Thursday 22 February 2018

Late Fine Gael TD's sister favourite to win by-election

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

WHEN Nicky McFadden was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, her sister Gabrielle (below, with Nicky, left) made a promise.

She told Nicky should the situation arise, she would try and defend the seat. It's just four weeks since the former Fine Gael TD was buried after she tragically passed away. Now, her sister is the favourite with the bookmakers to win the seat at next month's Longford/Westmeath by-election.

While local political sources describe her as the "anointed one", Gabrielle McFadden insists she has many challenges to overcome before being elected.

"To be honest, we are still grieving for Nicky and it is very important to me that I do her proud," she told the Irish Independent last night.

"I've been a member of the town and county for five years and am now mayor of Athlone. So I love politics and my desire is to be a TD," she added.

But Ms McFadden could face stiff competition in the name of Aengus O'Rourke, a sitting Fianna Fail councillor and nephew of former Minister Mary O'Rourke.

Mr O'Rourke said last night that he has been canvassing since December in the local elections and will now contest the by-election.

"There are big issues locally that need to be brought up at a national level. People are furious that a town like Athlone, with 20,000 people, has been robbed of our town council. Equally, there is a lot of anger over the water charges and property tax."

The political parties in the constituency were taken by surprise by yesterday's revelations that the contest will be held on the same day as the local and European elections. Longford/Westmeath has traditionally been a good stomping ground for the main political parties.

In the 2011 General Election Labour's Willie Penrose topped the poll, Fine Gael took two seats and Fianna Fail won one. Sinn Fein is expected to run Paul Horgan, while Labour will field Denis Leonard.

Irish Independent

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