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"Yes Kilkenny" referendum campaign denies it was a 'front' for Renua candidate

The campaign claimed to be “non-party”, but was run by Renua activists and endorsed Renua candidate Patrick McKee.

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Updated: 4.25 pm, Wednesday.

A PRO SAME-sex marriage campaign group in Kilkenny has denied it was a “front” for the by-election campaign of Renua Ireland candidate Patrick McKee, despite a controversial endorsement on Friday.

“Yes Kilkenny” – separate to “Yes Equality Kilkenny”, the local branch of the national campaign - presented itself as “non-party” and a “cross-community campaign to secure a Yes vote,” during the lead-up to the same-sex marriage referendum.

However, it has emerged the campaign was run by figures within Renua Ireland, including McKee’s campaign manager Adrian Shanahan and local party activist John Eardly.

And on Friday, the eve of both the same-sex marriage referendum and by-election, “Yes Kilkenny” posted an unexpected party political endorsement on its Facebook page.

yeskk5 Source: Yes Kilkenny via Facebook

Enya Kennedy, who ran the “Yes Equality Kilkenny” campaign, said it was “cynical and hurtful,” and her group posted a clarification on their own Facebook page, distancing themselves from the endorsement.

yeseqclarif Source: Yes Equality Kilkenny via Facebook

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, however, McKee’s campaign manager Adrian Shanahan denied the Yes Kilkenny campaign was a “front” for the Renua candidate’s campaign.

The Yes Kilkenny campaign was in train long before Patrick McKee announced he was moving from Fianna Fáil.
The suggestion it was set up as a precursor for Patrick’s Renua campaign is completely untrue and unfounded.

Records show that the YesKilkenny.ie website was registered by Shanahan on 6 February, seven weeks before McKee announced his by-election candidacy, on 30 March.

As for Friday’s endorsement, Shanahan says:

I was aware the endorsement was happening, personally I had my reservations, and it was done without Patrick’s knowledge.

Shanahan says the endorsement was posted via his Facebook account, but “it wasn’t my decision.”

90381617 Renua Ireland candidate Patrick McKee, with party leader Lucinda Creighton at Saturday's by-election count in Kilkenny. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Local barrister John Eardly is chairman of Yes Kilkenny, and also a Renua activist, appearing at Patrick McKee’s campaign launch in March and canvassing for him during the by-election campaign.

A spokesperson for Renua Ireland told TheJournal.ie the national party was not aware of the controversial endorsement, and added “We’re not aware of any ‘front’.”

We wouldn’t be chasing up what happens in Carlow-Kilkenny in terms of these things.
It would be a matter of grave concern to the party if anything untoward occurred in so critical an issue as the gay marriage referendum.
We have not, at this moment in time, received complaints, but if we receive complaints, we will look into them and we will respond as swiftly as we can.

Green Party candidate Malcolm Noonan, who got 5.3% of votes, has condemned the Yes Kilkenny endorsement as “shameless and reprehensible.”

Renua in particular need to take a long, hard look at themselves after their stroke with the Yes campaign in Kilkenny completely backfired and threatened to derail the local campaign at such a critical juncture.
Their ploy to win an endorsement from a Yes group was a shameless and reprehensible attempt to grab votes and shows that they are far and away from being the party of ‘new politics’.

Patrick McKee got 9.5 % of first preferences in Saturday’s by-election, garnering a total of 9,269 votes and finishing fourth, behind Fianna Fáil’s newest TD Bobby Aylward.

TheJournal.ie requested comment from Patrick McKee and John Eardly, but did not receive a response.

Update: On Wednesday, John Eardly released a statement clarifying that he alone was responsible for posting the endorsement, and apologising for “any hurt or upset” it had caused.

Originally published: 2.58 pm, Tuesday.

Read: Fianna Fáil has finally won a by-election>

Read: ‘I never said that’ – Renua’s latest recruit denies trying to join Sinn Féin>

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Dan MacGuill

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