Fine Gael has been rocked by the decision of Kilkenny man, John Bryan to withdraw from the European parliament elections race. The recently retired president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) was regarded as a certainty to get a seat for the party in the South constituency in the May 23 election.
He informed senior party officials of his decision on Saturday night and ahead of a Fine Gael constituency meeting for Carlow-Kilkenny on Monday night.
His decision came after the refusal of Sen Deirdre Clune to stand aside and give him a clear run at the Waterford-Cork part of the constituency.
In recent days he held meetings with Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Kilkenny TD, John Paul Phelan but decided, after receiving advise from his brother Bartley and the team that helped elect him president of IFA, that his chances of winning a seat would be severely hampered by Sen Clune being on the party ticket on polling day.
He had been scheduled to announce his candidacy at Monday night’s party meeting in Kilkenny city, however, he decided to pull out when he realised that he would not have the support of key people in Cork and Waterford as a result of Sen Clune’s insistence on standing.
The other candidate for Fine Gael in the south is sitting MEP, Sean Kelly who would have much preferred to have Mr Bryan as a running mate and not Sen Clune who is in his doorstep.
The size of the South (Munster) constituency has been increased since the least EU elections with the addition of Carlow-Kilkenny, Clare, Wexford and Wicklow and the number of seats has been increased from 3 to 4.
Mr Bryan made a name for himself as president of the IFA with his tough negotiating style and he has a strong network in Brussels and a high profile there.