Sunday 18 August 2019

My Money: 'It felt like being in the belly of a whale'

Grace O'Sullivan

Grace O'Sullivan
Grace O'Sullivan

Grace O'Sullivan is a Green Party MEP for Ireland. O'Sullivan was elected to the fourth European Parliament seat in the Ireland South constituency last June - after a close race with Fine Gael's Deirdre Clune and Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada.

O'Sullivan, who is from Tramore in Co Waterford, previously served as a senator in Seanad Éireann. She is also a mother of three.

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What's the most important lesson about money which your career in politics has taught you?

To plan and organise my budget. I don't overspend. I don't have any loans. I always cut my cloth to my means of the time - because I don't want the stress of financial debt. That means my three daughters and I live a simple life. I'd rather go without than put myself under financial stress.

What's the most expensive thing about being a parent?

At the moment, it's college fees. Two of my daughters are in college. Both live away from home - so the cost of their rent is huge. Both have part-time jobs.

What's the best advice you ever got about money?

That it's good to be able to support yourself in order to be as financially independent as possible. I've been in paid work since I was 13.

What's the most expensive country you ever visited?

Norway. I sailed into Norway in 1983 on board a Greenpeace ship called Sirius. When we got off the ship, we went into some of the shops. I remember being shocked at the cost of food and eating out - and how much more expensive it was than Ireland.

What's your favourite coin?

The old 10p with the Irish salmon on it. I like it because it's educational - particularly from our country's perspective, culture and mythology. I still have the image in my mind of the young boy (Fionn) burning his skin after cooking the salmon.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

My car - which is a 2012 Toyota Prius.

Would you buy Irish property now?

No, I have my own home and I've no interest in investing or speculating in the property market.

What was your worst job?

Cleaning out the water tanks on one of the Greenpeace ships. We had to clean out the water tanks so the tanks could be lined. It felt like being in the belly of a whale.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

I've been very financially prudent all along so I don't have any major financial mistakes. Looking back, sometimes buying into consumerism when my children were very young was a bit of a mistake.

What was your best financial killing?

Buying a beautiful longboard surfboard many years ago. I hold it very dear to my heart. It's like an antique. I was Ireland's first female champion surfer. We love our surfboards in Tramore.

Are you better off than your parents?

No, not by a mile. My father was a third-generation businessman and he also had a family farm. I'm from a family of 10 (five girls, three boys and my parents).

If you won the Lottery, what would you do with the money?

I'd look to my own family and siblings first and divide it along those lines. I'd make sure my own children were financially secure. I'd make a donation to a charity or non-governmental organisation which I'd seen to be effective.

What was the last thing you bought online?

A ticket to a concert.

Do you ever haggle?

Yes. I travelled with Greenpeace through Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the 1990s. If you don't haggle there, it's seen as a weakness.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

Flahavans porridge oats - for my energy. My swimsuit - for my mental health. And having a job, so I can support my family as a single parent.

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