FINE Gael’s preparation for the next general election continues to gather pace with four candidates set to fight for the second nomination in the South Tipperary constituency.
Sitting TD Tom Hayes is widely tipped to top the poll in the three-seater at the next election and Fine Gael has decided to change its single-candidate strategy of 2007 by running a second nominee.
Businessman Michael Murphy entered the fray this week by becoming the fourth person to declare his intention to stand for the nomination at the party’s November 7 selection convention.
Mr Murphy was elected to South Tipperary County Council at the first attempt in last year’s local elections and is well-known for his involvement in the Enfer group, which sponsors the Tipperary senior hurling team.
Others expected to run in the November 7 convention include Cllr Joe Brennan from Grangemockler, who is seen as a hard-working constituency worker in the Fethard electoral area; Cllr Liam Ahearne, whose late wife Theresa was a Fine Gael TD from 1989 until her death in 2000; and Bríd Greene, who was narrowly defeated in the election to Clonmel Borough Council last year.
Declaring his interest, Michael Murphy spoke of his desire to play his part in “turning the country around”.
“I cannot stand aside any longer and allow the current government to wreak havoc on the lives of people in South Tipperary,” he said. “Through my work as a councillor, I have seen the damage that has been done by the current government in all areas. I feel that it is time to stand up and be counted.”
Sitting TD Tom Hayes said yesterday he expected the vote to be “tight” between the four candidates and that the two-candidate strategy was the right one.
“There’s a real challenge for us to break into Clonmel,” he said. “We did very well across the whole constituency and I think there’s a real chance of getting two [seats].”
Mr Hayes agreed that there was “a risk” of splitting the party’s support and damaging his own vote, but said he was confident of being returned.
South Tipperary is expected to be a major battleground at the election, with Fianna Fáil facing a challenge to hold onto the two seats it won last time through Martin Mansergh and the self-described “independent Fianna Fáil” Mattie McGrath.
Former TD Seamus Healy is mounting a strong campaign to regain the seat he lost in 2007, while Labour’s Phil Prendergast will also be a contender.
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