Keaveney's political career not over despite Seanad loss

Cllr Mark Donagh Killilea though may stand in his way

The controversial Colm Keaveney. Will he make a political comeback?

The controversial Colm Keaveney. Will he make a political comeback?

Despite his failure to win a seat in both the Dáil and Seanad Éireann elections, the failure of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a government means the controversial Colm Keaveney's political career is by no means over.

The longer talks drag on between FG and FF, the greater the likelihood the State will be forced into another general election. While there is little, if any, public appetite for another trek to the polls, the political parties are already on an election footing should the situation arise, and nowhere is this more obvious than in Galway East.

Colm Keaveney, the former Galway East TD, failed to be elected to the Seanad Labour Panel this week, but should an election arise in the near future, it is understood that he would seek an FF nomination to run again. However, the controversial former TD will not have it all his own way.

County councillor, and Tuam area rival, Mark Donagh Killilea has confirmed he will seek the nomination, potentially setting up a Keaveney v Killelea joust at convention, for the right to take on Independent Sean Canney in the election.

Mr Keaveney's loss in the Seanad Election will be seen by the Killilea camp as a potential gain, as it could potentially convey the impression that the former TD no longer has the aura of the senior politician in the area. They could argue that Cllr Killilea, as an elected councillor now ranks ahead of him, and has every right to challenge for the nomination.

While Mr Keaveney was deeply unpopular with certain sections of the Galway East FF grassroots, a perusal of the tallies from February's election reveals FF may not be so quick to abandon him. Despite not winning a seat, he still polled well in the Tuam area, especially Tuam town itself. While Dep Canney was the dominant force in north Galway and Tuam/Headford - an area with more than 19,000 votes cast, he got more than 35 per cent.

Mr Keaveney though was second, admittedly a long way behind Dep Canney on around 17.5 per cent, nevertheless ahead of the other defeated TD - Fine Gael's Paul Connaughton jnr. Indeed FF managed to poll 24 per cent in the Tuam electoral area, putting it a nose ahead of FG - a respectable showing considering FF had a controversial candidate and a 'gene pool' Independent eating into the party vote.

The main question however is, at the next election, whenever it may be, can Keaveney/Killelea defeat Dep Canney? That will not be an easy task. Also FF is reduced to one seat in the now three-seat Galway East, which means either man would also have to poll ahead of new TD Anne Rabbitte. This will also be a challenge, given Dep Rabbitte's strong showing in February and the fact that she came out of seemingly nowhere, and against many expectations, to take that seat.

Dep Rabbitte's win was very much based on votes to the south and east of the constituency. She overwhelmed the opposition in Portumna/Woodford, polling well into the forties in most areas around there; and polled 25 per cent in the part of the Ballinasloe rural hinterland that has remained in Galway East. It is difficult to see Mr Keaveney doing well in that region. It is also difficult to see Cllr Killelea polling highly there either, especially as it is many years since a Killelea name was on the ballot paper.

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