By-election a litmus test for General Election and a must-win for Martin
Published 22/05/2015 | 02:30
Lucinda Creighton chose an arts and crafts shop in the heart of Kilkenny city which was once the constituency office of EU Commissioner Phil Hogan as Renua's headquarters for the by-election.
Perhaps she hoped it would bring candidate Pat McKee the same success it brought her former Fine Gael colleague, whose seat has become a litmus test for the state of the parties ahead of the forthcoming General Election.
Mr McKee, whom the bookies give an outside chance of winning, will probably need more than Big Phil's old office to make grounds on either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil in this race.
Since the campaign began, this has been billed as a must-win for Micheál Martin, whose leadership of Fianna Fáil has been brought into question after six successive defeats at by-elections.
The first blow for Martin was losing McKee to Renua but he has since dusted himself off and Fianna Fáil's candidate Bobby Aylward is leading the race - if Paddy Power statisticians are to be believed.
Yesterday, Aylward and Martin dashed around the constituency meeting the party faithful in a last-ditch effort to ensure the win was secured.
But it came against the backdrop of six Fianna Fáil Kilkenny councillors following outspoken TD John McGuinness's lead and declaring they were voting 'No' in the same-sex marriage referendum - which is not the party's position.
This will only fuel accusations Martin is failing to implement cohesion and discipline among party members in recent months.
Another failure for Martin and Fianna Fáil will inevitably raise more questions about his leadership as the clock ticks down ahead of the General Election.