Education quite literally gave me a new chance at life. I can personally attest to the transformative role that it can play in tackling inequality and addressing many other social challenges. Education was a key factor in driving me to run for the Seanad and it will be the cornerstone of my legislative agenda as a senator.
The third level education sector is in crisis. As decisions are made about it’s future, I plan to strongly make the case to maintain public funding of higher education, to strongly oppose the introduction of a student loan scheme and to increase efforts to boost access to third level. Education is a public good and burdening our young people with mountains of debt is not the solution to our current funding problems.
This government will decide the future of the higher education sector for decades to come. I pledge to consistently advocate on behalf of students and to do my utmost to ensure a well-funded, public and accessible third level education sector is the end result.
To see my submission to the Department of Education for the formulation of their upcoming two-year strategy, click here.
Equality of Access
It is a key priority of mine that every citizen has equal opportunity to access public services. No Irish person should be discriminated against because of where they live, where they’re from, their beliefs or their gender. For a country that proclaims to be a society that cherishes all of the children of the nation equally, it is clear that huge inequalities of access exist and need to be addressed.
A child should not be denied access to primary education based on the religious beliefs of their parents and a woman should not be denied access to an abortion because they do not have the financial security to travel abroad. The two-tiered nature of our health system must end and a citizen’s ability to access healthcare should not and cannot depend on their income level.
Inequality is rife in Irish society. It’s my goal as a senator to be a challenger of inequality in all its forms and work to ensure that Ireland becomes, truly, a republic of equals.
Championing progressive policies
It is my view that our national policies must be realistic, progressive and enacted in consultation with key stakeholders in every field. Policy-making has for far too long been conducted with an authoritarian and top-down attitude that fails to incorporate the potential impact and unintended consequences on our ordinary citizens.
For example, our national policies relating to drugs do not reflect the best course of action to tackle both the illicit drug trade and gangland violence in our capital city. As a former addition worker, I know first-hand that a criminal justice approach to the drug trade does not work. As a result, I will be advocating for a move to a Portuguese style decriminalisation model during my time in the Seanad.
All enacted policies must be equality-proofed, poverty-proofed and fully informed and directed by grassroots evidence. We have an opportunity to fully integrate the expertise of civil society groups in policy formulation and I will work to ensure this becomes a reality.
It is widely accepted that Seanad Éireann, in its current form, is not fit for purpose. The upper house of the Oireachtas is widely perceived to be an elitist and ineffective body. It is a high priority of mine to open the Seanad up to the Irish people and to work to make it a more effective and impactful part of the legislative process.
On my first day in the Seanad, I co-sponsored a bill with many other independent senators that would radically reform how elections to the house are conducted. The delivery of a Seanad vote for every Irish citizen over the age of 18 will be a key goal of mine during my term as a senator.
I have high hopes for the potential of a reformed Seanad. I plan to work within the house to ensure this potential is realised.