Former minister for agriculture Barry Cowen has confirmed he intends to run for the European Parliament next year.

The Offalyman has been widely tipped to seek a nomination from Fianna Fáil in next June’s elections.

He would be standing in an expanded Midlands-North-West, as Laois and Offaly have been added to this sprawling constituency, along with a fifth seat.

Fianna Fáil currently has no seat in this constituency, where the four sitting MEPs are Fine Gael’s Colm Markey and Maria Walsh, Sinn Féin’s Chris McManus and Independent Luke Ming Flanagan.

Both Markey and McManus are first-time candidates, having substituted in for Mairead McGuinness and Matt Carthy respectively.

Strong ticket

Cowen will be a strong front-runner to be on the ticket. Mayo's Senator Lisa Chambers has also indicated her interest in running for Fianna Fáil, which would provide a good geographical balance with Cowen.

Barry Cowen has been a TD for Offaly and previously Laois/Offaly since 2011, succeeding his brother Brian.

The former Taoiseach in turn won the seat following the untimely death of his father Ber in 1984, meaning the Cowen family has represented Offaly in Dail Éireann for 50 of the last 54 years.

In June 2020, he was appointed minister for agriculture, but was sacked by then-Taoiseach Micheál Martin after only three weeks following the emergence of a controversy relating to a historical drink-driving incident.

The Midlands North and West constituency constitutes the five Connacht counties, the three Ulster counties in the Republic and seven Leinster counties - Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly and Kildare.

Kehoe wants to stand in Ireland South

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe has indicated his interest in standing in the Ireland South constituency.

The former minister for defence is based in Wexford and would be running alongside sitting MEP Sean Kelly, from Kerry. Kehoe would be replacing outgoing MEP Deirdre Clune, who is not running in 2024, on the ballot paper.

Mick Wallace, the Independent MEP, who is also from Wexford, has confirmed he will be standing for re-election. The other sitting MEPs - Grace O'Sullivan of the Green Party and Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher - are both expected to stand again.