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Maura Hopkins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny [@hopkins_maura]
Ming Dynasty

Here's why Fine Gael transfers could decide the 'Ming' by-election

There’s likely to be three non-Government front-runners in Roscommon-South Leitrim, all of whom will be battling for transfers from FG’s Maura Hopkins.

SINN FÉIN HAVE picked their man for the Roscommon-South Leitrim by-election.

As expected, they’re going with long-serving Leitrim councillor Martin Kenny — an experienced politician who also ran in the 2011 General Election and narrowly lost out to Matt Carthy in a bid to become an SF MEP candidate last year.

Meanwhile, Labour has selected Senator John Kelly as its candidate in the by-election. Attending the selection event tonight in Ballaghaderreen were Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton and Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

Senator Kelly described it as a “winnable” by-election, adding:

Electing a Labour TD to Government will give Roscommon-South Leitrim a strong hand because I will work tirelessly alongside Tánaiste Joan Burton to bring decent, sustainable jobs to the region and to get people back to work.

Sinn Féin

Kenny was officially selected at a local convention in Roscommon’s Abbey Hotel tonight, but his nomination was well-flagged by the party last week. Sinn Féin heavyweight Pearse Doherty will serve as Director of Elections.

Martin Kenny / YouTube

[Campaign video from 2011]

Much like the strategy initially considered in Dublin South-West, the party had been looking at running a female candidate.

But, again as in Dublin — where Cathal King was picked last month — they’ve opted instead for an experienced operator who has profile in the constituency.

“Martin Kenny’s a great candidate, any party would be happy to have him,” a senior figure in a rival party told this website.

Party strategists will no doubt have been weighing up the impact of the upcoming boundary changes in the area in advance of  settling on him as a candidate, as the constituency is to be absorbed into Roscommon-Galway and Sligo-Leitrim at the next General Election.

Michael Fitzmaurice []

Commentators in the area believe the race could develop into a three-way battle, with Kenny, Fianna Fáil’s Ivan Connaghton and Ming-endorsed turfcutter Michael Fitzmaurice as the three front-runners — should the latter, as expected, decide to join the race.

In such a scenario, the transfer votes of Fine Gael’s Maura Hopkins could be instrumental in determining the eventual winner — and it’s by no means clear which way those votes would fall.

“You could be left with the pretty unusual situation whereby the transfers of a Government candidate decide the election for one of three non-Government candidates,” according to a local representative.

Hopkins, a Young Fine Gael activist and first-time candidate who claimed a council seat for the party in Boyle in May, was selected to run for FG last week. 

She’s expected to put in a relatively strong showing, and even though some party figures have admitted privately they haven’t a chance of winning the contest, the campaign provides good opportunity to ‘blood’ a relatively new political personality in the area.

Elsewhere, high-profile Labour Senator John Kelly also entered the race last week. He finished sixth in the General Election three years ago. Despite the party’s slide in the polls in recent years, the ‘Burton Bounce’ should be a boon for his campaign.

A number of other independents have also thrown their hats in the ring in the last few weeks, including Gerry O’Boyle of ‘Land League West’ and Tom Crosby, a former councillor.

Fitzmaurice, chairman of campaign group the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association and a recently-elected councillor in Tuam, has indicated he expects to make a decision on whether to run this week.

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan — whose election to Europe automatically triggered this by-election — is on the record as saying he would relish the prospect of Fitzmaurice replacing him in the Dáil. The outspoken Independent’s endorsement will be a major boost as his campaign gets under way.

The vote is expected to be held on 10 October.

Read: It’s on… All the main parties have now picked their hopefuls in the battle for Dublin SW

Runners and riders: Here’s who’s vying to take Ming’s old seat in the upcoming by-election

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