Joining together to remember Shane McEntee
The murder of Det Garda Adrian Donohoe took the wind out of everyone’s sails, with events in Dundalk darkly dominating.
On Thursday, TDs and Senators gathered in St Teresa’s Church off Grafton Street for a special month’s mind Mass in memory of Shane McEntee, who died just before Christmas.
The minister of state for agriculture took his life at the age of 56 and his colleagues in Leinster House are still trying to come to terms with his loss.
The Taoiseach gave a reading at the Mass, which was attended by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum.
Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke and Leas Cathaoirleach Denis O’Donovan were also in attendance.
The Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, was in Brussels attending parliamentary week.
Dublin Gospel Choir
Shane’s Fine Gael colleague, Dublin South Central’s Catherine Byrne, sang during the Mass with the Dublin Gospel Choir, accompanied by Senator Mary Moran on keyboard.
However, politics goes on and thoughts are now turning to the vacant junior ministerial post and the byelection in Meath East, which must be held within six months of the seat falling vacant.
A number of names are being mentioned for the position, with Damien English of Meath West seen as the frontrunner, closely followed by Wicklow’s Andrew Doyle.
Doyle was the party’s opposition spokesman on agriculture and now chairs the Oireachtas farming committee.
Other names mentioned (perhaps mischievously) include former party chairman Tom Hayes and Kildare’s Bernard Durkan, while Enda could choose to weaken the so-called five-a-side club of niggly young TDs by selecting one of their number for the job.
Somebody like Galway’s Seán Kyne, who holds a master’s in agricultural science.
Meanwhile, Martin McAleese’s resignation from the Seanad yesterday afternoon – he was one of the Taoiseach’s nominees to the Upper House – gives Enda a nice little political plum to hand to somebody.
In the event of Fine Gael losing the Meath East byelection, he could ease the pain for the defeated candidate with the consolation prize of a Seanad seat.
Of course, as the party is not contemplating defeat in the poll, it is being said that he might nominate the runner-up in the selection convention for McAleese’s vacant spot.
Word has it that headquarters is hoping Shane McEntee’s daughter Helen might run, and we understand contact has also been made with one of the late minister’s six brothers.
Ireland East MEP Mairéad McGuinness has indicated she will not be putting herself forward.
If a McEntee is not on the ballot sheet and if Fine Gael doesn’t produce a big name with GAA/farming connections, this leaves the field to former TD and MEP John Farrelly and local councillors such as Catherine Yore, Eugene Cassidy and Suzanne Jamal.
Meanwhile, official tributes will be paid to Shane McEntee in the Dáil on Wednesday morning.
After this has been done, it is expected that the Taoiseach will announce his new minister within the following 10 days.