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Is Jack Chambers Fianna Fáil’s leader in waiting?

Ascension to role of party’s deputy leader seen as step towards even greater things for 33-year-old Dubliner

Tánaiste Micheál Martin announces Jack Chambers as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil: Chambers was first elected to Fingal County Council in 2014, aged 23, and became a TD for Dublin West two years later. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The elevation of Minister of State Jack Chambers to the role of Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader on Wednesday is widely being seen as preparation for a further promotion next week.

The 33 year old is tipped to become a senior minister and possibly the next minister for finance, with the vacancy occurring as Michael McGrath is expected to be announced as Ireland’s European commissioner.

While Fianna Fáil leader and Tánaiste Micheál Martin rejected suggestions that McGrath was overlooked as deputy leader because of a potential move to Europe, those within the party are saying differently.

One party source pointed to comments made by McGrath’s brother, Seamus, who won the highest number of first-preference votes in the country in the recent local elections that he would be “open” to running in the general election.


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“Seamus wouldn’t say those sort of things without [his brother] Micheal’s clearance,” the source said. “So immediately the expectation within the party was that Michael McGrath wanted to become the EU commissioner. Michael would be seen as one of the main contenders for the leadership but if he’s now going for the commissionership, Jack Chambers is likely the next choice.”

A senior Fianna Fáil TD added: “There’s a change of the deck at the top at the moment.

“You would imagine Michael is going to Europe and then he [Micheál Martin] has the decision who he gives finance to. Does he give it to himself, come out of foreign affairs, or give it to Darragh O’Brien and bring a young minister into housing? It stacks up on a couple of fronts and there’s no question, Jack has done his time.”

Chambers was first elected to Fingal County Council in 2014, aged 23, and became a TD for Dublin West two years later.

When Martin became taoiseach in June 2020, he nominated him as Minister of State at the Department of Finance. Two weeks later he became the Government’s chief whip and minister of State at the Department of Sport and Gaeltacht, following the sacking of Barry Cowen as minister for agriculture.

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Martin and Chambers are seen to have forged a close relationship during his time as chief whip.

Chambers is currently Minister of State in the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and attends Cabinet. More recently, he was Fianna Fáil’s director of local elections and deemed to have done a good job, with the party securing the largest number of council seats at 248.

Martin noted the positive feedback Chambers had received in the role “from around the country” and said he had been a “very effective” chief whip, which “merited the appointment”.

He added that candidates had been receiving messages from the junior minister throughout the campaign, offering ongoing advice and mentoring.

Another Fianna Fáil source said there had been a “push for a while” to get a deputy leader to look after party organisation and the Dublin West TD had been “effective” at engaging with backbenchers and Senators.

While undoubtedly well-placed, whether Chambers will eventually become party leader is ultimately down to Fianna Fáil’s electoral college system, where party members and the national executive all get a say.

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Some within Fianna Fáil have also pointed to the fact that Chambers is from the capital, where the party has “problems”.

“It’s almost a little bit ironic that the Green’s are debating how they can appeal more in rural Ireland, whereas in Fianna Fáil part of the debate is how the party can appeal more in Dublin,” the source said.

“Having a younger Dublin leader will make a difference. This [promotion] is kind of lining him up for leader, particularly if you see him moving into the finance portfolio.”