Declan Breathnach is a Fianna Fáil TD, first elected in 2016. Declan (61) is a resident of Knockbridge and has two adult children, Cian and Meabh. A former schoolteacher and principal, Declan has worked at Dunleer National School and latterly as principal at Walshestown National School in Clogherhead.
Before his election to Dáil Éireann four years ago, he sat on Louth County Council for 25 years, chairing the body twice. He replaced the outgoing Fianna Fáil TD Seamus Kirk on the ticket in 2016.
Declan is currently Fianna Fáil’s Junior spokesperson on North-South Bodies & Cross-Border Co-operation.
Editor’s Note: All candidates running in the Louth constituency received the same questions.
/ What would you describe as your personal ‘signature’ issue in this election?
Housing, the number of vacant units continues to drive me mad when you see the number of people on housing lists. There are currently 4,826 on the Housing List in Co. Louth; the homeless figures continue to rise; soaring rents and no security of tenure striking fear into tenants who could become homeless at any time; we must have a workable affordable housing scheme to allow ordinary paid workers the dream of owning their own home.
/ Why should someone vote for you/your party?
Since my election to Dáil Éireann in 2016, I have been passionate every single day about representing the people of Louth and Coastal Meath. I’ve been a life-long community activist, and for the 25 years before my election to the Dáil, I had worked relentlessly on Louth County Council to improve the lives of everyone in our community, in addition to being a school teacher / school principal. I believe that I have the experience, the commitment and the fundamental understanding of the issues and challenges facing this area to continue to represent the Louth constituency at a national level. This election is a clear choice between more of the same from Fine Gael or a new government led by Fianna Fáil which will deliver faster progress on vital issues such as health, housing and the cost of living.
/ Whether you are a new candidate or seeking re-election, what drove you to stand for public office?
I have always had a passion for serving my community and striving to help others with difficult issues facing them in their lives. I have always believed that the best way to try to effect real change is to go into public life and speak up for my community. I have been privileged to represent the constituency both at local authority level for 25 years and the past 4 years in Dáil Éireann and believe that having that platform is the greatest way to bring the challenges facing the constituency of Louth to the fore and through that work to bring about change.
/ What, in your opinion, is the most pressing issue in the Louth constituency?
Crime obviously with the feud going on in Drogheda, but also rural crime and the fact that there are people living in fear in their own homes. Fianna Fáil wish to bring Ireland’s Garda force up to 16,000 and to introduce new gangland laws to tackle feuding drug cartels. I have campaigned for more rural CCTV to act as a deterrent but this needs to be monitored by the local Gardaí which I have established through correspondence with the Data Commissioner is allowed. People deserve to feel safe in their homes and on the streets in their communities.
/ Do you believe that society works for all? Explain your answer and if not, how do you propose to change that?
No. Fianna Fáil want An Ireland for All, and will implement policies to benefit those who have been overlooked by the current Government. Right now there are 10,000 homeless people, many families with young children which is shameful. Fianna Fáil’s plan includes action on the full range of housing issues, from the private rented sector and social housing through to affordable homes. Access to healthcare for all, not just those fortunate enough to afford private healthcare. Fianna Fáil’s plans for health will deliver a significant improvement in access to health when needed. We will hire the health professionals required and target immediate progress on the worst blockages in the system. We will also deliver the accessible mental health service our country urgently needs.
/ What message would you give people who feel alienated by the political system and who do not intend to cast a vote on February 8?
I always tell people that they have no business “giving out” unless they are prepared to try to make change happen by going out to vote. One way or another somebody needs to be in Government and we are privileged in Ireland to have a vote which we fought hard for in times past.
/ The gap between the richest people in society and the poorest continues to grow. How can this society be made more equitable?
This has always been a problem since time began, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But it should not be allowed to continue like this. This is why Fianna Fáil have shown repeatedly a commitment to responsible budgets – but there is a difference between us – we demanded that the Government be fairer and stopped the deeply regressive plans of Fine Gael to give priority to the wealthiest. We want an Ireland for All and to implement policies to improve the cost of living and to improve quality of life in terms of our housing and healthcare policies.
/ If you get elected, what one aim would you like to achieve in your first 100 days in Dail Eireann?
To be sitting on the Government side of the House! My ambition always, is to improve the quality of life for everyone in this constituency – unfortunately, that can’t be achieved in 100 days. It can be achieved with lots of meaningful change, like: broadband would be delivered to every household rural and urban in Louth; more social housing in Louth to reduce housing list; introduction of a workable affordable housing scheme to facilitate a way for ordinary income workers to buy their own home; reductions in healthcare waiting lists.
/ What, in your opinion, gives you the edge over your fellow candidates in this election?
I have been passionate about representing the people of Louth and Coastal Meath in Dáil Éireann for the last four years and on Louth County Council for 25 years prior to this. I have a proven track record on progressing issues facing the people in the constituency and I genuinely want to progress this work and continue to be available to assist with their issues and to work at a national level on major issues such as how Brexit will affect border communities such as ours.
/ Who is your hero, and why?
John Hume has always been a huge hero for me and a great influence on my life. As a big fan of collegiality and cross-party politics myself, John Hume was a key advocate of partnership, playing a major role in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement. There would not be peace in Ireland today but for John Hume and those of us who have lived in this country and particularly in the border region here in Louth as I have always lived throughout the period of the Troubles are conscious of the great debt owed to John.
/ What do you do to relax?
I love gardening and also having the odd beer in McNamee’s pub, my local, with my newspaper and studying the form and chatting to locals there.
/ What’s your favourite song and why?
Wagon Wheel by Nathan Carter as I love country music.
/ What’s your TV guilty pleasure?
I love wildlife programmes, Reeling in the Years, News programmes and of course all of the political debate shows.