Keep On Running

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Journalist Carol Hunt. 11/12/ 2015. Picture by Fergal Phillips.seanad2

From top: Carol Hunt; Seanad chamber

Once more unto the breach.

Journalist and Independent Alliance Seanad candidate Carol Hunt writes:

“Have you lost your mind?” is a question I frequently get asked these days. Occasionally a person might inquire solicitously, “Is it some sort of addiction that you could get therapy for?”

What they’re referring to is the fact that after a gruelling five months which started off with no money, no team and very little knowledge of how to go about planning a general election campaign, and ended in a fairly respectable vote outcome in the constituency of Dun Laoghaire (the only one to buck the trend and end up with 3 Fine Gael TD”s out of 4), we’ve decided to keep going.

What can I say? Running for election was perhaps the most positive, interesting, enlightening and humbling experience of my life – so far.

I initially decided to run because, for the past seven or eight years, I’ve been writing about the growing inequality gap in Ireland, the choice of our last government to introduce five regressive budgets in a row, the fact that the most vulnerable people in society ended up paying the highest price for the crash.

And so, after months of saying, repeatedly, that “somebody should do something”, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and enter the election. It was hard work, it was expensive but, and this might sound corny and if so I apologise, it was a privilege. I would recommend running for office to everyone in the country. It’s an eye opener.

Two days after the election count – broke, tired but very glad that I had made the decision to go for it – I got a call from a colleague in Leinster House advising me to run for the Seanad. Dear God, I thought. I’ll be divorced – by my children if not my husband – and we’ll have to sell the house.

But it made sense. I had a brilliant campaign manager and a small but dedicated team, who wanted to keep going, and as I had been to the forefront in the campaign to retain and reform the Seanad and make parliament – rather than just government – answerable to the democratic process, it seemed like the right thing to do.

But what did it entail? This is where the fun started.

First up, we had to get a nominator, a seconder and eight other signatures on one form. All had to be graduates registered to vote in NUI Seanad elections. I put the word out. “Not a problem”, was what I heard back from many friends who were NUI grads.

But yes, there was a problem. It’s quite extraordinary the amount of graduates – that is, people who have third level qualifications – who don’t know that they aren’t automatically put on the register to vote for the Seanad.

These include my husband, my campaign manager, my sister, most of my friends, my hairdresser, my dentist …. you get the picture.

And as we only had 48 hours to get the names – on the one form, which meant I had to physically proffer it to each individual for signature – this was going to be harder than it seemed.

Myself and my campaign manager did it with an hour to spare. Dr Jane Suiter nominated me, Professor Sabina Brennan seconded me and I managed to get 8 other assenters who were registered.

We felt like debt collectors who have a time limit to get the cash to the boss before being threatened with knee-capping. We met people in pubs, called to houses that we’d never been to before, one woman jumped into the back of the car, signed then jumped out, and I even spent time waiting, with some other dubious looking individuals, outside criminal court number one, down by Heuston station – all to get to the magic number ten.

There are three seats to be filled on the NUI panel. I was advised to try for this one as two of the incumbents are retiring (Fergal Quinn and John Crown).

Obviously I wasn’t the only person to think this would be a good idea. Counting on my fingers as the chancellor of NUI read out the names declared and accepted for candidature, it came to thirty. THIRTY. For three seats! Two really, if you consider that Rónán Mullen will most probably retain his.

Many of the other candidates are people I would love to work with: New, passionate about human rights and social justice, genuinely interested in reform and fairness. Some are has-beens who think they have a divine right to public office, jobs for the old-boys club and all that.

But what I would really love to see is as many people as possible using their mandate and voting for their preferred candidate for the Seanad.

Only if the public take it seriously and those who can vote, VOTE, can we hope to implement the reforms the Seanad – and our entire parliament – so desperately needs.

Get the word out. Do you have a vote? Are you registered? Ask your family and friends. It’s time to vote to change the way the Seanad works – by using the vote that you have and changing the people who get elected to it.

Follow Carol on Twitter: @carolhunt

Picture by Fergal Phillips.

29 thoughts on “Keep On Running

  1. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

    Carol Hunt…
    Carol Hunt…

    Read the post first, then make a joke sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq.
    -Don’t give in to your base desires.
    -Don’t make a joke about her name. You haven’t even read the post, have you?

  2. ReproBertie

    I’m supposed to have a vote. The people of Ireland voted back in 1979 to allow for the election of members of Seanad Éireann by universities and other institutions of higher education but sure what’s 37 years waiting for a bit of legislation to be passed.

    We voted to keep the Seanad. Any chance the rest of us could have a say in who gets to sit in it?

  3. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

    Actually she seems cool.
    You should go to bed. You’re not normally up this late.

  4. bisted

    …would’ve thought preferment by Lord Ross of Shane Fein would have been an easier route. He’s bound to have secured a few Taoiseach nominations even at this stage…they would be high on his shopping list…just below a ministry for himself.

  5. ahjayzis

    “THIRTY. For three seats! Two really, if you consider that Rónán Mullen will most probably retain his.”

    HOW?!?!?!?!?!

    1. Wait For It

      Because everything about the Seanad elections is poorly advertised, especially the fact that you’re not automatically registered to vote. I’ve been nagging friends to check in the hope that Senator Mullen will be dumped out of his seat. When it comes to European and general elections, the likes of him and Senator Eames are spurned by the electorate, so with a better informed and larger electorate, maybe we can get rid og him completely.

    2. Wait For It

      Because everything about the Seanad elections is poorly advertised, especially the fact that you’re not automatically registered to vote. I’ve been nagging friends to check in the hope that Senator Mullen will be dumped out of his seat. When it comes to European and general elections, the likes of him and Senator Healy-Eames are spurned by the electorate, so with a better informed and larger electorate, maybe we can get rid of him completely.

  6. Eliot Rosewater

    I’m entitled to vote (in face, I think I was automatically put on the register) but don’t, solely because it’s a grossly undemocratic institution (the idea that because I’m university-educated, that I should have a vote over someone else is disgraceful).

    But, you say you want to reform the Seanad and you talk about making it more ‘answerable to the democratic process’, maybe you can enlighten us as to what this means? One vote for everyone, I assume? How would this be different to the Dáil?

    1. ahjayzis

      It’s not even university educated – I went to the ‘wrong’ university and thus can’t vote either.

      It’s indefensible that nothing has been done to reform it.

      1. Michael

        The problem isn’t which universities or colleges, the problem is that third level education is a qualification to vote.

        1. ReproBertie

          There is a reason for that. The Seanad was originally envisaged as a sort of Long Term Planing Department for Ireland. It was supposed to be made up of leaders in various fields who could debate the bigger issues than the running of the country stuff the Dáil would be doing. The Seanad was supposed to be debating things like how to provide Ireland’s energy and whether to move towards nuclear or renewable energy. At the time that it was set up it was considered sensible to have university educated people determine who would be best to come up with the long term plans for Ireland which would be used to recommend policy to the Dáil.

          This ideal didn’t stop the Seanad becoming a rest home for the unelectable or a reward for the Taoiseach’s mates.

          1. Michael

            Where did you get that information? The Trinity seats existed in the old Free State constitution before Dev abolished that Senate.

          2. ReproBertie

            Sadly I can’t remember. It came up somewhere during the lead in to the Seanad Referendum.

        2. ahjayzis

          Agreed, but my point is that it isn’t even university graduates – it’s *some* university graduates. Which even of itself makes no sense.

      2. Eliot Rosewater

        Yeah, but we can’t have non-NUI/TCD people with the vote. Think of the chaos!

        Regardless, though, all this talk of making the Seanad more democratic (or more answerable to the democratic process, or whatever phrasing Hunt used) necessitates asking what the point of the Seanad really is. Do we just have two Dáils (Dálaí?) And if that’s the case, what’s the point? It’s great that Hunt is committed to reform, but she’s remarkably vague about what that reform would entail (she’ll make a great politician, though).

    2. Harry Molloy

      Darling, that is what is so wonderful about the Seanad, it is the better half of the country that decides who should be honoured with a prestigious yet unchallenging job.

    1. BobbyJ

      I agree Dee. I don’t buy the Sindo but I often visit my parents on a Sunday and my Dad will always have a copy (I’ve tried to persuade him otherwise but no joy, he likes the Sport section)

      Carol states above that she “initially decided to run because, for the past seven or eight years, I’ve been writing about the growing inequality gap in Ireland, the choice of our last government to introduce five regressive budgets in a row, the fact that the most vulnerable people in society ended up paying the highest price for the crash”.

      I may have missed the articles (I don’t visit the folks every Sunday) but I really can’t remember Carol championing any of the above causes. It tends to be the usual Sindo rag nonsense.

      1. Lilly

        Yes, I’d have a bit of a problem with anyone who writes for the Sindo representing me. The fact that she survives and thrives in the shark pit in Talbot Street means in my mind that she’s biddable and stands for nothing really. Then again there’s Gene Kerrigan… Since I don’t read the paper I’m not familiar with her oeuvre but it’s highly unlikely she’s a Kerrigan. I suspect she’s an operator with her eye on the cushy number and the pension but I’d love to be proven wrong. (I did like the piece she wrote here during the election enough to give her a vote.)

  7. Funster Fionnanánn

    We all know why people run.

    Gravy, lovely gravy.

    And don’t lie. It’s embarrassing.

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