Sinn Fein has insisted it is sticking to running one candidate in Tipperary in the next General Election following the selection of Nenagh-based Cllr Séamie Morris as its candidate at the convention attended by about 200 party delegates in Cashel on Monday night.
The staunch Republican councillor beat off the challenges of South Tipperary rivals Cllr Martin Browne from Cashel and Cllr Catherine Carey from Clonmel at the selection convention in Halla na Feile addressed by Cork based Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada.
Unlike the recent Fianna Fail convention, the Sinn Fein party chose not to announce the votes each candidate received and declined to reveal the number of votes cast.
Just the winning candidate was announced at the end of the two and half hour long convention. Cllr Browne, however, has confirmed he was second in the contest and Cllr Carey placed third.
Sinn Fein party members representing ten cumainn across the county voted and the ballot was open to each party member rather than delegates representing individual cumainn.
This was the first time the Sinn Fein party organisation in Co. Tipperary has run a contest to select a general election candidate. Cllr Martin Browne said the party had a long time ago decided to run just one candidate in the constituency as it believes two candidates will just split the party vote rather than maximise it.
The party’s success in winning five seats in the Tipperary Co. Council election last year and its rating in opinion polls nationally means it’s in with a fighting chance of winning a seat in the general election in this constituency. It’s 93 years since the party had a TD in Co. Tipperary.
Cllr Morris, who is a member of Nenagh Municipal District Council and Tipperary Co. Council, has contested the past two general elections for Sinn Fein in the old North Tipperary constituency.
He received a standing ovation from the assembled delegates when he was announced as the party’s candidate. Cllrs Browne and Carey both congratulated him and urged the local party organisation to get fully behind Cllr Morris’ candidacy.
Cllr Morris was proposed at the convention by Thurles Cllr David Doran and seconded by Sinn Fein Tipperary Comhairle Ceanntair Chairman Paul Hayes.
Speaking to the delegates after his selection, Cllr Morris paid tribute to the people who came before him, his family and the republicans of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s for whom being a republican meant serving 12 months in jail.
He said they were all at this convention for one thing - to get the first Sinn Fein TD for Tipperary since Joseph McDonagh (brother of the Rising leader Thomas), and urged the party machine in the county to work as a united body to win that seat.
He said his priorities will be to seek proper rights for workers, not JobsBridge schemes, to get proper jobs for the county, to improve the county’s roads infrastructure, which he slammed as a “shocking disgrace” and to have Tipperary stand as an “economic beacon”.
In his speech before the vote, Cllr Morris emphasised to delegates that choosing him as the candidate would be the best option for taking on Labour party Minister Alan Kelly in the general election.
“There was a time when Sinn Fein conventions were monitored by British intelligence. This convention will be monitored very closely by a certain minister in Portroe,” he said.
“The minister for Uisce Eireann will jump with joy if I am not selected tonight as it will leave the whole of north Tipperary open to him to exploit and will in all probabilities elect him,” he warned.
He also emphasised his republican credentials to the party faithful. “I come from a proud Republican family that persevered against State harassment. We had our door kicked in by armed police with a house full of children. We stood against that harrassment. We as a family have very resolutely stood for the nationalists in the six counties when Irish nationalists were being extradited across the border to British murder gangs by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.”