Olivia Mitchell opts out, leaving Shatter problem for Fine Gael
Outspoken Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell will this week announce her intentions to retire from politics, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Dáil veteran is understood to have told party headquarters that she will not defend her seat in the newly formed Dublin-Rathdown constituency.
It's believed Ms Mitchell will pledge her support for local councillor Neale Richmond, who has previously served as her parliamentary assistant.
The move will place major focus on the plans of former justice minister Alan Shatter, who has previously indicated his intentions to contest the election.
Well-placed party sources believe Mr Shatter would be defeated at the upcoming selection convention for a variety of factors.
Firstly, a significant proportion of his support base has been lost over to Dublin South West as a result of the controversial boundary changes.
Mr Shatter is also unpopular with many Fine Gael members locally and is known to have a frosty relationship with Ms Mitchell's camp.
Ms Mitchell, who has formally communicated her decision to party headquarters, did not respond to a request for comment last night.
The 68-year-old was first elected to the Dáil in 1997 and received the highest vote of any female candidate in the 2011 General Election.
Fine Gael strategists are now considering what approach to take if Mr Shatter contests the selection convention and is defeated.
The party is likely to opt for a two-candidate strategy only because the constituency has been reduced to three seats.
Councillor Richmond is the favourite to win the convention, which is also being contested by his council colleagues Barry Saul and Josepha Madigan.
One source said that adding Ms Madigan to the ticket, in the event of a Richmond victory, could not be ruled out given the challenges posed by the gender quotas.
But any move not to add Mr Shatter, if he is defeated at convention, could be viewed as being vindictive.
The former minister is isolated within Fine Gael since his shock decision to step down from Cabinet following the publication of the Guerin Report into garda malpractice.
Fine Gael has already faced a scenario whereby a high-profile TD, jobs minister Richard Bruton, was added to the ticket immediately in Dublin Bay North after being defeated into third place at the selection convention.
"After setting the precedent with Richard Bruton, we could be accused of adopting a different set of standards in the case of Shatter," said a source.
Dublin-Rathdown, however, will be hotly contested with just three seats up for grabs.
Prominent Independent TD Shane Ross is widely expected to top the poll.
Labour minister Alex White is fighting to hold onto his seat while Independent TD Peter Mathews is also likely to run.
Fianna Fáil has selected senator Mary White, while the deputy leader of the Green Party Catherine Martin is also a candidate.
Sinn Féin is fielding Sorcha Nic Cormaic and the People Before Profit's Nicola Curry will also contest.