FG hand Kildare to Maria Walsh in charge for second seat
FINE Gael has handed another county to former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh as the party sniffs a growing chance of taking two European seats in the Midlands-North West constituency.
In a move that is likely to reignite an internal party row between Ms Walsh and sitting MEP Mairead McGuinness, the former has been told she can now campaign in Kildare.
Independent.ie understands the candidates were issued with new boundary guidelines from midnight last night – and Ms Walsh is expected to campaign in the commuter county this evening.
At the start of the campaign, the Mayo woman was restricted to Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. But last week she was allowed into Longford and Westmeath.
Party sources confirmed this has now been extended to Kildare as well.
This means the only areas exclusively reserved for Ms McGuinness are Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
Opinion polls suggest the First Vice-President of the European Parliament is set to top the poll but she will be concerned about the latest encroachment on her territory.
Fine Gael sources say they believe Ms Walsh is in with a real chance of taking the final place in the massive four seat constituency.
But to do that she must get a lead on Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith and Independent candidate Peter Casey.
Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy are expected to finish second and third in the poll.
The final seat will be won based on transfers. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar went canvassing with Ms Walsh twice last week.
A fortnight ago, Ms Walsh complained that Mairead McGuinness was active on her side of the constituency even before the campaign formally kicked off. The former Rose of Tralee, who was the first openly gay woman to win the title, said this was intolerable.
Relations between the two women has been known to be what a source described as “cool” since.