Having received 7,911 votes, Dublin Mid-West AAA-PBP Councillor Gino Kenny, was elected to the 32nd Dáil in February 2016. As with so many other elected TDs, Kenny was held aloft on the shoulders of supporters. As with so many other elected TDs both he and his supporters sang, chanted or waved flags. However, unlike so many other elected TDs he unfurled a Palestinian flag as he was held aloft.
Kenny has lived in Clondalkin in west Dublin most of his life and has been politically active for over twenty years, having been involved in a previous anti-water charge protest in the mid 1990s. He was elected to South Dublin Council in 2009 as well as in 2014 and first stood for the Dáil in 2011.
Throughout that time Kenny has also supported Palestine and has attended Palestinian events to protest the role of Israel in the region. This is not unusual and it is indeed understandable given Israel’s blockade against Gaza and its occupation of The West Bank.
In addition, Irish people are seen by many around the world as supporters of the Palestinian people with even the Irish Government supporting the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Irish people support many just causes, both national and international and Kenny is involved in many of these campaigns such as Anti Water Charges, Mastaction and Household Charges protests.
But does any of this justify the flying of the Palestinian flag at a local event where you are elected by local people to manage local affairs? Maybe it was also meant as a swipe at constituency colleague, Joanna Tuffy of the unpopular Labour Party, a member of the Oireachtas Ireland-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group? (Or ‘was’, as Tuffy, and most other members of that group, failed to be re-elected to the 32nd Dáil.)
Irish people have long identified with Palestine and the suffering of its people. Palestinians are undergoing persecution at the hands of their neighbours, as we once did. Most independent observers claim that Gaza is little more than an open-air prison and the authority held by the ‘Palestinian Authority’ in the West Bank is tokenistic at best. The attacks on Gaza by Israeli forces as well as the human rights violations committed by those same forces in Gaza and the West Bank have been well documented. So again, solidarity with Palestine is understandable.
This is undeniable and Mr. Kenny’s stance with Palestine and its people is equally understandable and also admirable. However, Palestine is not the only issue out there nor is it top of the agenda for the voters of Dublin Mid-West. Anti-social behaviour, homelessness and water charges are issues of much greater importance to locals. Furthermore it is a constituency that elected, and not for the first time, Frances Fitzgerald and John Curran. Curran from the centrist Fianna Fáil and Fitzgerald from the centre-right Fine Gael party.
None of this points to Palestine being an issue for Dublin Mid-West or the 7,911 votes that Kenny received. There is no objection in principle to his flying the Palestinian flag, even though all flag waving should be discouraged and kept to its place. Flying it immediately after it is announced that the voters of Dublin Mid-West have selected you to represent them in the national parliament, is not that place. Otherwise it would now mean that Palestine, or any other non-local issue, takes precedence over local issues. That cannot be allowed. Not Palestine, not anything. Palestine and other areas of injustices must be remembered and acted on but it is not the prime role of a TD. The prime role of a TD is their constituents, of all creeds, and their community.
The local arena cannot be hijacked and used as a platform for the promotion of an agenda other than the betterment of the local community. This is ultimately how corruption begins. More importantly, for Kenny and the fortunes of People Before Profit, is that while the Irish electorate tolerate more than they should, they will not tolerate a locally elected politician losing touch with those who elected them or sight of why they were elected.