Friday 23 March 2018

If elected, I know that I can make an impact

Success of adoption bill has convinced me that running is the right choice - I can't just walk away, writes Averil Power

TIDES OF CHANGE: ‘I believe the only way to make the Dáil more independent of the Cabinet, and thereby secure better government, is to elect more independents’
TIDES OF CHANGE: ‘I believe the only way to make the Dáil more independent of the Cabinet, and thereby secure better government, is to elect more independents’

Averil Power

Since my resignation from Fianna Fáil, I have given a lot of thought to whether I should run in the next general election or not.

It had previously been my intention to put myself forward as a candidate in Dublin Bay North. I did well in the 2011 election there and have done a lot of work both locally and nationally since then.

However, no longer being a member of a party, I had to decide if running in the general election was still the right thing for me to do.

Could I make an impact as an Independent TD? Would I be able to effectively represent people and help deliver change? Or would I find myself lost in a sea of 160 TDs having little effect on Government policy?

I didn't want to run unless I was convinced I'd be able to make a difference.

Eventually something happened that convinced me I would.

The Government announced that it is following through on the adoption bill I published last year. For the first time ever, adoptees will have a right to our birth certificates, listing our original names and our natural parents' names. Natural parents will also be given the option of providing current contact details if they wish.

As an adopted person, this is an issue that is very close to my heart. If this legislation had been in place when I was 18, I would have found my natural mother then instead of having to wait another 10 years.

Ten years of not knowing who I really was, if my mother was OK, if I had siblings I had never met or if there was a serious inherited illness in the family I was unaware of.

Natural parents too have been condemned to years of pain and anxiety as a result of government inaction in this area. Having been forced to place their children for adoption, many have spent years trying to re-establish contact with no success.

Hearing the Government intends to follow through on my bill and end this heartbreak made me immensely proud. I know it will make a huge difference to 60,000 adopted people and their families.

When I brought forward my adoption bill last year I did so as an individual senator. It wasn't a party bill. Dr Fergus Ryan, a barrister specialising in family law, drafted it for me and then I worked hard to secure all-party support for it.

Learning the Government intends to act on the issue has convinced me that individual members of the Dáil and Seanad can help deliver real change.

It also made me think of other times over the past four years when I felt I made a difference.

Being part of the marriage equality campaign was a particular high point.

As was helping to secure the reversal of staffing cuts to schools in Darndale and other disadvantaged areas in 2013.

I also enjoyed working with students, teachers and mental health groups to develop a national action plan on youth mental health.

Before the summer recess, I secured the unanimous support of the Seanad for my motion on workers' rights in the aftermath of the Dunnes Stores dispute and Clerys lay-offs.

I have also enjoyed helping people with individual problems and local issues - things that might seem small in the scheme of things but make a huge difference to their lives.

Having thought about all of this, I have decided that I really want to stay involved in politics.

Post-recession, Ireland is at a crossroads. Will we learn from the mistakes of the past or just line ourselves up for another period of boom and bust? Will we rebuild our country in a way that delivers both a strong economy and a just society? Do we have a clear vision of where we want to be not just in five years, but in 25?

The answer to these questions depends on who we elect to represent us in the next Dáil.

I am putting myself forward as a candidate in the general election because I want to help change Ireland for the better.

I also know that, if elected, I will make an impact.

I won't be criticising everything or trying to score cheap political points. I'll be working hard to develop realistic proposals and building alliances with TDs of all parties and none to get them delivered. I did this with my adoption bill and I know I can do it with other issues.

As an Independent, I am free to speak up for what I believe is right, unconstrained by party politics.

My only loyalty is to the people and I am accountable solely to you.

While party TDs are subject to a whip, often farcically voting for things they have publicly argued against, I will vote according to my conscience on every issue.

I will support the Government when they're doing the right thing and strenuously oppose them when they're not.

I appreciate the conventional wisdom in Ireland is that we need strong parties for politics to work. However, can anyone seriously argue that politics has worked in recent years?

The Irish Water debacle was made possible by our party system. With more than two-thirds of the Dáil seats and a strong party whip, our current Government can do whatever it wants.

It was free to push the water bill through the Dáil without even allowing time for it to be debated properly. And it continues to plough ahead with the plan, despite the fact that most TDs - including Government TDs - can see it is a mess.

Far from being a recipe for stability, our party system facilitates gross incompetence, arrogance and mismanagement. It also nurtures the groupthink that walked us into the current economic crisis and seems determined to repeat the same mistakes.

In 2011, Fine Gael and Labour promised a democratic revolution. They committed to strengthening the Dáil so it could hold the Government to account. They also promised greater transparency. They haven't delivered and neither will the other parties.

I believe the only way to make the Dáil more independent of the Cabinet, and thereby secure better government, is to elect more independents.

That is why I have decided to contest the next general election.

Dublin Bay North is probably the most competitive constituency in the country so I know it won't be easy. However, I care too much to walk away.

Sunday Independent

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