Friday 18 October 2019

'I set up an organisation with another youth worker to promote positive mental health'

The Repealer: Grace McManus (27) Sinn Féin, Bray East, Co Wicklow

Sinn Féin local election candidate Grace McManus in Co Wicklow. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Sinn Féin local election candidate Grace McManus in Co Wicklow. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Bray native Grace was a strong advocate for Together for Yes during the abortion rights campaign and works in Leinster House as an advisor to Sinn Féin senators Máire Devine and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

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My first interaction with social issues was when I was 12 years old. I joined a youth project in Bray. We would have what were called 'Issues Nights' and we'd have an interactive lesson on something like child labour or war or asylum seeking. They really stuck in my mind.

I have a degree in social studies from Trinity and that was my more formal interaction with politics. During my studies, I became more left wing in my thinking. I was heavily involved in getting more young people involved in politics while in college.

I set up an organisation with another youth worker called Be Well to promote positive mental health. We try to understand the structures around service provision.

The Sinn Féin team in Bray were always very supportive and it was genuine, authentic support. I became curious about them. I don't come from a Sinn Féin family although when I started to vote I would have voted for Sinn Féin.

Young people say to me, 'I don't know anything about politics - is that okay?' I think it's by design that young people are disengaged from politics because if they knew what was going on they would be on the streets more than they already are.

I always say to people that if they want to talk about politics I'll sit down with a cup of tea and talk about it - even if we are on different sides. I'd much rather be talking about these issues that affect us than not.

Housing is the issue I'm hearing on every door I call to. Sometimes it's people who are weeks away from being on the streets. Then there are young people like myself who live at home - even though I'm a young professional, I cannot afford to move out. It's a massive policy failure and it's heartbreaking to see the hurt out there. There is no doubt that there are people left behind in my community.

I was very involved in Together for Yes - and that wasn't party political. I wanted to give my time in that issue because I fundamentally believed in it. I'm gay myself and when marriage equality happened it meant so much to me that people went out to work for that. I felt compelled to show my solidarity for young women for this [abortion] issue.

Ireland is an amazing place, but we need to harness it for other issues, mainly economic change.

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