SINN Féín’s sole Clare County Councillor Mike McKee is to run in the next general election.
He will be joined on the party’s ticket in Clare by Noeleen Moran, who ran in 2016.
The party is clearly hoping that a two-candidate strategy, which has not been attempted here by them in any recent election, can deliver a seat.
Sinn Féin are to hold their selection convention on this Thursday night but, with only two candidates nominated, this is a formality.
While they have not won a seat in Clare for generations, nor even come close since the party’s revival after the Good Friday Agreement, it is far from impossible that they will do so next time out, with the party polling between 14% and 18% nationally.
In addition, they are set to go into the next election without Gerry Adams as leader. While Adams is Sinn Féin royalty, a sizeable cohort of voters in the South have never warmed to him.
Mike McKee is the first county councillor they have had in Clare for many years. He took 773 number-one votes in the Shannon Municipal District in the 2014 local elections and proved quite transfer-friendly on his way to taking a seat, ahead of two incumbent councillors, Sean McLoughlin and Pascal Fitzgerald.
Mr McKee is originally from Belfast but his family left under threat from loyalists, before moving to Omagh. They then came to Shannon in the 1970s.
A long-standing member of Shannon Town Council, he left Sinn Féin for a number of years and seemed to have finished with politics when he did not run in 2009, before making his return five years later.
In the 2011 election, Noeleen Moran took 4,216 number-one votes, 7.4% of overall first preferences. This put her seventh in the field and she stayed in the race until the 10th count, finishing on 5,601.
Ms Moran also ran in the local election of 2014, when she won 1,023 first preferences in the West Clare Municipal District.
Speaking on Wednesday, Councillor McKee said there is a deficit in representation in South Clare at the moment, with none of the current Oireachtas members based there. He added, “The fact that Sinn Féin has agreed that it will go into government, we could potentially be providing a direct route to government for this side of the county. We are providing an alternative, left-wing representation that Clare has rarely had in the past. We see ourselves as being an alternative to the failed, abysmal policies of other parties that have represented Clare for far too long.”
Winning a seat is achievable, he believes. “We think that now is the time to actively campaign and win a seat in Clare. We believe we can do it. We’re not in this just to get numbers or to keep the percentage up for Sinn Féin. We intend to win a seat,” he said.
Campaigning will begin in earnest on Friday, he said, and he claimed that Sinn Féin’s core objective of a united Ireland is coming into clearer focus. “It’s the first time we have heard so many commentators and so many politicians and people from all walks of life talking about the potential for a united Ireland.”
Also speaking this week, Noeleen Moran said, “I’m delighted to have been nominated. Obviously, it has to go through the convention stage tomorrow. The result from the last election shows there is an appetite for a Sinn Féin representative and for a female representative in Clare as well. I’ll be hoping to build on that this time around.”
She added, “I’m well up for this campaign, when it comes around. We have to be ready; the Government almost collapsed lately. There is a need for change and I’ll be looking to get out and start campaigning on issues that are important to the people of Clare.”
Ms Moran said she has been involved in the campaign to have ShannonDoc reinstated and criticised sitting TDs for not being active on the issue. “The people of Clare deserve better and we will be campaigning to win a seat and make sure that the people of Clare are properly represented.”
By Owen Ryan