Cox joins FG in his battle for presidency
PAT Cox joined the third political party of his career last night as he upped the ante on his bid to become president.
Fine Gael cleared the way for the former EU president to become a fully fledged member at an executive meeting which sees him become a member of the Cork branch.
But analysts suspect that his chances of landing the top job have waned significantly since the idea was first mooted by the party hierarchy.
He has been an early front-runner for the election along with Senator David Norris, but both men are now battling to rescue their campaigns.
Mr Cox's arrival in Fine Gael has caused some internal tensions as he was previously a member of both Fianna Fail and the PD.
The Herald has been told by senior party sources that the knives are already out among Fine Gael loyalists who are said to be furious with party headquarters for facilitating the move so quickly.
Sources say that the fast-tracking of Mr Cox's membership has angered a "significant" number of TDs and senators.
One senior TD today accused Fine Gael of adopting a "bent approach" in allowing the former PD to join the party.
"This really has thrown a spanner in the works. A number of us are deeply resentful with the way the party has rubber-stamped Pat Cox. This is already causing a lot of unrest given that this man has changed his stripes on some many occasions."
The source added that party headquarters is prepared to do "everything in its power" to ensure Mr Cox secures the nomination.
He now has only three weeks to canvass support from party members before the official convention on July 9.
Mr Cox had mooted his intention to run for presidency several months ago, but it is understood that he was "strongly encouraged" by the party following John Bruton's decision not to contest.
His competitors MEP's Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell have already begun canvassing support.
The Electoral College for a presidential election comprises the party's TDs, senators, MEPs, all its councillors as well as the members of the executive council. Seventy per cent of the vote will be decided by the parliamentary party, with the remainder divided between councillors (20pc) and the executive council (10pc).