Fianna Fail Donegal North-East Deputy Niall Blaney will not contest the forthcoming general election, it sensationally emarged last night in a county that has gone from bad to worse for Fianna Fáil.
The announcement was made at the a party convention in Letterkenny.
Deputy Blaney was not in attendance and members of the press were excluded at the start of the convention when a statement was read out.
Deputy Blaney was first elected to the Dail for Donegal North East in May 2002.
While the news came as a shock to many, Deputy Blaney has led a low profile in recent times.
Earlier this month, Deputy Blaney, who has three young children, told his supporters that he had separated from his wife, Rosaleen.
Apart from a short period from November 1995 to June 1997 a member of the Blaney family has been represented in the Oireachtas since 1927.
The convention, attended by over 500 people, also heard that Sen. Cecilia Keaveney had withdrawn her name from the contest.
Inishowen-based councillor Charlie McConalogue was selected to contest the constituency for Donegal North-East.
Fianna Fail had intended to run two candidates in the constituency. Tanaiste Mary Coughlan indicated that the constituency committee would make a decision on this by the close of business today (Monday).
Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, MEP, expressed his disappointment regarding Deputy Blaney’s decision not to run.
He added that the election will be one of the most difficult ever for Fianna Fail.
“Fianna Fail is not playing against the wind, we are playing against a hurricane,” he declared.
In a statement issued by Blaney before the convention, he said: “It is with regret that I have decided for personal reasons not to contest the forthcoming general election.
“I sincerely thank all who nominated, me worked for me and voted for me. Coming from a deep republican background, I have been proud to serve the people of Donegal North East in Dail Eireann for almost nine years .
“I have done this to the best of my ability and hope that it has made a difference for the people I have represented. I have been honoured by their trust, support and confidence.
“I do not take this decision lightly but it is a decision that I hope my party and supporters can respect. I wish the FF candidates, whoever they might be, every good luck in the campaign,” he said.
Favourites to be added to the FF ticket are are Cllr Dessie Larkin and Cllr Liam Blaney, after Cllr Ciaran Brogan said that he was not interested.