In this issue I speak to Daniel Whooley (HE/HIM) who is 21 years old and is a Green party councilor for the Dublin 15 area and is also currently studying a degree in TUD- Blanchardstown. He talks about the challenges and experience of being a young person involved in a political party but also about being a councillor in Dublin.
‘’I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the success of the Green party coincides with society becoming more aware of the climate emergency because I think it starts to dawn on people that they turn to the party that has the strongest policy platform to tackle climate change and while the party has made mistakes in the past, the party has reformed and this has allowed a new generation of climate activists to get involved in politics, locally and nationally, and ensure that climate action is one of the key issues that is discussed but I don’t think that our rise in popularity is just due to the increased awareness in climate policy, we also have proposed some progressive measures when it comes to housing and transport as well as becoming one of the most socially progressive parties in country as show in the abortion referendum because the Yes vote among the greens was 88.9% one of the highest in the country to support campaigning and endorse change for bodily autonomy.
Being young and a councillor is intense to be honest and it’s taken a hit on my college grades! Trying to find a work/college balance is next to impossible as I find myself doing 60+ hours a week working on both. I am not complaining though, I absolutely love being a councillor because every day, every week, you find yourself working on a different topic. I have gone from planting trees to working on youth reform to trying to tackle the use of scrambler and moped use in public areas within a month of each other and I am a bit lucky though as I am only a 20-minute cycle from my Local Electoral Area (Ongar) and I can work from the college library so I can travel or work locally and I know that’s an issue for other councillors. The biggest issue must be the overlap of schedules, quite often you must sacrifice one meeting for a college lecture or lab and it’s all about balance.
I don’t think I am or at least I haven’t noticed being treated differently because of my age and/or experience. What I have noticed from my time in the council is that most councillors realise that everyone who is a councillor worked extremely hard to get elected. I can remember that on the last week of the election, I was out canvassing from 11am to 8pm every day, I had literally walked the soles off my boots. So did every other councillor. There have been some comments about my sense of style or the use of stickers on laptops, but it’s not spiteful but more a sign of the difference in generations than anything.
My responsibilities as a councillor is that you learn when you become a councillor is how the official power is allocated in government. It is split between the council, the executive (Departments and the chief executive) or national government. We have the power to amend, accept and reject development plans, local area plans, budgets etc… and to allocate the spending of a capital investment fund through motions but we cannot interfere with planning applications, housing allocation process and procurement processes in any way.
For me, my responsibilities are to become a strong, clear, and concise bridge of communication between the people of Ongar and the Council and that is a two-way direction. This involves raising issues like anti-social behaviour to policing committees or informing people about ensuring that strategic plans, road closures and consultation processes. I am still learning every day about my role on the council and I will for a while but I am lucky enough to have a strong team behind me in the Fingal Green councillors, the Dublin West Greens and friends and family to consult with on decisions.
If you are interested in politics and you are young like me, you want to get involved in becoming a councillor or TD I’d say Go For it! The decision I made to run was the best decision I have ever made in my life. You learn so much about people, their stories, their priorities, their experiences, and that was life changing for me.
By the end of the campaign, I had never had so much pride for my area because of what I had heard from those in the area and It means that now, in the job, what motivates you to continue every day is the pride you have you the area and that people believed that you were the best person to represent them but you also learn so many skills while running! I had a real fear of public speaking and I was an incredibly awkward person, but it was not long before I conquered both. You also learn to listen, not just hear and there is a big difference between the both. Most importantly you learn to talk and discuss with people in a respectable manor, there was many time where I fundamentally disagreed with people and discussions were intense but I learned to keep it professional and to mention that while I disagree with what they’re saying, that I appreciate the open conversation and discussion they had as they could’ve just as easily closed the door or get aggressive. Most importantly, always look to have fun and be yourself. It is not easy to put yourself out there for such a public position so when you do be yourself and enjoy it!
I do not know. Before the election I would have said I was a public activist by getting involved in marches and demonstrations whenever I can with the greens or Extinction Rebellion but I believe I can have a bigger impact on tackling the issues close to me, social, economic and climate justice and a just transition to a net zero carbon society but advocating and pushing though policies.
I have always believed that if you want change in a democratic society, you need two things; to generate the political will to lobby politicians and legislators who can translate the will into real, substantive policy. You can have all the political will in the world but if you cannot convert it into policy you cannot ensure its long-term success. You also have the best, most clear concise legislation written but if politicians do not believe it is in the best interest of the people or themselves, it will not pass’’.
While editing this piece, It dawned on me the lack of young people actually involved in politics, how career politicians dominate the political spectrum and how young people like myself struggle to decide who to vote for because we want to see change but find it hard to endorse a local canidate asking for my vote. I think more young people involved in activism need to follow in the footsteps of young people like Daniel because young people want change but are often blocked from mainstream politics and the important debates needed to have in our communities to inspire change.
If you live and/or studying in the Dublin 15 area, you can contact Daniel at Daniel.Whooley@greenparty.ie to discuss any issues or problems you would like addressed within your community.