Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Aengus O'Rourke, has withdrawn his name from the Fianna Fáil selection convention for Westmeath, but has not ruled out a bid in Roscommon.
Nominations closed for the selection convention on Wednesday with three candidates nominated in the county, but Cllr O'Rourke informed party headquarters this morning he would be withdrawing his name.
“I've withdrawn my name. I thought about it long and hard and politics for me is all about timing. 2016 was the time for me, following on from the by-election when I came in second. In 2016, Fianna Fáil decided not to have a candidate for Athlone or a convention and I think it's done significant damage to Fianna Fáil in South Westmeath, and in Athlone in particular,” he said.
“Along with that I am currently mayor, which is a 20 hour a day job. I really don't have time for national politics at this point in time,” Mayor O'Rourke said.
“I still have seven months to run as mayor. It's difficult to juggle everything,” he said, adding that if he was to contest the convention he would need to canvas all 400 delegates in Westmeath ahead of the contest and he just doesn't have the time to do that right now.
“There are a lot of factors guiding me. It's with a heavy heart that I take this decision, but I do it for practical reasons,” added Mayor O'Rourke, who said he made the decision after discussing it with his family and supporters.
“I announced my intentions at the Athlone Comhairle Ceantair last Friday. Despite that the members still nominated me. Fianna Fáil rang me this morning to see if I wanted my name to go forward and I said I didn't, on this occasion,” he told the Westmeath Independent.
He added: “It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be first citizen of your town and right now I thought it wasn't the time.”
Mayor O'Rourke said the party had moved rather quickly on the Longford/Westmeath constituency and said he was not yet ruling out contesting a convention in Roscommon/Galway.
“I'm getting a lot of encouragement still from those in that constituency,” he said. “I'm always one to keep my options open. Who knows in six months, who knows if Fianna Fáil didn't pursue Longford/Westmeath so quickly what I would have done. If I put my name forward I want to be able to give it 100%. I am getting a lot of genuine Fianna Fáil people from Roscommon and east Galway encouraging me.”