I'm up for challenge of securing Fine Gael nomination - Shatter
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter says he is "up for the challenge" of securing the Fine Gael nomination for the hotly-contested Dublin-Rathdown constituency.
His remarks come after his long-time party colleague Olivia Mitchell announced she will retire after the general election.
The race is on to secure the Fine Gael nomination in the constituency, which has been reduced from five seats to only three.
Local councillor Neale Richmond has been tipped to land a place on the party ticket at the selection convention taking place at the start of October, but Mr Shatter has said he aims to contest the next election.
As the Herald previously reported, Ms Mitchell's decision to step down has surprised party members and creates a dilemma for headquarters over the approach towards candidate selection.
Party sources fear that the other sitting TD, Mr Shatter, will be defeated at the convention.
Prominent councillors Neale Richmond, Joseph Madigan and Barry Saul are all expected to run, with Mr Richmond the favourite to win a place on the ticket at the convention.
When asked whether this concerned him, Mr Shatter said: "I'm delighted that we have, in Dublin-Rathdown constituency, a number of very talented, very hard-working people.
"It is my objective in the next general election - assuming and hoping that I get selected to run - that we will win two out of the three seats."
In the 2011 election, Fine Gael took three of the five seats available. With the reduction in seat numbers, it will be a challenge for Fine Gael to emulate that degree of success.
"There are a number of people who I know are interested in running as candidates - each of them are talented, they would make excellent candidates," said Mr Shatter. "I'm certainly up for the challenge, and I know they are.
"It's a sign of a very healthy constituency that we have a number of talented individuals who now, I'm sure, will want to come before a convention."
He paid tribute to his retiring colleague, saying: "I think Olivia is a loss. I think the two of us, working in a coordinated campaign, had every chance of keeping the two seats again.
"I believe similarly that colleagues - whoever is selected - can do the same thing."
Ms Mitchell and Mr Shatter ran several "coordinated campaigns" over the years which have secured the party seats in the constituency.
Mr Shatter said he wants to stay in public life, but admitted that Ms Mitchell's decision to retire was a loss to "both the party and the country".
Neale Richmond also paid tribute to his "mentor" Ms Mitchell, but rejected the tag of favourite for the upcoming selection convention on October 2.
He told the Herald: "No one in politics ever likes to be called the favourite, and I don't necessarily think I am."
He went on to say that securing a place on the ticket is "going to be a huge challenge", but maintained that Fine Gael can claim two of the three seats.
He said he feels the party needs "the right team on the pitch" for the general election, and has stated that he "wants to be a part of that team".
Any move not to add Mr Shatter, if he is defeated at convention, could be viewed as vindictive.
Fine Gael has already faced a scena rio whereby a high- profile TD, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, was added to the ticket immediately in Dublin Bay North after being beaten into third place at the selection convention.