Fianna Fáil to run three candidates in Midlands-North-West where it has not had MEP since 2014

Senators Lisa Chambers and Niall Blaney added to the ticket alongside convention winner Barry Cowen

Fianna Fáil have adopted what is considered a risky strategy by deciding to run three candidates in Midlands-North-West for the European Parliament elections in June – it is a constituency where the party has not held a seat for a decade.

The party’s national constituencies committee announced on Thursday it was adding Senators Niall Blaney and Lisa Chambers to the ticket to join Barry Cowen, who won the constituency convention on February 5th.

Fianna Fáil had originally planned to run two candidates, with most party figures predicting a ticket of Mr Cowen and Ms Chambers. However, the Donegal-based Mr Blaney, who was considered the back marker, performed exceptionally well in the convention, finishing second to Mr Cowen with 803 votes to 894. Ms Chambers won 570.

While Ms Chamber was always expected to be added to the ticket, the strong showing of Mr Blaney in the convention was seen to have forced the party’s hand.


Mr Blaney said he was unsure until Thursday as to whether or not he would be added as a candidate.

“I am delighted to be on the ticket at last. I was worried for the last week or more. But my performance in the convention was very hard to ignore.”

Fianna Fáil’s director of elections Darragh O’Brien said the three candidates were strategically spread across the vast constituency, which comprises 15 counties. It now has five seats, compared with four in 2019.

“[The candidates] bring unique and complementary strengths and abilities to our ticket. I know they will individually and collectively work hard to maximise our vote and ensure that we are successful in June,” he said.

No decisions have been taken yet as to how the constituency will be divided between Mr Cowen, Mr Blaney and Ms Chambers.

Asked if he thought the three-candidate strategy was risky, Mr Blaney said: “It’s hard to know. With two candidates there was an obvious divide. I don’t know if, or how, you divide it with three.”

Mr Blaney said he had started his campaign for Europe nearly a year ago.

Mr Cowen said on Thursday he was delighted with the convention result on February 5th and was now happy to lead a strong team of three candidates.

He said he would fully co-operate with the director of elections in “our combined efforts to maximise support”.

Ms Chambers said running three was “always a risk” no matter what strategy, but she said the party had invested a lot of time and research into the decision.

“We ran two candidates when Midlands-North-West was a four-seater and we are now running three when it has increased to five. I have to trust that the party has made the right call.”

She said the party was targeting two seats out of five.

Fianna Fáil has not held a seat in this constituency for 10 years. The then sitting MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher was not successful in retaining his seat in the 2014 elections.

Meanwhile, it now seems increasingly likely that energy entrepreneur and former Bord Gáis head John Mullins will be Fine Gael’s second candidate in the South constituency.

With the closing date for nominations this weekend, Cork-based Mr Mullins and sitting MEP Seán Kelly were the only confirmed candidates as of Thursday night. The convention will be held in Clonmel on the following weekend.

Fine Gael currently has two MEPs in the constituency but Deirdre Clune announced in November 2023 that she would not be seeking re-election.

The party’s Midland-North-West convention is being held at the end of the month with the sitting MEPs Maria Walsh and Colm Markey expected to be selected.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times