Peter Casey is a failed Presidential and MEP candidate, whose quest for a place in Irish politics has now followed the ever reducing path to a Dail run (presumably its the locals next if this doesn’t work out). I have no idea who Sean O’Leary really is, other than he is a Cork-based man who has chosen, for reasons best known to himself, to run in multiple constituencies. Stephen O’Loughlin is a former Social Democrat now running as non-party, who ran in the locals last year without success. Let’s take them one at a time.
I’m not going to belabour this point on Peter Casey’s candidacy because it is nothing more than a publicity stunt from a man who has rode a wave of press attention, given to him only because the 2018 Presidential Election was such a boring contest, to becoming a sort of Trump wannabe. He claims he wants to give people in Dublin West the opportunity to register a protest vote against Varadkar, as if the Taoiseach is running on his own. This is just an effort to stay in the national headlines while he battles it out with Thomas Pringle for the last seat in Donegal.
And I would argue that his idea makes little sense, if it is really to get back at Leo Varadkar (for the crime of recommending people not vote for a racist). Would the people planning to vote for the Taoiseach really now go running to Peter Casey just because he is available? Will Casey not take as many or more votes from Fianna Fail conservative Jack Chambers, or Aontu’s candidate Edward Mac Manus?
It has been somewhat gratifying then, to see Casey slip out of the spotlight fairly quickly since his announcement, to the extent that he seems less and less likely to compete for a seat in Donegal, never mind suburban Dublin. Of course I do not want to be seen to count my chickens early – no doubt Casey will attempt to say or do something outrageous to throw himself back into the electoral arithmetic between now and polling day – but right now it isn’t happening.
Sean O’Leary, well, I know nothing about the man other than his home, his profession and a picture of his head. I can’t find any online presence. Here’s a letter he wrote to the Irish Times where he called for a RON vote in the November by-elections. Who is he? Why is he running in Dublin West? What are his positions on anything? Is he all there, or is this some manner of strange publicity stunt? The answer to all of those questions is “?”.
Moving on to Dublin West’s only legitimate Independent candidate, you have Stephen O’Loughlin, whom I spoke about briefly before on this site owing to his candidacy in my Local Electoral Ward. I still don’t know why he left the Social Democrats, the evidence of his former membership now vanishing to references in Facebook posts from the party (here’s one where he is pictured with the Soc Dems candidate in Dublin West, Aengus O’Maolain, two years ago at a party strategy meeting). Of course, it doesn’t really matter why O’Loughlin left the Social Democrats – he obviously wasn’t in there for long – but for me, to join and then leave a political party, only to continue pursuit of electoral success on your own, is something that arouses curiosity. Did he fall out with the party? Was he passed over for candidate selection? Was there some aspect of the platform that did not appeal to him enough for him to leave? Or was it the other way round?
Leaving that aside, O’Loughlin still seems to maintain a platform that you could broadly call social democratic. An increase in the building of social housing on public land, strengthened rent tenure, free public transport, more funds for greenway projects, etc. He really could have been a Social Democrat candidate based on this, instead of a social democratic candidate. It also helps, at least in the innate parish-pump part of every Irish voter’s soul, that O’Loughlin may be the only Ashtown-based candidate in a race dominated by figures from Castleknock (not to mention the ones from Donegal and Cork!). I don’t find anything seriously objectionable about O’Loughlin as a candidate, and he’ll probably end up with a decent preference from me.
But how likely is it that a non-party candidate would get elected in Dublin West? It’s never happened, not since the constituency was first contested at the 1981 election. The closest they have come in by-elections was with Joe Higgins, then non-party, finishing as a runner-up to Brian Lenihan Jr in 1996 (he was later elected as a Socialist). In more recent times, Independents have gotten nowhere, routinely near the bottom of the pack: Console CEO David Hall finished 4th in the 2014 by-election, and that is as good as it has gotten. The votes aren’t there.
Speaking on the candidates individually, Casey is not getting elected in Dublin West, obviously, but his presence is a bit of a hand grenade in terms of the horse race all the same. He’ll slot into the mid pack comfortably enough I don’t doubt, but the real question is how he’ll effect everybody else. Chambers and Mac Manus will be very unhappy, Donnelly to an extent as well. Burton, O’Gorman, Coppinger, O’Maolain and O’Loughlin have less reason to be concerned. Somewhere in the middle are Varadkar and Currie, not so much in a voting context, but in a PR way. A victory for Casey would be to get into the mid-pack and avoid an embarrassing wholesale rejection, defeat would be to linger in the bottom three. That’s as much indulgence to Casey’s idiocy I am prepared to make today.
Sean O’Leary, being a nothing candidate in a constituency he has no connection to, will more than likely finish dead last, and would do well to reach triple figures. Victory for him would be to somehow finish ahead of Casey or an actual candidate, defeat would be to get a handful of FPV.
Stephen O’Loughlin, I regret to say, will not be too far ahead of him, but might have enough draw to last a couple of counts or more. He probably will not have much appeal outside of the Ashtown area, but might attract transfers from those dissatisfied with the parties for whatever reason (and who will have short shrift with Casey). This is probably set-up for a local run in 2024, and the exercise may well be worth it for that. Victory would be a slide into the mid-pack, perhaps ahead of Mac Manus or O’Maolain on a very good day, defeat would be to be mired in the “without expenses” category.
And it is to O’Maolain, the last candidate I have to cover, that we go next.