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Meet The 21-Year-Old Student Running For The Dáil

Meet The 21-Year-Old Student Running For The Dáil

On Saturday February 7, Ireland will go to the polls. This election will not only feature the same old faces 'looking for your Number 1'. There are some exciting new faces running for office. People like 21-year-old TCD student Tate Donnelly. Tate is running for the Green Party in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency.

We chatted with Tate about how he got into politics, the political mood amongst young Irish people, why he chose the Green Party and his vision for the country.

Tell us about yourself and how you got into politics

Tate: I’m 21. I live on the border near Castleblayney in Monaghan. I’m running for the Green Party in Cavan-Monaghan. I’m the youngest candidate in the country running for the Dáil. 

I’m a third-year student in math and economics in Trinity. I also work with TASC (the Thinktank on Action and Social Change) where I research climate justice. I joined the Green Party a couple of years ago. I was quite angry about the housing crisis and the lack of action on climate, and then there was issues like rural transport letting us down, so I became quite politically active on social issues and climate issues. I decided to join the Green Party because I felt they aligned most with me. 

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Last year, I founded the Young Greens group in Trinity and I’m the chair of it. I was elected to the Green Party executive committee last year as well. 

Were you always planning to run for the Dáil?

It wasn’t on my radar. You have to be 21 and I just turned 21. But the election was called, and we needed someone to be nominated in Cavan-Monaghan, and a number of people asked me to do it and put me forward for it, so I decided to go for it. It wasn’t something that was on my radar. I was involved in lots of political campaigns, but I suppose I just took the opportunity when it came. 

What's the mood like amongst students ahead of this election? Are students active to create change or disillusioned with the system?

It comes from a certain anger with politics. You can look at it [the political situation in Ireland] and be angry about it, and I think some people become very active out of that, and some people just don’t bother at all. I definitely think young people do feel a bit left behind and don’t feel like they’re welcome in politics. We saw a quote from a senator last year saying young people should stay at home and enjoy themselves and stay out of politics. Things like that affect young people. With the climate crisis and the housing crisis, I think people are really starting to get angry. 

How would you describe the level of engagement that young Irish people have with their national politics?

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I think students are fully engaged with the issues but perhaps not fully engaged with the political process. That comes from that disillusionment. I think young people feel that bit left behind and feel that anger and they really don’t know the best place to put that. We’ve seen some extreme views develop over the last couple of years. I think there’s a real feeling amongst young people across the country, in rural Ireland and in Dublin as well that something’s not right in the system. That’s where these extreme views have come from. I think if something’s not right in the system, then we need to change it. 

One of the reasons I’m running is to raise awareness among young people. And to try to tell young people ‘you should be active in politics’. It is something we’re lucky enough to be able to do. I want to advertise to everyone that they should register to vote. I want to encourage people to get active, regardless if whether it’s on my side or not, to educate themselves on the issues and get active and vote on Election Day.

Do you feel the politics of the Green Party best represent the issues that matter most to young people?

I do think the Green Party is the party that speaks to the issues of young people in particular. I really do admire the principles of the Green Party on social justice and climate action and on giving a future for everyone, and I get really sick of the old politics of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. The Green Party actually want system change. 

Your campaign has gotten a lot of positive feedback on social media. Does social media make campaigning easier in a rural constituency like Cavan-Monaghan? 

Social media speaks to a certain group of people and they seem to be responding very well to the message. Obviously it's important  to call in at every door. It has to be a diverse movement. So I’m trying to speak to absolutely everyone I can. My phone number is on my campaign posters. People can email me, call me, contact me on social media and meet me on the hustings. 

What's your vision for the future of Ireland, and your party's vision for Ireland?

We imagine a kind of Ireland where there’s strong local development across the country. It involves safe and sustainable jobs. It involves towns in particular coming back to life. It involves people living in rural Ireland not having to move away. It involves vibrant main streets.

You're running for the Dáil because you believe that the climate crisis can be remedied via democratic action. How might that happen?

It has to involve everyone. I don’t think anyone gets a free pass. It has to be fair on everyone. The reality in Ireland is we haven’t done our bit yet. Now is our time, now is our chance to do our bit in this election. The average emissions per person in Ireland is higher that in most countries in the developing world. We’re lagging behind even European targets.  We’re in the first world. We’re in Europe. We’re in a wealthy country. We have the option to change our ways. Climate is a justice issue. We’re causing droughts in countries whose carbon footprint is much less than ours, we’re causing the ice to melt and the extinction of animals. We haven’t even come close to doing our bit yet. 

You can follow Tate on Facebook and Twitter

Donny
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