Councillor beats TD in Fianna Fáil selection convention upset

Wexford councillor Malcolm Byrne defeats Billy Kelleher for European Parliament nomination

Cllr Malcolm Byrne (left) defeated Billy Kelleher TD by eight votes. Photographs: File/Brenda Fitzsimons

Cllr Malcolm Byrne (left) defeated Billy Kelleher TD by eight votes. Photographs: File/Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Fianna Fáil Wexford councillor Malcolm Byrne has been selected as the party’s candidate for the Ireland South European Parliament constituency.

In a big upset, Mr Byrne beat Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher by just eight votes at the selection convention in Clonmel, Tipperary.

The directive from the Fianna Fáil constituencies committee was to select one candidate.

However, internal party speculation suggested that Mr Kelleher could get added by the national constituencies committee when it meets next week.

A Cork-based candidate is likely to be needed in the sprawling Ireland South constituency.

Mr Byrne polled 347 first preference votes at the convention event in the Minella Hotel in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, followed by Mr Kelleher on 342, Jason Fitzgerald on 195 and Kieran Hartley on 29. With the distribution of Mr Hartley’s votes, Mr Byrne’s tally rose to 354, Mr Kelleher’s to 348 and Mr Fitzgerald’s to 204.

Mr Fitzgerald’s elimination put Mr Byrne on 451 votes and Mr Kelleher on 443. There were 12 non-transferable votes.

Mr Byrne, a member of Wexford County Council since 2009, is the current head of communications with the Higher Education Authority. He has previously held positions with the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Union of Students in Ireland.

Describing himself as“honoured” to be selected, he said: “There are challenging times ahead for this country. As the British parliament struggles to find any consensus on the way forward and concerns grow across Ireland about the impact of a hard Brexit, the importance of having sensible and responsible Fianna Fáil politics in the European Parliament is increasingly clear.”

Party Leader Micheál Martin said, “I very much look forward to working with Malcolm on his campaign. He is a dedicated, enthusiastic and talented candidate who I know will run a formidable campaign. If given the chance, he will represent Ireland South with immense diligence and commitment.

“I would also like to thank Brian Crowley for his dedicated service over many years. The close bond between him and this constituency was seen in the consistent and remarkable mandates he received over the years. The party and I wish him the very best in his retirement from politics.”