Hunger strikes forged republicanism of O Snodaigh

 

ANALYSIS: Until Saturday's events, the names of Aengus O Snodaigh's brothers were more recognisable, especially to music lovers, than that of the newly elected TD for Dublin South Central.

Three of O Snodaigh's brothers, Colm, Ronan and Rossa are members of the popular traditional band Kila.

O Snodaigh was raised on Strand Road in Sandymount, his mother an established sculptor, his father a former keeper of the National Museum.

The 37-year-old's first language is Irish, it was spoken at home and in school at Colaiste Eoin in Stillorgan.

He became politically aware from an early age and as a teenager would attend language rights marches, or protests on the environment.

He was 16 when the hunger strikes began. "I would have been nationalist at that stage but the hunger strikes made me look deeper at republicanism," he said.

He joined the party while studying history and geography in UCD.

Within a couple of years he was working full-time for the organisation, contributing to An Phoblacht and teaching history in Sion Hill in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He remembers when a senior member of staff at the school came in to observe a class he was giving on the theme of the Easter Rising. O Snodaigh was nervous, conscious he was under scrutiny and careful not to leave himself open to criticism.

When it was over, the teacher complimented him profusely on the lesson before turning to the students and saying pointedly: "Remember girls the IRA today is totally different to the IRA then."

He says he has never been a member of the IRA and had no involvement in violence but was a supporter of the armed struggle at a time "when there wasn't a proper alternative on offer".

At the 1996 Sinn Féin ardfheis he expressed annoyance at his party's post-ceasefire strategy which he said was like Basil Fawlty's "Don't Mention the War" sketch.

"We want Brits out. We want a united Ireland. Why are we hiding these demands away in a cupboard?" he complained.

The father of two young boys puts his electoral success in Dublin South Central down to hard work and taking steps to "alleviate hardships that a lot of people are feeling in this life".

Is there anything he is looking forward to, particularly when Dáil Éireann becomes his workplace?

"The fact that I am going to have an office," he said, admitting that he is unlikely to be the tidiest of TDs.

"And somebody is going to clean up after me . . . God love them".