Ones to watch in Fianna Fáil

Speaking to a new generation: Justin McAleese, Dublin-Rathdown

It’s what is called the ace in the hole.

Former president Mary McAleese’s son Justin is not an official Fianna Fáil candidate just yet, but it is widely expected he will be on the ticket when his constituency’s selection convention takes place in the coming weeks.

It is likely he will be among the centre-piece candidates Micheál Martin will be attempting to promote, not only to gain an extra seat but to show his party is — despite claims to the contrary — keeping up with a changing Ireland.

Having spent 14 years between 1997 and 2011 with his parents ensconced in Áras an Uachtaráin, the now 33-year-old Mr McAleese has a wealth of experience of what happens behind the scenes in the political arena.

And, alongside his vocal campaigning during the 2015 same-sex marriage and public confirmation he was gay and now married to a doctor, he also speaks for a new generation of Irish voters looking for a new form of politics.

Mr McAleese is planning to run in the Dublin-Rathdown constituency.

The contest is tight, with Transport Minister Shane Ross, Culture Minister Josepha Madigan and the Green party’s deputy leader Catherine Martin currently holding the Dáil seats, while former justice minister Alan Shatter is closely eyeing a Leinster House return.

However, should Mr McAleese formally be selected to enter the contest as expected, he is likely to be seen positively by different strands of the electorate.

Only a small number of bumps in the road are apparent in Mr McAleese’s potential route to the Dáil, with his criticism of Mr Martin’s failure to emphasise the same-sex marriage referendum in a 2015 ard fhéis speech chief among them.

Returning for second Dáil bid: Lisa McDonald, Wexford 

A decade ago, Fianna Fáil’s Lisa McDonald narrowly lost out on a seat in Wexford by just 800 votes after a closely fought contest.

Now, the former senator is preparing to run for a seat she still feels is winnable and can be taken if the campaign vote split is carefully managed.

The mother-of-two from Wexford town, who has her own legal practice, entered politics as a student in UCD, where she became the second ever female chair of the college’s Fianna Fáil ogra wing.

She was elected to Wexford county council in 2004, before running in the 2007 general election where she received more than 9,000 votes but narrowly lost out to now Fine Gael junior finance minister Michael D’Arcy.

Ms McDonald was subsequently elected to the Seanad where she remained until 2011 before starting up her own business.

Ms McDonald was co-opted onto the council in 2016.

In July this year, she succeeded in being nominated to the Fianna Fáil ticket for Wexford alongside sitting TD James Browne.

Ms McDonald believes the Fianna Fáil team is capable of taking two of the five seats on offer, in part because of what she says is the failure by existing TDs to adequately address genuine issues in the constituency.

‘We believe we can win two seats’: Norma Moriarty, Kerry

While the shadow of the Healy Raes is covering large parts of the county, Waterville-based Fianna Fáil candidate Norma Moriarty believes she and her running mate John Brassil TD are capable of pulling off a dual shock of their own in Kerry.

“We’re up against some of the biggest brand names in the country when it comes to politics here, but we believe we can win two seats. You want to be competitive.” The former school teacher, who has taken a career break since becoming a councillor in 2014, is targeting a seat alongside Mr Brassil by focusing on key issues for the local area.

Giving opportunities to local people to stay in Kerry while still taking in a good salary, she says, is key to the survival of local towns in the constituency.

“We need to afford people the opportunity to have a high-earning capacity to live and work in the county, instead of going to Dublin or elsewhere.

“In the past we’ve suffered from the brain drain; the loss of that cohort has hamstrung some areas,” she says.

Among the policies Ms Moriarty — who admits her bid to win a Dáil seat in 2016 was a “steep learning curve” — is championing are tourist industry-friendly Vat initiatives and greater security and Garda presence in rural areas.

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