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Enda Kenny keeping it cool as Fine Gael gears up for the general election Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Capital Punishment

Fine Gael kick-starts its election preparations this week and Dublin will be VERY interesting

Selection conventions begin this week with lots to look out for in the capital alone.

Updated 1.45pm 

FINE GAEL WILL KICK-START its general election preparations later this week with the first of 40 selection conventions set to take place in Dublin on Thursday night.

While the other major parties have already begun selecting candidates in recent weeks, Fine Gael has been waiting for its internal election strategy committee, headed by justice minister Frances Fitzgerald, to finish assessing how many candidates should be run in each constituency.

Fitzgerald’s own constituency of Dublin Mid-West will be the first to formally pick its candidates this Thursday when the minister and her fellow incumbent Derek Keating are selected by local members.

While dates have been set for a number of other selection conventions, more contentious constituencies are unlikely to select candidates until later this year.

The big problem for Fine Gael will be gender quotas.

With the party set to run as many as 90 candidates across the country, a third of these will need to be female in order to avoid fines. In some cases this could mean adding female candidates to tickets even if they have little hope of being elected just to ensure the party does not lose State funding.

One area where that won’t be a problem is Meath East. Incumbent TDs Regina Doherty and Helen McEntee, who took her late father Shane’s seat in a by-election two years ago, are likely to be selected at a convention in Kells on Sunday, 29 March.

Capital intrigue

Fine Gael Conferences

But it’s in Dublin where the internal battles could get really interesting with up to five potentially contentious selection conventions delayed and unlikely to take place until after the summer, understands.

In addition to Dublin Mid-West, four selection conventions in the capital have been scheduled for April with another in May.

These include Dublin West on 13 April where Senator Catherine Noone is set to be added to the ticket alongside Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

In Dublin Bay South, which holds its convention on 16 April, incumbent TD Eoghan Murphy will be selected with councillor Kate O’Connell likely to join him on the ticket. Her council colleague Kieran Binchy is also set to contest the convention but is unlikely to be selected with sources indicating he could withdraw on the night.

However, Binchy told us this afternoon that he intends to “fight to the end to be on that ticket”.

Governments Response to Aer Lingus Sale Paschal Donohoe Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Dublin Central will select incumbent TD and Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe at a convention on 27 April. He faces an uphill battle to retain the party’s seat in a redrawn constituency that has lost a number of Fine Gael-friendly areas.

Dublin Bay North will select Jobs Minister Richard Bruton on 30 April with failed local election candidate Stephanie Regan and former lord mayor Naoise Ó Muirí also vying for a spot on the Fine Gael ticket.

Dublin South-West is scheduled to hold its selection convention on 28 May with failed by-election candidate, Senator Cait Keane, along with local councillors Colm Brophy, who is an ally of former TD Brian Hayes, and Anne-Marie Dermody also vying for selection.

No dates set and battles ahead

Dates have not been set for Dublin Fingal, Dún Laoghaire, Dublin North West, Dublin Rathdown and Dublin South-Central.

New Cigarette Packets James Reilly Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Incumbent TDs James Reilly and Alan Farrell are likely to be selected in Dublin Fingal although many believe there is realistically only one Fine Gael seat in the constituency.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett is automatically re-elected in Dún Laoghaire which means incumbent Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell-O’Connor will have a running mate, most likely councillors Maria Bailey or Barry Ward.

In Dublin North-West the highly-rated councillor Noel Rock is certain to be picked. The party could add a female running mate to boost their quota with Aoibhinn Tormey, the daughter of Rock’s former rival Bill Tormey, seen as a possible candidate.

It’s unclear whether incumbent TD Catherine Byrne will run for re-election in Dublin South-Central, which, from a Fine Gael point of view, has suffered from the loss of Terenure into Dublin Bay South.

However the real intrigue is in the capital’s constituency of death, Dublin Rathdown (formerly Dublin South), which has gone from five to three seats.

Fine Gael incumbents Alan Shatter and Olivia Mitchell have both indicated publicly that they want to run again, but also vying for spots on what’s likely to be a two candidate ticket are councillors Neale Richmond and Josepha Madigan.

Four into two doesn’t go so this could be a particularly feisty selection convention, whenever it does eventually take place.

Read: So we asked Enda Kenny if he’ll do a TV debate with Micheál Martin (or Gerry Adams)

Read: Is Fine Gael facing an election bloodbath?

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