Billy Kelleher is added to Fianna Fáil's European election ticket for Ireland South 

Billy Kelleher is added to Fianna Fáil's European election ticket for Ireland South 
Billy Kelleher TD will contest the European elections in Ireland  South. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher has been added to the Fianna Fál election ticket for the upcoming European elections.

The Cork TD lost out in his bid to be selected as a candidate in the party's recent convention. Wexford councillor Malcolm Byrne was instead selected by the party members to contest the constituency.

However, Mr Kelleher confirmed to The Echo today that he has now been added and will run alongside Mr Byrne with the goal of securing two seats in Ireland South, retaining the seat, which is due to be vacated by retiring politician Brian Crowley.

In the event that Mr Kelleher is elected to the European Parliament, he will vacate his seat in Cork North Central. It would mean a by-election would likely be held before the end of the year unless a General Election is triggered before thsn.

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Kelleher said he was delighted to be added to the ticket and with nine weeks to go to the election he will begin his campaign immediately.

"I will be canvassing on Winthrop Street in the city centre from 11am tomorrow morning. It will be a busy, nine-week campaign," he said.

"Geographically, Ireland South is huge. It takes in all of Munster and six counties of South Leinster and has a population of 1.9 million people.

Fianna Fáil will employ a strict election strategy between Billy Kelleher and Malcolm Byrne likely to divide the constituency to ensure maximum vote returns.

"We will campaign in a structured way to ensure the party's best efforts to deliver two seats in Ireland South," he said.

Asked if Fianna Fáíl can retain the seat that will be vacated by Brian Crowley, Mr Kelleher said: "Fianna Fáil is in a much stronger position that we were in the last European elections but clearly we still have to go out there and campaign strongly across Ireland South."

"Brexit, corporation tax and interest rates are all key issues," he said.

Despite recent friction in public, Mr Kelleher has said that his relationship with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is “excellent”.

The two clashed when Mr Kelleher first put his name forward, as Mr Martin wanted to avoid any Dáil by-elections and told The Echo that the party could not win a second seat in Cork North Central without Mr Kelleher.

Mr Kelleher said that Fianna Fáil has held a seat there through hard elections, like his narrow 2011 win, and it could still aim for a second.

Former Cork County Mayor Seamus McGrath had initially said he was seeking the party's nomination for Ireland South but subsequently withdrew his name for consideration.

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