Kelleher ‘to stay in national politics’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has ruled out letting party colleague Billy Kelleher stand in next year’s European elections.

It had been rumoured that the Cork North Central TD might run for a seat in Brussels, but Mr Martin has said he wants to keep him in national politics.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy this week established a Constituency Committee to review European Parliament constituencies after it was confirmed that Ireland will receive two extra seats in the next term.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin said:

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

“Billy has a very significant role to play in domestic politics and he hasn’t come to me at all about that. He is in enterprise now and I think he has a lot of give to enterprise because he instinctively understands it and he is a significant vote-getter in Cork North-Central.

“The discussions we have had, myself and Billy, is how do we get a second seat in Cork North-Central. That is our target and that is our objective. Billy has a very significant contribution to make in national politics.”

Pressed on whether he would let Mr Kelleher stand in the European elections if he was asked, Mr Martin said: “I want him in national politics.”

Likewise, he said the focus of Dublin-based senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee is on getting a Dáil seat in the next general election, whenever that may be.

“Darragh O’Brien and Lorraine Clifford-Lee — that’s our focus, getting two seats there,” he said.

Mr Martin said that, because of the focus on the local elections in 2014, Fianna Fáil did not do as well as they should have in the last European elections.

“We want to correct that and we are going to go for a seat in every constituency as a minimum, and we will identify candidates closer to the date,” he said.

Asked about Ireland South MEP and former Fianna Fáil member Brian Crowley, who has been absent from the European Parliament for four years due to illness, Mr Martin said:

“First of all, Brian is not a member of our parliamentary party — we had that disagreement some years ago when he opted to leave our European parliamentary group.

“He has health issues and a medical condition which I think must be respected.

“As a believer in democracy, I think the ultimate determiner on who serves is the electorate. The people decide.”

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