FORMER minister Ned O’Keeffe is likely to get the go-ahead tomorrow to contest a seat in the European Parliament with a last-minute withdrawal by Senator John Hanafin widely expected.
A Fianna Fáil selection convention is due to take place in the Silver Springs Hotel in Cork tomorrow to select two of three candidates to run for the party in the South, formerly Munster, constituency.
However, confusion surrounded the position of Mr Hanafin (brother of Minister Mary Hanafin) who met last night with the party’s general secretary to discuss his candidacy.
Yesterday morning some party members in Munster reported that the convention was to be cancelled because Mr Hanafin was pulling out, leaving two candidates, sitting MEP Brian Crowley and Cork East TD Ned O’Keeffe, who would both automatically go forward.
Last night Mr Hanafin said he is still in contention, but added: “I will announce what is happening at the convention. I have given no statement on the matter and I will give no statement until the convention.”
The Tipperary senator said he would be making a decision based on “ensuring we get the best result for the resources we have”.
Brian Crowley has topped the poll in the last three Euro-elections and could do so again if he ran as the only Fianna Fáil candidate.
It is believed Taoiseach Brian Cowen and party headquarters favour putting forward two candidates.
Mr Hanafin is a former member of North Tipperary County Council. The geographical difference between him and Mr Crowley could possibly maximise the party’s possibility of securing two seats in the constituency.
If Mr O’Keeffe gets the nomination as expected, a by-election would be called for Cork East which could cost the Government in TD numbers.
Fianna Fáil had two MEPs in the constituency until the 2004 elections, when it was cut from four to three seats.
The selection of either Mr O’Keeffe or Mr Hanafin will mean that six high-profile candidates will compete for three MEP seats.
Fine Gael’s candidates are sitting MEP Colm Burke and former GAA president Sean Kelly, with Fianna Fáil’s current MEP Brian Crowley expected to retain the position.
Tralee town councillor Toireasa Ferris will run for Sinn Féin. Independent MEP Kathy Sinnott is also expected to run.
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