Walshe 'unlikely, but not a definite no' to Fine Gael

FORMER IFA President, Padraig Walshe has said that it's "very unlikely" he will run for Fine Gael in the General Election.

FORMER IFA President, Padraig Walshe has said that it's "very unlikely" he will run for Fine Gael in the General Election.

Speaking to the Leinster Express yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Walshe confirmed that Fine Gael had approached him to run in Laois. The party still has to add a candidate to its ticket on this side of the constituency.

"It's very unlikely," said Mr Walshe. " It's not a definite no, but it is very unlikely. I do not think so. I have talked to my family and they are not enthusiastic.

"Charlie Flanagan is strong in Laois. Olywn Enright is gone in Offaly, but I think that seat is likely to remain in Offaly."

Mr Walsh concludes his term as President of the European farmers umbrella group, COPA on April 11 next. "I would like to finish out my term as President of COPA. If I did run, it would see me having to resign this."

Fine Gael has said that it would decide the issue of the other Laois candidate at an executive council meeting on Tuesday next. Tom Curran, General Secretary told the Leinster Express that the party had been engaged in consultation with the local party organisation. It is understood that two locals are still in the frame (Cllr John Moran and Paddy Buggy) as well as a number of others.

As a former President of the IFA, Mr Walshe would be considered a prime candidate by any party. Were he to decide to enter the race, he would be following in the footsteps of a number of his predecessors, including Tom Parlon in this constituency, and Alan Gillis who was an MEP for FG.

His entry into the race could have the potential to alter the electoral map in Laois-Offaly, and would heap the pressure on Fianna Fail for the rural vote.

Fine Gael selected three candidates at its selection convention last December in Mountmellick. They were Deputy Charles Flanagan, and Cllr Liam Quinn for North Offaly and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy in south Offaly. A second Laois candidate was not selected and Phil Hogan, who chaired the convention, indicated that the choice would not be made until this month.