SINN FÉIN has named Paul Donnelly as its candidate in the October 27 by-election to fill the Dáil seat made vacant by the death of Brian Lenihan.
Donnelly, nominated at a convention in Blakestown last night, is the second candidate to be formally declared for the election, following the lead of the Socialist Party’s councillor Ruth Coppinger. 42-year-old Donnelly is the party chairperson in Dublin and is also a member of the party’s national executive.
This will be his second by-election campaign: he was the SF candidate in the 1998 by-election in Dublin North, caused by the resignation of Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke and won by Labour’s Seán Ryan.
He has also unsuccessfully fought two local election campaigns, though he was co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2008, and was Sinn Féin’s candidate in February’s general election when he took 6.1 per cent of first preference votes.
Coppinger, the Socialist Party candidate hoping to join fellow party member Joe Higgins in the Dáil, has been a councillor in Mulhuddart since 2003 – replacing Higgins, who gave up his seat under the dual mandate – and retained her seat in 2004 and 2009.
No other party candidates have formally been declared yet, though it is thought that the Green Party will field Roderic O’Gorman, who earned 1.4 per cent of the first preferences in February’s election.
Speculation remains as to who will be fielded by the Dáil’s three largest parties; it is already known that the Lenihan family will not be putting forward a candidate, ending its 50-year representation in the Dáil.
Labour are likely to field Patrick Nulty, another councillor who was the last candidate eliminated in February’s election, while Fianna Fáil may opt for fellow councillor David McGuinness, who was Lenihan’s running mate at that time.
Other names mentioned for the Fianna Fáil nomination are Cllr Mags Murray, a former Progressive Democrat from Castleknock, or former councillor Brenda Clifford who was elected in Castleknock in 2004 but who did not run in 2009.
Cllr Kieran Dennison will be the likely Fine Gael candidate, having polled well in February, though there have been some suggestions that Pat Cox – who joined the party in order to seek its Presidential nomination – could yet find himself in an election campaign on October 27, as the party nominee.
This appears unlikely, however, as Cox joined the party’s branch in Cork North Central, where he lives, just three months ago. A more probable option may be Cllr Eithne Loftus, who was co-opted to Leo Varadkar’s council seat in Castleknock in 2007, and who reached a quota there on the first count in the 2009 local elections.