Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has confirmed he intends to stand as a candidate for the party in the next general election.
Mr Carthy (41) will put his name forward at the Cavan-Monaghan selection convention later this month.
He hopes to win the Sinn Féin seat in the constituency being vacated by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who will not stand in the election.
In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Carthy said that, at this moment of time, being a member of the Dáil would be more aligned to his primary political goals of a united Ireland and attaining a republican government
“What we need is a very strong team in the Dáil. We have a powerful front bench and a strong Dáil team,” he said.
“I want to be a part of what is huge potential for the change the country needs. It is not to say there are not roles for MEPs. But I see there is a huge opportunity for a United Ireland and the achievement of a republican government in the interim period in the State,” he said.
If, as expected, Mr Carthy is selected, he will be contesting a constituency which has one of the safest Sinn Féin seats in the country.
Mr Ó Caoláin won the party’s first seat in the Dáil in 1997 and has held the since in each election since.
“I have consistently said I had no interest in seeking the nomination as long as Caoimhghín was there,” Mr Carthy said.
“He has been an outstanding TD and has been understated in his ability as a parliamentarian and as a leader.”
Mr Carthy said that, if elected, he would hope “to be a party of the leadership team. I am a member of the Ard Chomairle, and have led the United Ireland project team. Even though I see myself as relatively young, I am very experienced, being first elected as a councillor 20 years ago.
Mr Carthy will continue to serve as an MEP until the general election, whenever that is held. He himself believes there will be an election before the end of the year. If elected, a substitute will be selected to replace him in the EU parliament.
His current constituency comprises 13 counties but he said it is unwieldy.
“You can be in Naas in the morning and in Inishowen in the afternoon. It’s hard to believe they are in the same constituency. There are very different issues between a commuter town and very rural places,” Mr Carthy said.
He said his work as an MEP had changed considerably since the Brexit referendum in Britain.
“Fifty per cent of my work has been Brexit related, when meeting Tory MEP and other Brexiteers, and it is phenomenal how ignorant they are in issues pertaining to Ireland especially on the border. You wonder where they have been for the last 800 years?” he said.
When asked about Sinn Féin’s past antipathy to the EU, Mr Carthy said its position was nuanced, it supported the concept of the EU and international action on climate change, migration, and tax evasion.
“Our differences are there is a tendency in the EU to undermine national democracy and to remove the influence and the say of citizens..
“A lot of things that happen on EU level would never get through the Dáil.
“I believe very strongly in national democracy and parliaments, with decisions as close to communities as possible.”
The MEP is the father of five children, aged from 12 to one. He was national organiser of the party’s youth wing as a teenager before being elected as a councillor for Carrickmacross at the age of 21.
Ever the optimist, Mr Carthy said he was hopeful Sinn Féin would enter the next government as the main party. When put to him this was unlikely, he replied: “I believe very strongly there is the capacity to emerge from the general election as the biggest party.”