It looks like Fine Gael will run four candidates in the Portlaoise Municipal District in this year’s Local Elections.
The party are holding their selection convention in the Killeshin Hotel in Portlaoise this Wednesday, January 16, and four names have been nominated.
Sitting councillors Willie Aird and Mary Sweeney are set to run again while 2016 General Election candidate Thomasina Connell, who declared last year that she was set to run in Portlaoise and not her home district of Graiguecullen-Portarlington, will be joined by Abbeyleix-based Jim Ring, who was also on the local ticket in 2014.
While the name suggests the area is confined to Portlaoise, it does also include Abbeyleix, Ballyroan and Ballinakill.
Cllr Aird, who is 40 years a councillor this year and for whom this will be an eighth Local Election, has topped the poll in Portlaoise on each of the last three occasions.
Cllr Sweeney has been in the council since she won the seat previously held by Charlie McDonald in 1999 and was Cathaoirleach in 2013-2014.
Thomasina Connell, who is based in Portlaoise as a solicitor, won over 4,000 first preference votes in the 2016 General Election as Charlie Flanagan’s running mate and has since contested the battle for a nomination to be a candidate again in the next General Election.
Jim Ring polled almost 500 votes in 2014 and was only eliminated on the 10th count. He was the third Fine Gael candidate on that occasion behind Cllrs Aird and Sweeney but ahead of Kathleen O’Brien, who has since sadly passed away.
He also ran in 2004 as an independent candidate in the old Borris-in-Ossory area when he polled over 400 votes and was eliminated on the sixth count.
He has been active in the local community in Abbeyleix for a number of years. He previously worked for Glanbia in Spink, but he is probably best known as a member of the 5-piece ballad group ‘Abbeyfolk’ who have been playing in trad music circles since the 1980s.
There are seven seats in the Portlaoise Municipal District and they are currently held by John Joe Fennelly, Catherine Fitzgerald and Pauline Madigan (Fianna Fail), Willie Aird and Mary Sweeney (Fine Gael), Caroline Dwane-Stanley (Sinn Fein) and Noel Tuohy (Labour).
The Fine Gael convention will be chaired by a Fine Gael councillor or TD from outside of Laois. The Graiguecullen-Portarlington District convention takes place on Friday in the Gandon Inn while the Borris-in-Ossory/Mountmellick convention is on January 31 in Mountrath.
SEE ALSO – Young Stradbally woman to contest Fine Gael selection convention in Graiguecullen-Portarlington