Triple test for Coalition on 'Super Friday'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is going to take a gamble on a 'Super Friday' poll by running two by-elections for the Dail on the same day as the local and European elections, the Irish Independent has learned.
The vacancies were caused by the resignation of Independent TD Patrick Nulty in Dublin West and the death of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden in Longford-Westmeath.
Fine Gael believes it has a shot at both by-elections, particularly Longford-Westmeath where the candidate is likely to be Ms McFadden's sister, Gabrielle, the current Mayor of Athlone.
But Labour is regarded as having no hope in either by-election despite the fact that Mr Nulty won his seat on the party ticket.
Meanwhile, the daughter of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has ruled herself out as a candidate in the upcoming Dublin West by-election.
Aoife Carroll, who is a serving barrister, was speculated as a potential candidate within political circles this morning.
Ms Burton herself fuelled the prospect of her daughter running after she was unable to clarify her daughter’s intentions during a radio interview.
But speaking to independent.ie, Ms Carroll ruled out the prospect of a run.
“I’m not running this time round. I am out canvassing for both the local and European elections but I will not be running for Labour in the by-election,” she said.
The Coalition's decision throws up a repeat of the scenario five years ago when two by-elections were held on the same day as the local and European elections – and ended in disaster for the then Fianna Fail and Green Party government.
Government sources confirmed the by-elections will be held on May 23 and said it makes sense to run them on polling day.
"We'd be better off to get it out of the way. If you're going to get a hit or to win a seat, get it out of the way," a Coalition source said.
The writ for the by-elections will be served when the Dail comes back from the Easter break next week.
The Government has opted against waiting until the autumn when a number of other by-elections are expected due to TDs being elected as MEPs and the appointment of Ireland's new European Commissioner.
The by-election in Dublin West is the second in the lifetime of this Dail. Mr Nulty took the seat won by the late former finance minister Brian Lenihan for Fianna Fail in the 2011 general election.
The Socialist Party's Ruth Coppinger is the early favourite, ahead of FF's David McGuinness, Fine Gael's Eamon Coghlan and Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly.
However, the Socialists' resources will be stretched as Joe Higgins' party seeks to get sitting MEP Paul Murphy re-elected to the European Parliament.
Mr Coghlan will have to beat Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison, the current Mayor of Fingal, to get on the ticket.
Mr McGuinness will have to see off a challenge from Edward McManus for the FF ticket.
Labour is looking at Mary McCamley, who replaced Mr Nulty on Fingal County Council when he was elected as a TD.
But party figures are also mentioning new councillor John Walsh and there was even mild speculation about Joan Burton's daughter, Aoife Carroll, who is politically active.
In Longford-Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden is the favourite and is expected to be faced by Fianna Fail's Aengus O'Rourke, the son of former minister Mary O'Rourke.
Sinn Fein's Paul Hogan and Labour's Denis Leonard will also be in the race.
But Ms McFadden will likely have to beat party colleague Peter Burke, a candidate in the last general election, to get on the ticket.
The by-elections did throw up the prospect of two members of the extended Lenihan clan running.
The O'Rourkes and Lenihans are first cousins.
Fianna Fail was considering running the sister of Mr Lenihan in the by-election for the seat he once occupied.
But the party is believed to have gone off the idea and she will be discouraged from seeking the nomination.
Brian Lenihan Jnr and his father Brian Lenihan Snr represented Dublin West for Fianna Fail from 1977 to 2011.
It was this family heritage which has led some within FF to consider Ms Lenihan, herself a barrister, as a candidate.
Fine Gael strategists believe Mr Coghlan, a senator and former world champion runner, will have an advantage with the by-election being held on the same day as the local elections, as the other candidates would also be running for the council.
But Mr Coghlan, a Taoiseach's nominee to the Seanad, has never run for election before and there are doubts over his political experience.