Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Background information on Cllr Mary Roche

Seanad Eireann 2016 candidate, Administration Panel.

* Mary has been a Councillor representing Waterford City since 1999 when she was the only woman elected that term, after a period where no women had been elected for 8 years. Initially she stood and was elected as an FF member, genuinely believing that being in a large party would facilitate having influence "up the line". It was always a fraught relationship, as Mary found her views often conflicted with the party and there was no process for feeding views into the party structure. In 2003 she left. It was the non-delivery of a 2002 General Election promise by Fianna Fail to deliver public radiotherapy to Waterford and the South East, that finally brought Mary to the decision to leave the party and go it alone as an independent. She has successfully been re-elected 3 times as an independent and has served the people of Waterford for 17 years. Mary has recently joined forces with 5 other County Councillors to challenge the inequality of the obligation on Councillors to pay PRSI but receive no benefits.
* Mary was Mayor of Waterford City (only the second ever woman to hold the office) from 2010 to 2011. She also sat on the Governing Body of WIT from 1999 until last year.
* Mary remains involved in health issues and is part of the (voluntary) committee South East Hospitals Support Group, who are campaigning for 24/7 cardiac care for the South East and other improvements at University Hospital Waterford. She was also very active in the debate to prevent (unsuccessfully) the break-up of the South East Hospitals Group.
* She started political life at 18 when she was elected student union Vice President, at the then WRTC (now WIT). She studied both Legal Studies and Public Relations with the Public Relations Institute of Ireland in Dublin. She worked for 6 years with WLR fm (Waterfords Local Radio Station) finishing as marketing manager when she left to start her own business, Flagship Communications, which she ran for 6 years until she had her second child. After that, between her husband working at sea (he is a Tall Ships' Captain), two young children and being an elected representative, she chose to let the business side of her life go. When she worked in WLR fm she was elected to the Waterford Chamber of Commerce board of directors, a position she held for two years (one of just two women). She was also a founder member of Red Kettle Theatre Company with whom she worked as an actress back at the very beginning of their history in the late eighties.
*Mary is currently Chairperson of Waterford Area Partnership, a development company tasked with working to eliminate disadvantage in Waterford. She has been a board member since 1999 and Chair for the past 11 years. She also Chairs the newly formed Waterford & Wexford Youth Committee, having chaired the Waterford Youth Committee since 1999.
* She is also a member of the board of Waterford City Enterprise Centre, Waterford Museum of Treasures, St. Patricks Gateway Centre, Mount Sion International Heritage Centre, Waterford Youth Arts and Squashy Couch (teenage health project) and Waterford/Wexford ETB.
* She is married with three children aged from 8 to 22 and has a 4 year old grand-daughter. If she were to be elected to the Seanad her husband has agreed to come home from working on the ship in order to look after the children.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Seanad Musings

Cllr Mary Roche, Independent Candidate, Admin Panel, Seanad 16
Back in 2013 the government proposed to abolish Seanad Eireann in what they claimed was a reforming move. I and many others fought strongly against this at that time, seeing it as more of a power grab by the Dail to eliminate even the smallest amount of scrutiny or challenge from the Upper House and allowing them even further scope to rail road through their particular ideology. Large majorities lead to power abuses in my view and the last government was a perfect example of that. Not only did they seek to abolish the Seanad but they also - successfully - neutered the Dail and effectively through that, silenced the voices of the people of Ireland who have a right to be heard through their elected TD's in our parliamentary democracy.

Now, post election, the result of that bullishness is clear to be seen. The electorate are pretty nuanced when you really think about it. What are they telling the politicians to do? They're telling them to work together and find consensus in my view. This is pretty scary if you're a member of political party. They have never worked like this. Yes they get to take part in a few debates at the ould Ard Fheis but by and large the decisions, particularly if they are in government, are all made without them, by party aparchicks and advisers. All they are required to do is turn up and press the right voting button. Oh and maybe hurl a bit of abuse around our National Chamber in support of whatever leader or Minister might be up avoiding answering questions on any particular day.

But those days are coming to a close in my view. People are tired. Tired of struggling through such a negative and draining decade (almost) where the bills have been piling up, the poor haven't been protected and those in debt have been asked to bail out free market bankers while bearing the full brunt of their own negative equity or job losses. And they want these and all the other issues that have been building up to be dealt with, seriously, by those they elect.

So they elect a Dail which gives no one a clear majority. Which forces political parties more used to using their term in office to bombard through their own particular ideology aimed more at their own voters than the national interest, to think - for a change - about that self same national interest. This - if the parties actually act on that mandate - is a good thing. Potentially a very good thing indeed!
And so to (eventually lol) my running for the Seanad. It is an outside chance, no doubt about it. No Independent Councillor has ever been elected to the Dail on the vocational panels, from my memory but it sure does need independent voices. It sure does need to act as a chamber with the powers that it has, in the national interest. The electorate in this instance is the body of Councillors all over Ireland as well as current Seanad and new Dail members.
Traditionally, candidates travel the length and breadth of the country meeting as many of the electorate as they possibly can. And as you can imagine Fine Gaelers vote for Fine Gaelers, Fianna Failers vote for Fianna Failers and so on. As Liam (my other half) works away at sea - and is away at the moment and as my children are still quite young, I will be very limited in the amount of travelling I can do so I will be at a massive disadvantage for sure.
But this is probably the first time in history that Independents have enough votes - if they so use them - to elect independent candidates. I hope they will understand my circumstances and not hold me to that hand shake. We have important business to be doing and independent voices have a huge part to play in moving us as a nation forward. We have bigger things to be worrying about than whether someone drove 300 miles to shake our hands. (Which I haven't the money for either to be honest!)
For too long the party candidates have hoovered up independent Councillors votes - only to deny that mandate in the face of party politics once elected. Independents need to stick together not just in our own interest but in the national interest. In the interest of getting thinking, listening, doing people elected into the Seanad rather than just voting fodder, or rubber-stampers for the political parties.
So I threw my hat in the ring. I also believe that it is very important for women to actually put themselves forward for election. There is no gender quota system for the parties or for anyone else in the Seanad election. So we must put ourselves forward - and so I have done. We shall know the results of that before the end of April. Actually getting elected is, in some senses out of my hands. I will either succeed or fail based on those you have elected to Council Chambers across the country.
If, like me, you believe in proactive, strategic and just plain old good government  without the charade of the usual seesaw politics then perhaps you might give your local Councillors a call - or your local TD - and ask them to consider giving me a vote. Especially if they are Independent!!
Thanks all, Mary x