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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Column Why I joined Ógra Fianna Fáil
People ask why anybody would join Fianna Fáil – but it’s up to ourselves if we want to have a voice, writes Ógra member Moselle Foley.

I’M 26 YEARS old and working full-time in the Irish film industry. When I mention to someone that I’m involved in Ógra Fianna Fáil, it’s inevitable that they always ask “Why?”

Sometimes they don’t even want to know why, they’d just like to establish that they don’t understand why. Of my friends, I have very few that are senior members of any party – and fewer still that have been active in a youth wing. Yet we all have strong, clear opinions, especially in recent years so I find it more surprising that I’m in a minority amongst peers.

I wasn’t encouraged to participate in youth politics at home or at school, and it was only in my early twenties, when I began to see the relationship between government and the industry I was involved with, that it drew my interest. The McCarthy Report in July 2009 recommended the abolition of the Irish Film Board, and the funding of film and television production in Ireland. Although cuts were made in the following budgets, the film commission was not removed, and essential funding continues to stimulate an industry important both culturally and economically. Everyone is affected by choices that are made by our leaders, and it’s up to yourself if you want to find a voice through campaigning or make decisions through voting. Youth wings provide an ideal opportunity to learn more about local and national issues and governance, and put forward ideas or discuss issues with young, like-minded people.

To decide which party to join, I began by visiting all their websites and researching each party. I knew I was only interested in joining a centre-ground party and so found myself deciding between Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. I read a little further into both parties’ policies and manifestos, then chose FF based on its centrist approach and ideology encompassing all sections of society.

My first experience of politics was a tour of the Oireachtas, followed by Ógra Dún Laoghaire Fianna Fáil’s AGM, and drinks in the visitors’ bar. It was a great introduction: seeing inside Leinster House, witnessing the proceedings of the Seanad and Dáil, hearing what Ógra had done the previous year and hoped to achieve the next, and also meeting friendly, enthusiastic, young people. Initially I was worried about how I might be able to contribute as I had little knowledge of politics but the people there were supportive and encouraging.

Tough, but exciting

I was also surprised at the varied background of those involved. There were your student engineers and solicitors, but there were also apprentices, young community workers and some teenagers preparing for their Leaving Certificate.

Since then, there has obviously been a considerable upheaval with the recent general election, and people are questioning why young people want to be involved in Fianna Fáil now. But if anything, I’ve found it to be more interesting – as the young people I meet within Ógra are more determined than ever to make a positive difference. And although it’s a tough time to be in Fianna Fáil, it’s an exciting time too as there is a real sense now that this is a good opportunity to shape a better party.

One of the activities I’ve found most engaging is canvassing around my own local area. It’s interesting to see what’s affecting people in your own neighbourhood – whether it be local or national topics – and how many people appreciate the chance to vocalise all sorts of issues to their TD or councillor. The issues you can encounter vary from local things like illegal parking or safety concerns, to national issues such as the economy. Through canvassing I’ve learnt a lot about my own neighbourhood, and how important it is to have local area representatives.

Ógra has a good reputation for constant activity all year round, and in Dún Laoghaire there is always something to get involved with. Ógra is active in assisting local resident associations with neighbourhood cleanups and charity drives, and has written and pushed proposals to develop and improve local amenities. Ógra Dún Laoghaire regularly holds informal meetings where anyone interested is encouraged to come along and voice opinions or ideas. We meet frequently to drop leaflets and newsletters, participate in charity drives, hold social nights and government building tours. Other events for all Ógra Fianna Fáil members across Ireland include the National Youth Convention, Ard Fheis, summer schools, seminars and barbecues.

Ógra members commit their time to the organisation for free, they have intelligent, ideological and progressive opinions, and it’s interesting to see the enthusiasm from young people who want to be involved in shaping the Ireland that they want to live in.

Moselle Foley works in the film industry and is currently an officer in Ógra Fianna Fáil Dún Laoghaire.

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