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At least four Fine Gael politicians will seek a place on the ticket to retain the Dáil seat vacated by Coveney – The Irish Times

At least four Fine Gael politicians will be vying to secure a place on the party’s ticket in a bid to retain the Dáil seat to be vacated by Simon Coveney.

Mr Coveney wrote to Fine Gael members in his Cork South Central constituency on Wednesday to break the news that he will not be standing in the next general election. The former Tánaiste and minister in several government departments, including foreign affairs, said it was “time for me to step out of politics at the next election after the extraordinary privilege of serving this constituency for 26 years”.

He added that he had “loved almost every day of public life”, and said he was grateful to his constituents.

Coveney, who previously challenged Fine Gael’s leadership in 2017, ruled himself out as a successor to Leo Varadkar when he stepped down as taoiseach earlier this year. He also bowed out of consideration for a government role under new Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Simon Harris.

The Cork politician’s decision not to contest the next general election was widely expected.

Harris said Coveney was a close friend and he fully understood and respected his colleague’s decision. “He is a person who served his country well,” Harris said, adding that Coveney will always be remembered for protecting the national interest during Brexit.

He said candidates were “queuing up” to get the Fine Gael ticket in Cork South Central, and promised the party would be “very competitive” there.

Fine Gael hopes to win as many as two seats in the newly expanded five-seat constituency. A selection meeting will be held on July 23 and it has not yet been confirmed how many candidates will be selected during the evening.

Failed EU election candidate John Mullins has been nominated to contest the convention. He currently lives elsewhere in Co Cork but has promised to “immediately” move back to the constituency which would be chosen by Fine Gael members at the convention on July 23.

On why he wanted to run in Cork South Central rather than Cork East – where his current home is – Mullins emphasized his connections to the area. He said his parents still live in Cork South Central and he grew up there playing hurling and football with Bishopstown.

The former Bord Gáis chief executive received almost 33,300 first preference votes in the European elections in Ireland’s South constituency. He believes he “performed very well in the Cork area” and adds “that’s why I think I’m in a position to stand as a candidate”.

Former Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer, currently Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, is also seeking a place on the Fine Gael ticket. He highlighted his 17 years as an Oireachtas member and said he had the experience and public profile to be a successful candidate in the upcoming general election.

Cork City Councilors Shane O’Callaghan and Des Cahill have also been nominated to contest the selection convention.

Mr O’Callaghan, a solicitor who topped the poll in his area in the last local election, said he believed he was the “best placed” candidate to retain a seat for Fine Gael in Cork South Central.

Mr Cahill, who works in the pensions sector, said he was from the part of the city that has always given the highest vote for Fine Gael and he considered himself “well placed” to win a Dáil seat if elected.

All four confirmed nominees praised Coveney for his service as a TD and minister.

Others considering entering the race ahead of Friday’s deadline for nominations include Úna McCarthy, a teacher and Cork County Council councillor, and Cllr Jack White, who also works as Mr Coveney’s parliamentary assistant.

After Thursday, the Dáil will not sit again for nearly 10 weeks as the last summer recess before the next general election.

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