Dublin West’s Fianna Fail TD going up for re-election in under three weeks is Jack Chambers. Chambers comes from a family associated with the late Brian Lenihan Jr and re-opened his constituency office in 2014. He topped the poll in the Castleknock local elections the same year, briefly serving as Deputy Mayor of Fingal before being elected to the Dail in 2016, taking the third of four seats in the constituency. He was appointed Fianna Fail’s spokesperson for Defence in 2018.
OK. I am going to try, very hard, to not be too flippantly dismissive of Jack Chambers in terms of him being a candidate looking for my vote, but there are two reasons why I could never vote for him. One, he’s a Fianna Fail candidate. Two, he’s Jack Chambers.
Being under the age of 30, it is fair to say that the kind of titles thrown Chambers’ away are predictable: “one to watch”, “rising star”, future minister”, etc. For a party obsessed, post 2011, with presenting themselves as political entity renewed, he’s manna from heaven, a young, successful Fianna Failer, elected in a capital city that swung so decisively away from the “Warriors of Destiny”.
Chambers hasn’t made too many waves in the 32nd Dail, something that first-termers, and especially young first-termers, tend not to do anyway. He’s known mostly for two things, the first being his opposition to the repeal of the 8th amendment, and the second being Fianna Fail’s mouthpiece on Defence. The first is evidence of his lack of suitability to be anywhere near the top of my preferences, for obvious reasons. The second is one of the easiest jobs in politics: complain about lack of numbers, wage cuts and ask the same questions over and over again. Its the perfect job for someone you want to keep onside, without putting them in the spotlight too much.
Despite his youth, despite any pretence at being at the forefront of “#ffrenewal”, despite Fianna Fail’s fawning efforts to appear changed, Chambers is a candidate from thirty years ago that has managed to piggyback on the Lenihan core in Dublin West. It’s sad and I don’t like it, but there it is. He’s the kind of guy I can envision becoming a leading light in the party, especially as a figurehead for its more conservative wing. A Minister of State job is definitely in the offing when the election is over, and maybe something more than that.
Oh, Fianna Fail, Fianna Fail, Fianna Fail. In 2011, when my father, among many others, confidently predicted, and with no small bit of satisfaction, that it would be a decade before Fianna Fail would be back in power, it seemed like a very long ways away. And yet, here we are, not even ten years removed from the biggest disgrace of a government in the history of the Irish state, and the people responsible are probably going to be forming a government inside the next two months.
How did this happen? Because Michael Martin has done a good job, politically speaking, at leading the recalcitrant party back to popularity, because parties in opposition will always pick up support at the expense of the government and because there will always be a huge number of people who will give #1’s to Fianna Fail without question, and will do so until the day they die. Despite the damage they did, despite the hypocrisy of making hay out of economic policy’s they began, despite being, at the core, the same party that led the country into oblivion ten years ago, they simply will never die off. They have spent the last eight/nine years sitting in the opposition chairs, criticising the government and yet also propping them up: a grotesque and unbelievable situation, if it wasn’t actually happening, and happening successfully.
Sound harsh? Not to a great many people. The ones who emigrated, the ones who lost their jobs, the ones who lost their homes. Fianna Fail are still the central culprit, and I still do not feel that the party has earned any redemption or forgiveness. Jack Chambers, a candidate who embodies conservative values contrary to the demonstrated wishes of the majority of the Irish people, may not have culpability the same as Michael Martin, but he is culpable all the same, by blindly aiding in the restoration of a party that, my father’s prediction be damned, needs another ten years in the wilderness.
As for what I think is going to happen with Jack Chambers come February 8th? Well, he’ll more than likely be re-elected. Fianna Fail’s numbers haven’t gone down in three years, and there is no running mate to complicate matters (Fianna Fail hasn’t pulled that off here since 1997). Unless a candidate like O’Gorman siphons off far more votes than expected from him, Chambers will be comfortable. Whether there is justice in that is another question entirely.
A victory for Chambers is to retain the seat, defeat would be to lose it. On a very good day, he may even top the poll. I have a feeling we will be putting up with him for a while yet.