Saturday 18 November 2017

For me, politics will become a Labour of love

Despite the prevailing sense of doom, there is still plenty of scope for badly needed change, writes John Whelan

I have always been a political animal. When I was 10 years of age in the CBS, I think I was the only boy in the class who knew about the Ho Chi Minh trail. It was thanks to my parents, a soldier on the Curragh and a hard-working mother of seven who never missed the main evening news, Seven Days, Hall's Pictorial Weekly and the Late Late when Gay Byrne was the voice and conscience of middle Ireland.

As my father shaved in the sink in the kitchen, the sounds of the morning were silenced on a simple command and the radio beeps counting down to the headlines on the hour.

Civics was big in school back then. We learned how to vote, why it was so important to vote, after all that's what they had died for back in 1916, the Christian Brothers and my mother would agree on that much. We even learned the machinations of proportional representation, and like so much of the Irish drummed into us, forgot most of it as soon as we left school.

But I continued to love politics. Coming of age in 1979 was a glorious chance to put voting to the test and governments to the sword. Three elections in 18 months in 1981 and '82 and the infamous Haughey era. I practised my franchise as a floating voter, taking a shine to the swashbuckling subversive Charlie McCreevy for standing up to Haughey; a liking for the lanky elegance of the articulate bureaucrat home from Brussels, Alan Dukes, and the straightforward decency of Athy's Joe Bermingham. The problem with working-class people like us was we talked a lot about Labour and the working man, but Haughey swaggering down Moore Street charming all the ould wans was our hero, and he socking it to Thatcher. Anyway the building sites always seemed to boom when Fianna Fail were in and Fine Gael well, they were Blueshirts and for the big farmers.

I still love politics but I don't want to be another career politician. However, I desperately want to do something about the mess we are in.

I want to stop complaining and take positive action instead. That is why I have decided to offer myself as the Labour candidate in Laois-Offaly.

I know first-hand what it's like to lose my job, see my kids emigrate and battle to hold on to our family home.

If elected I will not spend my time worrying about getting re-elected, as that mentality is at the heart of all our political problems today; the traditional Tweedledum and Tweedledee choices facing the voters. If I ever start to sound and behave like a political cliche, I think I have enough good friends to give me a good kick in the arse.

When I was speaking to my mother about the state of the country last week, like so many other people she said: "Sure, aren't they all the same son, does it really matter which of them is in?" I can understand that kind of thinking. But we're not all the same, no more than we're all in this together and the worst is over.

Job creation, supporting indigenous business and re-booting the economy has

got to be the number one priority of putting Ireland and its people first.

Selling off the family silverware to salvage dodgy banks and reckless bankers is not the only show in town.

On the main evening news this week, much to my dismay, were reports that the banks are still paying massive salaries and bonuses to their senior executives and continuing to mislead Nama; that staff at the Immigration Bureau are refusing to operate a new €20m computer system to combat benefit fraud unless they are promoted and paid more; and the NRA was already running out of salt after only one week of a cold snap. Some people never learn, but there sure is plenty of scope for cop on, common sense and change.

John Whelan will be nominated as the Labour candidate for Laois-Offaly at a selection convention chaired by Deputy Jack Wall TD in Portlaoise on Friday next, December 10.

Sunday Independent

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