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Fine Gael's most eligible bachelors are hoping to win votes -- and hearts

FINE Gael's best-looking bachelor has swapped romantic dinners by candlelight for speed dating this St Valentine's Day. John Paul Phelan will meet scores of women today, but instead of sharing wine and chocolates, they will be having tea and biscuits.

The 32-year-old from south Kilkenny has been so busy canvassing since last year that he has nobody special to wine and dine tonight.

When he ran in the European elections, John Paul discovered messages written in lipstick on his campaign cars.

This time the recession is in town, so the girls are scrawling their phone numbers in biro on napkins and beermats and leaving them on the windscreen of vans emblazoned with JP's brand. It's hardly surprising he has 1400 contacts in his mobile phone.

His single pal, Leo Varadkar, also 32, finds himself in a similar predicament.

The two bachelors shared a few drinks in The Rising Sun in Mullinavat, Co Kilkenny, on Friday night and discussed their unluckiness in love as John Paul launched his election campaign.

John Paul -- or JP as he is known -- has only ever had one serious relationship. This time last year, he had a date on February 14 with an "unnamed woman". "We were doing an unsteady line for a few months." His longest relationship lasted five years.

It's been 10 months since JP had a girlfriend, as politics "doesn't lend itself to any serious relationship".

"Look at Olwyn (Fine Gael TD Olwyn Enright), the hours that the Dail and Seanad sit until late at night aren't family-friendly."

Ms Enright announced she would not contest the general election shortly after the birth of her second child with her FG TD husband, Joe McHugh.

His male colleagues have joked that JP is Fine Gael's "dumb blonde" and a "poster boy" but he has a degree in economics, a diploma in law and, when he can tear himself away from politics, he is pursuing his studies in law in the evenings and at weekends.

More importantly to some, he can hurl, iron, cooks basic dishes and has first-aid training.

His ideal woman would be bright, articulate, career-focused, independent and opinionated: "I don't want a doormat."

Good looks help, but they are not the "most important" thing. Once the election is over, he is going to chase a certain somebody he has his eye on.

Leo Varadkar "can't remember" the last time he had a special woman in his life, it's been that long. He bites his nails awkwardly as he explains his perfect partner would be "definitely intelligent, quick-witted and funny".

She'd also have to be interested in politics, but not necessarily a politician. "I'd need someone chatty who wouldn't mind talking to people at events, because sometimes I find that hard to do. She could escort me to these things and look good beside me on camera," he admits honestly.

"I'd need somebody tolerant. I can be a pain in the ass, I get stressed and can be very cranky."

Does the young doctor ever wonder about having babies? "Oh no, I'm not broody at all," he laughs.

Leo would like to be woken up by a woman next to him, instead of the loud beeping of his alarm clock at 7am. However, he says he'll be home alone watching a recording of Frontline tonight.

"I have a strategic committee meeting so I'll have to tape 'Frontline', the leaders' debate is on, and watch it when I get home.

"I have a nice leather couch so I'll watch it on that."

Despite having no woman in his life, Leo is not in a hurry to woo anybody. "I wouldn't be arsed," he says, but if the right woman came along, Leo might be swayed.

As for JP, he thinks he might land on his feet, like his late father and grandfather before him.

"My dad married at 41, and his dad didn't get married until he was 44. They both married women in their 20s."

Irish Independent