JUNIOR Finance Minister Brian Hayes says he will use the new year to seriously consider a run for Europe.
Mr Hayes has given his strongest indication yet that he is planning to defend Fine Gael's Dublin seat in the European Parliament. Meanwhile, another high-profile party figure, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, has indicated he will not be on the party ticket in next summer's elections.
Mr Kehoe told the Irish Independent that he was keen to remain on as a cabinet member.
"The whole European area is something that I'm very, very interested in," he said. "But maybe not on this occasion; I'm still very young. So it's something I will definitely consider -- if not on this occasion, definitely into the future," he added.
Mr Hayes says he will use the next few weeks to decide whether to run. Senior Fine Gael figures believe Mr Hayes's high profile will ensure the party can retain the seat being vacated by Gay Mitchell.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Hayes said he was "conscious" about making the right decision in the interests of the party.
"I am a Fine Gael man. I love my party and I'm not just saying that . . . I've always been conscious of doing my best for Fine Gael."