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Thursday 17 October 2019

'It's not Charlie on the ballot, I'm my own man' - council hopeful Cathal

Cathal Haughey with aunt Eimear (left) and mum Jackie. Photo: Damien Eagers
Cathal Haughey with aunt Eimear (left) and mum Jackie. Photo: Damien Eagers

It's weeks before the local elections when the Herald meets the latest member of the Haughey clan to throw his hat into the political ring.

Cathal Haughey, a 22-year-old student who has just finished a degree in politics in DCU, is canvassing ahead of voting day on May 24.

He's joined by his mum Jackie, aunt Eimear Mulhern and vice-president of Fianna Fail, Arthur Griffin, as he makes his way around a residential area in Beaumont.

As the team knock on doors, Cathal gets a warm reception - his grandfather's legacy to the fore with many of the older residents in the estate: "God bless Charlie and the free travel," says one homeowner.

Leaflet

Of course, some knocks go unanswered and one or two have little to say to the young candidate as they politely decline a leaflet.

However, others are happy to hear the Haughey name. One woman confesses she didn't answer the door when she saw Communications Minister Richard Bruton as he accompanied Fine Gael's Jeff Johnston, another first-time candidate.

Mr Haughey and Mr Johnston, however, are friendly to each other when they cross paths, shaking hands and deciding to divvy up the estate to avoid hampering each others' chances of striking up conversation with election-weary residents - very diplomatic.

The weight of bearing the Haughey name doesn't show on Cathal, who says he is his own man and it isn't 'Charlie' that is printed on the ballot.

"I don't think there is pressure to be honest," he said.

"I have two taoisigh as a grandad and a great-grandad, and a sitting TD as an uncle.

"But in fairness, my name is Cathal Haughey, I'm running in the local elections, and no one else is on the ballot but me. On some doors it's good, at some it is not so good. I'd ask people to leave their preconceptions of me at the door and take me on my face value alone."

It's the old chestnuts that crop up at the doors, such as the need for better road markings and mending the cracks in the pavement and roads locally. Crime on the Dart line and housing are also among the issues raised.

Cathal says he recognises that dealing with such local issues is what a councillor ought to be focused on.

As someone fresh from university he is aware of others in their 20s and 30s who are struggling to afford somewhere to live in the city.

"People want their councillors to focus on the local stuff - things like potholes, cracks in the pavement, an overgrown tree outside their house - but we are never too far away from national issues," he said.

"Housing is something that is coming up a lot. Young people simply can't afford to get on the property ladder.

"I know people in their 20s and 30s who have had to move back with their parents because the rents are just far too high.

"This Government just hasn't built houses - they seem ideologically opposed to social and affordable housing. The demand has gotten higher because there are so many people but there has been no supply. I think that is something this election will be fought on and the council needs to do more to use the vacant land it has."

As for his age putting off voters, Cathal tells the Herald people have given him kudos for running in the race.

He also says that young people have had quite the impact on politics in this country of late, putting climate change on the agenda for example.

Diverse

"I am young, I'm only 22, but the majority of people who mention my age think it is a positive thing," he said.

"There are a lot more younger candidates from all parties running in this election.

"There are more women and a lot more people who are not Irish-born. I think people are happy to see a more diverse ticket than the same old faces.

"I am not going to focus on one section of society. Everyone has a vote. Young people have become more engaged in politics now, climate change is only on the agenda because young people put it there.

"I think all demographics have their own different issues and a councillor should be able to represent them all."

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