FIANNA FÁIL’S two-candidate strategy in the Midlands-North-West (MNW) EU constituency – the, er, ‘dream ticket’ of Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte – is already strained, with the Galway East TD, Rabbitte, emoting all over twitter about being disregarded by her party colleagues.
Rabbitte has rejected the cynical, sexist notion that she is merely an add-on, token female candidate selected to win transfers for Cavan-Monaghan TD Smith and to improve the party’s gender profile. But despite Rabbitte seeing herself as a joint, equal candidate with Smith, it appears that many FF lads on the ground, as well as at HQ, have an inexplicable bias towards former minister Smith.
On April 7, Kerry TD John Brassil proudly tweeted that he had canvassed the Ballyheigue area for FF candidate Billy Kelleher in the South EU constituency and ’twas not even noon. Quick as a whip, a wounded Anne tweeted, “Now that’s a supportive colleague @BrassilJohnTD. It’s a real shame you’re not in the MNW constituency.”
An explanation for Rabbitte’s resentful tweet came in a tweeted dialogue the same day between her and FF’s Cllr Paddy O’Rourke. He tweeted that he was “delighted to attend Joe Murphy’s campaign launch” for the local elections in North Longford. Rabbitte retorted saying, “Sorry I missed the launch. I would have attended if I was invited!!! I am the female candidate for @FiannaFailparty on the complete ticket for MNW.”
A worse snub was to follow the next night when RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live programme interviewed a panel of Irish politicians from Brussels in a special programme on Brexit, with Smith centre stage. Later, Smith tweeted about his Brussels meeting with Guy Verhofstadt, leader of FF’s EU grouping, ALDE, ex-Belgian prime minister and the European Parliament’s representative in Brexit negotiations.
An incandescent Rabbitte complained to party HQ in Mount Street, Dublin, that she was being sidelined by the party leadership and male FFers in MNW. The upshot was that, while Anne had previously postponed acceptance of various invitations from FF EU organisers to visit Brussels, she hot footed it to Euroland the very next day to attend an agriculture show on the future of farming in the EU. Anne then posted a photo of herself shaking hands with a rather weary looking Verhofstadt.
Rabbitte is not completely naïve and her angst is not the result of delusions about taking a second seat for FF in MNW. Her real target is the raising of her profile in advance of the general election and the fear that her performance in Galway East and nationally has not been stellar since the 2016 election. There are those in the constituency organisation who would relish the prospect of being a candidate “on the complete ticket” alongside Anne at the general election (see The Phoenix, 5/4/19).