Personal Account #4912

As part of the Irish Left Archive project, we are gathering personal accounts and recollections from activists on the Left of their involvement in political activity, parties, organisation and campaigns.

We hope that in addition to the document archive, these accounts will provide a social context to political participation. If you are or have been involved in Left political activity of any kind or at any level, we'd be grateful if you would also add your experience to the collection. You can submit your account here

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Niall #4912

So, I guess this can fall under first political experiences. I grew up in a semi-rural South Kilkenny village. I had your typical middle-class upbringing, my mom being a teacher and my dad a small business owner. My mom isnt really political at all, but my dad is (something I didn’t fully realise while growing up). My dad is deeply involved in Fine Gael, as is his entire family. So deep into Fine Gael are that side of my extended family that my Grandad was a blue shirt, and a few of his cousins had been jailed for their membership. So that was the atmosphere I grew up in, naturally hating Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein. I remember one time at a st Patrick’s parade when I was between maybe 9 and 13, one of the marching bands taking part were a republican band. As they passed by, I remember my dad whispering to me about how evil these people were, that they were thugs and gangsters.

I had grown up with a deep love for reading and history. In secondary school History and English was where I excelled. But I hated Irish. I became so stressed about how bad I was and how angry I was with it being a mandatory subject that I became politically minded. My parents, tired of hearing me constantly complain, basically said ‘if you are so angry, do something about it’. And so I did; I joined Young Fine Gael. I had increasingly become aware of the social and economic problems present in both Ireland and the world, having lived through the 2008 crash. I was also, as many of my generation are, very concerned about the Palestinian crisis. As you might have guessed I was in for a shock joining YFG with those attitudes. My father would consider himself on the ‘left wing of Fine Gael’, and so I had grown up assuming that my father’s views, being quite socially liberal and even a bit economically to the left, were going to be mirrored in the party I had just joined. I was very wrong. YFG was a sesspit of the most reactionary teenagers the middle classes had to offer. I didn’t last a year.

Despite my experiences in YFG, I was only becoming increasingly political, and left wing. I decided to join Labour youth. To my utter dismay, they didn’t have an active branch in my area. I inquired about joining the branch that seemed to be active in the Tipperary but it turned out that they weren’t doing much either. I was looking at attending the University of Limerick after the leaving cert, and thinking ahead I emailed national asking about whether there was any branch there. I didn’t receive a reply. About 6 months had passed at this point, and I was tired of sitting on my butt reading Noam Chomsky. It was becoming increasingly clear that Labour were not the party for me. I started college, and politics took a side seat for year. And then covid hit. Again, finding myself at home I decided to do some research on the other left-wing parties in country. Most of the parties associated with republicanism were a no-go for a couple of reasons. Firstly, most were very small and inactive around Kilkenny, where I was stuck. Secondly, I didn’t really consider myself a ‘republican’ at the time, and lifetime of anti-sinn fein, anti IRA propaganda from my father was hard to shake off. And thirdly, I would have been disowned by my very large family had I gotten involved with republicanism of any sort! So, I eventually decided on People before Profit. To my surprise there was an active and lively branch in Kilkenny/Carlow, and after my experience with the dead body that was LY I was delighted to see any sort of life and activity I could get involved with. Im still with PBP today. Despite the fact Im not a republican, I have no doubt that my grandad would be spinning in his grave knowing a descendant of his is a socialist