Taoiseach Varadkar wants Co Armagh farmer Ian Marshall for Senate seat
A Co Armagh dairy farmer is facing a political battle - in the Irish Republic.
Former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union Ian Marshall is Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's preferred candidate in an upcoming Seanad (Senate) by-election.
But he is being challenged for one of two seats on the Seanad's agriculture panel by the sister of sitting TD Kate O'Connell, who is a member of Mr Varadkar's Fine Gael party.
Mr Marshall will have to defeat Mary Newman, a long-time Fine Gael member and Tipperary vet, to become a senator.
The Markethill man will also have to see off competition from Kerry County Councillor and Fine Gael stalwart Bobby O'Connell.
Mr Marshall was recently introduced to the Fine Gael parliamentary party and Mr Varadkar is understood to hope his election to the Seanad would be seen as an olive branch to unionists, who have criticised his approach to Northern Ireland over Brexit. Mr Marshall is an outspoken critic of the UK's decision to leave the European Union and currently works in Queen's University in Belfast.
Ms Newman recently missed out on a general election nomination at a Fine Gael selection convention in Tipperary.
Fianna Fail councillors Niall Blaney of Donegal County Council and Frank O'Flynn from Cork County Council will be running for the same seat.
A separate seat on the Seanad agriculture panel is also being contested by Mr Blaney and two other Fianna Fail councillors - Niall Kelleher of Kerry County Council and Martin Miley from Kildare County Council.