Tuesday 23 April 2019

Kelly: three FG seats in Ireland South 'far fetched'

Bill Browne

Ireland South Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly has said it was "a bit far fetched" to expect the party to win three seats in the constituency at the forthcoming European elections in May.

Earlier this month both sitting Ireland South Fine Gael MEP's, Kelly and Deirdre Clune, were selected at convention to contest the election along with Wicklow TD and current Minister for State Andrew Doyle. 

Ireland currently has 11 of the 751 seats in the European Parliament, a number that will be reduced to 705 following Britain's decision to leave the EU.

 Of the 75 seats to be vacated by the UK, 27 will be reallocated with two going to Ireland, one in the Ireland South constituency, increasing its number of seats to five. In the event that Brexit is stalled and Britain does not formally leave the EU on March 29, those two seats can only be taken up after the UK's withdrawal become legally effective. 

Despite the continuing uncertainty over the Brexit timetable, Fine Gael  has taken the decision to run a trio of candidates in Ireland South, a constituency that encompasses Cork, Carlow, Clare, Kerry, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow and since last year, Laois and Offaly. 

Given that Deirdre Clune is from Cork and Sean Kelly from Kerry at the southern end of the constituency, it was always on the cards that Fine Gael may opt to add a third candidate to the ticket to even up the geographical balance. 

However, when asked by Patricia Messinger on her C103 Cork Today show if he felt that was a sound strategy, Mr Kelly clearly indicated he was not altogether happy with the situation. 

"People think it is, I am not 100% convinced myself.  I think that Deirdre and I  have done a lot of hard work and are well known, but they feel that because the two extra counties came into the constituency they needed to show commitment to Leinster by putting in a third candidate. I would have thought we had shown that commitment already, but that is tactics and you just have to go along with that," said Mr Kelly. 

He said that the prospect of Fine Gael winning three seats in Ireland South was "a bit far fetched." 

"Before the last election we had only one seat, then Deirdre and I were elected. If we could hold those two seats I think we would be doing well," said Mr Kelly. 

He suggested it might have been more prudent to concentrate elsewhere, in particular the four-seat Midlands North-West constituency, pointing out that the party lost a seat there last time around. 

"We have a new candidate there, the former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh, so I think that if we could get a seat there, it would be more realistic than saying we could get three seats in Ireland South," said Mr Kelly.