources suggest a slew of new candidates in the General Election could give the party a revamped look, despite spending more than a decade in Government.

Yet it is a tall order to repeat the trick maybe a dozen times and party strategists will not need reminding that Fine Gael lost 12 seats in the 2020 General Election and were left with just 35, behind both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.


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