Fine Gael to roll out big guns again to ensure continuance of second seat

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will make a second trip to Mullingar this week on Monday (May 5 ) in an effort to shore up support for his party’s preferred by-election candidate - Cllr Gabrielle McFadden from Athlone.

The Fine Gael convention to formally select its candidate for the May 23 by-election is to be held in the Park Hotel at 9pm on the bank holiday.

The Taoiseach has indicated his desire to attend as a mark of respect for the late Nicky McFadden whose death in March triggered this husting, and to ensure nobody opposes the candidacy of her sister Cllr Gabrielle in her desire to fulfil a deathbed promise made to Nicky.

The decision to hold the convention at 9pm is to allow candidates canvass on the bank holiday, and to fit into the Taoiseach’s busy schedule.

The location of the Park Hotel right beside Mr Kenny’s main route between the Dáil and his north Mayo home was also a deciding factor in this.

On Tuesday (April 29 ) the Taoiseach was accompanied to Mullingar by the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, and Ministers Richard Bruton, Phil Hogan, and John Perry to the County Buildings for the national launch of the new local enterprise offices.

Monday’s declaration will see a straight three-horse race for the vacant seat between Athlone candidates - Paul Hogan (SF ), Aengus O’Rourke (FF ), and Gabrielle McFadden (FG ).

There are two independent candidates putting their names forward - social activists Brian Fagan and John McNamara.

Brian Fagan is from Mullingar and has spent the last 25 years working with Concern and GOAL in many of the world’s most troubled conflict and disaster zones.

McNamara is a former Army engineer and expelled Sinn Féin member from Drumraney, who has been prominent in most anti-Government protests and sit-ins in the region over the last number of years.

His campaign will be handicapped by his admission during a court case last month of being €62,000 in mortgage arrears. The same case saw him banned from driving for four years after he was caught driving whilst already disqualified.

The winning candidate will have to poll between a quarter and a third of all votes cast, with an estimated quota ranging from 21,000 (for a 50 per cent turnout ) to an eye-watering 29,100 if the turnout matches the respectable 69.3 per cent of the 2011 General Election.

An estimated 85,600 are entitled to vote across the constituency, a figure that will be finalised once the supplementary list of late registering voters is finalised on Tuesday, May 6.

The figure for the Local and European elections is 94,761, as EU citizens, and naturalized, non-native residents of the State are entitled to vote in these elections.

The deadline for nominations for the Local Elections is noon tomorrow (Saturday ), and this process is free if one is nominated by a registered political party, or by 15 registered electors. Otherwise, it will cost a candidate €100 to nominate him or herself.

The deadline for the nominations for the by-election is seven working days after yesterday’s (Thursday ) writ of notification was issued in the Dáil.


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