Contenders for the three European Parliament seats in the South constituency to be contested in June are slowly cranking their election campaigns into action.
Despite the protestations made by Brian Crowley opposite, his seat is surely among the safest in Irish politics, with the battle for the remaining two seats set to be avidly contested.
Colm Burke (Fine Gael), co-opted into the Parliament following Simon Coveney’s election to the Dáil in 2007, faces the South electorate for the first time.
His re-election hopes were given a considerable boost following a ringing endorsement delivered by former Parliament President Pat Cox last weekend.
“Colm Burke has not shirked the responsibility placed upon him by his constituents,” said Mr Cox in Charleville.
“Our political system has been denatured; we have been left with a legacy of too many people in high places lost in a presumption of entitlement. Colm Burke, on the other hand, represents a sense of the duty – an older value that we need now more than ever.”
Burke’s running mate, former GAA President Sean Kelly, is seeking to become the first Kerryman to win a South seat, with another Kerry GAA luminary, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan recently announced as Kelly’s campaign manager.
Independent MEP Kathy Sinnott, who, without a major party machine behind her, was always going to face a tough battle to retain her seat.
But having come through one successful campaign minus such weighty backing and with much of the support which first sent her to Europe still intact, Sinnott will be quietly confident about retaining her seat.
Speaking at Waterford Crystal on Monday, Ms Sinnott said that all TDs, Senators and MEPs should take a 20 per cent pay cut, to “share the pain of these difficult times with our constituents”.
Labour’s hopes rest on Senator Alan Kelly, whose Nenagh base means he has arguably the greatest ground to cover of all contenders facing into the campaign.
Establishing a province-wide profile is perhaps the biggest task Senator Kelly faces, given that Sinn Féin candidate Toiréasa Ferris, daughter of Deputy Martin Ferris, is, one would suggest, a more widely known political name across Munster.
Both Kelly and Ferris, whose long-term ambitions surely point towards the Dáil, would be considered outsiders in terms of victory this June, but both have time on their side and will surely benefit from the experience of a major campaign.
Senator Dan Boyle’s standing for the Green Party makes the pending battle all the more intriguing, when one reflects on the all-Cork composition of the South’s seats heading into this election.
However, the most intriguing element of this campaign may yet remain unknown.
Libertas, which is contesting the election across Europe, has yet to name its South candidate, with Declan Ganley acutely aware that he’s got to produce a high-profile name for the constituency’s ballot paper.
For the record, the 2004 election saw Brian Crowley returned with 125,539 first preferences, while Simon Coveney and Kathy Sinnott claimed 118,937 and 89,127 FPs respectively.