Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune is in a competitive European election race as she bids to hold onto her seat in Brussels. Photo: Michael O'Sullivan/OSM Photo

Kelleher in and Clune in danger?

A number of Cork candidates are among those hoping to secure a seat at this Friday’s European elections, with one sitting MEP possibly in trouble and another first-time runner hopeful of a breakthrough.

23 candidates make up a packed field in the sprawling Ireland South constituency, which takes in 12 counties and a population of nearly two million people.

Five seats are up for grabs in a competitive race in which Fianna Fáil will be hoping to fill the seat vacated by long-time MEP and Bandon native Brian Crowley, who retires after 25 years.

Cork North-Central TD Billy Kelleher has put himself forward, initially against the wishes of party leader Micheal Martin, along with Wexford county councillor Malcolm Byrne. There has been some internal squabbling among the pair, but according to a Red C poll of 825 adults released by the Sunday Business Post at the weekend, Mr Kelleher was primed for a seat with 13 per cent, with Mr Byrne just behind on ten per cent.

The Cork candidate looking most assured of securing a seat is Sinn Féin’s only candidate in the South, Liadh Ní Riada, who despite a lacklustre performance in last year’s presidential election, is well-established on the European stage. Standing at 15 per cent in last Sunday’s poll, the Ballyvourney resident looks relatively safe, having first been elected in 2014.

The addition of Laois and Offaly could spell trouble for Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune, who in Sunday’s poll was a single point behind the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan, who may yet spring the biggest upset of all, and Independents 4 Change’s Mick Wallace. Ms Clune squeezed in ahead of Simon Harris after vote transfers in 2014, but with Killarney native Sean Kelly likely to sail into a third term, Fine Gael’s decision to run a third candidate, Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle, who is also polling close to Ms Clune, may be an indication of the party’s worry over the security of her seat.

Interestingly, a Cork Independent readers' poll conducted on Twitter this week found that 45 per cent of participants said they would vote for candidates other than those from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

The final candidate elected in the South will not take their seat until the UK has left the EU, currently scheduled to occur on 31 October.