Taoisigh-in-waiting? Meet the next generation of Ireland's young politicians
Dáil Éireann re-commenced after their summer break this week, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar celebrated his 100th day as Taoiseach at the National Ploughing Championships.
The homeless crisis, Brexit, the upcoming Budget and the garda dilemma are all topics of importance waiting for the Government. But what would the potential Taoisigh of the future do?
Independent.ie spoke to the next generation of Ireland's young politicians.
'I would tackle the homeless crisis by building sufficient levels of affordable homes and student housing, as well as social housing'
Ryan Jennings (20)
Chairperson of Sinn Féin UL Cumann
Second year student studying Electronic and Computer Engineering in the University of Limerick
On the biggest issue in society: The biggest issue at the moment facing this country is the neo-liberal capitalist agenda which is crippling our society. It has created the housing and health-care crises through under-funding of the public sector and allowing the private sector to fill the vacuum. This has been done by prioritising the private sector over our country. It's happening across the board and will lead to another economic crash not seen in modern Ireland unless people are put first rather than private interests.
On homelessness: I would tackle the homeless crisis by building more accommodation. Not just social housing, but sufficient levels of affordable homes and student housing also. I believe that these are the long-term solutions, rather than the short term ones being implemented at the moment, which are geared towards creating wealth in the private sector rather than ending homelessness.
On the gardaí: I think there needs to be serious reform in the whole structure of the Gardaí, but adequate staffing is crucial. Ordinary Gardaí are overworked and underpaid and are stretched to the limit.
'We need to repeal the 8th amendment and provide for free, safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland'
Kevin Donoghue (27)
Studied Legal Science and Philosophy in NUI Galway
On the biggest issue in society: The single biggest issue facing Ireland is how the political system is tackling the problems we face in society, especially since the last election. There can be a real lack of proper leadership in politics in Ireland. We are obsessed with scoring points off of one another and the loser is the ordinary citizen.
On homelessness: Regarding homelessness, a vacant property tax should be introduced. There are far too many vacant properties in areas where there is high demand. Secondly I would introduce measures to stop full property lets on sites like Air BnB. We also need a punitive site levy for developers sitting on land and doing nothing with it.
There is far too much talk of tax breaks for developers. All solutions seem to be geared towards putting money in the pockets of the wealthiest individuals. If we are to look at tax incentives as part of the solution for alleviating the crises they should focus on individuals who are renting one or two homes.
On repealing the 8th amendment: I am pro-choice. We need to repeal the 8th amendment and provide for free, safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland. The system as it currently stands violates women’s rights. The women that fly out of this country every day to access abortion services are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends and they need the support, not judgement, of the state.
'To tackle Brexit... we need to look to new markets and build on the networks Ireland already has abroad'
Marian O’Donnell (24)
President of Young Fine Gael
Studied History, Politics, Sociology and Social Studies from the University of Limerick, and has a Masters in Public Relations and Strategic Communications in DCU
On the biggest issue in society: I think the Urban/Rural divide is becoming more and more of an issue. As someone who is from Tipperary I feel that there are very few opportunities for young people to stay, work and live in their home counties. Over the next few years the consequences of this will begin to cause huge issues for the fabric of rural Ireland and also issues in the cities due to a lack of resources in areas such as housing, education facilities etc.
On Brexit: I would identify Ireland’s main priorities and work on communicating them effectively to our European colleagues. I would also say that the onus should be on the UK to come up with Border solutions – we don’t want a border or to give any suggestions of what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve a seamless a border. The UK have created this mess – let them suggest the solutions to fix it. We need to look to new markets and build on the networks Ireland already has abroad.
On Ireland's future in the EU: Although Ireland geographically is at the edge of Europe, our people are at the heart of it. I would see myself as both Irish and European and would not think that those two concepts contradict each other, but complement each other. Ireland, with a growing economy and people who believe in the values and views to which the EU is committed certainly belong in the EU.
'I think the biggest issue facing Ireland today is the lack of a clear vision for the future of the country'
James Doyle (28)
Uachtarán of Ógra Fianna Fáil
Qualified Financial Adviser working in financial services
The biggest issue in society: I think the biggest issue facing Ireland today is the lack of a clear vision for the future of the country. Irish politics for the past number of years has been dominated by crises, scandals, and reactive actions that the current Fine Gael led government has been at the heart of. Young people want change and a platform that sets out a credible plan for Ireland.
On homelessness: The current crisis has gone beyond homelessness - it is crippling a whole generation of young people and affecting older people who are seeking somewhere to live as well. The obvious answer is build more houses. There are thousands on the social housing lists in Dublin alone.
On Ireland's future in the EU: Ireland's future must be in the EU. On the whole I do not believe we should take the EU for granted and by that same token the EU institutions should not take citizens and member states for granted either. Ógra will continue to advocate for Irish interests on the European stage.
'Economic growth is meaningless without a similar growth in the quality of life for Irish citizens'
Nadia Reeves Long (25)
Young Green Chair
Graduate of economics and management from Trinity College
The biggest issue in society: Housing is the biggest issue currently facing modern Ireland. Economic growth is meaningless without a similar growth in the quality of life for Irish citizens. Ireland is one of the most developed countries in the world and yet having somewhere to live securely and call home is unfeasible for too many.
On Brexit: While I personally believe that the UK rushed into a stupid decision, I accept that the negotiations, and their end product, will have a significant and long lasting impact on Ireland and they must be handled with care. Under no circumstance can they be allowed to remain in the single market while rejecting the free movement of people. Ireland needs to work with the European institutions on this matter to ensure that the best deal is reached not only for Europe as a whole but also for Ireland, as the most affected entity.
On repealing the 8th amendment: The Irish government and society is failing all the individuals who are forced to travel to England by pretending they don’t exist and denying them access to free, safe, legal abortion. The 8th Amendment must absolutely be repealed and the recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly be implemented. The citizen’s assembly came up with those recommendations after going through a rigorous fact based process.