There’s no doubt that the last few weeks have been difficult for everyone, but as I’ve written recently, while there are still major challenges and issues to be dealt with in Ireland, we have also seen a boost in community awareness. We’ve made a conscious effort to care for others again, whether that means checking in on our neighbours, calling our friends, or minding our family.
Since around the time of our general election, however, I’ve been inspired to take action personally, beyond what I feel is the bare minimum civic duty of voting. With that, I decided to become a member of the Social Democrats. Their aims and values are most aligned to mine, I feel, although I also recognise the positive efforts made by other political parties in Ireland over the years, such as Labour and the Green Party.
A Personal Manifesto
Part of realising that I was now ready to get involved in politics was the result of what can only be called a meditation on which values were important to me, and how I could make a difference. While I’m generally more interested in politics on a macro level (e.g. foreign affairs, British-Irish relations, Ireland’s role in the EU and UN, and how we behave on an international stage) I needed to figure out what I wanted to see take place here, both locally and at a national level, too.
The result evolved into 11 different goals that are either personally or politically achievable:
- That all citizens of the State are cared for equally, where neither the words ‘equal’ nor ‘care’ are emptied by inaction. That no group or section of society is left without access to the State’s services and care; from full-time workers to the retired, from the unemployed to students, and from single parents to migrants wishing to make a life for themselves here.
- That citizens have the right to shelter. Obviously, this cannot mean a deluxe five-bedroom house for everyone, but somewhere to call a home at least. A hostel or hotel room is neither sufficient nor sustainable. Homelessness is a problem for many countries and cities around the world, from Rome to San Francisco, but that in itself is not an excuse to allow others to suffer. Similarly, no government should leave the duty of care to charities alone.
- To regard healthcare, alongside housing, as of paramount importance in the repair and development of our nation. Not just based on the recent efforts of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, but recognising also the generations of health workers who have left Ireland for opportunities abroad, because the system here was not designed to grant them due respect and reward.
- To recognise the historic institutional and social damage inflicted on Irish women – from the marriage bar to the decades of depriving the autonomy of the female body – and pro-actively work to rectify the cultural, economic, and societal inequalities women continue to face today, either as a result of past attitudes or a continuation of them.
- That older citizens are not disregarded by either government initiatives or societal attitudes. These are the people who worked for decades to raise and protect us, by paying their taxes, serving the community through their various careers, or simply raising us, their families. Their efforts should not be forgotten, and they should not be disregarded on account of them no longer working or being close to retirement.
- That asylum seekers and refugees are treated with dignity and respect, regarded as innocent victims of war or persecution, and to give them support to live independently during their time in Ireland. If they decide to stay here and contribute to our society, that should always be celebrated. To that effect, the direct provision system should be dismantled and replaced as soon as practically possible.
- To celebrate and support the Arts, recognising that they are crucial for a living society, but also as a sustainable and worthy economic sector in its own right.
- To support local entrepreneurship and trade; to buy local where possible, and reduce the consumer’s carbon footprint as a result.
- Chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid mar chuid den saol laethúil; aitheantas cuí a thabhairt don teanga náisiúnta agus don bpobal bríomhar dá bhfuil ann i lucht labhartha na Gaeilge.
To make a conscious effort to use Irish in daily life; to give due recognition to the national language and to the vibrant and diverse community that exists for today’s Irish-language speaker.
- To check my privilege as a white, cisgender, middle-class, gay man, and know that being an ally to vulnerable groups in our society is not only an honour, but the right thing to do.
- To listen to – and learn from – minority communities, including but not limited to LGBTQ people, Irish-speakers, ethnic minorities, ‘New Irish’ communities, religious groups, the elderly, those living with a health condition, and those with limited mobility, hearing, or sight.
It’s not the first time I have been a member of the SocDems, but looking back to 2017, I jumped in too early – before I gave myself the chance to settle into my new life in Cork. As a result, I got distracted by other parts of my life, which needed attention at the time. Quite a lot has changed since then, both personally and on a national level too, and I believe I’m now ready to help where I can.
There is quite a lot of the above where my values align well to the Social Democrats’ own manifesto, but at this stage, I’m still very much learning about how party politics work and where I can play my part in Cork, but I know this much: I’m now looking forward to it all.
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