“My Dublin is Passionate” – Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe

Dublin Sportsfest 2019, on September 23-29, is the second multi-sport event organised by Dublin City Sport and Wellbeing Partnership to promote the opportunities for Dubliners to participation in a wide range of sports all year round, regardless of age, ability or background.

Sportsfest2019 incorporates existing events like The Great Dublin Bike Ride, Park Run and The Daily Mile with additional special events for schools, women, families and senior citizens and all details are on www.dublincity.ie/sportsfest.

As part of Sportsfest’s #ThisIsMyDublin campaign Dublin’s Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, elected on June 7, speaks about the key part that sport plays in his life and in that of the nation’s capital.

“I am a third generation Dubliner. One of my grandfathers worked for Guinness and the other for Gateaux and both came to Finglas, for housing, over 60 years ago, so that was the start of our family and I’ve grown up and live in Finglas East.

My wife jokes that there’s a magnet in me that I can’t move away. I grew up two roads away from where my Mam and Dad grew up, and my kids are now the same.

If I’m honest, I didn’t have a brilliant experience of sport when I was growing up but things have changed greatly. In school you’d hear ‘there’s trials on Wednesday’ and you wouldn’t even know what sport the trials were for. There was a big emphasis on team sport and competition and, growing up, I regarded myself as fairly useless at ‘sport’.
But last year I made a big, conscious effort to get more active. I wanted to lose a bit of weight – primarily because I wanted to look after myself a bit more because I have two kids now – and I lost five stone.

I did it all through using a Dublin City Council leisure centre and obviously looking at my nutrition as well, but there was no fancy gym or fancy personal trainer sessions involved. We’re lucky enough to have a great pool in Finglas so I just got into it and kept swimming. The great thing I found about swimming is that it keeps you mentally strong.

I have 40 minutes in the pool when no one is talking to me and there’s not a lot to worry about in swimming – it’s just arm -leg, arm-leg – so you have plenty of time to think and in politics you don’t often have that time.

I was a strong swimmer as a kid but it wasn’t something I did with any frequency before. I actually learned to to swim in the old pool in Finglas. We used to go there from school and with the summer projects. I have great memories of that pool but it was nothing compared to the ‘new pool’ which opened in 2006 and is a fantastic facility.
Now that we are living in the Mansion House it is a bit harder to get out there but I’m a believer that you have to make time for exercise and I’m also trying to use the bike more now around the city centre.

For me that’s the big message of Sportsfest.

A lot of people think sport isn’t for them.They think ‘I don’t look a certain way in the gym or feel a particular way about sport or my head’s not in that space’. Sportsfest is the gateway into this whole world.

No one expects you to be an expert in a language when you take it up and it’s the exact same with sport. Yes, there can be a competitive element to it, but most sport is just fun and communal and makes you feel great. There’s nothing better than that combination of endorphins and sense of exhaustion when you finish a workout or a game.
That’s why I picked a sport that suited me, I was only competing against myself and a lot of sport is like that.

The main reason I joined Ballymun Kickhams and got my kids involved there was the great sense of community and every club, whatever the sport, has that.
Obviously they’re having fun playing too but when my two children grow up and are 19 or 20, and have maybe missed a taxi and are on their own in town, I’m really confident they’ll bump into someone from their club who’ll look after them and they’ll all look after each other.You don’t have to be a player either. There’s a job for everybody in every sports club.

What ‘My Dublin’ means to me is passion; passion for your community and passion for sport.

I’ll never forget, as a kid, coming into town and being squeezed into the crowd in front of the Mansion House for the Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough homecoming after the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. I genuinely feel sport is always a force for good.

You’d worry sometimes that the passion might bring out divisions but you can be a passionate sports fan without turning into some kind of a bigot. Look at the Dublin/Mayo rivalry at the moment, yet we will all walk down Clonliffe Road together! There’ll be no segregation of fans, there’s lots of banter and no need for guards to separate crowds. That is unique here and really special.

Sport is also hugely important for the integration of new Irish citizens. I was out in Sports Campus Ireland (in Abbottstown) recently for a football party for my nephew, which itself is a great concept.

There was a team training there and almost a 50-50 mix between what you’d call white people and people of colour. They were all playing and shouting and screaming at each other and I thought that was great – sure isn’t that a real sign of respect in Ireland?!

Sadly I feel racism is a growing problem in Ireland, mostly to do with the scarcity of resources and especially housing.

There’s a huge sense of ‘othering’ where people are saying ‘if it wasn’t for those other people I’d have a house’. It is palpable on the ground and worrying but sport is a great way of breaking that down. When you know Johnny or Mary, who’s originally from a different culture, in your club, there’s a natural knowledge and acceptance of them.
All of the things we talk about around community and lifestyle, and mental health and integration, all of these things happen in a sports club almost by accident and that’s what makes sport so valuable.

The great thing about being Lord Mayor is that you see parts of the city that you wouldn’t have before – and I don’t just mean geographically. I had no idea before that so many people are gathering to do yoga at eight o’clock in the morning. My job gives me huge insight now into the people and the richness of the city.

Can Dublin do the Drive for Five? Look, this team has always taken it one game at a time so as Lord Mayor of Dublin I’m not going to predict anything but support them in every single game.

It would be amazing for the city though and, if it happens, the Lord Mayor won’t let them down  with the celebration!”

See the full #ThisIsMyDublin Video Series Below:


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