In the 2016 General Election, Fine Gael candidate Thomasina Connell polled over 4,000 first preference votes – an impressive haul for a young rookie candidate who came into that campaign with a low profile.
The young Portlaoise-based solicitor didn’t win a seat on that occasion but she made an impact as Charlie Flanagan’s running mate and it was clear she had political ambitions and the support of Fine Gael at national level.
Ms Connell has since twice put her name forward to represent the party at the next General Election but with the government holding on, it’s likely that the 2019 Local Elections will be the next opportunity.
And she has now opted to contest for a seat in the Portlaoise District in next year’s Local Elections.
Although from Coolroe, which is between Ballybrittas and Vicarstown, and in the Graiguecullen-Portarlington District, she is in business in Portlaoise as a solicitor with an office on the town’s Main Street. She also has an office in Monasterevin.
“The local members of Fine Gael have asked me to contest the convention seeking nomination in the Local Electoral Area of Portlaoise in light of my strong links to the town and as I have had a growing business on Main Street now for a number of years,” said Ms Connell in a statement issued today.
“In addition, I am involved in local drama groups in Portlaoise, have a strong network of support in the local business community, and was honoured to be awarded Laois Business Woman of the Year in 2018.
“The Local Electoral Area of Portlaoise, which includes Abbeyleix, Ballyroan and south towards as far as Ballinakill, is a diverse, rapidly growing community.
“When running as the Fine Gael Candidate in the General Election in 2016, I had the privilege to engage with many who live in this area.
“I have a strong sense of the real issues of concern for this community and believe I have the essential skills required to deliver concretely for the people of this area and very much hope that I get the opportunity to do so.
The Portlaoise Municipal District is made up of seven councillors – Mary Sweeney and Willie Aird (Fine Gael), Catherine Fitzgerald, John Joe Fennelly and Pauline Madigan (Fianna Fail), Noel Tuohy (Labour) and Caroline Dwane-Stanley (Sinn Fein).
In the last election, Fine Gael ran Cllrs Aird and Sweeney and Kathleen O’Brien as well as Jim Ring from the Abbeyleix area. Aird and Sweeney were elected but Kathleen O’Brien, who has since passed away, lost her seat and Jim Ring was unsuccessful.
Cllrs Aird and Sweeney have declared that they will be running again and another candidate may yet emerge in the Portlaoise area.
Ms Connell’s announcement that she will run in Portlaoise means that the party will have a decision as to who to run in the Graiguecullen-Portarlington area.
Cllr John Moran recently announced that he is retiring meaning that Cllr Tom Mulhall is their only sitting councillor set to run in 2019. They are expected to hold their selection convention in the coming months.
Fianna Fail are holding their selection convention in Portlaoise this evening.