Daniel McConnell: Sinn Fein mobilises Mary Lou brigade to storm the next Dail
The party could win up to 37 seats in the next general election
THESE are the 'Mary-Lou' brigade of fresh-faced Sinn Fein candidates who are poised to storm the next Dail.
Sinn Fein is poised to snatch more than 30 Dail seats at the next general election, and the party has already identified their cadre of hopeful candidates to capitalise on its new found popularity.
Buoyed by their significant gains at the locals and European elections last month, the party, for so long the also-rans in Irish politics, now appears to be on the cusp of Government, according to latest polls.
Many of them are young, well-educated, articulate, attractive with accents not from the streets of Belfast or Derry – but from middle-class enclaves such as Blackrock, Bandon and Sandymount.
Regarded as the Mary Lou-ites of the party, this generation of new councillors are already eyeing up their run at the Dail, and doing so with optimism.
Adrian Kavanagh, Political Geographer at NUI Maynooth, estimated on the most recent polls that Sinn Fein could win 25 Dail seats, but could return with as many as 37 on a good day.
Party insiders joke that they are beginning to worry that the party has after many years in the wilderness, become trendy. There is some concern that it simply won't have enough candidates to fully maximise its current popularity come election time.
But despite such fears, a good number of the next generation of Sinn Fein Dail hopefuls are already identifiable.
The strategy is clear: the party will use its councillor base to run candidates in targeted Dail constituencies in the hope of breaking new ground, while also looking to run second and third candidates in places alongside their sitting TDs.
First of all, Cllr Eoin O Broin looks set to run in the Dublin Mid West constituency. The partner of MEP Lynn Boylan, the highly impressive O Broin is a major force within the party's operation.
A member of the Ard Comhairle, he is a political theorist and is a strong media performer. He was elected a councillor last month in Clondalkin.
Current Cavan Monaghan senator, Kathryn Reilly is another rising star. From Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, she is likely to run again alongside Caoimhghin O Caolain. The youngest ever senator, elected at 22 years of age in 2011, she has an arts degree from Dublin City University and a Masters in European economic and public affairs from UCD. In the 2011 General Election, she polled an impressive 6,539 votes on what was her first electoral outing.
In Meath East, the party's National Health adviser Darren O'Rourke looks to be the frontrunner having been selected by Sinn Fein to contest the Meath East by-election in 2013. Another possible contender in Meath East is Maria O'Kane, an Irish language teacher and enthusiast, who could benefit from the need to meet the 30 per cent gender quota at the next election.
In Galway West, the party is likely to run new councillor Mairead Farrell, the niece of the shot IRA volunteer Mairead Farrell alongside the impressive Senator Trevor O Clochartaigh.
In Kildare, Maynooth councillor Reada Cronin appears to be the favoured one to contest the general election.
Another bright hope is Cllr Rachel McCarthy from Bandon, Co Cork, who is lining up to be a contender in the Cork South West constituency, having been elected on the first count in last month's election.
In the Taoiseach's constituency of Mayo, the party is looking to Cllr Rose Conway Walsh to contest the next election. She has a strong background in public service management having obtained a Masters in local government and a BA in public management.
What is certain is that the party's two recent by-election candidates, Paul Hogan in Longford/Westmeath and Paul Donnelly in Dublin West, who ran Ruth Coppinger incredibly close for the seat vacated by Patrick Nulty, will go again.
Another possible runner is newly elected councillor and UCD-educated Nolleen Reilly who swept home in the Ballymun area, as a running mate to Dessie Ellis in Dublin North West, while the party could look at running Janice Boylan alongside Mary Lou McDonald in the reduced Dublin Central constituency.
In Louth, the constituency of party president Gerry Adams, the party is looking to run Imelda Munster and Adrian Kavanagh in the hunt for three seats and could also add someone like Thomas Sharkey.
In the traditional Offaly heartland of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein is looking to Brendan Killeavy to fly the flag for the party given their encouraging local election results.
In Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail defector Chris Andrews who romped home in the local elections will undoubtedly be the party's candidate at the general election, while in Limerick Maurice Quinlivan is the party's hope.
In Wicklow, the name of John Brady is being mentioned as the party's likely candidate.
Given the departure of Brian Hayes to Europe, Sinn Fein is expected to run Tallaght-based councillor Cathal King, but it is not yet clear who they will run in Roscommon for the seat vacated by the election to Europe of Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.