Saturday 1 October 2016

'Unknown' Renua founder in three-way battle

Published 02/02/2016 | 02:30

John Leahy speaks to Jean Craven while canvassing in Kilcormac, Co Offaly. Photo: Douglas O’Connor
John Leahy speaks to Jean Craven while canvassing in Kilcormac, Co Offaly. Photo: Douglas O’Connor

When John Leahy appeared beside Lucinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs to herald the birth of Renua, few knew anything about the Offaly man.

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His moment in the national spotlight was short-lived, and for the past year he has been back in the midlands trying to build his profile locally.

"When my name is put forward for various talk shows, they just want Lucinda.

"The national media won't take newbies or unknowns, they just want the leader," he told the Irish Independent.

Five years ago, he was a surprise package in the general election as an Independent, but the GAA man knows that he's not only wearing a different jersey this time, it's a different playing pitch.

"It was a big talking point when I joined Renua - but I looked at the political landscape and it's very hard to get anything done at a national level as an Independent.

"I said to Lucinda when we met that I wanted Renua to broaden out to associate with rural Ireland, and it has. The only way to get a voice across at national level is in a group," he said.

The constituency has switched from a five-seat Laois-Offaly, to just Offaly with three seats. That presents both an opportunity and a risk for the councillor.

Sitting TDs Barry Cowen (FF) and Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy (FG) are likely to retain their seats, leaving the final place up for grabs between Mr Leahy, Carol Nolan (SF) and possibly John Foley of the Independent Alliance.

Transfers will be key and that's where Mr Leahy believes he holds the upper hand.

"My involvement with community groups is greater than any of the other candidates and I've no problem saying that," he said.

Sinn Féin performed extremely well in the local elections, taking three council seats - but appear to have taken a calculated risk in nominating Carol Nolan.

Her base in the west of the county means that she will be trying to pull from the same voting pool as Cowen, Corcoran-Kennedy and Leahy.

Meanwhile, the north of the county is devoid of a party candidate apart from Fianna Fail's number two Eddie Fitzpatrick. Sinn Féin could have opted for Brendan Killeavy in Tullamore and targeted the area around Edenderry but this didn't happen.

The opening ground in Edenderry means John Foley is an outside bet.

The businessman was previously a member of Fianna Fáil.

Prediction: one Fianna Fáil seat, one Fine Gael and one Renua

Irish Independent

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