Fine Gael's John McNulty agrees not to take Seanad seat
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny's nightmare over the disastrous handling of the Seanad by-election appears to be coming to an end as his party's controversial candidate has agreed not to take the seat if he wins.
The result of the Seanad by-election, involving Fine Gael crony John McNulty, will become known today as voting also takes place in the Dail by-elections in Dublin South West and Roscommon-South Leitrim.
The votes come against the backdrop of Sinn Fein support rising to be level with Fine Gael's for the first time ever in an opinion poll.
Fine Gael bosses held 11th hour talks with Mr McNulty amid fears that he would dramatically win the Seanad by-election and would take the seat.
Mr McNulty was summoned to a meeting with Fine Gael chiefs in Dublin last night as part of a last-ditch bid to put an end to the highly-damaging cronyism affair.
His candidacy was plunged into controversy after it emerged that he was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art shortly before it was announced he was to contest the vacant Seanad Cultural Panel seat.
He later effectively withdrew from the race after asking TDs and Senators not to vote for him.
Now it is understood that Mr McNulty has agreed not to take the seat even if he wins, taking the pressure off Mr Kenny and avoiding a crisis for Fine Gael.
The decision came after several prominent party members, including Donegal TD and former minister Dinny McGinley, have said they believe Mr McNulty has secured votes from a significant number of TDs and senators.
The consensus in Leinster House is that the contest is too close to call and transfers may well play a crucial role in the outcome.
The result of the by-election, held due to Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune election to the European Parliament earlier this year, will be known by lunchtime. It is also being contested by Independent candidate Gerard Craughwell and Sinn Fein councillor Catherine Seeley.
The Ipsos/MRBI poll in the Irish Times new survey showed Fine Gael has not been able to capitalise on a slew of good news about jobs and economic growth.
The survey showed Fine Gael neck-and-neck with Sinn Fein on 24pc.
Fianna Fail, on the other hand, is down four per cent to 20pc while the Labour Party gained 2pc to 9pc and Independents remain strong on 23pc.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was criticised by his former deputy, Eamon O Cuiv, who said the party must decide what it wants to be.
"Are we a party of the middle classes or the upper middle classes?" he said in an interview on Newstalk.
Meanwhile, voters are turning out to the polls in the Dublin South West constituency.
Sinn Fein candidate Cathal King is expected to take the seat vacated by the election of Brian Hayes to the European Parliament.
But local political sources say the contest has become a "plebiscite on water", adding that Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) candidate Paul Murphy has made a late surge.
Polling stations are open today from 7am to 10am.