And then there were eight - all in as by-election deadline looms

With just a day to go until the closure of nominations, the confirmation of Cllr Denis Leonard (Lab ) from Kinnegad as a candidate will now see a total of eight names on the ballot sheet for the Longford-Westmeath by-election this day fortnight.

Cllr Leonard’s late decision will complete the attendance of the four major parties at the count, where they will be joined by four independents - two from Athlone, and one each from Longford and Mullingar.

“I felt there needed to be a Labour voice on the ticket, and I felt I was the person to do it. I had been asked a few weeks ago, but the timing was difficult to balance out with my other commitments,” said the 54-year-old member of Westmeath County Council, who is also the director of Dunboyne College of Further Education in Co Meath by day.

Cllr Leonard confirmed he would also be standing in the Local Elections. “I want the people to have the opportunity to vote Labour, and the people of north Westmeath to have a voice. This is a four-seat constituency with one [seat] available, and Labour should contest this. Take the opportunity when it’s there. That’s what I’ll do,” he added.

He will be joined on the ballot sheet by Cllr Gab McFadden (FG ) whose candidature was confirmed at an uncontested convention in the Mullingar Park Hotel on bank holiday Monday attended by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as Minister for the Environment and Local Government Phil Hogan.

Cllr McFadden has withdrawn from the Local Election to concentrate on the by-election. Previously confirmed from the main parties for the by-election - one of only two in the country to run alongside the Local and European Elections - are Cllr Aengus O’Rourke (46 ) the Fianna Fáil candidate, and Cllr Paul Hogan (31 ), of Sinn Fein. These will be joined by two independents from Athlone - John McNamara, and Donal Jackson - along with one each from Mullingar and Longford - charity worker Brian Fagan (53 ) and accountant James Morgan (40 ).

Officially, the returning officer for the constituency - Ms Imelda Branigan, the County Registrar in Longford - can only confirm the receipt of nomination papers from three candidates. These are McFadden, Jackson, and Hogan, but admitted: “I’m expecting visits from a number of others”.

Though nominations close at noon tomorrow (May 10 ), the deadline for withdrawal is noon on Monday (May 12 ). Throughout the week there were strong rumours that Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran from Athlone was going to go forward, but the man who once pushed Aengus O’Rourke’s mother Mary for a Fianna Fáil nomination for the 2007 General Election, was unable to confirm his intentions before going to press. This was also the case with the 50-year-old, former FF National Executive member Pól Brennan from Mullingar, and outgoing Longford Lord Mayor Paul Connell, another former Fianna Fáiler.

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