Blow for Fianna Fáil as rising star defects to Lucinda's party
THE Renua party believes it can secure a shock victory in an upcoming by-election - after persuading one of Fianna Fáil's rising stars to run as its candidate.
Patrick McKee, deputy chairman of Kilkenny City Council, stunned his party colleagues by agreeing to join Lucinda Creighton's newly-launched movement.
He is due to be formally unveiled as the party's candidate for the Carlow / Kilkenny by-election at a press conference today.
Party sources told the Irish Independent that the 26-year-old councillor agreed to join Renua after a number of meetings with Ms Creighton in recent weeks.
The move is a major blow for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, whose leadership will come under even more pressure if his candidate - Bobby Aylward - fails to win the by-election.
"It's a disaster for Micheál. He has taken a particular interest in Patrick's work and believed he was a TD of the future," said one front bench TD.
Fianna Fáil's whip on Kilkenny City Council, Councillor Matt Doran, said he learned of the news through the media.
"We have been trying to contact Patrick for weeks about various issues, but he went off the radar," Mr Doran told the Irish Independent. Mr McKee did not respond to calls last night.
Meanwhile, Renua sources said they believed Mr McKee had a strong chance of winning the by-election.
The same sources added that the move was a major boost to the party, which is aiming to win over 20 seats in the General Election.
"He's young, charismatic and talented - it sends a great message to others looking at what we are about," said a party source.
Mr McKee is a graduate of Waterford Institute of Technology and University College Cork.
He previously indicated his intention to run for Fianna Fáil in the by-election. However, he later pulled out and pledged to support Mr Aylward.
Sources within the party have described it as a "must-win" election for Mr Martin, after a series of polls showed them failing to improve on their 2011 general election result.
Separately, former Fianna Fáil TD Tom McEllistrim said he wants to contest the next General Election in Co Kerry and called on the party to add him to the ticket.
Mr McEllistrim was beaten by John Brassil, the Mayor of Kerry, at a selection convention on Sunday.
"I will be onto our party headquarters and I will be on to our party leader and the strategy committee to put my case forward as to why I should be added," Mr McEllistrim said.
"My only thought in my head at the moment is to try to get my name added by the party, and that's my first and foremost thought at the moment and all I'm thinking about."