Friday 20 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Ruthless FG selects O'Malley Dunlop to end Zappone's Independent reign'


Children's Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture: Collins
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone. Picture: Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

There is a great irony in Independent TD Katherine Zappone having a central role in a Fine Gael-led Government.

She was never supposed to be in this Dáil at all - but, after two days of rechecks and recounts, "stole" her seat from under the noses of Fine Gael in 2016.

Legal eagles were drafted in as every single ballot paper was pored over repeatedly before the Fine Gael candidate, Anne-Marie Dermody, accepted her loss.

It came by a margin of just 152 votes on the 16th count in the Dublin South West constituency.

Fine Gael had a very large post-mortem after its national campaign failed to reach the highs predicted - but Ms Dermody's defeat was listed under the category of "one that got away".

Since then running mate Colm Brophy has gone on to be a popular backbench TD and is regularly called upon by party chiefs to defend tough topics in the media.

National Women’s Council chair Ellen O’Malley Dunlop. Photo: Damien Eagers
National Women’s Council chair Ellen O’Malley Dunlop. Photo: Damien Eagers

The constituency's other TDs - Fianna Fáil's John Lahart, Solidarity's Paul Murphy and Sinn Féin's Sean Crowe - all look relatively safe too.

So as the next election looms it would appear the constituency's most successful local representative, Ms Zappone, will once again be scrapping for her seat.

The announcement that the chair of the National Women's Council, Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, is joining Mr Brophy on the ticket is a coup for the party.

She is Leo Varadkar's perfect type of candidate: Female with a strong CV, comfortable in the media and well-known.

Ms O'Malley Dunlop also fits with the new set of "Leo liberals" like Together4Yes campaign manager Deirdre Duffy who has been added to the Dublin Central ticket alongside Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. But what will Ms Zappone make of the move?

Her webpage biography describes somebody who has "spent her life campaigning for social justice and human rights".

Along with her late partner, Ms Zappone was the co-founder of An Cosán, Ireland's largest community education organisation.

"Since entering politics in 2011 she has been a leading advocate for political reform, equality in education, financial justice and gender equality," the website says.

The Children's Minister also holds a PhD from Boston College, an MBA from the Smurfit Business School and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from UCD School of Law.

A quick look at Ms O'Malley Dunlop's resume also shows her commitment to gender issues, education and reform.

She worked as a primary school teacher and trained as a psychotherapist.

In the early 1980s, the mother of four established St Catherine's counselling centre in the constituency.

She lobbied government on issues of suicide, marital breakdown and children's rights. And in 2006 Ms O'Malley Dunlop began a decade as CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

She was also appointed Adjunct Progression to the School of Law in University of Limerick in 2015.

Ms Zappone has been one of the few "new politics" success stories. On occasions she has faced down the "establishment" while also managing to work with it to secure the largest ever budget for childcare.

Fine Gael ministers are fond of her straight approach and mostly enjoy dealing with her.

But politics is ruthless and the selection of Ms O'Malley Dunlop is a clear indication Fine Gael would prefer one of its own.

Irish Independent

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