A frenzy of declarations of would be Fine Gael general election candidates has ensured an almighty internal battle will take place before candidates are selected to try and win back the seat in the Tipperary constituency lost in the last general election.
Former minister Tom Hayes, who lost a FG seat in 2016, and Clonmel councillor Michael Murphy had already declared their intentions to run but the decision of county councillor Michael Fitzgerald to put his name in the ring on Monday was followed by four more declarations within twenty four hours.
Former Minister of State Tom Hayes and Cllr Michael Fitzgerald
The son of former Fine Gael TD Theresa Ahearn in the South Tipperary constituency and former councillor Liam Ahearn, Garret Ahearn, will seek the nomination as will Mary Newman, who lives in New Inn and is a sister of Dublin Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell; Shelagh Marshall, a Cashel accountant; and Cappawhite councillor Mary Hanna Hourigan.
Cllr Michael Fitzgerald and Cllr Mary Hanna Hourigan
It has become a very crowded race all of a sudden in advance of the visit to the constituency of party top brass for the parliamentary think in to be held in Clonmel on September 14th and 15th at Hotel Minella.
A declaration convention will be held on Friday 15th at The Ragg outside Thurles with further declarations not to be ruled out.
All candidates will get a chance to make their pitch at the declaration meeting at The Ragg with a selection convention to be held at a later date.
Cllr. Michael Fitzgerald, the current chairman of Cashel/Tipperary Municipal Council, set the ball rolling on Monday with his declaration.
The first chairman of an amalgamated Tipperary County Council Cllr. Fitzgerald, who last contested a general election on two occasions in 1982, said he felt he was in the strongest position to win a seat for the party and said it was unacceptable that the party did not hold a seat in the new Tipperary constituency.
The Golden based councillor said the upgrade of the Waterford/ Limerick N24 was among his priorities.
On Tuesday morning Garret Ahearn, a son of the late Theresa Ahearn who won a Dail seat for the party in 1989, 1992 and 1997, declared his intention to seek the nomination.
Following Garrett Ahearn’s announcement declarations were made by three would-be female general election candidates when Shelagh Marshall, Mary Newman and Cllr. Mary Hana Hourigan put their names forward in advance of the declaration convention to be held at The Ragg.
Garret Ahearn is a close aide to Minister Simon Coveney, working over six years for him in the Departments of Agriculture, Defence, Housing & Local Government, and now Foreign Affairs.
Mr Ahearn oversaw the grassroots membership strand of Minister Coveney’s campaign in the recent Fine Gael leadership race – Coveney won the membership vote with 65%.
He says -“Fine Gael has quite simply lost its presence in Tipperary, with no TDs from the party elected in 2016.
“The old formula with the tried and tested methods has not worked. Now is the time for fresh thinking within the party.
“Now is the time to inject new blood into Dáil Éireann and have a new energy driving Tipperary’s interests”.
Shelagh Marshall is a chartered accountant in Cashel while Mary Newman, from Lagganstown, New Inn and sister of Dublin TD Kate O'Connell, works in the animal health pharmaceutical industry and Cllr. Mary 'Hanna' Hourigan is a member of Cashel/Tipperary Municipal Council.
Shelagh Marshall runs her own business Firm Advice in Cashel. She says she sees at first hand the employment and contribution to the local and national economy that small business generates.
She wants to work with local Enterprise Boards to ensure that small businesses and start- ups receive the support and assistance necessary to make their businesses successful.
Mary Newman, a Westmeath native, has been an active member of Fine Gael's Cashel branch since 2004 and recently affiliated to New Inn branch.
She was election campaign manager for the late Cllr Catherine McLoughlin; has canvassed for former South Tipperary FG deputy Tom Hayes and for her sister Kate in general election campaigns.
The mother-of-four is a vet by profession. She previously worked in private veterinary practice and is currently working in an animal health pharmaceutical industry.
Cllr. Mary Hanna Hourigan believes she should be chosen by the party to contest the next election because she is very hardworking on behalf of her constituents and straight with people.
Cllr Hourigan has followed in the political footsteps of her father, the late Fine Gael councillor JP (Hanna) Ryan.
She was first elected to South Tipperary Co. Council in 2009 and is a member of the HSE South Regional Forum.