O'Connell's sister aiming to become the third family member in Leinster House
Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell's sister will challenge Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's preferred candidate in the upcoming Seanad by-election.
The Taoiseach is backing former Ulster Farmers' Union president Ian Marshall for one of two seats on the Seanad's agriculture panel.
However, he will have to defeat Mary Newman, a long-time Fine Gael member and Tipperary vet, to become a senator. If selected Ms Newman will be the third sister in the family in Leinster House. Theresa Newman acts as her sister Kate's PA.
Aside from Mary Newman, Mr Marshall will also face competition in the Seanad's by-election from Kerry councillor and Fine Gael stalwart Bobby O'Connell.
Mr Marshall was recently introduced to the Fine Gael parliamentary party and Mr Varadkar is understood to hope his election to the Seanad would be seen as an olive branch to Ulster unionists. Mr Marshall is an outspoken critic of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
Ms Newman recently missed out on a general election nomination at a Fine Gael selection convention in Tipperary. Fianna Fáil councillors Niall Blaney, of Donegal County Council, and Frank O'Flynn, from Cork County Council, will be running for the same seat.
A separate seat on the agriculture panel is been contested by Mr Blaney and two other Fianna Fáil councillors, Niall Kelleher, of Kerry, and Martin Miley, from Kildare.
Former Fine Gael Kildare North TD Anthony Lawlor is also contesting the seat, as is Independent Alliance Waterford County Councillor Joe Conway.