My tattoos are art, they tell my life story, says new senator
If newly elected Senator Lynn Ruane's tattoos have raised eyebrows around the stuffy corridors in Leinster House she hasn't noticed.
"I take people as they come, so I just assume they do the same with me. My tattoos are art. They tell my life story," she says. Tallaght woman Ms Ruane is one of a diverse new class in the Seanad which is sitting for the first time today.
The drug addiction worker and former Students' Union president was elected to the Trinity College panel in April. A single mum, she hopes she can be an inspiration to others to get involved in politics.
"At first I suppose you're natural inclination is to not want to be labelled and to be taken on the merits of the hard work that you've done. But I've always accepted that I am a single mother and I think if anything I want to be able to show that with the right support and the right structures around you, that you can achieve whatever you want to, whether you be a single mother, married woman, whatever your background," she says.
Ms Ruane has two daughters, Jaelynne (9) and Jordanne (15) - an aspiring actor who starred in RTÉ's 'Rebellion' series. The senator says a lack of childcare provision is a "massive barrier" to women and while she has a supportive family to help her pursue her career, it is another issue she wants to raise in the Seanad.
She has no ambition to run for the Dáil, saying that without a constituency the Seanad gives her the freedom to campaign on national issues. The first item on her agenda is finishing off proposals she is preparing to submit to the Department of Education. She wants the emphasis in schools to move away from discipline towards student welfare.
She says: "The areas that I care about like addiction and homelessness and third level [education] I feel can all be positively impacted by opening up education."
Voting for the Seanad is limited to elected representatives and some university graduates. Ms Ruane says she'd like to see the franchise extended to every citizen, with people able to chose the panel where they'd have their say.
She would like the Taoiseach's power to nominate 11 senators scrapped, but if it must remain, that the seats would go to representatives of marginalised groups such as migrants and Travellers.
Ms Ruane doesn't think the 25th Seanad will be a talking shop, saying the lack of a government majority will combat that. She also points to the presence of other newcomers such as singer Frances Black and the Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan as evidence of the diverse nature of the new crop of senators she says will "change the dynamic" of the upper chamber.
Another new senator at Leinster House yesterday was Irish-American businessman and US immigration reform campaigner Billy Lawless.
Nominated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, he says he'll "possibly" be joining the Fine Gael parliamentary party. He said that no arrangements had been made for this to happen but that "I was Fine Gael all my life so I don't think I'll be changing at this stage".