Fianna Fáil to run new candidate for MEP Brian Crowley's seat

The party is keen to reclaim the seat held by Mr Crowley, who left the party in 2014 but who has not attended parliament once this term due to ill health.

As party leader, Micheál Martin has initiated an effective ban on current TDs and senators from contesting the European elections, the party is turning to Gorey-based councillor Malcolm Byrne to challenge for the seat.

It had been speculated that Cork North-Central Billy Kelleher was very keen to run, but was blocked by Mr Martin who does not want to deal with a by-election, which would be the case if an Oireachtas member stood.

Mr Byrne is said to have the backing of Mr Martin for the election but will have to be formally ratified in the New Year. He has, in recent weeks, attended Fianna Fáil meetings across the vast constituency to seek support for his candidacy.

A spokesman for Mr Crowley was unable to state whether Mr Crowley will contest the next election.

“As before, Brian will hold a press conference once given clearance from doctors and he will answer all your questions then,” he told the Irish Examiner.

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Byrne said: “Next May’s European elections will be hugely important. Not just because we will be continuing to deal with Brexit but also with challenges to European values of democracy. It is essential that we have MEPs that can build alliances and influence European policymaking.”

Mr Byrne is currently the head of communications with the Higher Education Authority and has been a councillor since 2009.

He was chosen to run for Fianna Fáil in the 2016 general election in the Wexford constituency, although he failed to win a seat.

The party is also likely to name a female candidate from the Cork City or county area to contest the other seat.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner this summer, Mr Martin poured cold water on talk that Mr Kelleher would be the party’s candidate.

“We want our strong players in Dáil Éireann,” he said. “I think we will be able to identify candidates who are not members of Dáil Éireann for the European elections.”

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