Trinity student James O’Connor, a second year Business, Economics and Social Studies student, has been elected to Cork County Council as a member of Fianna Fáil.
O’Connor was the youngest candidate running in East Cork. He was elected on the sixth count, with 1,947 votes. O’Connor said he felt “absolutely honoured” to be elected to Cork County Council. “It was a fantastic result to get as a first-time candidate. I couldn’t believe the news when I heard the tallies,” he told Trinity News.
“Getting elected is extremely difficult, especially when you’re not from a political family. I was fortunate that I have such a great group of friends, family and neighbours who believe in me. We were canvassing day and night throughout the past two months.”
The 21-year-old is the co-founder and Editor of Trinity Business Review (TBR), established in 2018. O’Connor has also worked for several members of the Dáil. He interned with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Jim O’Callaghan. He most recently worked for Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor of Fine Gael on the issue of consent.
“Getting the experience of working in Leinster House was invaluable. It’s like walking in the gates of Trinity on your first day. You get a chance to prove yourself, but you have to do the groundwork first. I always believed that good can be achieved from public representation and I saw that from working with Jim O’Callaghan and Micheál Martin. I admire their work to promote progressive politics in Ireland,” he said.
In April, Micheál Martin accompanied O’Connor to various locations in East Cork, including a nursing home, hospital and several businesses, to support his local election campaign.
O’Connor hopes to continue his Trinity education while serving on the county council. “We begin our council duties in early June. I will get a good indication over the summer in relation to how I can continue my studies. I’m fortunate that there is flexibility in Business, Economics and Social Studies but the bottom line is that my role on the county council is top priority.”
He believes that young people should not be deterred from standing for election because of their commitments in education. “Most councillors that I’ve encountered have other jobs and that is never questioned. Many are teachers, barristers, farmers or parliamentary assistants and secretaries to members of the Oireachtas,” he said.
“I always wanted to stand for election and I made the decision to run on this occasion because the timing was right. I am young and there was a vacancy in my local area for Fianna Fáil.” He listed improving public transport, environmental issues, the need for social housing, industry development, services for children with autism, waste treatment and school capacity as issues he wants to work on as a Cork County Councillor.
The Trinity student will be one of seven councillors representing the Midleton electoral area on Cork County Council. He will be joined by two Fine Gael Councillors, two Independents, one Sinn Féin representative and one Green Party representative. Fianna Fáil claimed 15 seats of Cork County Council’s 55 seats this election, which the Irish Times described as “something of a resurgence” in their report.
A former Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) president was also elected to a Council position. This afternoon, USI tweeted their congratulations to their 2015-2016 president Kevin O’Donoghue, who has been elected to Dublin City Council.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that James O’Connor was the youngest Fianna Fáil candidate running in the local elections. The article was updated at 9:46pm to amend this error.