Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher would like to contest European elections

Development comes as sitting MEP Brian Crowley prepares to reveal future intentions

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said: “I certainly would have an interest in pursuing the area in the European stage.”

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said: “I certainly would have an interest in pursuing the area in the European stage.”

 

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher has revealed that he would like to contest the forthcoming European elections.

The Cork North Central TD, who is his party’s Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation spokesperson, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that Ireland has a key role to play in Europe and he would like “to be central to that.”

Mr Kelleher speaking as sitting MEP Brian Crowley prepares to announce his future intentions shortly.

“Brussels and the European Parliament is going to play a critical role for Ireland’s future in the years ahead, and I think Ireland’s going to play a critical role as well in Europe, so from that perspective I certainly would like to be central to that,” Mr Kelleher said.

“Fianna Fáil hasn’t made any decision in terms of its strategy. Once it outlines its strategy well certainly I would be making my views known, but I certainly would have an interest in pursuing the area in the European stage.”

Mr Kelleher is the most high profile member of Fianna Fáil to put his name forward to date, after months of speculation that he was interested in the move.

The move may displease party headquarters. Party leader Micheál Martin has already indicated that he wants Mr Kelleher to remain in national politics.

“We want our strong players in Dáil Éireann. I think we will be able to identify candidates who are not members of Dáil Éireann for the European elections,” Mr Martin said previously.

Other Fianna Fáil representatives who want to run in the European elections include the former minister for education Mary Hanafin, and former ministers of state Barry Andrews and Conor Lenihan. Tiernan Brady, a leading figure in the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015, has already begun canvassing for a nomination.

There has also been speculation that the brother of the party’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath’s may run. In that event, Séamus McGrath, a councillor, would contest the Ireland South constituency.

Mr Crowley (54) topped the poll in the 2014 European elections for Ireland South when he won 180,329 first preferences to take the first seat on the first count. He has missed the entirety of the current European Parliament session due to ill health.

Last September, a spokesman for Mr Crowley declined to address the issue of his absence from the European Parliament, telling The Irish Times that Mr Crowley would be making no comment “until he’s finished with the doctors”.