There were unconfirmed reports last night that Fianna Fáil HQ is seeking to implement a one-seat strategy in the constituency, and that either outgoing TD Michael Ahern or Cork County Councillor Kevin O’Keeffe will be asked to step aside. Mr O’Keeffe is the son of outgoing TD Ned O’Keeffe who has announced his intention to retire from politics.
Internal party polls show that Fianna Fáil commands just 17% of the vote in Cork East, making it almost impossible for the party to capture two seats.
Mr Ahern last night admitted there was only one Fianna Fáil seat for the taking in Cork East, and that as per Micheál Martin’s one-seat strategy, he would not be surprised if there was just one candidate. However, he was not going down without a fight.
“I have been around a lot longer [than Kevin O’Keeffe] and I would be the strongest candidate,” he said.
Mr O’Keeffe said he was not aware of any decision to run just one candidate. “I know nothing about this because nobody has come to me yet.
“The way my campaign is going, I think I have enough support to win the seat. I am a stronger candidate than Michael Ahern.”
Mr Ahern was first elected to the Dáil in 1982 and in every subsequent election. He held one senior and one junior ministry during his career.
Kevin O’Keeffe, on the other hand, is part of a formidable political dynasty in the constituency.
Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock is expected to top the poll in Cork East and possibly bring in a second seat for county councillor John Mulvihill. Equally, Fine Gael TD David Stanton is expected to retain his seat and possibly bring in either county councillors Tom Barry or Patrick O’Driscoll. Sinn Féin’s Sandra McLellan is an outsider.