FIANNA Fáil has today formally opened the nomination process for candidates seeking to run in the Dun Laoghaire constituency.
The constituency has been subjected to intense media focus in recent months due to the rivalry between former minister Mary Hanafin and councillors Cormac Devlin and Kate Feeney.
There is widespread concern within the party that Mr Devlin will lose out on a place on the General Election ticket because of Fianna Fail's struggle to meet the strict gender quota targets.
Mr Devlin is believed to have necessary support to win a selection convention.
But the party could potentially decide to issue a diktat that a female candidate must be selected.
Any such move would prove deeply contentious and could open the party up to a legal challenge by Mr Devlin.
In a letter to party members today, Fianna Fáil General Secretary Sean Dorgan says the party has a "legal obligation" to meet the gender quotas targets.
"The National Constituencies Committee is cognisant of the legal obligation that at least 30pc of our Party's candidates are female,"Mr Dorgan said.
"With this in mind, there is an expectation that both women and men are nominated," he added.
Mr Dorgan said a date for the selection convention in Dun Laoghaire will be decided once a decision is made in relation to the party's "optimal strategy".
Candidates have one week to submit their nominations and require the written support of at least one cumann or five Fianna Fáil members in Dun Laoghaire.
To date, four candidates have expressed an interest in running -Mr Devlin, Ms Hanafin, Ms Feeney and councillor Jennifer Cuffe.
The constituency is effectively a three seater because Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett is a sitting TD.
Mr Barrett has a buy to the next Dail term and does not have to put his name before the electorate while he is Ceann Comhairle.