Donal Kilduff is probably as surprised as anyone else will be that he is stepping into the political arena. True, the Glanduff man grew up in a political household, and yes, he was a member of a political party (Fianna Fáil). But, even though his father has been a high profile councillor for many years, Donal Kilduff had decided long ago that he had no intention of getting involved in any of that “nonsense”.
That was until last week…
Even a short chat with Donal Kilduff makes it very clear that, should he be successful in politics, he won’t be the same type of politician as his father has been. He says so himself. “I’m not as outgoing as my father, I’m a bit more introverted!” Neither does Donal ‘shoot from the hip’ in the way his father has always done. His father of course is Cllr. Paddy Kilduff, who is retiring from politics in the coming weeks. Paddy signs off as an Independent, having ended his 50-year association with Fianna Fáil last year.
Son of Paddy and Teresa Kilduff of Glanduff, Donal Kilduff is a successful businessman and a graduate of University of Limerick (BSc Applied Maths & Computing) and of Smurfit Business School UCD (MSc Project Management).
Aged 39 and describing himself as an “excellent problem solver”, he is quite unlike the traditional Fianna Fáil politician that his father typified during his successful career.
Although he worked closely with his father during the latter’s election campaigns, Donal says he had resolved many years ago that political life was not for him.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics; I was involved (in politics) in college, and in my father’s campaigns. My father always expressed an interest in me running for election, but I resolved a number of years ago not to. I said ‘this political life is not for me…because of all the nonsense that’s involved’. What is the nonsense? “Oh, the internal wrangling within parties” he says with a sigh. “I’ve no time for it”.
And that’s how things panned out. Even as Paddy Kilduff’s political career came to a natural end, Donal remained steadfast. No interest. But something changed his perspective, he says.
He thinks before he speaks. He thinks for a moment or two. Early in March, he received a call from Louise Weir Lawrence, Chairperson of Knockcroghery/St John’s/Rahara Community Games. A standard query about possible sponsorship. Donal, who is MD of Kilduff Construction, happily obliged. Her enthusiasm at his sponsorship was an eye-opener for him. “My sponsorship was greatly appreciated by Louise…there was something about Louise’s enthusiasm that got me thinking…that single interaction reminded me of what local politics should be about. It shifted my perspective away from the negative side of politics”.
Something else struck a chord with him recently, he says. That was the campaigning by school children on climate change. It’s an area that he is keenly interested in.
It all got him thinking. He spent a week and a half thinking. And, late last week, he arrived at a decision. He has decided to run as an Independent candidate in Athlone Municipal District, to see if he can make a difference for his community.
He plans to make a difference. “I intend to win a seat” he says. He had noted that nobody in his father’s area had come forward to try to regain the seat held by his father.
He says he would never have run for Fianna Fáil; nothing to do with the much-publicised falling out between the party hierarchy and his Dad. He says he has strong views on how his father was treated by Fianna Fáil (“it was a very difficult time for the family”) but is not going to air them at this time.
Fianna Fáil, he says, is part of the nonsense. A party run from the top, with no regard for the views of grassroots. A party, he says, that’s centrally controlled and obsessed with being populist.
“Fianna Fáil has good people in it, but it is a party which is now almost completely centrally controlled from Dublin, with
zero respect for its membership. Grassroots have no say…we see it all the time at selection conventions” Donal says, witheringly.
He’s not impressed with Fine Gael either (“they are too far to the right”). He can’t identify with either of the traditional big beasts of Irish politics.
Ideally, what he would like to do is “problem solve”. And there are lots of problems to solve. He says the single greatest thing a government could do is put fibre broadband in that is accessible to all. “That action alone will save rural Ireland…more and more SMEs will spring up…we need to be able to conduct business at the speed of thought”.
Other issues that require immediate attention are the state of roads in South Roscommon and the need for more flood relief measures. He is passionate about climate change and the need for more work to be done in the area of positive mental heath. He says that more social housing is urgently needed, as are measures to reduce construction costs – “currently a couple, where both partners are on the average industrial wage, will really struggle to acquire a site and build a home”.
Donal Kilduff has changed his mind. He says he will ignore the nonsense and embrace the positive aspects of politics. “My slogan is ‘Business head, social heart’. I am very pro-business, but also socially conscious. There’s no point in having a successful business in a society that’s falling apart”.
He’s different to his father, but very close to him. Donal is very much his own man. He enjoys yoga, mindfulness, travel, photography. Independent thinking, and problem solving. He didn’t expect this turn of events, but now that he’s made the decision, it feels like the right decision. He’s off and running, ready to see where this journey takes him.