Sunday 17 December 2017

'I will get my hair cut when I get a chance' - Fianna Fail TD Jack Chambers on social media abuse

Youngest TD Jack Chambers. Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Youngest TD Jack Chambers. Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Political game face: AAA candidate Ruth Coppinger and Fianna Fail’s new TD in Dublin West, Jack Chambers.
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

He's the country's youngest TD and has faced a torrent of social media abuse since his success at the General Election but he is not letting any of it bother him.

Fianna Fail's Jack Chambers (25) says he doesn't track social media to see what comments are written about him.

He has undergone something of a baptism of fire online, with Twitter users writing - rather negatively, in some cases - about his hair. However, when asked if he is annoyed that his mop-top generated so much discussion on social media he says that it doesn't bother him and he didn't read any of it.

"I get on with my job. There are bigger issues to focus on. But look, I will get my hair cut when I get a chance."

With the intensity of the campaign to get elected, he says he simply didn't have time to go out and get it cut - but hopes to do so in the next three weeks.

READ MORE: Why Twitter snipers love to hate new boy Jack 

Seeing as there is such interest in his hair, he is hoping a charity could reap the benefits. Chambers says he is going to make a donation to a charity himself and will publicise the beneficiary online and hope people will contribute towards what would effectively be a sponsored haircut for the charity.


He says that he didn't look at the comments online, but heard about them.

READ MORE: Fianna Fail's Jack Chambers trends on Twitter as users poke fun at new TD 

"If you go tracking what everyone is saying about you online, you would be forever distracting yourself from the proper business of politics."

Getting elected to the Dail was the priority and a great relief, Chambers admits. He took a seat in Dublin West, a seat that Fianna Fail lost after the death of former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in 2011.

He says he enjoyed meeting many of his new colleagues at the first parliamentary party meeting last week.

Chambers said he raised the issue of water charges, because there has been a lot of confusion around the issue.

"My own view is that Irish Water has been a quango that has been a failure since the start. I think the water charge is a negative imposition on a lot of families.

"But there are a lot of families who have also paid, so Fianna Fail's position is we want to abolish Irish Water.

"However, those who have paid have done so in good faith and that needs to be recognised.

"There is a legal obligation, you can't retrospectively change legislation or charges, so those who haven't paid will owe that payment."

Chambers says that no party or Government can just waive any charge that was owed. However, they can look at future charges.


Meanwhile, with anecdotal evidence now suggesting that many of the householders who paid the first two rounds of bills are now thinking twice about paying any more, the question is being asked: will people pay?

Chambers says that we don't know what the outcome of the next few weeks is going to be.

"To be honest, no-one knows what is or isn't going to happen, or who will or won't be deciding on government policies so, it is up to people themselves, but we are in an uncertain and unstable political period, that is the reality of it.

"But I think what will happen in the coming Dail is that, more than likely whatever party is in government will be in Government on a minority basis.

"There will have to be a much less partisan approach to government policy, and there will have to be a much more inclusive approach to decisions around the core issues of charges and public services."

He says there are a lot of social challenges around housing and homelessness, and this is going to be one of his priorities.

Families are being placed in hotels across Dublin city, based on where rooms are available, and therefore facing long commutes to their schools in Dublin 15, which is having an enormous impact on them, he says.

Chambers was born in Galway, to Mayo parents, and moved to Dublin West at the age of two. He was inspired to get into politics by the late Brian Lenihan.

"My father was a friend of his and I suppose he used to be in the house when I was growing up. I began by dropping leaflets for him in my teenage years and canvassing and campaigning for him when I became an adult.

"There was a natural progression there," he adds.

Chambers made it clear during the recent election campaign that he comes from a pro-life position.

"I respect democracy as well. And our party's position is that there is a freedom of conscience for all TDs in the party," he says.


One of the other new Fianna Fail TDs to be elected under the age of 30 is Lisa Chambers (29) from Castlebar, but they are not directly related, even though they would both have some family roots in the town of Newport.

Given his tender years, emigration is also an issue.

"The youth are still under-represented in Irish politics. A lot of my own friends have left the country and are dotted throughout the world, so I think it is important that issues around emigration are addressed."

A massive sports fan, he follows the Dublin and Mayo GAA teams and Liverpool.

Now the long campaign is over, he hopes to be able to take time out to pay five-a-side soccer with his friends again - as well as fit in a haircut, of course.

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