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Politics student hoping to make her mark

MULTI-TASKER Darcy Lonergan is pursuing a novel strategy for completing the field research component of her two college theses.

The 21-year-old politics student is contesting the general election for the Green Party in Cavan-Monaghan and is the country's youngest female candidate and second youngest overall -- just behind a Socialist Party candidate in Limerick.

By day, she travels from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, to NUI Maynooth, Co Kildare, on the bus and train.

By evening, she criss-crosses the constituency on a low-key canvass with two small teams of campaigners.

Come nightfall, the final-year student continues to write her theses on politics and sociology, which are due for submission in April.

One of them is about the barriers to women entering politics.

Ms Lonergan became a town councillor on Monday, having been co-opted on to a seat she originally failed to win in the 2009 local elections.

She took part in her first town council meeting that evening and had her election literature delivered to every household in the constituency on Tuesday.

Fielding mobile phone calls during lectures, she gets some abusive calls and text messages.

The Greens have become known as the "tax party", she concedes.

In her home town the reception is warm but uncommitted.

Many doors are unanswered, even when keys have been left in the front door keyhole or the door has been left ajar. Those who do emerge want to know why she is running, or politely raise the question of her age.

"I have four years' experience. No, I don't know everything, but I have a foundation to build on," she says.

"When you go looking for a job as a young person, they want you to have experience. But if they want us, they need to give us that experience," she adds.

Focusing on middle-class estates in towns, rather than rural areas, the attention is on green, youth and women issues.

And when a woman opens the door, that thesis theme is relayed with passion and vigour.

"I'm young, I'm 21 and women only make up 13.9pc in politics. We need to address that. We need more women in politics," she tells them.

There is no recognition factor with voters.

One commits to keeping an "open mind" but often the door closes almost as soon as it has opened.

Fianna Fail's Margaret Conlon became the first female TD elected to the constituency in 2007 after she ran as the lone female voice.

This time, however, Ms Conlon and Ms Lonergan are among five women seeking a seat.

Despite their efforts, many women are not being taken seriously, according to Ms Lonergan.

"I'm getting text messages more about what I look like, which is really annoying because you're like, do I have to do one or the other? Do I have to dress down and not put on make-up? And because you're a woman and you push the women issues, they think you have nothing else," she says.

Despite her upbeat demeanour there is a quiet acceptance that she is simply helping to make up the numbers, enabling the Greens to claim it is running candidates in all constituencies.

A Dail seat is not within reach.

Irish Independent