"Today’s Ireland Is A Different Country": Interview With Local Election Candidate Eoghan Howe

Molly Geoghegan interviews Eoghan Howe, the Fine Gael Candidate for Dublin 8 in the upcoming local elections in May.

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With the words ‘Fair, Honest, Progress’ as his by-line, Eoghan Howe hopes he has the temperament and tenacity for good politics. Running for Dublin City Council in Dublin 8, you may recognize him as one of the many faces you’ve seen posted on lamp posts all over the Liberties, Inchicore and Kilmainham.

Meeting Eoghan, you’d think his sociable and genuinely warm demeanour would have paved a clear pathway to politics. However, this was not always the case for the Kildare native.

Eoghan cites the characters on Will and Grace or the original Queer Eye as the only positive representations of young LGBT+ people he saw growing up. This lack of representation made it hard to envisage where he could find his place in his own country. Eoghan was convinced that opportunities, for him, were only available through a one-way departing flight from Dublin Airport.

“I first got politicised as a teenager, when I realised that I was gay and I felt that that limited my opportunities. It got me angry. At that point, I just wanted to leave Ireland. I thought I wouldn’t really be able to live my life the way I wanted here.”

When Eoghan was 15, he found Belong To—at the time, a small Dublin-only youth organisation—he met other young members of the LGBT+ community. For the first time, he came into contact with people his age who were facing the same issues, asking themselves the same questions. “Taking the bus to Dublin from Carlow every week allowed me to find my community and for the first time, feel that I could find my place in this country.”

At a time when barriers had felt very real, the resources to break them down finally seemed accessible—thus, Dublin became “home”. “It’s where I could first be myself. It’s where I came into adulthood and where I found myself as a person. And for that, I’m very thankful for the city. It’s where I’m connected with people in my own right.

Living and running for a council seat in Dublin 8, Eoghan continues: “I love the inner city. There’s such a sense of history here. There are generations and generations of people that have lived in the Liberties—the area has been changing and adapting for the best part of a millennium. There are lots of things happening which can be challenging but there are so many ways we can look after those who call the inner city home and improve this part of our city for them.”

An avid cycler, Eoghan is committed to establishing better transport and cycling infrastructure. “I love cycling. I think it’s one of the best ways to get around. The fact that’s it’s still perceived as dangerous is unacceptable for something that really is a social good, healthy for people and better for the environment.”

Eoghan equally acknowledges there are certainly more improvements that can be made. More green spaces, public services and addressing the housing crisis are also on his would-be ‘To-Do’ as a Dublin City Council member. “I’m a progressive person, I don’t believe in looking back nostalgically at the past. I think we always have to look forward and see how we can make the future better.”

These values attracted Eoghan to Fine Gael, the party he sees as key to driving social progress in Ireland. “While some people see Fine Gael as conservative, the party, particularly under Leo Varadkar’s leadership, has a strong socially progressive identity. This Government has worked with civil society to introduce marriage equality and repeal the 8th amendment. Now Fine Gael are proposing to liberalise the Irish divorce regime, twenty-five years after removing the constitutional ban on divorce in the first place. 

“Irish society is generally very centrist and Fine Gael have been instrumental in bringing Middle Ireland on board and developing broad consensus around issues that have proved much more difficult to deal with in other countries. There is a lot more work to do but Fine Gael is taking Ireland forward and building a progressive Republic where everybody has the opportunity to realise their potential.”

When asked why it is important that public figures be ‘out’, he replies: “The lack of role models when I was growing up had a huge impact on me and what I thought was possible for myself. Today’s Ireland is a different country even within my own party with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, the leader of the Seanad, Jerry Buttimer and our North-West MEP candidate Maria Walsh all strong LGBT+ role models. Personally I was never one to hide myself from anyone. In a way, it’s very hard to separate me being a gay person from me being a political person because they’re totally, intrinsically linked in my eyes. Being gay, I had to acknowledge both to myself that we have to fight to have our own voice in society.”

Eoghan counts himself among the throngs of young people participating in a highly politicized time. “I think it it’s important for my generation and younger people to go out there and shout about stuff and get involved in politics. While it is good to get involved with referendums, it is also necessary to participate in the nuts and bolts of coal face politics where the less glamorous, but no less important, progress is made.”

We’ve come a long way to reach the Ireland of today, where people don’t have to leave the country to be themselves. Indeed, many move here to be free and live the lives they choose. Eoghan remarks, “We didn’t get here easily. I’m going to try my best to make sure we don’t stop progressing here in Dublin on a local level.”

For updates on what Eoghan is up to, check out his Facebook page: @Eoghan4Dublin

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

This post is sponsored by Eoghan Howe

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