I have no idea how to begin what I hope will be the first of many blog posts during this campaign. That’s mostly because all I’m doing is imagining the moment I tell my friends or my brothers that I now have a blog…
I have been thinking about starting a blog for a while now and like all other blog-writers (I refuse to use the word “blogger”) I would like to think that my experiences up until now are somewhat less typical than those of others in my occupation, but in truth, that’s probably not the case.
The older I get, the less I believe in the existence of normality; in my experience, normal people seem to be all the ones who I haven’t met yet.
So here goes and true to self-centred blog-writer form, in beginning my new blog I’d like to start with what I feel is the most interesting aspect of my life right now. Firstly, I’ve recently joined the Social Democrats and secondly, I am going to be contesting the next general election in my home constituency of Dublin Central.
In May of last year, I was elected as an Independent Councillor for Dublin’s North Inner City. It was without question the proudest moment of life to that point. I was 27 and was motivated to seek political office by my experiences growing up in one of Ireland’s most marginalised communities. I believed then, as I do now, that I could do a better job than those currently elected to represent the interests of the community I call home. I had no interest in politics, especially not party politics. I just knew things could be different and I knew they could be better.
Growing up, I was surrounded by disadvantage, but it wasn’t until I was elected that I fully appreciated the depths of poverty that existed in the community that I call home. People who I had known from childhood where suddenly coming to me for help in their droves. I can’t begin to describe to you the sheer number of conversations I have with people that begin with ‘I know your ma, I’m really hoping you can help with my situation.’
The majority of these requests are about housing and the desperate need for more of it. As conversations develop, common themes will always overlap. Unemployment is most often a factor, with many of the people I meet being the inheritors of a generational poverty that has seen them as well as their parents and grandparents totally excluded from the conventional workplace. This is almost always as a result of lack of educational opportunity and trust in the State. Next, our conversations will inevitably turn to the impact these circumstances are having on that person’s mental health. So many of my constituents speak of experiencing depression and the tablets that have been prescribed by a doctor in the seemingly vain hope that they can medicate for an illness that is caused so tangibly by societal inequality.
I actually never thought of it like that before — there are aspects of Irish society that are quite literally making people sick.
Anyway… what’s all this got to do with my decision to join the Social Democrats? Well firstly, in the Social Democrats I have, for the first time, found common ground with like-minded people who I believe strongly in. However, it wasn’t just my admiration for Catherine, Stephen and Roisin that made the this the movement I wanted to call my political home.
In the Social Democrats we speak about a strong economy, about open and accountable government and about an overriding emphasis on social justice in all that we do. For us though, those are not just sound bites. Our three TD’s have walked the walk with these three principles in a way that few Irish politicians can claim to have done. I was captivated by the vision they shared right from the launch of the party in July and in all of our conversations since. As part of this group of people, I can now genuinely aspire to one day enact change that will improve the lives of people in my community of Dublin Central and others like it.
As an Independent I simply did not have that same belief. There is no doubt that I could help people on an individual basis. However, the way I saw it, prioritising individuals based on who you know, rather than who is most in need, is playing the same game that is at the heart of the inequality we are fighting in the first place. My political hero, Tony Gregory was an Independent and he was the best there ever will be at that particular style of politics. He gave us in Dublin’s Inner-City hope. He fought tooth and nail for us and I will cherish his memory for ever. However, the issues he spent three decades working against, continue to face Dublin Central today in almost the exact same way they did thirty years ago.
While our challenges in housing, unemployment, health and educational inequalities, our challenges seem only to be getting greater, we must all remember that with real vision and bold leadership, change is possible. Having joined the Social Democrats I am committed to offering that vision. Over the coming months I will be giving everything I have so that we in this country, get opportunity to legislate in the name of the many, without fear or deference.
Whether the Election is called in November or February, I am very much looking forward to sharing my vision for making Dublin Central and Ireland as a whole, a more fair place. We’ll be focusing on solutions and I do certainly hope that this election will ignite a proper debate on the future of our constituency and of our country and not just the usual partisan shouting of ‘vote for me, I’m not the other guy!’.
If you stayed to the end, thanks for reading and I promise try keep my future posts shorter!