A former member of the Republic's Seanad from Northern Ireland could thwart a voting pact between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in two forthcoming by-elections after claiming that TDs and senators from both parties have privately promised him their votes.
Armagh man Ian Marshall, who is from a unionist background, lost his seat as an independent in the Republic's parliamentary upper house last year.
The former president of the Ulster Farmers Union claims he also has pledges of support from members of the Green Party.
"This says to me (the election) is not a foregone conclusion," Mr Marshall told The Sunday Times.
"I'm not naive but I detect a lot of internal politics in Fianna Fail, and people will not be led by the nose. And there are people in Fine Gael saying its candidate (Maria Byrne) is wrong because she has no background in agriculture."
Mr Marshall was left disappointed last June after he was overlooked by Micheal Martin who did not put him forward as one of the Taoiseach's 11 nominees to the upper house.
The two Seanad vacancies follow the resignations of Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion in October and Fine Gael's Michael D'Arcy the previous month.
Former Sinn Fein MP Ms McCallion and two party officials resigned from the party over the failure to promptly return £30,000 in Covid-19 support funds wrongly allocated.
The money was mistakenly paid to three Sinn Fein party offices under the Executive's Small Business Support Grant Scheme.
Fine Gael has selected Maria Byrne, a Limerick former senator, to contest Mr D'Arcy's seat on the Seanad agricultural panel.
Fianna Fail posted ballot papers to its parliamentary party on Friday so members can choose its candidate to replace Ms McCallion on the industrial and commercial panel.
Sinn Fein is not contesting D'Arcy's seat and is backing Marshall for that vacancy.
It has yet to decide whether to field a candidate for Ms McCallion's seat.
The Green Party is not part of its government partners' pact.
The understanding is that it will get the next Seanad seat that comes available.
Hazel Chu, the Green lord mayor of Dublin, has told party leader Eamon Ryan that she wants to contest the seat vacated by Ms McCallion.
Voting, by secret ballot, is confined to TDs and senators.
The election quota is expected to be 110 votes. The combined voting strength of the Republic's three government parties is 123.
Mr Marshall would need 14 government party votes plus all opposition and independents' votes to take the seat.