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Why would a twentysomething run for the Dail?

Young candidates in Election 2011 tell TheJournal.ie why they want to be part of the 31st Dáil.

THE POSTERS ARE UP, the flyers are out, and the candidates are spending these last hours of the campaign pushing for every available vote before the polls open on Friday morning.

According to figures compiled by Mark Farrelly on PoliticalReform.ie, the average age of our representatives in government has been increasing since 1918.

The average age of TDs in the 30th Dáil on the first day it took office was 50.4 years.

Here, some of the twentysomething candidates running in constituencies around the country tell TheJournal.ie what first drew them to politics and why they decided to run for the Dáil.

(Note: Fianna Fáil’s youngest candidate was also contacted in relation to this article, but did not respond.)

Darcy Lonergan, 21, Green Party candidate in Cavan-Monaghan

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

Its vital that the young get into politics as soon as possible as the issues and policies passed by the government has a huge effect on our lives for example education. We can’t trust others to put us first and hear our voices unless we have a voice in the Dáil. Also it is extremely important that young women get into politics. Fifty-one per cent of those who vote are women, yet the highest percentage we have ever reached in national politics is 13.9. This is unacceptable.

2. Why did you choose to run for the Green Party?

I am proud to be a Green Party candidate; the Green Party has displayed all the qualities I would want in my government: honesty, integrity, courage, tenacity and an unflinching persistence to stick to their principles no matter what the consequences. We have made hard, sometimes unpopular, decisions but we made those decisions based on the main core of our existence: to hand over to the next generation a clean environment, filled with natural resources and with respect for the people, animals and flora that inhabit it.

3. What are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

I am going up as a representative of the youth so I won’t be completely changing my personality or activities. To me its not about ‘giving up’ something, it is about learning what is appropriate in certain situations and what is not. Once we all go into the workforce we learn this skill, so I really don’t feel like I am giving up anything, especially since I am near the end of my college days.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

To be honest those not involved in the campaign don’t really talk about my campaign. When we get together we just talk as we normally do . I like this because I need this time to unwind. The only time it will come up is if the want to slag me!

5. Could you get your mum or dad to say why someone should vote for their son/daughter?

Darcy’s mom said:

  1. Darcy stands up for her beliefs
  2. Darcy is an accomplished mediator she sees both sides of an issue and can convince others to be    open to opposing views
  3. Darcy makes sure she has acquired all the information necessary in order to make clear decision.
  4. Darcy treats all people equally, she is able to communicate and respond to every individual on the same basis.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

I have many ideas I would like to see implemented, however my three main focuses are: setting up programmes that create jobs for graduates so they don’t have to leave the country; getting more women involved in politics; getting people more involved in politics, whether it be in their own community etc. And informing people about how broad politics is (aka it’s not just the governmental institutions, it’s human rights).

7. Which one person – outside politics – most inspires you?

There isn’t [only] one person who inspires me. I get my inspiration from the people around me such as my family and lecturers, and also through reading about life stories of those who have overcome so much. For instance, just before the campaign started I was reading the book NOT FOR SALE which is about those who survived sex trafficking.

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL… It’s your future, use your vote to change it for the better. Vote Green.

Cian Prendiville, 21, Socialist Party candidate in Limerick city.

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

That’s a good question – I think young people are repulsed by official politics: the lies, the wheeling and dealing and abandoning of principle to get into power and the greed of politicians. That’s not the politics I think young people should get involved in. That’s what the young people should get involved in fighting.

What we need is activism, and real change, because even if young people ignore ‘politics’, it won’t ignore us. All that will do is let the establishment parties off the hook, so they can continue with the education cuts, hikes in fees, cuts in the minimum wage and destruction of our future. We can’t let them get away with it, so we have to stand up and fight back.

2. Why did you choose to run with the Socialist Party?

Well, I got interested in politics around the time of the invasion of Iraq. I took part in a school student walk-out against the war, organised by Socialist Youth. Over a period of about a year I investigated politics a bit more, and I thought the Socialist Party stuck out like a sore thumb from the rest of them. Around that time Joe Higgins and other Socialist Party elected reps went to prison for peaceful protest against the bin tax, rather than sell out those who elected them. I felt the Socialist Party was the only one to really stand up for ordinary people, and stick by their principles.

3. What are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

I’m afraid I don’t really have a 20-something’s lifestyle, not really. I’m already constantly campaigning on various issues, organising protests against college fees, health cuts, the IMF deal etc, rather than spending my time watching Home and Away, or whatever people consider a normal 20-something lifestyle.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

They’ve been very supportive. They all know that I’m very political and have been very active in various campaigns, so I don’t think they were that shocked. Obviously there are some jokes, but generally they’re all sick and tired of establishment politics too.

5. Could you get your mum or dad to say why someone should vote for their son/daughter?

My Dad: I’d encourage people to vote for Cian for his intelligence and integrity and his firm belief in a better way. His commitment to his beliefs and his dedicated campaigning are amazing.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

Well, as a Socialist my big idea is that we should have a society where people come before profit. Instead of bailing out the banks, that money could be used to create tens of thousands of jobs building the schools and hospitals we need, staffing our health and education services etc. If we had democratic control over the key economic resources in the country, they could be used to provide a future for workers and young people, rather than be run for profit to line the pockets of the rich.

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

We need TDs who will fight the IMF/EU cuts, not implement them & demand money for jobs & services, not banks. We wont pay for their crisis!

Padraig O’Sullivan, 26, Independent candidate running in Cork North Central.

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

I decided to get involved in politics as I felt that young people had no voice and that many young, disillusioned voters were opting for migration as opposed to staying and fighting for real representation. In that vein, I am attempting to provide a voice for the youth of Ireland who feel that the current political system has failed and to suggest to them that there is an alternative.

2. Why did you choose to run as an Independent?

I chose to run as an Independent because I too feel that the current political system has zero accountability and few politicians of great integrity exist amongst the main parties. Despite the obvious financial drawbacks and lack of media exposure I feel that as an Independent I can speak objectively and provide straight answers to the public on a variety of issues as I am not subject to a party whip.

3. What are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

Late nights at the weekend would be the obvious one, although the debt I have accrued as a result of this campaign will ensure that this happens nonetheless.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

Initially sceptical although they’ve warmed to it because many of them are not remotely interested in politics. Their disillusionment can be best summed up by the fact that even despite my running, many of them still were reluctant to get registered to vote. Unfortunately they feel that you cant beat the system.

5. Could you get your mum or dad to say why someone should vote for their son/daughter?

The parents, like so many others I have heard while out canvassing. emphasise the need to give youth, and fresh innovative ideas a chance.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

Instigate a system of RECALL where corrupt or inept politicians can be recalled from service if they are under-performing. This idea has been implemented successfully in other countries and can ensure political accountability, something that is distinctly lacking in the current order.

7. Which one person – outside politics – most inspires you?

Adi Roche: an inspirational woman who has dedicated her life to a single cause and has never sought praise or recompense. A truly remarkable lady.

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

I want to affect real change in the way our public reps work by working closely with other like-minded INDEPENDENTS who want to provide real change in this respect. I want politicians to be held ACCOUNTABLE. Only you can help me hold them to account.

Kathryn Reilly, 22, Sinn Féin candidate in Cavan-Monaghan

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

Maybe want is the wrong word here. The question should be: why might young people feel they should get involved in politics right now? And the answer I would give would be that every decision, every election promise, every term and condition of the four year plan and every facet of the EU/IMF bailout package will have a serious impact on their future. At this point in time, the future of young people hangs in the balance – there are 82,237 young people under 25 on the live register and 1,000 people a week are emigrating.

Young people feel that they should get involved in politics right now because their futures are on the line, if they have not already been squandered by reckless policies to date; they feel they should get involved to bring about the change that is so badly needed in this state.

2. Why did you choose to run for Sinn Féin?

When we look at successive governments in this State we have seen coalitions of the rich, coalitions of the right, coalitions of the smug and satisfied. They have governed over a decline in public services while corruption has risen. Poverty, illiteracy, crime, violence, drug abuse have all risen during the watch of these parties. And the future does not offer a better forecast when these stale policies are in government.

Sinn Féin offers a message of hope to the people of Ireland and a vision for the future based on economic recovery, fairness and an equal society. They have put forward practical solutions to create and protect jobs and stimulate the economy. They prioritise the interests not of the bankers, speculators and multi-millionaire developers but those of the ordinary people of Ireland – working families, those on social welfare, struggling small businesses, rural Ireland.

Everyone on this island has the right to a home, to a safe environment, to access to education and childcare, to civil and religious liberty, and to meaningful work with proper terms and conditions. Everyone has the right to health care. Everybody has the right to equality, and to respect and dignity. This is the essence of republicanism, of what I stand for and of Sinn Féin. This is why I chose to run for Sinn Féin.

3. Why are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

Again I would rephrase this question: what would I be willing to do now so that I can secure a better future for myself, for other young people and for the people of this state. I am fully aware of the intense public scrutiny, the long unfriendly Dáil sitting hours, the hours that I will be spending representing constituents and how it can affect my social and personal life. But I am prepared to adjust my lifestyle substantially because I am hopeful that I can be part of making a better future for myself and others – that I can be part of bringing about political reform, delivering economic recovery and stemming the flow of people from this state by creating an environment conducive to job creation.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

They say ‘fair play to you’. They, just like everyone else, have been affected by the decisions of previous Governments and want change. It’s a big step and everyone has been really supportive.

5. Could you get your mom or dad to say why someone should vote for their son/daughter?

She is young but she has a combination of qualifications, experience and enthusiasm to be a public representative. She knows the enormity of the task that lies ahead of her, but she is determined to make a stand for people whose lives have been ravaged by income cuts, unemployment, the decimation of public services and emigration.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

The Big Idea would of course be a United Ireland. Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party. We believe in the sovereignty, independence and freedom of the Irish people and the right of our people to build our own society. Sinn Féin is committed to delivering for citizens. Sinn Féin believes a new start is needed in Ireland. There is wasteful duplication in public services: there are two currencies, two tax systems, two social services structures, and two different sets of laws and regulations. Unity is not anissue of the past, it is the future.

Building a better Ireland must include unification of the island so that there is:

  1. Democratic control over all monetary and fiscal policies;
  2. An equitable and progressive tax regime;
  3. A fully integrated energy, transport and ICT infrastructure to support the growth of island-wide prosperity based on the principles of environmental sustainability;
  4. Universal access to quality public services;
  5. Public ownership of infrastructure, run efficiently in the public interest;
  6. All-Ireland enterprise development and economic planning.

7. Which one person – outside politics – most inspires you?

My mammy!

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

Choose an Ireland whose greatest export is not its people.Choose not to pay the debts of bankers & speculators.Choose to reverse Budget cuts.Choose a new voice. Choose Kathryn.

Liam Quinn, 23, Fine Gael candidate in Laois-Offaly

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

The reason I got involved first of all was my interest in politics. That started with history and the history of politics, particularly from Michael Collins onwards. Then I got involved with Young Fine Gael in college.

2. Why did you choose to run for Fine Gael?

Young Fine Gael was probably the most active organisation in UL when I was in college there, and I was also in the Michael Collins Society. Actually,  pretty much the same people were in both.

3. What are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

That was the biggest decision – the level of personal commitment I was able to give it. It’s a seven-day-a-week job. You sacrifice a lot of your own time and your own hobbies. I love politics, I very much enjoy it; if you didn’t, you wouldn’t stay at it for very long.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

They don’t really mind. I suppose they’re all out helping me because they want to see me get on. A lot of them have become interested in politics now that they’ve seen the mechanics of a campaign and the strategy involved. They used to think it was a case of somebody taking it into their head to run, but my running has opened their eyes to what it’s really about.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

We need more people under 40 elected in the next government because the country has a ten-year cycle to get back to work. If younger candidates are elected, then they know they’ll have to go back to the electorate and justify their decisions, and I think that’s a good thing.

7. Which one person outside of politics most inspires you?

Rory McIlroy, he made a big name for himself on the world stage and is very much a professional.

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

We need more young people in politics. We need to change the political system, reduce the number of politicians working for reduced pay and longer hours. A clearer focus on jobs for the lifetime of the next govt as the biggest issue facing this country is the lack of availability of jobs.

Derek Nolan, Labour Party candidate in Galway West, 28

1. Why would any young person want to get into Irish politics at this point in time?

I had to ask myself that question last year when [Labour TD] Michael D Higgins said he wasn’t putting his name forward. There’s been a lot of disenchantment in Ireland, especially when the IMF came in. And I said either I believe in something different or I don’t, and so I decided I should go for it

2. Why did you choose to run for Labour?

I got interested in politics and news when I was about 14 and I’ve always thought politics was important. When i was 16 I used to read a lot and identified myself as being left of centre, that my natural home was on the left. I was in NUIG and saw Michael D speaking and I knew then that’s what I believed, so I joined the Labour Party.

3. What are you prepared to give up from your 20-something’s lifestyle if elected?

First of all, your social life. You can’t go out on the town as easily as before. Your free time is really limited and most evenings are gone. Also,most people involved in politics aren’t my age. Most people in organisations or parties are older so you’re losing out on a certain amount of contact with people your own age, but you can definitely still be a 20-something-year-old.

4. What do your friends (who aren’t involved in your campaign) think of you running?

They know it’s me at this stage. ‘That’s just typical of Derek,’ they’d say. Everyone is supportive because they know I believe in it. To a lot of my friends, I’m their friend and not their political ally. It’s very important to have people who are just your friend and don’t care about how your campaign is going; someone you can have a pint with or watch the match with.

5. Could you get your mum or dad to say why someone should vote for their son/daughter?

They would tell people i’m in it for the right reasons and there is integrity in my policies.

6. Have you got a Big Idea that you’d like to see implemented?

I think that local politics has huge power to make a real impact if it’s enforced properly in terms of people’s everyday life. Having been a councillor for a number of years, I would love to see [local government] work properly because it has the ability to really engage with people.

7. Which one person outside of politics most inspires you?

My parents.

8. Give us your election pitch in 140 characters à la Twitter.

IRE needs change, not just one crowd to another but better politics.We must use this election to elect st different, not resurrect the same.

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