SPECIAL REPORT: The Reynolds withdrawal — reports, reaction and . . . what next?

That was Leitrim’s Gerry Reynolds, speaking a year ago after he was selected, with Cllr Sinead Maguire in Sligo, to be the Fine Gael candidates to run in the Sligo/Leitrim constituency in the next general election.

But Fine Gael is now looking for a new candidate to run after Mr Reynolds announced this morning he is pulling out of the race.

But although Fine Gael officials say they are shocked by Mr Reynolds’s decision not to continue as a candidate, the reality is that there had been speculation for some time about the Leitrim man’s intentions.

Councillor Maguire says she was looking forward to running with Mr Reynolds, adding she felt they would have made a good team together.

Cllr Maguire also says she understands why Mr Reynolds has made his decision, given the huge demands on today’s politicians.

She pointed out it’s a situation that would be well familiar to the Reynolds family, who have a long tradition in politics.

It’s a tradition being continued by Mr Reynolds’s sister, Ita, who was elected for the first time as a Leitrim councillor in the Ballinamore Municipal District in the recent local elections.

Attention now turns to who will replace Mr Reynolds as an election candidate.

There will be an expectation in Leitrim that the second candidate in the constituency should come from the county, as well as geographical spread having to be considered as part of the strategy to maximise votes.

With Mr Reynolds having announced his decision, attention now turns to what will happen next.

Leitrim County Councillor Enda McGloin is the Fine Gael regional organiser for the north west.

At the Fine Gael convention that selected Mr Reynolds, the candidate with the next highest number of votes was former TD and Junior Minister John Perry, from Ballymote, in Co Sligo.

But whether the party will select a second Sligo-based candidate remains to be seen.

Other names being mentioned as possible replacements for Mr Reynolds include Senator Frank Feighan, Mr Reynolds’s sister, Cllr Ita Reynolds Flynn, and Enda McGloin himself, who gave his reaction on this during his interview with Ocean FM News this morning.

Gerry Reynolds was first elected to the Seanad in 1987 and to the Dail in 1989.

He was also a member of Leitrim County Council for several years.

He ran unsuccessfully in the 2016 general elections.

Fine Gael General Secretary Tom Curran has paid tribute to the political contribution of Gerry Reynolds in the north west.

He also has been telling Ocean FM News what the party will do next as regards the process of selecting a new candidate.

Ita Reynolds Flynn, a sister of Gerry Reynolds, was recently elected as a member of Leitrim County Council.

Speaking to Ocean FM News, she said it was a tough decision for her brother to take to step away from politics.

And she also says she is giving consideration to throwing her hat in the ring to contest the next general election on behalf of Fine Gael in the Sligo/Leitrim/North Roscommon constituency.