| 7.9°C Dublin

McEntee in stinging attack on FF rival in by-election battle

BY-election candidate Helen McEntee has launched a stinging attack on her Fianna Fail opponent, claiming that voters "haven't forgotten" his role in the last Government.

The Fine Gael candidate said the fact that Senator Thomas Byrne lost his seat in 2011 "shows something" about him.

The pair are neck and neck in the Meath East by-election which was sparked by the death of Ms McEntee's father, junior minister Shane McEntee.

Sources within the FG campaign team said they have been "taken aback" by the popularity of FF's Thomas Byrne.

While out canvassing last week, Ms McEntee (26) declined to hold back when asked by the Herald what she thought of her main rival.

"Thomas is a candidate in himself and obviously he was part of the previous Government which is to blame for a lot of what we have going on at the moment. He wasn't elected at the last election and I think that shows something.


"The response on the doors is that people haven't forgotten [about the last government] and that's what I'm going with."

Ms McEntee also hit out at suggestions that she will benefit from a "sympathy vote" as a result of the death of her father, Shane McEntee, which sparked the upcoming by-election.

Mr McEntee, a former junior agriculture minister, died tragically on December 21, sending shockwaves through politics.

"People are very loyal to my dad and that's to be admired," she said while canvassing in Dunshaughlin.

"But I think in this constituency, people are going to vote for who is the best candidate. We live in a democracy and the best candidate will be elected. I don't think it will be a big factor in this."

She said that she has had several "eye-opening" moments during the campaign, with just four days to go until the people of Meath East cast their votes.

"I've left a couple of doorsteps nearly crying. One woman, her two sons had left the country, one in Australia, one in London.

"Another one was talking about going to Canada. She answered the door with gloves and two jackets because she couldn't afford to pay the heating," she said.

"We were able to assure her that she was on a disability allowance and that she wouldn't lose this benefit.

"You start talking to somebody and you listen to what they have to say and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and you have a good chat and I think both of us left the door feeling a lot better."

Ms McEntee also said that she was "unaware" of any voting pact arranged between Fine Gael and the Labour candidate, Councillor Eoin Holmes, despite the two parties being in power together.