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Meet the working class TD named Gino who'll get the bus to Leinster House today

Gino Kenny is one of the more interesting deputies elected to the 32nd Dáil.

27/2/2016. General Election 2016 - Counting of Vot Gino Kenny celebrating his election last month. Source: RollingNews.ie

A HOST OF new TDs will take their seats in the 32nd Dáil today and among them will be Gino Kenny, the new Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit deputy for Dublin Mid-West.

He will arrive at Leinster House this morning having taken the 151 bus from his native Neilstown in Clondalkin. On other days he said he’ll cycle the 11 kilometres into town. No car and absolutely no fuss.

He describes himself as a “normal working person” who represents working class people, and that’s very much apparent from his demeanour. In some ways, Kenny comes across as a reluctant TD. He doesn’t like to use the word politician, preferring to describe himself as a “shop steward on a factory floor”.

As for wearing a suit? No chance. He owns one, but it’s only for weddings.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

“I’m not against suits. For myself, I don’t feel comfortable in suits, I have to say,” the soft-spoken former community care worker told TheJournal.ie this week.

“Personally I just wear… look respectable. I think sometimes the stereotype about politicians is a suit and a big car and that’s not me.

I cycle and walk and I get the bus in. I suppose, for want of a better word, I’m just a normal working person that wants to represent working people and that’s what I want.

Kenny was elected in Dublin Mid-West after years of campaigning and working on the ground. He previously ran unsuccessfully for People Before Profit in the 2007 and 2011 general elections.

But this time it was different. He took the last of four seats with just under 8,000 votes on the 12th count last month. The huge swathe of anger over water charges and other issues, particularly housing according to Kenny, saw the Labour vote “obliterated” and AAA-PBP capitalised.

Kenny, who was christened Eugene, is the first TD for Neilstown, an area he’s spent most of his life in.

Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

“I was born in 1972. I was raised in Islandbridge flats and then we moved from Islandbridge flats in 1979 to Neilstown. So I’ve been living there ever since, in Clondalkin,” he said.

“In the 1980s, when a lot of people were put out to Neilstown, there was very little infrastructure.

Then it became bigger and bigger and there was certain problems that materialised because there was nothing to do for young people. Then drugs kind of took hold, heroin took hold and it caused absolute chaos.

Kenny said his own family has not been immune to the heroin epidemic. He has lost friends to the drug, while others have moved out of the area, but Neilstown, he added, is a “much better place to live in and work in these days”.

It’s not without its problems though, including the lack of social housing with many families forced to live in hotels or worse. Kenny has identified it as his number one priority in the new Dáil.

“There are people living in hotels for over a year-and-a-half, people on the waiting list for the last ten years,” he said.

gino 1

“I mean before if you [had to be] socially housed it was an average of about seven years wait, no more than that. Now it could be anything between 10 to 12 years.

It’s a crisis beyond the crisis, it should be declared a national emergency.

Kenny said the government is too focussed on getting the private market to build houses when there needs to be a “massive build of social houses” over the next five years.

But what can one of six AAA-PBP TDs in the new Dáil do about it given they’ll be in opposition? Kenny drew comparisons with the water charges movement.

“Six activists in the Dáil is one thing but it’s mobilising as many different people on different issues – from water charges to property tax, the housing issue – on to the streets.

To us, that’s what counts. People power is ultimately gonna change things and mould things in society.

27/2/2016. General Election 2016 - Counting of Vot Source: RollingNews.ie

Kenny said he is humbled by the position he is in after three attempts at winning election to the Dáil.

Now he will try to give the people who elected him the best representation he can. His quiet and reserved disposition leads you to believe he will not be as bombastic as his PBP colleague Richard Boyd-Barrett or as divisive as AAA’s Paul Murphy.

“People need a voice politically and I think I’m very humbled and very honoured to be in that position, to represent working people of the constituency, not only the constituency but nationally,” he said.

That’s what drives me, all the injustices that go on in Ireland. Hopefully we can, politically, try to address them.

Read: What exactly happens when the new Dáil sits today?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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