Emer Currie is a first time Councillor elected in the Casteknock ward last year. She is the daughter of former Fine Gael TD Austin Currie, and as far as I am aware is mostly known as being part of Frances FitzGerald’s team in Dublin Mid-West.
Leo Varadkar first contested a local council seat in 1999 before being co-opted in 2003. He was elected to the Dail in Dublin West in 2007, moving into a front bench position almost immediately. After re-election in 2011 he became Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, then Health, then Social Protection. After the 2016 election he was touted as a favourite to succeed Enda Kenny, and after defeating Simon Coveney, became leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach in 2017.
Here’s a contrast huh? On the one hand you have the leader of the country, known for blazing a trial for young politicians, the LGBTQ community and those of foreign ancestry (and many other things, which we will get to in a sec). And on the other you have a candidate I literally only heard of when I saw her posters going up.
OK, let’s get Currie out of the way. She’s a political novice, with little in the way of achievements or notoriety. Not for nothing did I mention her father above, since I had little else to flesh the profile out with. She’s just too new, and the boilerplate Fine Gael platform, shrunk down to fit the contours of Dublin West, doesn’t really cut it. In time to come Currie might become a very impressive figure, and it is no bad thing to see more female candidates in Ireland’s ruling party. But she does not have the experience or acumen to be a TD, in my opinion, not yet anyway.
But then again, does Leo Varadkar? To say I have been unimpressed with him as a Taoiseach would be an understatement. Excepting Brexit, where I do think he and Coveney have played a blinder, there is little to recommend him in my eyes. On too many issues, things have gotten worse under his tenure, be it homelessness, healthcare, housing, gangland crime or the environment.
Varadkar seems to me to be a new breed of politician that have never really known anything other than the PR heavy spin-obsessed, social media savvy way of doing things, and when applied to the leader of the land you get disasters like the recent RIC commemoration debacle, where Varadkar looked so remarkably out of touch it was hard to credit, or his reaction to the story of a homeless man being injured by a JCB, which lacked any kind of compassion. A better TD than a Minister, and a better Minister than a Taoiseach, Varadkar’s international appeal, in being openly gay and of partially non-Irish descent, can only get him so far.
At the end of the day, he was still a rubbish Transport Minister, a disappointing Health Minister, a disastrous Social Protection Minister and now all too easily fits the mold of a do-nothing Taoiseach just happy he got to election day before he could be classed as the shortest reigning one. It is likely that he will not be Taoiseach when the post-election negotiating is done, and if things are bad enough Simon Coveney may be sizing him up for another round. I don’t really have anything else to say that others have not said, and better.
The question is, do Fine Gael have a legitimate expectation of getting two candidates elected in Dublin West?
I don’t want to immediately presume they can’t. The biggest mistake I made in terms of predictions in 2016 was that Fianna Fail, inexplicably running two candidates in Kildare North, would wind up with nothing, and they ended up winning both. Looking at Dublin West, if Fine Gael could pull off a top level job with vote and area management, it is quite possible that they could get Currie into the Dail. What they want is that Dublin Central 2007 result.
But that presupposes that Leo Varadkar is going to have a surplus big enough for Currie to work with. Given her lack of profile, she probably is not going to have a huge amount of first preferences coming out of the gate, and if the polls, headlines and general feeling is anything to go by, Varadkar will be doing well to top the poll in his own constituency, let alone get someone in behind him. And in terms of area management, they both have their base in Castleknock, si it isn’t like one candidate appealing to one side of Dublin West, and other appealing to the opposite.
I probably am not alone in wondering if Currie’s candidacy is more about presenting her to the constituency at large, with the expectation that she may become a bigger presence in time for the next election. And the much more cynical side of me does wonder if her gender might be the reason she was chosen, so that Fine Gael could make up the quota numbers in a constituency that they are all but guaranteed of landing a seat in anyway. Fine Gael have priors in that when it comes to Dublin West: in 2016 Varadkar was matched with Catherine Noone, from outside the constituency, who was eliminated at the second count after a fairly lacklustre campaign (she’s running in Dublin Bay North in this election).
Anyway, Varadkar is most certainly getting elected, though I will go out on a limb at this stage in the contest and predict he may have to settle for the second seat (Casey’s involvement, paradoxically, may make that scenario less likely). Currie, well, even with a good showing in her first locals, this is a step too early. A solid mid-pack player I would envision, with no real expectation of challenging.
A victory for Fine Gael is one seat returned, the Taoiseach’s, with anything after that a stunning bonus. Defeat would be an early elimination for Currie and an unimpressive showing from the leader of the land, that would not bode well for his status as Fine Gael’s leader.