Bryan fiasco spells by-election trouble for FG

Key Kenny allies could go to Europe

The party leadership and its strategists have been licking their wounds since former IFA president John Bryan pulled back from standing for Fine Gael at the weekend

The party leadership and its strategists have been licking their wounds since former IFA president John Bryan pulled back from standing for Fine Gael at the weekend


One thing now looks increasingly certain: the Government is facing at least one, if not more, tricky post-Budget by-elections later this year.

Along with the likelihood of Brian Hayes taking a European Parliament seat in Dublin, the fallout from Fine Gael’s candidate fiasco in the Ireland South constituency has thrown up some interesting scenarios.

The party leadership and its strategists have been licking their wounds since former IFA president John Bryan pulled back from standing for Fine Gael at the weekend.

Bryan expected he would be running on a two candidate ticket with sitting MEP Seán Kelly, but party headquarters made clear they would be adding Senator Deirdre Clune, based in Cork, for a three candidate offering.

It came as a surprise but not a shock when Bryan withdrew, and Fine Gael headquarters should have taken his threats seriously.

It was well known he was unhappy with the strategy being pursued, which would have also seen him confined to his Leinster base, but it was assumed he was merely playing hardball.

Either way, Fine Gael has a week to its selection convention and just two days before nominations close to fill the gap left on its ticket.

It could add an extra candidate after the convention, and all of those now throwing shapes are TDs: Simon Harris, John Paul Phelan, John Deasy and Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe.

If any of those get elected in May, it will mean a by-election has to be held within six months, probably on the same day as the one in Dublin South-West, assuming Brian Hayes becomes an MEP.

Phil Hogan is also believed to be in line to become Ireland’s next European Commissioner, and his Dáil seat will have to be filled too - which could go against his constituency colleague John Paul Phelan’s attempts to become an MEP.

A number of by-elections at the same time are bad enough, without having to contemplate two vacant seats in the one constituency, as would be the case in Carlow-Kilkenny if both Hogan and Phelan go to Europe.

Deasy, a long time independent thinker in Fine Gael who is no fan of Enda Kenny, nor Kenny of him, could be a surprise package.

The Waterford deputy is well respected, primarily because he refuses to be led by the nose on any issue and consistently strikes out his own positions, be it as a member of the Public Accounts Committee or in his criticisms of Kenny at parliamentary party level.

Waterford itself feels neglected: unemployment is a huge scar, its hospitals are under massive pressure and it still doesn’t have a university.

Any candidate from the city or county would attract big support, particularly an Opposition one or a semi-detached member of the Government like Deasy.

And then there is Paul Kehoe, the whip who sits at Cabinet and a staunch Kenny ally. It is surprising that both Kehoe and Hayes, two relatively young men in the highest rank of junior ministers, have such an interest in going to the European Parliament, traditionally seen as a political backwater.

There is another interesting subtext with the possibility of both Kehoe and Hogan leaving national politics.

The two were at the forefront of Kenny’s Praetorian Guard, along with James Reilly, during the Fine Gael leadership heave.

If they depart, and with Reilly now hugely undermined, Kenny will survey a different landscape in his party.

It doesn’t mean he is under any threat, but it would signify a sea change in the make up of the senior ranks in Fine Gael.

It also raises the intriguing question: how long before it is Kenny himself moving on?

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