By Conor Kane
Fine Gael have selected the son of the late TD Theresa Ahearn to run in the Tipperary constituency in the next general election.
Garret Ahearn defeated six other candidates for the nomination in the early hours of Sunday morning, with just six votes separating him from nearest rival Mary Newman, a sister of sitting TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail have chosen sitting TDs to run in the Waterford and Tipperary constituencies at the next election.
The Tipperary Fine Gael convention took place on Saturday night at the Premier Hall in Thurles but wasn’t over until after 2am following a full recount of all votes.
Among the nominees were former TD Noel Coonan, who lost his seat in the 2016 election, and Michael Murphy who stood for the party in 2011 and polled respectably.
However, the contest came down to a battle between two first-time nominees, Garret Ahearn and Mary Newman. Ms Newman, a vet, is originally from Westmeath and her father Michael Newman was a Fine Gael county councillor.
Garret Ahearn is the son of former county councillor Liam Ahearn and the late Theresa Ahearn, who was a Fine Gael TD for Tipperary South from 1989 until her death from cancer in 2000 at the age of 49.
The results of Sunday morning’s poll of 643 valid votes from party members in the county hasn’t been announced, but it’s understood that Ahearn was six votes ahead of Newman following the recount.
“I’m thrilled and delighted,” the winner told TippFM afterwards. “I come from a strong Fine Gael family but I believe that we have an opportunity to move in a new direction in Tipperary. We have to listen to what the voters said to us in 2016.”
Fine Gael held two seats in the county going into the last election but both Noel Coonan and Tom Hayes lost out in the newly-merged constituency.
It’s believed party headquarters will add a candidate to the ticket, possibly from the north of the county as Garret Ahearn is from Grange in the south, in the coming months.
Fianna Fail selected sitting TD Jackie Cahill to run in Tipperary at the party’s convention on Friday night.
He won 535 of the 933 valid votes, with Michael Smith - son of former minister Michael Smith Snr - on 240 votes, Siobhan Ambrose on 111 and Imelda Goldsboro with 47. Both Smith and Ambrose were added to the ticket by Fianna Fail bosses for the 2016 poll and the party is likely to add at least one extra candidate.
Mary Butler was chosen to run for Fianna Fail in the Waterford constituency, the sitting TD taking 225 of the 333 votes at Saturday night’s convention in Dungarvan, with Cllr Eamon Quinlan on 108 votes.
Cllr Quinlan has argued for a second candidate to be added by the party but Butler was their sole candidate in Waterford in 2016 and she topped the poll.