Renua's new recruit denies he tried to join Sinn Féin
RENUA Ireland's candidate in the upcoming Carlow/Kilkenny by-election has denied claims that he approached Sinn Féin before formally joining Lucinda Creighton's party.
Kilkenny City councillor Patrick McKee has been accused of declaring his intentions to join Gerry Adams's party at a meeting in January. The accusation was levelled yesterday by Sinn Féin councillor Kathleen Funchion, who is also contesting next month's by-election.
Ms Funchion accused Mr McKee and his new party of pursuing "regressive, rehashed policies" of the PDs and insisted he made a direct approach to Sinn Féin.
"While he understood that I would be the Sinn Féin candidate for the forthcoming by-election, he did express his desire to run in future elections," Ms Funchion said.
"Pat even went so far as raising the timing of when he would make the move, suggesting that a time after the by-election would be the most appropriate," she added.
But speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr McKee said the claims represent "Sinn Féin spin".
"I did meet Kathleen Funchion, who I consider a friend, but in no way did I ask to run for them. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue," he said.
The row between the two candidates came as Renua Ireland confirmed that it had successfully poached Mr McKee from Fianna Fáil.
The 26-year-old solicitor had been tipped as a future TD but shocked his Fianna Fáil colleagues, including party leader Micheál Martin, by his decision to join Renua Ireland.
Mr McKee accused the Fianna Fáil hierarchy of failing to show leadership since the economic crash.
"The leadership have a difficult job, but ultimately, I feel the leadership hasn't taken the course I would have liked it to take," he told KCLR radio.
Mr McKee said the decision to join Renua was "borne out of my commitment to my community", adding that the party believed in celebrating "difference in opinion".
He later said that his colleagues on Kilkenny City Council were well aware of his dissatisfaction with the party and therefore they should not be surprised by his decision to join Renua Ireland.
But Fianna Fáil TDs yesterday rounded on Mr McKee over his move, which has come as a major boost to Ms Creighton.
Fianna Fáil TD for Laois/Offaly Sean Fleming said Mr McKee was a member of Fianna Fáil "up to the other day".
He added: "I'll ask the people of Carlow-Kilkenny to make up their own minds in relation to that . . . the people in Carlow-Kilkenny can see what happened today."
But the decision by Mr McKee to contest the by-election for Renua Ireland places him head-to-head with former TD Bobby Aylward, who he previously canvassed for.
Mr Aylward is seen as the favourite for the by-election, however, if he fails to win it will heap major pressure on the leadership of Mícheal Martin.
Fianna Fail's Finance spokesman Michael McGrath denied that Mr Martin's leadership will be under threat if his candidate is defeated next month.
"Nobody is holding a knife over anyone threatening them if the result goes a certain way that there will be consequences," he said.
Meanwhile, Renua Ireland yesterday used the launch of Mr McKees campaign to pledge an end to the rural-urban divide.
Ms Creighton said that many rural areas were not being brought along with the upturn in the economy.
"There is a sense that the economy is recovering in Dublin and maybe one or two of the other cities, but that provincial towns and small villages are not," she said.
"That is frustrating, because we know that a huge proportion of young people from rural Ireland have emigrated. We now need to focus and target on a sustainable development plan and economic regeneration plan for rural Ireland.".
Ms Creighton said she was confident that her party could provide balanced regional development which would help communities sustain themselves and create jobs.