Parties rally their troops as battle lines for Europe elections redrawn
IRISH Farmers' Association President John Bryan is being lined up by Fine Gael as a candidate in next year's European elections following a dramatic redraw of the constituencies.
But Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe and Oireachtas committee chairman Andrew Doyle are also believed to be weighing up a run for Europe.
And the party has given up on its efforts to get sitting MEP Jim Higgins to retire from the European Parliament.
He will now be running with Mairead McGuinness, who was a big winner in the new European election constituencies map published yesterday.
The new boundaries are made up of two large four-seat constituencies – north and south, with Dublin as a standalone three-seater.
The redraw, caused by the reduction in the number of seats in Ireland from 12 to 11, sees Leinster split in two and Clare being reunited with the rest of the counties in Munster.
The old Leinster constituency of Ireland East is gone, with the counties in the north of the province going in with Connacht and Ulster and the south of the province joining with Munster.
The new European elections map is made up of:
* Dublin: A three-seat constituency made up of Dublin city and county;
* Midlands-North-West (MNW): a four-seat constituency made up of Connacht's Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim; Ulster's Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan; plus Leinster's Louth, Meath, Kildare, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Laois.
* South: a four-seat constituency made up of Munster's Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford; plus Leinster's Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford.
Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail will now set about finalising their tickets for the European elections.
Sinn Fein has already picked two candidates, with the third to come in the next week. The party has particularly high hopes of Cllr Matt Carthy winning a seat in the MNW constituency.
Fine Gael will go all out to win five seats – two each in the MNW and South, and one in Dublin.
The party wants junior minister Brian Hayes to run in Dublin, replacing Gay Mitchell, who is retiring.
Ms McGuinness will now run in the MNW constituency, and so will Mr Higgins, after the party abandoned its efforts to replace him with TD John O'Mahony.
Sitting MEP Sean Kelly will probably be joined by Cork-based Senator Deirdre Clune in the South constituency.
The party is also looking at Mr Bryan, from his Kilkenny base, as the candidate in the Leinster area.
But the IFA President is thought unlikely to express an interest until his term in office runs out at the end of the year.
Labour will be under pressure to win any seat with two MEPs defending seats they took over as substitutes, Emer Costello in Dublin and Phil Prendergast in the South. The party also has to identify a candidate in MNW.
Fianna Fail expects sitting MEP Brian Crowley to run in the South. Although his colleague Liam Aylward was believed to be retiring, the party hopes he will have a rethink. Veteran MEP Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher will run again in MNW and will have a running mate.
But the party's position in Dublin is far from clear – with prospective candidates including former minister Mary Hanafin, mortgage relief campaigner David Hall, Senators Darragh O'Brien and Averil Power and Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick.
Meanwhile, Ms Prendergast embarrassingly misspelled the name of the county of "Claire" as she welcomed the Banner county into her constituency after a decade separated from the rest of Munster.
She later apologised for the error.