DESPITE A glowing profile in the Business Post who last weekend depicted Heather Humphreys as a hot tip to be Fine Gael’s presidential candidate in 2025, Goldhawk believes that this nomination is firmly in the grasp of the, em, grasping hands of EU Commissioner, Mairead McGuinness.
Humphreys’ strengths, according to colleagues, are her diligence, down-to-earth style, trustworthiness and other rustic qualities which indicate that she would not be a star-quality candidate or president but would at least toe the line unlike that motormouth leftie, Michael D Higgins. In the past, Heather has even been talked about as an interim Fine Gael leader, although the rise of Simon Harris and the delusions of Helen McEntee seem to have put an end to such talk.
However, it is the growing view over the last 12 months by the party leadership and Leo Varadkar in particular that the current EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union (courtesy of Golfgate and Big Phil Hogan’s mishandling of that saga) would be the best candidate.
Thus, Vlad has propositioned Mairead McGuinness with the suggestion that should she run for the EU Parliament in next year’s elections and should she succeed in winning a seat that she would then become the party’s candidate for the Áras the following year.
Far from collapsing into Vlad’s arms with gratitude, the lean and hungry Mairead actually resisted her leader’s suggestion with a variety of excuses and reasons for not jumping at the offer. No matter, Vlad and others know that these political games must be played and the dance towards Mairead’s nomination as the party’s far from popular choice for the Áras (among the membership) is played out like some political flamenco.
The most antagonistic reaction to this game plan comes from the current Blueshirt MEPs, in particular those two in Midlands-North-West, Colm Markey and Maria Walsh as one or both of these would be seriously threatened by a European campaign from McGuinness. Ironically, Colm Markey is an MEP solely by virtue of former MEP Mairead’s elevation to the commission following Golfgate and Maria Walsh came in a poor fourth in the four-seat constituency back in 2019.
With Fine Gael sinking in the polls, it is unlikely that the party will take two seats here in 2025 and neither of the sitting party MEPs will outvote Mairead McGuinness.
Much will and has been made of Heather’s Presbyterian background, her border constituency and community involvement in that area. And in 2015, she proclaimed how she is a “proud Irish Republican”.
Hopefully, nobody will be ill-mannered enough to remind voters of her performance when she became the minister in charge of the 1916 centenary commemoration and chaired the Oireachtas Consultation Group on Commemorations (OCGC).
The minutes of the OCGC from February 2012, when she joined the committee, to the summer meeting of 2014 when she became arts minister and committee chair, reveal little evidence of Heather’s interest in commemorating centenary events. As Goldhawk recorded at the time (see The Phoenix, 24/4/15), “Not one statement or query from Humphreys was recorded in the minutes. She was absent from many of the meetings and, unlike other absentees, usually failed to offer apologies for her absence”; all this in a period of over two years.