Fine Gael is leaving the door open to former Irish Farmers' Association president John Bryan running for the party in future, even though he has decided against contesting the European elections.
In an intriguing scenario, senior party figures are now floating the idea of running Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan as an MEP candidate for Ireland South, with Mr Bryan contesting the byelection should Mr Phelan win.
However, sources close to Mr Phelan stressed his reluctance to run, especially if the party persists with a three-candidate strategy in the constituency.
Mr Phelan previously ran for the European Parliament in 2009 in the old Ireland East three-seat constituency.
Fine Gael could also face a double byelection in Carlow-Kilkenny if Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan becomes Ireland's next European commissioner. If Mr Hogan were to go to Brussels, Mr Phelan would become the senior Fine Gael TD in the constituency.
A number of Fine Gael TDs are interested in taking Mr Bryan's place on the European election ticket, including Mr Phelan, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, Wicklow TDs Simon Harris and Andrew Doyle, and Waterford TD John Deasy. It is likely that two candidates – sitting MEP Seán Kelly and Cork-based Senator Deirdre Clune – will be chosen at the constituency selection convention this Sunday.
However, a third will be added after the convention but before the Fine Gael Ardfheis in Dublin at the end of the month.
The Ireland South constituency takes in Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow as well as Munster.
Mr Bryan objected to a three-candidate strategy, with Mr Phelan now making similar noises, but Fine Gael is sticking to its plan for now.
Senior party sources last night told The Irish Times Mr Phelan was the best placed to capitalise on the Leinster votes that had been brought into the constituency.