Kate O’Connell.

Attacks were ‘designed to diminish’ – O’Connell

Kilbeggan native Kate O’Connell says that a group within the Fine Gael membership in the Dublin Bay South constituency had planned to put a sign outside her pharmacy pointing towards the M50 and saying ‘Westmeath this way’.

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne on Friday, where she announced that she would not be putting her name forward to run for Fine Gael in the by-election brought about by the resignation of Eoghan Murphy, O’Connell said that she had come to the decision as she was not the “desired candidate” of the party leadership.

Despite narrowly failing to get re-elected in the last election, O’Connell says that a faction within Fine Gael has made it “impossible” for her to win the selection convention.

“There has been a faction, I would feel, within the party since the leadership campaign which I thought had long gone out with the tide, who have long planned the exit of myself,” she said.

O’Connell also told Claire Byrne that within her own constituency she had been the victim of “particularly personalised commentary and attacks”.

She said that one constituency member had planned to hand her a sod of turf at a meeting in front of other people and that on another occasion a group of FG supporters had talked about putting a sign outside her pharmacy pointing to the M50 and saying ‘Westmeath This Way’.

She said that these personalised attacks were “designed to diminish” and that the message being sent to her was “you are not from here. You are from the country.

“We don’t like the cut of your jib, as it were”.

“This was hugely disrespectful seeing that I live in the constituency.

“I married someone from the constituency whose family served the constituency for generations. I have three children going to school in the constituency. I am an employer in the constituency.”

Although she had been a vocal supporter of Simon Coveney during the 2017 leadership battle and at the time described the TDs who backed Leo Varadkar as “choirboys”, she says that she has always remained loyal to FG.

She also said that she has no intention of leaving Fine Gael.

“I have no problem with Leo Varadkar. I accepted he won the leadership. I put my heart and soul into legislation.

“I have risen him on occasion and that is my nature. In any party there is no such thing as a wrong question.”

O’Connell, who is the daughter of the former Fine Gael county councillor Michael Newman, told RTÉ that she got an “awful wallop” when she lost her Dáil Éireann seat last year and that it was “really hard” on her family.