Kildare South to open up as Labour stalwart Jack Wall retires from Dáil
Published 11/07/2015 | 02:30
An intriguing contest in the Kildare South constituency has opened up, following the decision of Labour Party stalwart Jack Wall to retire at the next general election.
Fianna Fáil is now set to run a second candidate, outgoing Kildare County Mayor, Cllr Fiona O'Loughlin, in the three-seat constituency.
Ms O'Loughlin is to be added to the ticket alongside sitting TD, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, from Kildare town, after the party conducted a local opinion poll.
Tánaiste Joan Burton, who relied upon Mr Wall's support as parliamentary party chairman, paid warm tribute to the veteran TD who was first elected to the Dáil in June 1997 in spite of a huge swing against the party.
"Jack has been at the very heart of the Labour Party, and I can't think of anybody who is more in tune with the views of our party members," Ms Burton said.
The decision of Mr Wall, a popular figure in Leinster House, to step down follows a similar move by former leader Pat Rabbitte. The party's Dublin North-East TD Seán Kenny also announced he will not contest.
Labour activists in Kildare say they are hopeful of holding the seat for the party.
Frontrunners to stand include Cllr Mark Wall, a son of the outgoing TD, and Cllr Aoife Breslin who runs the constituency office in Athy.
Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon is also standing again and he is expected to be joined by a running mate yet to be announced.
Jack & Jill charity founder, Jonathan Irwin, is to run for Renua Ireland while Sinn Féin have nominated Cllr Tricia Ryan, and Newbridge Independent Cllr Willie Crowley has also announced he is throwing in his lot with Shane Ross's Independent Alliance.
The expected Fianna Fáil addition to the ticket will add considerable spice to the contest with internal rivalry adding to an already tight field.
Ms O'Loughlin has been a popular councillor since 1999 and her family base in Rathangan is enhanced by her living in Newbridge for many years.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl has been a TD since 2002. His base is to the south of the constituency but this year he opened a constituency office in Newbridge to strengthen his presence.