FG may opt for high-profile byelection candidate


FINE GAEL may opt for a high-profile parachute candidate in the Dublin South byelection, as Labour contestant Senator Alex White gains in profile.

Mr White's campaign is effectively under way already. His background in the constituency, as well as the publicity he secures as a member of the Oireachtas, is establishing him in the eyes of voters.

He is a former member of South Dublin County Council, serving as deputy mayor for a year from July 2006. He polled 3,575 first preferences in last year's general election.

"Irrespective of timing, the seat is there for the taking by Fine Gael or Labour," said a constituency source.

"Winning the seat would be a major boost for either party, but particularly Labour, which is without representation there."

The byelection follows the death of longserving Fianna Fáil TD and minister Séamus Brennan.

Fianna Fáil has given no indication of when it will move the writ and has yet to name a date for a selection convention.

There is speculation the byelection will be held on the same day as next summer's European and local elections.

The five-seater is represented by Fine Gael's Olivia Mitchell and Alan Shatter; Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan of the Green Party; and Fianna Fáil's Tom Kitt.

Mr Kitt, who was bitterly disappointed at not being appointed to the Cabinet after the last general election and turned down the offer of a junior ministry, has said he will retire from politics at the next election.

Fine Gael councillor Jim O'Leary, who polled 2,897 first preferences as his party's third candidate in the constituency last time, should be in the running for a nomination. But the fact that Fine Gael has yet to hold its selection convention is viewed as confirming reports that party headquarters are considering other options.

Fianna Fáil sources privately concede that it will be impossible to win the byelection, bar an extraordinary change in Government fortunes. Mr Brennan's son, Shay, a Dublin-based bank executive, is reported to be interested in a nomination, as is Fianna Fáil Senator Maria Corrigan.