Young and running for politics: Declan Meenagh

Declan Meenagh went to school in Pobalscoil Rosmini in Drumcondra. Raised in Cabra with his two younger siblings, he was born visually impaired and has only 5 per cent vision.

He studied Computer Science and Software Engineering in NUI Maynooth and at age 24, is one of the youngest candidates that the Labour Party are running in the local elections in May.

At present, 211 Local Election candidates across Ireland fall in the 18-35 age category, accounting for 13.7 per cent of the total number of people going forward.

151 (71.6 per cent) of the ‘young ones’ are male, and sixty (28.4 per cent) are female.

Active in the Labour Party since 2009, Meenagh is currently unemployed, having graduated from NUI Maynooth in 2012.

“From an early age I was always very opinionated and always ready to speak up. I hadn’t thought about going forward myself until recently, but I suppose it was kind of obvious that it would happen,” he says.

He considers himself to be a democratic socialist, who supports workers’ rights and admires the trade union movement.

“I believe in a fairer society and I think Labour is the best way to get that,” he says. “Lying to people isn’t very good, and if the highest ambition you have is to march around Parnell Square for the rest of your life, as some of the far-left parties are at, you know, that’s not actually doing anything.”

He wants to fight for a more progressive society and achieve it, something he feels won’t be achieved by the far left. He thinks that groups encouraging or “hinting” at people not to pay certain government taxes “is a cowardly way to go about it”.

Meenagh says the Socialist Party have got people running under the banner ‘Anti-Austerity Alliance’ but he prefers to call them the “Alliance Against Anything”.

He questions what sort of message that sends, and alludes to the famous Monty Python sketch where ‘The Judean People’s Front’ is vehemently against ‘The People’s Front of Judea’, in a satirical look at how politics can descend into opposing factions of fundamentally similar beliefs.

A class representative in the NUIM Students’ Union, he also served as Equality Officer and Finance Officer while at university and was very active in the student movement. He feels that this has given him the experience of representing people, and that Dublin City Council needs new ideas as well as experience.

From a disability perspective, Meenagh thinks we need more people with disabilities to put themselves forward for election. If representatives are supposed to represent everyone in society, then he believes there should be more diversity of representation among the candidates. “I have enough sight to get by, and of course it is frustrating sometimes, but you just have to get on with it,” he says of his disability.

He is campaigning for more police resources for the Cabra area and wants to see stricter penalties for dog-fouling throughout the city.

“It is absolutely disgusting. I can’t see it, so I deal with it more than most people, but it’s a massive issue, we need tougher laws and more information about it,” he says.

When it comes to politics, it’s lots of little ideas that will make the difference, not one big idea, says Meenagh, “and that’s what I’m about”.

The response he has been getting on the doorsteps has been quite good, he says, people are happy to meet a new candidate. People can be a bit angry and frustrated sometimes, and he recently had someone from Kerry ring him up and give out to him about something he said on Twitter.

While on the topic of abuse or vitriol, he recalls: “Someone put up on Twitter that I was out canvassing, and I got this Tweet saying ‘he should get a girlfriend’, like I should be focused on that rather than running for election”, but by and large, he says the response has been largely positive.

“Some people say things like ‘you’ve betrayed the working class’, and I just think, I’m barely able to deliver all these leaflets, how do you think I’ve time to betray the working class?”

Theresa Newman

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