Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, TDs, Senators, fellow councillors, Micheál Martin. It’s an honour and a privilege to be here at the National Youth Conference, speaking to you all today.
This isn’t the first National Youth Conference I’ve been to. I’ve been sat in those seats too. Sat waiting for whoever’s talking to hurry up so the leader can start. So I won’t keep you long.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m David McGuinness. I’m 25 and from Corduff in Dublin West.
I’m a part time secondary school teacher, who teaches music and history. I play music too, having been a member of the National Youth Orchestra and other groups up until recent years. I’m a Liverpool fan.
And I’m also very proud to say I’m a loyal member of Ógra and Fianna Fáil.
Over the course of the conference a lot of people have been asking me how a young person goes about become a representative for the party. Well all I can tell you is how it happened for me.
I first became interested in politics and Fianna Fáil through people. I’m sure that’s similar to a lot of you. Our party has always been about people. Our members are our greatest strength.
I started by helping out my local lollipop lady who was running for the county council. After that I started getting more involved and it wasn’t long before I came in contact with the late Brian Lenihan.
Brian was an amazing man. Anyone who has ever come across him will tell you he was a fantastic politician. From early on he took me under his wing. He was always providing tips and advice. He was teaching me how to be a politician.
So a couple of years ago in 2009, I was honoured when Brian and others from Fianna Fáil suggested that I should run for the party in the Local Elections. I ran in the Mulhuddart area and was delighted to be elected receiving just over 1,200 votes.
Fast forward to this year. As well all know now, Brian wasn’t well. He approached me at the start of the General Election campaign and asked me to run to support him in his bid to be re-elected. He figured he would need a sweeper candidate to help him get over the line.
Given the mood of the public we both knew I wouldn’t be getting elected, a fact Brian made quite clear to me. But when Brian Lenihan asked you for a favour you didn’t turn him down.
It was a horrible election for everyone in Fianna Fáil. We all felt that. But thanks to Brian’s amazing record of public service we were delighted when we got him elected to Leinster House once more.
The only regret was that he had so little time after his election. May he Rest in Peace.
That led us to the Bye Election for Brian’s seat. Again it was a really big honour to be selected by the members of the party to run. I knew I had huge shoes to fill. But Brian had always encouraged me, he had always had faith in me. I wanted to put in a performance that he would be proud of.
A lot of pundits were writing us off before and during the Bye Election campaign. They were looking only at the General Election last February. They were seeing the results then and saying Fianna Fáil didn’t have a hope.
But these pundits weren’t out in Dublin West. From the early days of the campaign what was clear to me was there had been a real change in the mood of the public.
While there had been occasions last February when we’d been terrified of knocking on doors, it wasn’t like that this time. The anger was gone. People were listening to us. Engaging with us. They were interested in what we had to say.
Looking at you all now I’m seeing so many familiar faces. People who gave up their time and energy to help me on the campaign. I will never be able to thank you enough for all you did for me.
But I’m sure all of you who were involved will be able to back me up on this point.
Fianna Fáil was no longer a dirty expression during our campaign. We were far from toxic. Our voters were making themselves known again.
I remember being in the car park of one local shopping centre early on during the campaign. A man made a bee line for me. I was convinced he was about to let me have it.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
He said he was delighted to see a young man running for Fianna Fáil. He said the party needed new faces and new ideas. Most importantly he said I would be getting his Number 1 and that of all his family.
I could keep you here all night with short stories like that. But what really matters is the end result.
Even as recently as the Sunday before the election there were newspaper articles saying that it would be between Fine Gael, Labour and the Socialists for the seat. They were writing us off.
So it must have come as a real shock to these so called pundits when the returning officer announced we had come second, gaining 7,575 first preference votes. That was 21.7% of the vote, thousands of votes ahead of Fine Gael and ahead of the Socialists too.
It wasn’t just the first preferences that were coming through. I also managed to collect a large amount of transfers, which ensured that I came second overall.
Ok, obviously I would have loved to be elected, but really I was delighted with the result. It shows there is a strong Fianna Fáil vote out there and I hope that it will set me up well for next time.
In the days after the count I couldn’t help but think of that man I met in the shopping centre car park. The point he made about the party needing young candidates with fresh ideas and lots of energy really struck a chord.
As I’ve been meeting with people at this youth conference, I can’t help but think that you all are the kind of people that man was talking about.
I’ve seen so much energy, so many ideas, so much passion.
The fact is that we all are the future of this party. We all are proud to be members of Ógra and Fianna Fáil.
Not one pundit would dare write this party off if they had been here this weekend and met the delegates. No matter how anti Fianna Fáil they are, they would have to be impressed by the young people who make up this party.
Of course being a young candidate isn’t enough. You have to want it. You have to work really hard throughout the campaign. It also helps if you have a supportive team behind you.
I was touched to have so many people from the party come and help out on my campaign. So many members of Ógra and senior members of the party contributed to the result. Members came from all over the country. We couldn’t have done it without them.
The politicians also really got involved and I was very grateful to have so many TDs, Senators and Councillors come to Dublin West. I learnt a lot from talking to them, learning from their experiences.
But I have to give a special mention to one man in particular.
Throughout the campaign this man really rolled up his sleeves and took a major interest in the Bye Election. He was out canvassing with me several times every week. He was knocking on doors, talking to parents outside school yards, handing out leaflets… even standing at junctions waving to the commuters with me. He could not have done more to help.
At the same time he was overseeing the renewal of the party on a national level. He was representing us in the Dáil, in the media and making every effort to present a positive, fresh image for the party.
Fianna Fáil may have had a very difficult year, but I have no doubt that under this man things will be different. We the members of Ógra and the members of Fianna Fáil will have a bright future thanks to his leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen I give you, Fianna Fáil Leader, Micheál Martin.