John Hegarty could be in frame to replace Verona
Following the de-selection of Verona Murphy as a Fine Gael candidate for the next general election, it didn't take long for speculation to mount over who would replace her on the ticket.
Having been nominated to go before the party selection convention, Cllr John Hegarty subsequently withdrew his name to allow Ms Murphy a clear path to contest the recent by-election. At the time, he said that while he was 'flattered' to have been put forward by his peers, the 'timing wasn't right' for him to contest the by-election.
However, they say a week is a long time in politics. Three months can be like an eternity and news that there is now a vacancy on the Fine Gael ticket is sure to have piqued the interest of the Wexford councillor. Speaking after Ms Murphy's de-selection, Cllr Hegarty said that it was still early days, but the option of running for the Dáil was of interest to him.
'You're not the first person to ask me that,' Cllr Hegarty laughed when asked if he would be seeking the nomination to contest the general election. 'There is no answer right now.'
A former county council chairman, Cllr Hegarty previously topped the poll in the Gorey District, while he was second past the post in the last local elections having made the move into the Wexford Borough District. Having polled well in two parts of the county, for many he's seen as a strong candidate.
'Obviously for anybody who is a public rep, the goal is to try and have as much impact as possible,' he said. 'It's like in football. You always want to make that step up to play inter-county. Should the call come, I'd have to consult with my family and supporters and the people who have helped me out in the past. A lot of effort goes into these things.'
Some suggestions had been made that Fine Gael may seek to address the gender balance issue, with Cllr Bridin Murphy also being suggested as a replacement for Ms Murphy. While in Wexford, Cllr Hegarty was elected on the first count with 1,350 first preference votes, Cllr Murphy made it past the post along with three other council colleagues on count eight in New Ross with 927 first preferences. Regardless, it appears that the Fine Gael hierarchy have not yet outlined their preference just yet.