Political beginnings


In the face of political turmoil, Natalie Voorheis meets Dylan Haskins, a fresh face on the Irish political scene who’s embarked on a new type of campaign

At just 23 years old, Dylan Haskins, independent candidate for Dublin South East, is one of the youngest candidates in this year’s general election. Currently studying Arts in Trinity College Dublin, Haskins faces strong competition from other candidates in the Dublin South East constituency. These include Labour’s Ruairi Quinn who has been a representative for the area since 1973 and other notable figures such as Green Party leader John Gormley, Fianna Fáil’s Chris Andrews and Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton.

Despite the strong opposition he faces, Haskins is ambitious about the challenge of running in a constituency with so many established names, saying: “It makes a much bigger statement. If you are going to change things you have to go for gold. There is no point settling and trying to get in an easy way.”

Haskins suggests, with a glint in his eye, that party candidates such as Gormley and Andrews may have had their chance and have shown what they are capable of.

Haskins defends his credibility as an independent candidate, stating: “I’m talking about political reform and a lot parties are too but the difference is that I will be an independent voice in there and I will be able to hold them to account and say: ‘Well during the election you promised all of these political reforms when you got elected’ and push for those things to happen. You need independent voices to hold these people to account.”

Haskins’s campaign, like the man himself, is charged with youthful enthusiasm and fresh ideas. The campaign has been noted for its online nature and, as such, has placed Haskins as the face of a new generation of politicians. The video, which he used to launch his campaign, has thrown him into public consciousness, with radio stations and newspapers scrambling for interviews with the new poster boy of Irish politics.

At time of going to print, Haskins’s campaign video had received over 27,000 views on YouTube, consequently allowing him to communicate with a greater electorate which knocking on doors simply couldn’t achieve.

The campaign has first and foremost been an online one, with Haskins using a regularly updated website, including video diaries and Twitter to connect with potential voters. Haskins was proud that he was able to harness young Irish talent to create his website, while contemporary politicians increasingly employ from outside the country for similar projects, thus ignoring potentially highly skilled Irish workers who are in need of employment.

Haskins is, however, acutely aware that the internet support he has received, constituted by likes on Facebook, tweets and emails may not translate to real votes but hopes they will. Aware that everyone doesn’t use the internet, Haskins has actively been knocking on doors since his campaign launch and describes his outreach process as being about “relating to people and to do that you need to meet them on their terms”.

One of Haskins’s key ideas is that of transparency. He is a firm believer in the importance of transparency in public office. He aims to lead by example with regard to this issue throughout his campaign and publishes his accounts online at the end of each week, encouraging dialogue about this and other issues online.

Haskins’s campaign slogan – “It starts here” – hopes to introduce a new political period, one Haskins’s envisages as being of transparency and common sense. He explains: “If you’re trying to say that we need a new type of politics in Ireland then you need to be a new type of politician and you need to do that by setting a standard. Publishing my accounts is an example of this.”

The University Observer questions Haskins about why he decided to run in the election. Despite coming from a family with no political background and with no experience in politics on either a student or national level, Haskins explains: “People have always said to me that I should be a politician,” before adding: “I was not attracted to politics initially because I thought it wasn’t a very effective way to get things done.”

Haskins has worked on grassroots level in his community for some time. He has been involved with several youth projects connected with the arts, is the founder of Exchange Dublin, a collective arts centre, and recently became the youngest ever board member of Project Arts Centre Temple Bar.

Haskins comments: “I thought it was more effective to get things done on the ground to start projects and I liked to do things by practice. So rather than speaking in rhetoric, I preferred to go out and say look this is what it is and people say ‘ok cool that makes sense’.”

His outlook has subsequently changed, and he has found himself applying the DIY attitude he channelled while working in his community to Ireland’s political situation. Feeling unhappy with the way the country was being run, he decided to make a stand and become involved himself.

Haskins says that the response to his campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, but felt that “there have been cynical people too and I understand why that is the case. They have been let down and they are so reluctant to put their faith in anything and are reluctant to think that there is an alternative, that there is a different way.”

When asked what his message was to the students of UCD, Haskins responds by making a case as to why students should vote for him. He argues with fervency that it is crucial to have our generation represented in the Dáil.

Haskins expresses his outrage that 70 per cent of TDs in the Dáil are over the age of 50 and yet it purports to be a representative body for Ireland. “It should look like Ireland and I mean that in terms of age and gender. There should be more young people and there should be more women in there. It should be more balanced.”