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Frances Fitzgerald could fight Euro elections as Fine Gael candidate

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Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

Frances Fitzgerald Picture: Frank McGrath

Former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald is considering a run for the European Parliament, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Ms Fitzgerald is understood to be weighing up her options as Fine Gael prepares to select candidates for the European elections in May.

The former justice minister would like to be considered for the position of EU Commissioner when Phil Hogan's tenure comes to an end later this year.

If still in government, Fine Gael will be able to select who holds the position for the next five years.

However, it is believed Mr Hogan will be reappointed for a second term in the hope he will secure the trade portfolio as Brexit negotiations intensify in the coming years.

Ms Fitzgerald's camp is also concerned a general election might be held on the same day as the local and European votes, which would mean running again for the Dail to ensure her Dublin Mid-West seat is retained.

"Frances is ruling nothing in and nothing out. She will see how everything plays out in the coming weeks and then take a decision on her future," a source said.

Ms Fitzgerald will have to reach a decision in the coming weeks as Fine Gael is expected to begin the process of selecting candidates in early February.

Her supporters were surprised she was not reappointed to Cabinet by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following Communications Minister Denis Naughten's resignation last October.

However, they insist she is still interested in representing Fine Gael in senior political roles.

Ms Fitzgerald was forced to resign from Cabinet in November 2017 after Fianna Fail said it no longer had confidence in the minister over her handling of issues relating to Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The Disclosures Tribunal has since found she acted appropriately in her dealings with Mr McCabe.

Minister of State Mary Mitchell O'Connor has already expressed an interest in running for the Dublin seat left vacant by Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes, who is not standing again. In November, Mr Hayes announced that he would be leaving politics to become chief executive of the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland.

Last week, Ms Mitchell O'Connor told the Sunday Independent that she planned to discuss with Mr Varadkar the possibility of running for Europe.

Fine Gael is expected to run two candidates in the newly enlarged four-seat Dublin constituency. Other names being mentioned for the ticket are senators Catherine Noone and Neale Richmond.

It is also understood that Fine Gael approached former Labour Party senator Lorraine Higgins about running for Europe, but she turned down the opportunity to focus on her career as director of strategy and policy at MKC Communications.

Former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh is also being tipped as a Fine Gael candidate in the Midlands North West constituency alongside Mairead McGuinness. Sitting MEPs Deirdre Clune and Sean Kelly will represent Fine Gael in the South constituency.

Sunday Independent