Former Fine Gael TD Paul Bradford has moved to deny suggestions that he was interested in running for the party in Cork East where he previously held a seat for over a decade.
Mr Bradford was a Fine Gael TD in Cork East from 1989 until 2002 but was expelled with his wife, Lucinda Creighton in 2013 for refusing to vote for the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.
Fine Gael sources in Cork East told T he Irish Times that party strategists were looking at Mr Bradford as a possible candidate in the four seat constituency where the party currently has just one TD.
"We're hearing party HQ are interested in Paul running again for us - apparently he had a two hour conversation with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a wedding in Durrow in November," said the source.
“Of course, Leo and Paul’s wife Lucinda are very close and we understand that Paul may be interested in running again for the party and, unlike some others, he has never burnt any bridges.”
But Mr Bradford moved swiftly to deny any talk of him running for the party again, saying that he had indeed heard rumours that he was rejoining the party but there was no truth to them.
“I heard the rumour myself. I got a call from someone two weeks ago to tell me that it was not only a done rumour but it was a done deal, signed, sealed and delivered but that’s not the case.
"Yes, I did meet Leo at a wedding and we talked about politics - from Donald Trump to Theresa May to Leo Varadkar and various issues, but I've received no official approach from any one in Fine Gael.
“Two individuals mentioned the possibility to me but it’s not going to happen - I won’t be rejoining Fine Gael to run in Cork East but good luck to whoever it is that does run for the party there.”
Sources said Mr Bradford would not have the votes to win a selection convention in Cork East, but if the convention was to choose just one candidate, then Fine Gael HQ could add him to the ticket.
With a base in Mourneabbey on the northwestern end of the constituency, Mr Bradford would offer the necessary geographical balance to sitting Fine Gael TD, David Stanton who is based in Midleton.
The two ran on the Fine Gael ticket in 2007 when Mr Bradford, then a Senator, sought to regain the seat he had lost in 2002 and he came agonisingly close to taking a second seat for Fine Gael.
Mr Bradford achieved the third highest first preference vote in the constituency with 16.57per cent of first preferences votes - just over 1,000 votes behind sitting Fianna Fáil TDs, Michael Ahern and Ned O'Keeffe.
But despite polling such an impressive first preference tally, Mr Bradford failed to pick up sufficient transfers and was passed out by both Mr Stanton and first time Labour candidate, Sean Sherlock.
Mr Bradford stayed in the hunt until the sixth count when Mr Stanton and Mr Sherlock, who was seeking to retain the seat held by his father, Joe, were both elected without reaching the quota.
According to Fine Gael strategists, the party needs to win at least two seats in Cork constituencies and regain its primacy over Fianna Fáil in Cork if it is return to government at the next election.
Back in 2011, Fine Gael was the dominant party on Leeside, taking nine of the 18 seats on offer in the five Cork constituencies with Fianna Fáil reduced to just four seats in total on Leeside.
But Cork proved a much happier hunting ground for Fianna Fáil in 2016 with the party increasing its number of TDs from four to seven while Fine Gael dropped from nine TDs to five deputies.
“If Fine Gael is to go back into the government, we need to beat Fianna Fáil in Cork and our best chance of doing that is the three county constituencies as the city constituencies are too tight.”
“Cork East is going to be a hugely important battle ground for Fine Gael in our bid to remain the largest political party and Paul Bradford would give us a good chance of taking two seats there, ”sources say.