Fianna Fáil hits back at Fine Gael for eyeing Billy Kelleher's Dáil seat

Fianna Fáil has hit back at Fine Gael for trying to claim Billy Kelleher's seat before it has even been vacated.

Fianna Fáil hits back at Fine Gael for eyeing Billy Kelleher's Dáil seat

Fianna Fáil has hit back at Fine Gael for trying to claim Billy Kelleher's seat before it has even been vacated.

Mr Kelleher, who is running in the EU elections is tipped to win a seat in today's elections. However, Fine Gael is already eyeing up his Dáil seat in Cork North Central.

The fact that seven sitting TDs are contesting today's European elections has increased the prospect of a General Election in the coming months.

In the Ireland South constituency Minister of State Andrew Doyle, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace, and Mr Kelleher are hoping to gain an EU parliament seat. Former Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is hoping for success in Dublin along with Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly while in the Midlands North West region two Fianna Fáil TDs Anne Rabbitte and Brendan Smith are running in today's elections.

It is expected that at least three sitting TDs will be elected to the EU parliament which would require by-elections within six months. However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could call a General Election instead as by-elections could return TDs which tip the balance on the confidence and supply agreement.

In the tightly-contested Cork North-Central constituency, Fine Gael is confident that current Senator Colm Burke could take the seat vacated by Mr Kelleher in either a by-election or a General Election.

"Colm would be a good candidate," one senior party source said last night.

However, Fianna Fáil's European director of elections, Lisa Chambers, dismissed any threat to the seat:

If Billy vacates the seat we will retain it. They can try all they like. When we have Dáil elections or a by-election we will retain that seat.

"I am not saying we would get the same number of votes as Billy because he has been there for 26 years and support takes years to build up," said Ms Chambers.

It is expected that Fianna Fáil would select local GP and councillor John Sheehan if Mr Kelleher's Dáil position is vacated.

"Fianna Fáil would be quite competitive in Cork North Central," a senior party source said adding that there are a number of people at local level who could go forward.

Asked about this, Mr Kelleher said the issue of who would take is seat is a "long way off" as the public will only be voting in the European elections today and the full results will not be known until next week.

"One thing I have learned in politics is there is no such thing as a safe seat - you are given the seat by the public," he said.

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