Saturday 25 November 2017

A politician who chose to champion social issues

Anne Ferris
Anne Ferris

ANNE Ferris is the only serving Labour Party politician who has managed to survive the complete cull of party figures in her native Wicklow.

In 2011, the mother-of-three took over the seat vacated by former Labour deputy leader Liz McManus and has worked hard to maintain the party's stronghold in the north of the county. Ms Ferris was devastated when the party suffered a wipeout at the polls in the recent local elections, losing all its sitting councillors.

She is known to have sent a text message to the then party leader Eamon Gilmore expressing her disappointment.

Ms Ferris has been rewarded for her hard work since being elected a first-time TD and was recently elected deputy chairperson of the parliamentary party.

She also serves as the vice-chairperson of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, speaking vocally on issues such as adoption, rape and mother and baby homes.

She faces losing these positions within the party ranks as she becomes the first rebel to emerge under the leadership of Ms Burton. Within the party fold, Ms Ferris has struck up strong bonds with party chairman Jack Wall and fellow new TD John Lyons.

A former Wicklow county councillor, Ms Ferris was one of several TDs who had hopes of being promoted to the junior ministerial ranks. In one of her most impressive Dáil contributions, Ms Ferris spoke poignantly last July about being reunited with her sister years after she was put up for adoption.

She also delivered a powerful speech last month on the issue of mother and baby homes and was prepared to vote against the party on that issue also.

However, her chances of holding on to her seat in the Wicklow/East Carlow constituency at the next election are slim.

Ms Ferris will be forced to decide whether she reapplies to come under the party whip, or else contests the election as an independent. With several high-profile candidates in her home town of Bray, including Sinn Féin councillor John Brady, she will struggle to retain her seat.

Niall O'Connor

Irish Independent

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