Friday 23 August 2019

Waking hours: Nadine Meisonnave, aspiring politician

Nadine Meisonnave, 28, runs the Maison Neuve estate agency and is a Fine Gael candidate for the local elections in Dublin. She was born in the USSR, grew up in Estonia, then came here eight years ago. She is separated and has two boys – John, four, and Mike, two

Nadine Meisonnave
Nadine Meisonnave

Ciara Dwyer

I get up around 6.30am. There are four of us in the house – my two boys, Mike and John; Rosie, the Brazilian au pair, and me. Rosie gets the boys' breakfast ready so I can I get them out of the house on time. It's a bit manic in the mornings, so I don't have breakfast.

The creche opens at 8am, and so does the school. I drop the boys off and then the au pair sometimes picks them up. I'm separated and I work full time, so I need Rosie's help. Now that I'm campaigning for the elections, I thank God I have her. She's great.

After that, I get myself parked and go for a coffee, then I go into the office on Lower Baggot Street. We do letting, selling and property management. My parents have an estate agency in Estonia, so I've always known a little bit about this world.

When I first came to Dublin to improve my English, I worked in restaurants, but I didn't see catering as my career path. To get experience, I worked in West Wood Health Club in Sandymount. It was great, but it wasn't challenging enough. I wanted to do something more exciting.

When I got a job as a receptionist in an estate agency, I fell in love with the business. The firm was focusing on sales, and I asked if I could do lettings for them. I'm ambitious and interested, and I always look around and see what's happening. This was an opportunity.

I then went on to study for a diploma in property studies, and, in 2010, I set up my own business.

It was a very challenging time. I had just had my first baby in 2009. I also opened in the middle of the recession and started with lettings only. Back then, it was really tough for landlords to find tenants, so it helped that they needed an agent. I was very active and used to do cold-calling looking for clients. I wasn't just going to wait for them to come to me. Word-of-mouth gets you business, too. That's how I have most of my clients now.

I deal with landlords and tenants, so I'm in the middle. There is a shortage of properties, especially family homes, and it's very difficult for tenants to find somewhere to live. I really feel for them.

I could do a viewing and get 15 people come to see a one-bedroom apartment in town. Most of them are nice and suitable, with good references.

When I meet possible tenants, first impressions are important. I didn't always follow them, and that was wrong. I'm much more intuitive now. Landlords ask me my impression and I tell them. During my day, I could be doing viewings, meeting landlords or doing inspections for properties I manage. I also organise maintenance.

I try to have lunch during the day, but it depends on how busy I am. I share custody of my children with my ex-husband, so there are days when I work the full day through, and other days I pick them up, drop them home and have a bit of time with them before going out to do campaign work.

I go out canvassing four nights a week, but, closer to the elections, it will be more. I joined Young Fine Gael in 2009, around the time I had my first son. I liked what they were saying. Last year, I joined the full party. I think Fine Gael is a conservative, hard-working party, and I believe in it.

At a business breakfast in the Shelbourne Hotel, I was asked if I would consider going for councillor. I thought, 'I would'. I wanted to get more involved. In December, I was nominated for the elections. Since then, it's been hectic.

I'm a business person, so I want to represent business people. Parking is very expensive in business districts, and aggressive clamping does not encourage people to shop locally. Rates are an issue for me. Businesses must have value here. As a self-employed person, I've also discovered that the process of getting maternity benefit is very difficult and stressful, but it shouldn't be. And, if a self-employed person loses their job, they can't get social welfare. That needs to be changed.

Big topics always come up on the doorsteps, but I'm standing for the local elections, so I want to improve the community. I know it sounds vague, but there are real things that we can do. As a mother, I want to see a safer, cleaner, greener environment. Safer cycling is a big deal for me. I think there should be cycle lanes that are not part of the road. That's how it is in Europe.

There also aren't enough playgrounds and activities for kids. We need to have something, even if it is community-based. It's not that hard to organise.

Dog-fouling is a big issue for me, too. It's basic, really, but it's awful and just not good enough. There are signs warning people to pick up after their dogs or be fined. Do people ever get fined? I don't think so. In Germany, they are talking about a DNA proposal that will track the owner of the dog.

Also, if the council has all these machines, why doesn't somebody clean the streets? It's for everybody's good.

Flooding is an important issue in Sandymount and Ringsend, and we have to look at defences. People are worried because some can't get insurance as they are at risk of flooding. But, if you raise the sea wall by 18 inches, that'll be enough for the next 50 years.

I also want to represent non-Irish people like myself – a lot of these people don't know that they can vote in the local elections. I know what it's like to come here and make Ireland your home.

A lot of non-Irish people don't integrate, but I think you need to do that. When I came here, I had friends from Russia and Estonia, but I also hung out with people who didn't speak Russian.

Some nights, I will do a viewing, then head home and have a cold dinner because I'll be too tired to eat anything hot. That'll be around 10pm, so the boys will have been long in bed by then.

Social media is an important part of keeping in touch with constituents. I tweet at night, but not enough.

I like to go out for meals with friends, and I enjoy the cinema, but I haven't done either for a long time. Men occasionally ask me out, but I'm not involved seriously with anybody. With all the canvassing, where would I find the time? Maybe after the election.


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