U-turn as SF’s King decides to run in by-election

Sinn Féin has nominated councillor Cathal King as its candidate for the imminent Dublin South West by-election — just weeks after he insisted he would not run in order to make room for a female candidate.

Mr King was elected to contest the Dáil seat yesterday during a party selection process at the Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, beating fellow councillor Máire Devine to the nomination.

A former South Dublin County Council mayor, Mr King had initially insisted he would not try to take the seat left empty by Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes after his European Parliament election in order to increase the Dáil gender balance.

However, after what was described as “internal party pressure”, Mr King formally put forward his name 10 days ago to run in the race.

Explaining the decision after he was nominated to compete in the four-seat constituency — which will become a five-seater at the next general election — he said: “I had thought I had made a positive decision [not to run], and I had made it to make room for female candidates going forward.

“But almost immediately after I released that statement Cllr Sarah Holland, Cllr Louise Dunne, and our MEP Lynn Boylan came to me and said they were disappointed. They and local community organisations said they felt let down because they said I was the best candidate, so there was pressure locally and in the party to run.

“The support from women in the area was obvious,” he said, adding the message he received was that gender should not decide who is the best candidate.

Ms Devine, said last night she was “disappointed” not to have been selected. However, she said she is “sure Cathal will do a great job”.

Like other parties, Sinn Féin has recently embraced the need for more female candidates, with the party’s most recent ard fheis in February passing a motion for 40% of all candidates to be women by 2016.

Sinn Féin’s nomination means almost all the major parties have now revealed who will run in the by-election, which is due to take place on October 10.

The candidates include Fine Gael senator and ex-PD councillor Cáit Keane; Fianna Fáil’s councillor John Lahart; Labour’s councillor Pamela Kearns; and former Anti-Austerity Alliance MEP Paul Murphy. The Green Party is due to announce a candidate next week.

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