Pádraig O'Sullivan: Fianna Fáil has to be more relevant to younger voters

"It's all about housing," says Padraig O' Sullivan, who retained his seat in Cork north central last month.

Pádraig O'Sullivan: Fianna Fáil has to be more relevant to younger voters

"It’s all about housing," says Pádraig O'Sullivan, who retained his seat in Cork north central last month.

He's back in Dublin as government formation talks continue. And because he’s not part of the negotiating team, he’s knee deep in constituency work.

At 35, he's considered one of the youngsters in his party, a former school teacher with a masters degree in politics, who has faced down three elections in the last year, after being elected in the local election, then taking Billy Kelleher’s seat in the by-election, then fighting for the job again just three months later.

Although he doesn’t fear another election, he says: "Don’t tell my wife I said that, after the three elections we’ve had and we’re expecting a second child, she’ll kill me if she hears me saying that."

Mr Sullivan considers himself progressive who ran for election for the first time as an independent before joining Fianna Fáil, and has no strong family ties to any political party, he refers to his family as "mixed" when it comes to their politics, but says he found Fianna Fáil a "natural fit".

"I got involved in politics in 2011, electorally for the first time, that was the time when Fianna Fáil were at their lowest support, but I genuinely feel that they’re the party that appeal to working class voters," he said.

"I’m a public sector worker for myself and as teacher, Fianna Fáil are traditionally the party of education, that influenced me.

"I would have seen in my community or heard about the positive things that contributed to our community from politicians from our party.

"It just felt like a natural fit. I just found through all my community work and liaising with all types of politicians and Fianna Fáil were a natural fit for me.

I believe in social justice, and I believe that Fianna Fáil has that kind of moral compass or social consciousness that reflects those values.

"I would always class myself as left of centre, whether it’s through taxation or through social issues."

Like almost all politicians in the Dáil, O’Sullivan says housing is the primary issue on all his constituents lips.

"Every politician will be telling you it’s housing, this not necessarily social housing, it’s affording a mortgage, it’s the rent, not everybody’s looking for a council house or social house, some people are just looking to get a property," he said.

"I think housing will have to be the main focus of the next government. Another big issue for Cork is the issue of special needs for children, waiting lists for consultants and psychologists.

"As a teacher I got an awful lot of those concerns and trying to help families in those situations."

On where his party goes next, Mr O Sullivan says concentrating on winning back younger voters and women should be a priority.

"I come from a younger generation, and Sinn Féin is running far superior social media campaigns than any other party and I suppose that’s evidenced in the amount of shares, likes and access to their different social media platforms.

Undoubtedly look at the polls, anytime you do a demographic breakdown it shows that we’re not doing as well amongst younger people, as we are older people.

"We need to make ourselves more appealing and relevant. The days of coming from long lines of Fianna Fáilers, those days are gone, people want policy, especially younger people.

"It’s wrong to believe young people aren’t that interested in politics."

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