Retaining Meath seat a key goal for FG


Fine Gael is understood to be considering a two-pronged strategy in a bid to win the Meath East byelection caused by the death of party TD and minister of state for agriculture Shane McEntee before Christmas.

The byelection is expected to be held in late April or early May.

The party is hoping Mr McEntee’s daughter, Helen, who worked with him in Leinster House and the Department of Agriculture for a number of years, will accept the nomination. Ms McEntee is understood to be still considering her options.

There is also growing speculation the Cabinet is about to appoint neighbouring Meath West Fine Gael TD Damien English to the minister of state post. The job is Fine Gael’s call and Labour Ministers will have no difficulty with its nominee.

Government sources have not ruled out Taoiseach Enda Kenny announcing the appointment in the Dáil this week.

Fine Gael reaped a rich political harvest from the two Meath constituencies in the general election, securing four of the six seats. Party sources said the appointment of Mr English, who has been a strong defender of the Government in media appearances, would reassure Meath that Fine Gael had not forgotten the county.

Strong candidate

If Ms McEntee were to accept the nomination, she would be a strong candidate. Popular and capable, with an insider’s knowledge of politics, she would also capitalise on the huge respect and affection enjoyed by her late father in the constituency.

The party believes the presence of the newly appointed minister of state on the campaign trail with Ms McEntee would have a strong influence on voters. “That said, there is no certainty in politics,’’ said a Fine Gael source. “We are under no illusions about the way people are hurting and angry.’’

Two candidates are already in the field, Senator Thomas Byrne (FF) and Darren O’Rourke (SF).