Speculation has been around for days now, but irishsmokefill can reveal that two by-elections caused by the death of Nicky McFadden and the sudden resignation of Patrick Nulty, will be enacted on May 23rd, the same day as the Local and European elections.
A by-election has to be legally held within six months of the seat vacating, and that would have brought the Government up to late September, but they are supposedly anxious to ‘get these out of the way’ because they are confident of wins in at least one, with a chance in the other.
Deputy Nicky McFadden died at the age of 51 years of Motor Neuron Disease on March 25th, and Patrick Nulty resigned around the same time.
The contenders are already lining up, and immediate conventions will have to be held for party candidates to be chosen. Rumours on twitter claim that on Monday night next Fianna Fail will hold their Dublin West convention. Three candidates, David McGuinness, Edward McManus and Anita Lenihan (Brian’s sister) are due to try for the position. McGuinness got a credible vote in a previous by-election in Dublin West in 2011, following the death of Brian Lenihan. However a member of the Lenihan dynasty could do better in that area, and possibly win the seat. Her main competition is Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party, who would appear to be in the lead. It seems like former athlete champion; Eamon Coughlan will be the Fine Gael candidate.
In the Longford-Westmeath, the frontrunner is Athlone Mayor Gabrielle McFadden of Fine Gael. She is Nicky’s younger sister, and their father, Brendan, who only died last November, was a Westmeath county councillor for twenty four years. However it seems like Peter Burke from Mullingar, who got over 6,600 votes in the 2011 General Election could also be in the ring for the position. However wisdom would give Gabrielle McFadden the upper hand in that Fine Gael race.
Fianna Fail is a more complicated party to be in for those seeking election. Athlone councillor, Aengus O’Rourke, son of former Minister Mary O’Rourke has declared his intention of going to convention. However three Longford candidates are supposed to be also in the frame with two having declared, Padraig Loughrey and Pat O’Rourke. Philip Reynolds, son of former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds has also been mentioned, but to date hasn’t commented.
Sinn Fein’s high votecatcher in the midlands, Paul Hogan, who was also a former Mayor of Athlone is also expected to run. Labour too may run a member of the Penrose family to test the voting waters there; following Deputy Willie Penrose’s resigning his Ministry over Mullingar Barracks, and then returning to the party fold some time later. Also nobody knows the intentions of Cllr. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, a former Fianna Fail member, who is now Independent. Boxer too is a high vote catcher, and ran in the last General Election.
irishsmokefill’s prediction is that Gabrielle McFadden will comfortably win Nicky’s seat, unless an Athlone Fianna Fail candidate has a clear run beside her, ie if neither Boxer or Paul Hogan runs. In that scenario Gabrielle McFadden would be fighting Aengus O’Rourke for the Athlone and beyond vote, and Fianna Fail would then have a chance.
Sinn Fein too would have a chance, after all Paul Hogan got 4,339 first preference votes last time, and was close to a major breakthrough for that party in Longford Westmeath, only for his lack of transfers.
Nicky McFadden was extremely popular in South Westmeath, and well liked across party lines. If Fianna Fail pick a Longford candidate, it is likely they wouldn’t get support from Athlone, which could push Sinn Fein’s Hogan, with the help of Independent transfers to challenging Gabrielle McFadden.
Ironically, the only candidate who has declared for Longford-Westmeath is John McNamara, who is a former Sinn Fein member, and is now running as Independent.
However at the moment irishsmokefill’s prediction is Longford Westmeath – Gabrielle McFadden (FG) and for Dublin West – Ruth Coppinger (Socialist).