Politicians in the new Roscommon/Galway constituency are on an election footing amidst what are slightly alarming (for some of them) reports that a General Election could be held within four of five months.
There is unease on the ground within Fianna Fail at the apparent lack of an obvious Roscommon-based candidate so close to a General Election. Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are expected to hold Selection Conventions in the coming weeks.
The big question in Fine Gael is whether or not embattled TD Frank Feighan will in fact be the party’s candidate.
In Fianna Fail, there is an atmosphere of some tension following Cllr. Ivan Connaughton’s dramatic interview in the Roscommon People at Christmas. Connaughton sensationally called for Micheal Martin to step down as party leader and even more dramatically declared that he (Cllr. Connaughton) would not run for Fianna Fail again as long as Mr. Martin is in charge.
It looks like Mr. Martin will indeed be in charge, and that suggests that Cllr. Ivan Connaughton will be sitting out the next General Election.
With Dr. Martin Daly ruling himself out recently – also in the Roscommon People – there is no obvious candidate for Fianna Fail in Roscommon. Cllr. Orla Leyden ruled herself out running some months ago. With Fianna Fail HQ anxious to unveil more female candidates, pressure may come to bear on Cllr. Leyden to reconsider. Cllr. Rachel Doherty, although not well placed geographically, may also consider going to Convention.
Cllr. Eugene Murphy is a declared candidate and there will be speculation about Cllr. John Keogh and Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice. Cllr. Fitzmaurice is keeping his cards fairly close to his chest; he is certainly been spoken of quite a bit as a possible candidate. There may be a Galway-based challenger too, of course.
Deputies Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice, both Independents, are seen as likely front-runners while Sinn Fein have already selected Claire Kerrane and the HAC may or may not decide to contest the election. There are likely to be other independent candidates in the field too.
John Kelly has indicated that he is likely to run for Labour again, although he also threatened to withdraw from the race unless the future of Rosalie Unit in Castlerea is secured. We will have to watch that space.
There will be much interest too in what Fine Gael does. Frank Feighan is nothing if not very resilient and, his unpopularity arising from the closure of Roscommon A&E notwithstanding, it will stick in his craw if can’t regain at least some ground due to the improving economic landscape.
But politics is an unforgiving business and Deputy Feighan, if he seeks a nomination, could find himself in a very unusual position for a sitting TD; that is of having to face a vote. Cllr. Maura Hopkins has her sights on the Fine Gael nomination and there are indications that FG HQ has their sights set on her.
Fine Gael could solve their problem with Frank and Maura by appointing Feighan as Ceann Comhairle; it may seem a bit of a long shot, but, to borrow a phrase, the speculation hasn’t gone away, you know.