Anne Fitzgerald: 'Time to take stock as new battle lines are drawn for our MEPs'
Just over 15 years ago, my then editor Mairéad McGuinness called to tell me that, instead of posing the hard questions as she had for many moons previous, she was going to move to try to answer them, by running for Europe. Duly elected, her star has fittingly risen steadily and hopefully it still has a way to go.
I only realised a few weeks ago that we, in Laois/Offaly, had moved constituency, and I needed to find someone else to vote for.
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So, last week, I headed off to an IFA-organised meeting of European Parliament candidates in Kilkenny, which attracted a decent crowd of around 200. Thirteen out of the massive line-up of 23 candidates turned up and they packed in tight at the top table, waiting for the turn to set out their stall.
I was impressed with Malcolm Byrne. Aged 45, he is the head of communications with the Higher Education Authority and a member of Wexford County Council. He demonstrated a good knowledge of his brief and audience.
Labour's Sheila Nunan, a teacher and current president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, also did well, pressing a lot of the right buttons and she finished strongly.
Nenagh dairy farmer Liam Minehan (Independent) rose to prominence as founder of Fight-The-Pipe campaign but has now broadened his platform into reinvigorating rural Ireland.
The highest profile Independent candidate is Mick Wallace, somewhat of a surprise participant given his well-publicised anti-EU views. Perhaps he hopes to stir things up in Europe as he has in the Dáil.
In what was a generally tame event, young, bright-haired, Solidarity-PBP candidate Adrienne Wallace stood out.
From Carlow, she also contested the 2016 general election. Her repeated naming of our biggest beef baron as "Mr Goldman" won't have helped her chances but her day may come.
This time round, Kerryman Sean Kelly's long service allied to his GAA connections should see him keep his seat.
Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada is a good speaker and her increased profile from running in the presidential election should also see her home again.
The retirement of Brian Crowley throws the rest of the field wide open.
There will be at least one Fianna Fáil seat. Billy Kelleher is well placed having spent over 20 years in the Dáil. However, he faces opposition from party colleague, Malcolm Byrne, though FF could also win another seat.
A second Fine Gael seat seems likely. The sitting MEP is Deirdre Clune who struggled last time round and the addition to the ticket of current Junior Minister for Agriculture, Andrew Doyle, could help - or hinder - her showing.
The candidate who could benefit most from Brian Crowley's departure is fellow Corkonian Diarmuid O'Flynn, the anti-bailout campaigner who almost won a seat last time round, out of nowhere. He has been assistant to MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan since 2014.
He could be joined in the battle for the last seat by a FF candidate, a FG candidate, Mick Wallace and Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan (Waterford), who has also been clocking up the political miles.
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