A YOUNG Corkman is bidding to become the first Traveller to be elected to Cork City Council.
TJ Hogan from Farranree has announced his intention to contest the May local elections in the Cork North West area.
The 23-year-old will run as an Independent candidate and says his candidacy will not be centred on Traveller issues.
He said: “I feel there is a need for a young voice. I will be representing the views of Travellers but I am running for the general population of Cork city. Lack of access, lack of education etc is not just about Travellers.
“I am a member of the Traveller community but I am also a member of the Farranree community.”
He added: “I hope to represent everyone within Cork city. I am not just going into this on a personal cause. I cannot sit back and wait for the next local elections to come around.”
He hopes that his candidacy will help change people’s perception of Travellers and he feels that politics is currently very “right wing and capitalist”, adding that there needs to be a “shift in the way politics is run.”
He is a married father of one and is a graduate of Cork Institute of Technology. He holds a degree in community development. Plans for further education have been put on hold until after the election when he aims to do a Masters in Social Policy. In 2016, he received a National Traveller Pride award for his educational achievements.
He had gone through primary and secondary level education with undiagnosed dyslexia, which was diagnosed when he was in first year at CIT. He lists youth unemployment and youth mental health as some of his top priorities if he was to get elected. He also says homelessness needs to be tackled.
He is currently the accommodation policy officer with the Irish Traveller Movement and was one of the speakers at the recent homelessness protest in Dublin, organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition.
He told the Evening Echo: “The homelessness on our streets is very disheartening to see. There is a generation of young people who have no future because of cuts to the DEIS schools. There are people being left behind.”
He paid tribute to his own family for supporting him in getting educated, saying that he would not now be in a position to run for election if he did not have an education.
He is among just 1% of 40,000 Irish Travellers who has a third level education.
And he said: “If people do not have a home, regardless of their culture or identity, they cannot progress.”
He will face heavy hitters in the area, including Fianna Fail’s Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, and Sinn Féin’s Mick Nugent and Kenneth Collins.
However, he believes it is time for change and feels that changes at a local level will help bring the changes to national politics.
“What is needed is people power and a grassroots approach. I am a strong believer in the grassroots approach.”
He urged anyone who feels they could help bring change to consider running for election.