The race to fill the late Nicky McFadden’s Dáil seat will begin in earnest on Wednesday (April 30 ) when the Government is expected to call a by-election for May 23 to elect the 40th TD to represent the Longford-Westmeath constituency.
Though the decision has yet to be confirmed by a Government spokesperson, a Fine Gael party source conceded: “They’ll be making that statement when the Dáil comes back [from its Easter recess]”.
At this very early stage, the Advertiser has compiled a draft list of 12 probable candidates, pending the party conventions of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
These will see the ballot sheet reduced to one candidate from each of these, Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan from Athlone, and whatever independent wishes to gamble his or her deposit.
Cllr Hogan (26 ) has simply declared his candidacy for his party’s convention, but, having polled more first preferences than sitting TD Robert Troy in the 2011 General Election, it is highly unlikely he will be opposed.
Already Mae Sexton, the former TD for the Progressive Democrats from Longford has declared herself as a non-runner, as has sitting Westmeath Labour councillor, Denis Leonard, although constituency TD Willie Penrose declared: “No decision [about running a candidate] has been made in Labour as yet”.
The Fine Gael nomination looks like a straight shoot-out between councillors Gabrielle McFadden and Peter Burke.
The Fianna Fáil situation is a lot more complex, with the likelihood of at least seven names to go before convention for the nomination, but most probably will boil down to a dynastic battle between the houses of Reynolds (Phillip ) and O’Rourke (Aengus ).
This is not to rule out Frankie Keena in Athlone, Aidan Davitt in Mullingar, Padraig Loughrey in Longford, and not-yet-decided outsiders Pat O’Rourke and Martin Mulleady (both Longford ).
Independents John McNamara, and Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran have also declared an interest.
Protocol dictates the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, present a writ of declaration from the Government to the Houses of the Oireachteas with its intention to hold the two by-elections, here and in Dublin West, to coincide with both the Local and European Elections.
If this happens as expected on Wednesday, candidates will have just 23 days to present themselves to an already heavily-canvassed electorate.