Tensions that were simmering for a while within Fine Gael in Meath appear to have boiled over inside the last week.
When word first emerged that Noel French was set to depart the party there was an emergency gathering organised by Justice Minister Helen McEntee in Leinster House last Wednesday, after which those in attendance adjourned to the Dáil restaurant for dinner.
The last ditch bid to try and patch up differences, which appear to centre on the appointment of former TD John Farrelly as constituency organiser for Meatb East which also sees him in charge of outlining plans for next years local elections, was unsuccessful.
In attendance at Leinster House were Helen McEntee, Gerry O’Connor, John Farrelly, Eddie Downey, who recently resigned as chairman of Fine Gael in Meath East and who is seen as being strongly supportive of Farrelly’s appointment, and other key players in Meath Fine Gael.
A source told Meath Live, ‘Stories that have emerged in the media of late about John Farrelly, especially the one on the Ditch website have not sat well with a lot in the party.
‘John would be close to Helen McEntee and she organised the meeting to try and smooth things over but it doesn’t appear to have worked.
‘It’s not just John Farrelly that has rocked the boat as a lot of people are angry with Noel French and specifically the fact that he delayed leaving until after he was appointed Cathoirleach of Trim Municipal District, something which carries a payment of €6000 to the office holder.’
And speculation is mounting that Fine Gael will turn to a former TD in a bid to replace French at the next election.
The source revealed, ‘Ray Butler would still be popular around Trim, given the likelihood of an anti government vote it would be wrong to say he would be a shoo in if he came back but he would be head and shoulders the candidate with the best chance.
‘There is panic in the blue shirt ranks at the moment and the fall out may not have finished.’