Vocal anti-pylon campaigner to enter European election race
THE European election contest in Ireland South is set to be blown wide open after a leading anti-pylons campaigner confirmed that he is entering the race.
Kieran Hartley (40) looks set to be unveiled as a Fianna Fail candidate later this week after he accepted an offer from party leader Micheal Martin to be added to the ticket.
Mr Hartley has been one of the most vocal opponents to the Government's controversial pylons plans, which he claims will put the health of rural residents at risk.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte told Mr Hartley to "behave yourself" during a TV3 debate on pylons last month.
Mr Hartley's entry to the race will come as a shock to the government candidates already contesting Ireland South.
The father of two has been approached by a number of other political parties but accepted the offer from Fianna Fail at the weekend. He will now put his name forward for the Fianna Fail selection convention on Sunday, which is also being contested by party worker Adrian O'Higgins.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Hartley, who is Waterford-based, said his decision to run stemmed from the "palpable anger" and huge opposition to the pylon plans.
"This is a tall order for an ordinary person, however, I feel I have no choice but to put my name forward. I'm doing this for my children," he said.
"I've been approached by an overwhelming number of people on the ground who are so angry at this current Government and minister Rabbitte who do not want to listen to our concerns.
"I've seen the anger, it's absolutely palpable. While this is a daunting prospect, I believe I am the right person to bring this fight to a European stage."
Fine Gael has opted to run three candidates in the four-seat constituency. Sitting MEP Sean Kelly and senator Deirdre Clune were joined on the ticket by the party's youngest TD, Simon Harris.
And the emergence of the anti-pylons campaigner may damage the chances of Labour MEP Phil Prendergast, who has been vocal in her opposition to the power lines being erected overground.