Thursday 17 October 2019

'We were the scumbags, they were the posh kids' - former MMA star hopes to pack a punch in elections

Fighting his corner: Sinn Féin candidate in Tallaght South, Dublin, Paddy Holohan (centre) chats with Liverpool player Glen McAuley. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Fighting his corner: Sinn Féin candidate in Tallaght South, Dublin, Paddy Holohan (centre) chats with Liverpool player Glen McAuley. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Sorcha O'Connor

Sorcha O'Connor

'Paddy Holohan, number one!" comes a shout as a driver rolls down his window and calls out to the retired MMA star hoping to pack a punch of a different kind in the local elections later this week.

The Irish Independent is accompanying Paddy 'The Hooligan' Holohan as he canvasses in an estate in Jobstown, the area where the fighter grew up.

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He has stepped out of the octagon to run for Sinn Féin in the Tallaght South constituency for a seat on South Dublin County Council.

As we walk, he mentions his mother a number of times, how it was her sage advice as a youngster with a big dream that kept him on the straight and narrow.

How she always told him the wildest horses are the best ones when tamed.

Getting that message of discipline and honest living to the next generation is now on his own to-do list.

"My mam raised me well: 'It's not where you live, it is how you live.' I was very lucky.

"I wouldn't have been able to get a visa for America if I'd have had a charge.

"If I'd have been caught with a bag of weed at 17 or 18, I would have gotten a drugs charge and my career would have been gone at 18. Your career doesn't even take off till you're 25.

"We need to look at sensible things, not criminalising these things - because if my future is f***ed at 18, I'm like 'what's the point?'"

Another car comes down the road and this time it stops. The window is down so Paddy quickly recognises the driver - it's Glen McAuley, another local sports hero.

Just 19, footballer McAuley plays for Liverpool's under-23s.

It's clear Glen is a fan of Paddy (31) as he shakes his hand and wishes him all the best before he hops back into the car and drives away.

As we go further into the estate, a few more fans of Paddy show up.

Local children playing on the road hop on their bikes to follow him as if he's the Pied Piper. They ask him to sign his leaflets and he poses for selfies. Paddy tells them to be proud of where they're from.

He begins to explain how youth engagement will be a big issue for him if he is elected, and tackling prejudice against people in council estates.

"I run a 10,000 sq ft martial arts facility that I funded myself with my own money, called SBG Dublin 24; it's not far from here," he says.

"I have 100 kids already in a programme working with me. I am one of those kids who grew up. People respect me, they don't fear me. Respect lasts forever."

Breaking down the stigma of being from a council estate is another issue for Paddy.

He would like to see housing that is mixed in terms of affordability rather than segregating estates into council and private. He says: "I know because I have lived in it - this is Jobstown on this side of the road, then this is a private estate Springfield on the other side of the road. We were the scumbags, they were the posh kids. There is no such thing as a free house."

Irish Independent

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