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6 October 2011

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Dublin can make it 15

Paul Donnelly with his brother Alan and Daithí Doolan at a Sinn Féin protest outside government buildings

PAUL DONNELLY is Sinn Féin’s candidate in the Dublin West by-election to be held on October 27th (the same day as the Presidential election) to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Fianna Fáil Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
Currently Chairperson of Dublin Sinn Féin, among Paul’s many accomplishments are being a founding member of the Local Drugs Task Force in Dublin 15, contributing as a community delegate in the Safer Blanchardstown Forum, and undertaking a community policing initiative tackling crime.
RAY WALSH spoke to Paul at his home just before the All-Ireland Final with the prospects for the Dubs adding to the tension and pressures of work and campaigning. Tragically, it took place just days before Paul’s father, John, passed away.

ENTERING Paul Donnelly’s home, you’re immediately greeted by an eye-catching 1916 Proclamation. It’s not just a decoration for Paul Donnelly - it’s his creed.
He’s a mentor for his local GAA club and a dyed-in-the-wool Dubs fan. Alongside his brother, Alan, an almost ever-present figure on Sinn Féin protests and activities, the blue theme evokes an image of The Blues Brothers. Is Paul on ‘A mission from God’? He’s certainly dedicated to doing his best in Dublin West.

Sinn Féin has 14 TDs in the Dáil as we speak - could you make it 15?
That’s the aim. Dublin West - Dublin 15 - can make it 15.
Sinn Féin TDs are making a difference in the Dáil and are challenging the failed policies of Fianna Fáil that have been picked up and are being rolled out by Fine Gael and Labour. Sinn Féin is the only significant opposition.

The Labour Party candidate is seen as being on the left of Labour but this cuts little ice with Paul Donnelly.
I have a lot of respect for the Labour candidate personally but he is still standing for the Labour Party - the Labour Party of Minister Joan Burton, the Labour Party of the ‘Consensus for Cuts’. There’s no getting away from that.
The Labour and Fine Gael candidates are representng their parties in Government. A vote for Fine Gael or Labour – or Fianna Fáil – is a vote to continue bailing out bankers while penalising the public through cutting wages, slashing jobs and axing services.
Sinn Féin has a better way to solve the financial crisis and put this country back on its feet. The Dublin West by-election gives voters a chance to send a strong message to Fine Gael and Labour - who are following Fianna Fáil policies - by voting Sinn Féin.

What are the main issues in Dublin West?
The key targets are jobs, health, education  and crime reduction.
Unemployment has rocketed in Dublin West from 2,500 to around 9,000! A phenomenal rise of almost 400%.
The A&E Department in Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown has been cut by €20million in the last two years. There’s been a major campaign by Sinn Féin to support the hospital and the staff there.

As a worker in a schools completion programme, education is a key area for Paul Donnelly.
In terms of education, the area grew disproportionately with development. The population exploded and, perhaps more than any other area, gained a multicultural perspective which was not adequately provided for by the authorities. English support teachers were removed, which was incredible as there are up to 80 nationalities in some schools. They are now removing Special Needs Assistants, catering for the most vulnerable sector of our community, which is beyond shocking.

As in many developing areas, anti-social behaviour has been an issue. A leaflet distributed by the IRSP locally hasn’t helped.
First of all, we need to support the police, the Garda, and Fingal County Council. But we also have to challenge them in regards to what they’re doing in areas such as Parlickstown to actually try and stop what is dreadful behaviour, particularly if they are not doing their job properly.
Everybody in the community has to be included in this.
We need to work with the youth of the community. Young people who are engaged in these activities need to be convinced this is wrong and brought in from the cold. And we need to work with the Health Service Executive who provide family support on these issues.
The IRSP response to this is both populist and short-term. It is actually very dangerous to the many law-abiding residents in the area. Vigilante tactics are wrong and not the way to go. It’s delusional to think this can work.

Paul says that cuts in jobs, benefits and social supports will surely only lead to a rise in anti-social behaviour and crime.
It’s no excuse for it but there’s a huge amount of evidence that as the state puts more and more pressure on working-class people. With 450,000 people unemployed, benefits cut and further charges on the way, how can anybody be surprised when crime rises even further?

Paul’s day job and voluntary work brings him into contact with teenagers trying to achieve something for themselves in a society where the options for them are becoming fewer and fewer.
He works for the HSE, in a school completion programme initiative for students who are in danger of leaving school early. He also does two days a week in a Youthreach centre. Youthreach is a programme of education, training and work experience for early school leavers provided in an out-of-school setting. The aim is to develop the core skills required by young people, 15 to 20 years of age, to access second-chance further education and employment.
The question for many of the young people I work with is ‘What future is there for me here, in my own country?’ That’s tragic. It is a sad indictment that the Government’s focus seems to be more on bailing out the banks and paying the debts of rich speculators than providing real opportunities for the vast majority of Irish citizens who don’t have the luxury of wealth and privileges.

Paul is heavily involved in Peregrine’s GAA Club in Blanchardstown and Gaelic games are another big passion of his. (We were talking before Dublin’s All-Ireland victory.)
I mentor under-16s and coach nursery kids from 4 to 8 years. I start with a new cycle of 8-year-olds in January and I find it very rewarding. The GAA is a fantastic organisation and what’s happening in Dublin GAA circles this season is a testament that if you put the money in, you will get your rewards.

Fianna Fáil is now out of power and Fine Gael/Labour is back in – any difference?
That sense of entitlement by those in power that bred a culture of blatant corruption, arrogance and greed has, to a degree, gone. Unfortunately, though, they put themselves in a straitjacket and swallowed the whole EU/IMF bail-out deal. So it’s the same old tired policies with the people who need help the most being hit with more and more cuts.
White-collar crime still prevails with the people who caused the recession walking off into the sunset with no jail time and still healthy bank balances and very good lifestyles. It’s horrendous really. While the new Fine Gael/Labour coalition didn’t cause the recession, they have done absolutely nothing to ease the burden on people trying to get by.

So is this a good time for republican politics?
With the 100-year anniversaries of the 1913 Lock-Out and the 1916 Easter Rising coming up, it’s a fantastic time to be a republican. People have to decide where we go from here - what sort of Ireland do we want not just for ourselves but for our children.
From a republican perspective we need to fully reignite the flame and work towards our goal of achieving what the 1916 Proclamation stated. That’s what the real Constitution should be about — it’s for the people, by the people, and if we had followed these guidelines over the years, none of this mess would have happened in the first place.
That’s the goal, that’s our vision: create a society where people don’t have to make a choice between food and paying electricity bills or their mortgage.

The Dublin West Constituency

DUBLIN WEST is a four-seat Dáil constituency. The sitting TDs include two Government ministers: Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar (Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport) and Labour’s Joan Burton (Minister for Social Protection). The Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins is also a sitting TD and the fourth seat was held by the late Fianna Fáil Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan.
Dublin West is said to be probably the most redrawn constituency in recent years. The constituency is currently made up of the Castleknock and most of the Mulhuddart electoral areas of Fingal. It encompasses Mulhuddart, Corduff, Blanchardstown, Castleknock, Carpenterstown, Barberstown, Clonsilla and Ongar.


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