The race to fill the Dáil seat vacated by Luke 'Ming' Flanagan in Roscommon-South Leitrim is heating up with Labour and Sinn Féin entering the fray this week.
Ballaghaderreen-based Labour Senator John Kelly and Leitrim-based Sinn Féin councillor Martin Kenny will contest the byelection, which is expected to take place next month.
Labour leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams journeyed west last night to lend their support to the two long-serving public representatives, who were selected without contest at separate party conventions held in Ballaghaderreen and Roscommon town respectively.
Labour is pinning its hopes on Senator Kelly’s strong voting record in the county, where he previously topped the poll as an independent councillor in 2004 and 2009.
This will be Kelly’s third bid for a Dáil seat, having run unsuccessfully as an independent in 2007 and then as a Labour candidate in the last general election.
Sinn Féin on the other hand will be hoping to cash in on the Leitrim vote as Cllr Kenny is the only South Leitrim candidate declared so far.
The party will hope to make gains on Mr Kenny’s previous general election runs based on the estimated 12,000 votes available in the South Leitrim part of the constituency.
While the date for the by-election has yet to be fixed, the main political parties have all declared candidates, with newly elected councillors Ivan Connaughton for Fianna Fáil and Maura Hopkins for Fine Gael contesting the seat.
There could be a few surprises yet in this race, which pitches fresh political faces against more experienced players.
Undrinkable water in one third of the county as water charges loom is likely to be one of the biggest issues but the prospect of wind farms and pylons and broken promises on the local hospital will also feature on the doorsteps.
This is where independent candidates could shake things up. Hospital Action Committee chairman John McDermott has entered the race, as has former independent councillor Tom Crosby and Emmet Corcoran, a young entrepreneur from Strokestown.
There is also growing speculation that Mr Flanagan's ally and fellow turf-cutting campaigner Michael Fitzmaurice, who was elected to Galway County Council in May, will also enter the fray.