Wednesday 16 January 2019

'Yes' campaigner Duffy joins Donohoe as running mate in redrawn constituency

Barrister is happy to stand over FG track record on gender issues

Tough battle: Fine Gael election candidate Deirdre Duffy. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Tough battle: Fine Gael election candidate Deirdre Duffy. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is facing a much more palatable general election prospect next time out due to a redrawing of his constituency - but he is now expected to bring home a running mate.

As one of the party's most high profile performers, it had been expected that Mr Donohoe, like party leader Leo Varadkar, would have a female running mate and party Together4Yes campaign manager Deirdre Duffy has now been added to the ticket for Dublin Central.

In 2016, Mr Donohoe was re-elected despite the four-seater shrinking to just three seats - he was elected alongside Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan.

The Constituency Commission has since recommended a boundary change in north Dublin which will see an extra seat added and a return of a significant swathe of Fine Gael voters.

But rather than resting on his laurels, Mr Donohoe will now be expected to bring a first-timer along with him in the next election.

Ms Duffy, a barrister and former deputy director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, is a political novice but has a history of campaigning on social justice issues.

She acknowledged that it will be a "tough battle" for the party to return two TDs in the area.

The mother of two from Cork has lived in the constituency for six years but says if she is a blow-in it is an area with many newcomers.

"I think if you want to use the term blow-in there's loads of us in Dublin Central; it's a very mixed demographic," she said.

Her work in civil and human rights has given her a good background in terms of the issues that she believes matter to her would-be constituents, such as policing, she said.

Ms Duffy's involvement in the recent referendum spurred her decision to enter politics.

"I think the big thing about that campaign [and Yes Equality which led the campaign for marriage equality] is that I'm part of a generation who believe that change can happen - we know because we've done it."

"I think that anything is possible after the abortion referendum...I think we can kind of solve anything."

Many of those involved in the recent referendum campaign are expected to segway into politics, and for Ms Duffy there were a "lot of knocks on the door" following the success of Together4Yes.

But when questioned if Fine Gael - who for the most part came late to the issue of repealing the Eighth - was a natural fit for her, she said: "I actually thought about it for a long time and I had a lot of conversations with people in Fine Gael.

"I came away thinking it's a broad church and there's space for me there. We won't agree on everything, we didn't agree on everything in the abortion referendum but we got there," she said.

"So I think right now, when we look back at this point, history is going to tell us that this is a turning point... my generation are really shaping the future and I want to be part of that, I want a seat at the table."

Ms Duffy said she is happy to stand over her new party's track record when it comes to promoting women.

"I think Fine Gael have a pretty good track record on women candidates. They had the first female Tanáiste, a good gender mix at the Cabinet - could it be better? Absolutely," she said.

The party has been "very open" to her during discussions about bringing forward policies that will advance gender equality, she said.

Irish Independent

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