Following last week’s announcement that sitting Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune won’t be seeking re-election to the European Parliament, sources within the party revealed that the Wexford TD was being lined up to replace her as a candidate in the Ireland South constituency.
When asked for comment, the former Minister of State and government chief whip said it was certainly something that would pique his interest.
“Yes my name has been mentioned,” he confirmed. “Members of the parliamentary party have approached me about it. I was a bit surprised by the retirement of Deirdre Clune and I’d like to pay tribute to her. I think she’s been an excellent MEP for the past ten years.”
Deputy Kehoe says that the nudge from the party towards Europe has come as “something of a surprise” but it is definitely something he’s considering.
“Look, I wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “I haven’t had any kind of wide consultation with anybody about it yet, but I am actively considering it, yes.
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“The European Elections won’t take place until June of 2024, the same as the local elections, so I’ll have a think about things in the coming weeks. Generally a selection convention for a European election wouldn’t take place until February or March anyway, so I’d imagine I’ll have a chat with my family and people within the party and make a decision early in the New Year.”
Having served as a TD for two decades, Fine Gael would be hopeful that Kehoe would have the profile required for a successful European run. However, he would have to compete with fellow Wexford man and sitting MEP Mick Wallace for vital Wexford votes to secure one of the five seats in the Ireland South constituency, which covers Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, and Wicklow.
Should Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne return for another run at Europe, it could conceivably result in three Wexford based candidates competing for the five seats in Ireland South.
Kehoe’s interest in the European race could be further fuelled by the Boundary Commission Report published back in August, which will see North Wexford carved off into a new three-seat constituency with South Wicklow for the next general election, effectively drawing a big line through the Bree native’s voter base.
Having battled hard to retain his Dáil seat in the last couple of elections, it seems Deputy Kehoe may look to broaden his horizons, but it seems he won’t be rushed into making a definitive decision on where his political future lies.