‘I have great fears for Fianna Fáil in Donegal’

FORMER Fianna Fáil Senator Enda Bonner has expressed doubts about his party’s ability to return a TD in Donegal in the next general election.
In February 2020, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue (FF) beat off the challenge of his former Dáil colleague Pat The Cope Gallagher to join Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn, Joe McHugh (Fine Gael) and Thomas Pringle (Independent) in Leinster House.
“The way it’s going Fianna Fáil will be lucky to have a TD in Donegal next time around,” Mr Bonner warned.
The Letterkenny-based accountant lost his seat on Donegal County Council, bowing out on the sixth count, in May 2019. Two new Fianna Fáil members were subsequently elected in the Glenties Electoral Area, namely Noreen McGarvey from Dungloe and former All-Ireland winning captain Anthony Molloy from Ardara.
Mr Bonner was only added to the party ticket after appealing the party’s convention vote to nominate Ms McGarvey to run for the local elections.
“I shouldn’t have had to go to that convention in Burtonport at all because I was the sitting Councillor. If that happened, with Noreen McGarvey then being selected to run, it would have been grand and that decision still doesn’t sit well with me.
“I was very annoyed with Fianna Fáil headquarters that they didn’t call Pat the Cope to task. I had to do everything on my own but it’s hard when the local TD was out trying to push his secretary forward.
“Looking back, I was finished with politics when I came home the night of the count but I’ve started to perk up a bit this last year or so and, who knows, I might run again next time around. I’m chairman of the local Dungloe GAA club again and there’s plenty of work there to keep me busy but I don’t see why I should not be interested in running again,” he said.
“I’ve been in and out of hospital a few times in recent months but apart from my sickness my mind is very lucid and if I get my health back again we’ll see what the future brings,” he said.
“A lot of people are pushing me. The good Fianna Fáil people are pushing as they don’t feel we’re being represented in the Rosses,” he added.
Micheál Martin
Earlier this year, a number of party activists questioned Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s leadership of the party with former minister Barry Cowen saying that he should not lead them into the next election.
Mr Bonner believes that Mr Martin should continue to lead and expressed “annoyance and disappointment” at the timing of the public criticisms.
“Micheál Martin was a great Minister although I didn’t like the way he used an opportunity to get what he wanted to become leader. I still think he’s doing a reasonable job with the public but he hasn’t got fire in his belly enough and because of that the party is slipping.
“That said, it’s not just Micheál Martin’s fault. Of all our TDs up there, there’s only two or three of them worth their salt. He’s made some rare decisions with some of the people he has picked – Stephen Donnelly (Minister for Health) for example. He’s well able to talk but can he walk the walk?
“He also got rid of good people like Barry Cowen and Dara Calleary. These were the people who had the experience and yet he by-passed. He had another good man in Niall Collins. Meanwhile, Leo Varadkar, who ensured that these boys were pushed out, is allowed to divulge private information to a friend without any form of censure,” he said.
“I wouldn’t take Martin out immediately. I would give him time to stay on As Taoiseach because that’s all he ever wanted. I would leave him there until maybe the autumn before the next election,” he added.
Closer to home, Mr Bonner claimed that both Minister McConalogue and Senator Niall Blaney voted in favour of the coalition with Fine Gael in their own self interest.
“For years, the Blaneys were anti-Brits. They were anti-everything and then, all of a sudden, Niall is pushing for the coalition. Charlie was much the same, although I could understand his reasoning because he had the chance to become a Minister,” he said.
A large number of grass roots supporters in Donegal were part of a group, calling itself Cosmhuintir Fianna Fáil, who strongly opposed that coalition government with Fine Gael.
“You’re either Fianna Fáil or you’re not and people should not have been attacking Micheál Martin. What hope has the party when you’re own people and fighting against you? I didn’t join the group as I felt that many of them were simply trying to push their own agendas,” he said.
Opinion polls
The latest Irish Times/IpsosMRBI poll shows Fianna Fáil support stands at just 6% in Connacht/Ulster.
“That shook us all because even in the bad times we had 17%. I couldn’t understand that we went down that bad but I suppose Sinn Féin has got very strong in Donegal because that was always likely once they got in and started to build. Pringle became strong and he got their transfers. The way it’s going we’ll be lucky if we get a TD next time,” he said.
The former Senator claimed that the party was in a ‘very poor place’ in Donegal.
‘Great fears’
“I have great fears about Fianna Fáil in Donegal, the way things are going. Charlie (McConalogue) got the last seat when he beat Pat The Cope (Gallagher) for it. If the Cope had left me alone he would have walked back into the Dáil and Charlie would be at home now,” he claimed.
“Not too many years ago, Fianna Fáil had four TDs in Donegal and now they’re struggling for one. I don’t see too much young blood coming through and they’ve no one in the Rosses.
“Fianna Fáil want Micheal Naughton and Niall Blaney to run on the ticket with Charlie (McConalogue). That’s what the hierarchy want and the hierarchy normally gets their way. Support has declined for both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in Donegal and I don’t see that trend changing any time soon,” he said.

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