All my life I have tried to make change. Real change. As a environmental consultant, when producing plans that had the potential to change people’s lives, my first step would always be to talk. Talk to plant operators, factory workers, lorry drivers, farmers. All those who were relevant to the plan I was commissioned to produce. Because whilst the politicians pass laws and bye-laws, real workable change happens with people.
The same aim guided my ten years as an elected member of the Passage West/Monkstown Town Council. Change was local, change was smaller, but change was real. Real change takes a vision, hard work and time.
Change is important for one simple reason: to make people’s lives better. I cannot understand a political system that isn’t guided by this principle. Rhetoric simply does not replace fundamental decency. I cannot stomach political parties debating real issues simply to score brownie points. The stakes are too high. I cannot abide the politician’s age-old art of avoiding a question. We take it for granted now. Why?
I cannot stand by while the politicians we have put into government destroy so many facets of Irish society. On-the-ground local authority staff carrying out basic services have been decimated to the extent that basic community maintenance tasks are a challenge. Class sizes in schools continue to increase, with teachers being removed from schools often in the middle of the school term. How health workers in hospitals continue to smile is a testimony to their dedication, not to the increasingly inaccessibility to healthcare for all but those able to afford private health insurance. Rural post offices are disappearing. Garda stations in even sizeable towns are under threat. Wages have decreased for most, but the price of every day living has sky-rocketed and taxes are being introduced on almost every facet of life.
Real workable change happens with people. So to make real change happen, it needs to come from the people. Politicians interested in people would aim for less centralisation of power by reducing the number of TDs to almost a management team while devolving power to a local level. But the current government is about to remove the lowest and most accessible form of democratic representation – the Town Councils. It has changed the electoral boundaries. In some cases, these new electoral boundaries divide towns and villages with complete disregard for the concept of community identity. Ironically, the governmental document in which these changes are outlined is boldly called “Putting People First”.
I cannot stand by and watch the opportunity for real, meaningful change being lost. I am tired of politicians’ obsession with the “party”, the “system” and debating the issues whilst listening and responding to people – their real job – becomes merely protocol. If honoured to be chosen to represent the Cork South Central constituency on May 23rd, my aim will be to help the people within communities to empower themselves. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.