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Top ministers go head to head in big poll gamble

TWO Government ministers are set to fight "a massive battle" in the new four-seat constituency of Dun Laoghaire.

One or both could lose their seats in the constituency, which is being reduced from a five-seater.

Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin and Children's Minister Barry Andrews' decision to contest the area ended weeks of speculation over whether one of them should move to Dublin South, where there is a vacancy. The selection convention by Dun Laoghaire Fianna Fail membership in Fitzpatrick's Castle Hotel, in Killiney, last night was closed to the media.

Speaking ahead of the convention, Ms Hanafin said the coming election would be "difficult."

"When you are reduced to four seats at a difficult time for Fianna Fail, it undoubtedly makes it very, very challenging. But I'm up for it," she said.

She accepted that Fianna Fail candidates have to be ready for a backlash from voters. Mr Andrews said he had never considered moving to the neighbouring constituency of Dublin South. Retaining the two seats in Fianna Fail will be a "massive battle", Mr Andrews said.

The two ministers will now contest the election against Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett and Green party junior minister, Ciaran Cuffe.

One of the five sitting TDs will lose their seat. A second Government- supporting TD could lose out to the likes of Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, Fine Gael Councillor Mary Mitchell O'Connor and People Before Profit councillor Richard Boyd-Barrett.


Meanwhile, Fine Gael last night selected a young councillor to run alongside high-profile TD Lucinda Creighton in Dublin South East.

Dublin City Councillor Eoghan Murphy (28) and Ms Creighton secured their places on the ticket after a third nominee, former election candidate Colm MacEochaidh, withdrew.

Ms Creighton told 300 delegates that the constituency deserved a minister and she would be ready to serve when the time came.

She also said that the party should aim for an overall majority.

Mr Murphy, who has worked with the UN as a consultant on international arms control, said he would win a second seat for the party in Dublin South East.