General Election 2020: A last minute candidate has announced his candidature for Laois Offaly constituency
Doubts have emerged over the Labour Party's unity in Laois and Kildare after an announcement by a Laois councillor that he is to run as a candidate in the general election, a week after Laois Labour announced it was focusing on the Kildare area with no candidate for Laois Offaly.
Labour councillor Noel Tuohy from Portlaoise announced his decision late on Monday evening, January 20, by putting a post on his social media page.
Last Monday the Laois Labour Party announced it was to throw its resources into Kildare politics. Former Laois local election candidate and the party's constituency secretary Eoin Barry announced he would not be contesting because of his job commitments. Mr Barry said he had been approached by Labour members and voters to run.
Mr Barry stated: "During this Dail election, my focus and the focus of the Laois Labour members will be to secure the election of Cllr Mark Wall as the first Labour TD to cover any part of Laois since the election of Pat Gallagher in 1992."
In a social media post announcing his candidacy, Cllr Tuohy said: "A Chairde, I have decided after discussing with my family and colleagues to run in the upcoming election. I am a proud Laois man with strong family ties and affiliations in Offaly too. The people here are my priority and always have been. I promise to do my best for you all. I would appreciate your support," he wrote.
Cllr Tuohy is the father of top Australian rules player Zach Touhy. He has spoken openly about having Parkinson's and lists the hospital, health and housing as issues on his social media page.
He has been an open critic of Brendan Howlin's leadership of the Labour Party saying two years ago that the party was 'sleepwalking into oblivion'.
Speaking to RTÉ News in July 2018 he said he has "great respect for Brendan Howlin as a person but it just has not worked. He has not connected with the people".
A supporter of Labour's health spokesperson and Tipperary TD Alan Kelly Cllr Tuohy also added: "It is time for Brendan to facilitate a proper democratic leadership election. This would be good not only for the Labour Party, this would be important for our country as well. Otherwise, I regretfully fear that the Labour Party is sleepwalking towards oblivion".
He said he will not be putting up posters.
"As before I will be running a no poster campaign so get the word out if you can," he said.
Contacted after the announcement, Mr Barry said the local party backs Cllr Tuohy's candidacy.
"I’m delighted Noel has decided to run and I understand Labour head office has confirmed he will be our candidate. My statement was prior to Noel deciding to run and my understanding is that it was before he even considered running.
"His entry will change race in Laois Offaly. He’s a great candidate well known and established in Portlaoise with a long history of community work. He has an excellent chance in General Election and the best candidate Labour could run.
"I’ll be out canvassing for him and Mark from now until February 8," he said.
The Labour Party HQ said the go-ahead was given to Cllr Tuohy on Monday. It said Cllr Tuohy had put himself forward to run.
"We're delighted that he is on the ballot paper and we are delighted that Eoin Barry is supporting Cllr Mark Wall and Cllr Noel Tuohy," he said.
The party said it was in a rebuilding phase and was not running candidates in every constituency.
Cllr Tuohy was first elected to Laois County Council in 2014 and comfortably returned in 2019.
Former senator John Whelan contested the General Election for the party in 2011 in the Laois Offaly constituency and in 2016 in the three-seat Laois constituency.
It brings to 15 the number of candidates contesting for the Laois Offaly constituency.