Fine Gael held its Longford-Westmeath selection convention last night. (Pic: Peter Burke / Twitter)

McFadden chosen as FG candidate after gender directive from party

It was confirmed last night that Senator Gabrielle McFadden will contest the next general election in a bid to win back the Dáil seat she lost when the country last went to the polls in February 2016. 

After days of speculation about the possibility of a pre-Christmas election, Fine Gael held its Longford-Westmeath selection convention in the Mullingar Park Hotel from 8.30pm yesterday. 

Two Athlone-area candidates - Senator McFadden and Cllr Tom Farrell - went forward to contest the convention, along with sitting TD Peter Burke and Longford's Cllr Micheál Carrigy. 

The convention was told that a directive had been issued from party headquarters mandating that a female candidate be chosen in the constituency. As a result of this, Cllr Farrell withdrew from contention. 

"You weren't going to have two candidates chosen from the one area, so I felt that I had to withdraw," Cllr Farrell told the Westmeath Independent. 

He said the imposition of gender quotas "should be looked at again," and a motion to write to the Taoiseach requesting that gender quotas be reviewed was passed on the night with the support of Senator McFadden. 

"I think there could be a need for (gender quotas) in certain circumstances but they are causing issues in a lot of constituencies," said Cllr Farrell.

"After this election (the proportion of female candidates is) supposed to be increased to 40%, or else parties will lose funding. I don't think it should be linked to money. I think it should be based on common sense."

Senator McFadden was elected to the Dáil in the 2014 by-election which followed the death of her sister, Nicky. She lost her seat in last year's general election and was subsequently elected to the Seanad. 

In addition to Senator McFadden, Deputy Burke and Cllr Carrigy were ratified as the party's three candidates in the four-seater Longford-Westmeath constituency. 

Fianna Fail was also scheduled to hold a selection convention in Mullingar yesterday evening but this was postponed. It will now take place in the Bloomfield House Hotel on Tuesday next, December 5.