Parties on high alert as gap in market opens up
Dermot Ahern's retirement set alarm bells ringing in the party headquarters of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party last night.
Mr Ahern's announcement leaves a massive gap in the market in the border town of Dundalk. The constituency was already set for substantial changes in the next General Election.
Louth's expanding population means the constituency will be increased from four seats to five next time out. However, Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk will be automatically elected, meaning there are just four seats up for grabs.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams will run instead of the party's sitting TD Arthur Morgan, who is also retiring.
The seats are expected to split evenly with two going to the Dundalk end and two to the Drogheda end, which has taken in a chunk of Meath East in a constituency redraw.
Mr Adams will be based in Dundalk, as will Green Party senator Mark Dearey.
Mr Dearey bucked the trend by getting elected to Louth County Council last year, when he was the party's only gain nationwide. He is trying to repeat the trick with the wind blowing even stronger against his party.
After that, the race is on to find a strong candidate in Dundalk. Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, Fianna Fail senator James Carroll and the Labour Party's Gerard Nash are all based in Drogheda.
Fianna Fail will run businessman and 'Dragon's Den' TV star Sean Gallagher, if he can be convinced to go for it. Otherwise councillor Declan Breathnach, a primary school principal, will get the nod.
Sensing a second seat, Fine Gael will also go hunting for a celebrity candidate, but Mairead McGuinness is not expected to come back from Europe. Councillors Jim D'Arcy and Colm Markey will be the fallback plan.
Labour planned to run only one candidate, but that decision will now be reviewed.