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Ringing in the old and new as 31st Dail opens its doors

A COALITION of young and old.

These are the two extremes of the 31st Dail although they seem to be of similar minds about the job ahead.

At 24, new Fine Gael TD Simon Harris will remember his first day of school a lot better than most in Leinster House while Labour's Sean Kenny (68) will be the elder statesman.

The pair arrived for their first day of official duty today and despite the 44-year age gap promised to ring in some much needed change.

"I'm not here to say I'm the Messiah," Mr Harris told the Herald, adding: "It's just like the argument that we need more women. We need more young people.

"I'm seeing it first hand with friends coming out of college, not being able to find a job and having to emigrate. It's very real and very raw for my generation."

However, Labour's Mr Kenny said while many of his friends might be settling into retirement, for him age "doesn't matter one way or the other".

"I'm still a fit and healthy man."

The oldest outgoing TD was outspoken Independent Jackie Healy Rae who was 79 when the Dail was dissolved. The youngest was Lucinda Creighton at 31.

Both Mr Harris and Mr Kenny were councillors in Wicklow and Dublin city respectively before running in the General Election.

Mr Kenny also served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1991 when he played a leading role in the capital's year as European City of Culture and the launch of Temple Bar as a tourist centre.





Diversity

And although Mr Harris is a new TD he is familiar with the surroundings of Leinster House having previously worked as parliamentary assistant to Frances Fitzgerald.

Ahead of his big day, he told the Herald: "What I said on the doorstep is that there is need for diversity of age and experience.

"In recent years, decisions have been taken by a very narrow group in terms of age and profile. It's a very exciting time to be involved."

In defence of the older TD, Mr Kenny said: "I think I can bring a lot in terms of experience both in the Dail before, as a councillor, as Lord Mayor and other things. I have a wealth of experience."

kdoyle@herald.ie