Having moved to Ireland more than 20 years ago and raising my family here, I am proud to call this country home. This country called me, pulled me to it and I found my way among people who love and value me as their own. I’ve never felt less than a strong, undeniable sense of belonging here.
In fact, it was reflecting on the rarity of my experience that prompted me to run as a candidate in the Trinity Seanad by-election.
I have gained a wide range of educational and work experience both internationally and in Ireland. I am now pursuing my true calling where I have had the privilege of serving and representing people from all walks of life in my capacity as a practicing attorney. By running in this election, I am seeking a mandate to represent the people in a much broader way.
I firmly believe that the people of Ireland are best served with a Seanad that is as free as possible from partisan control.
Within the Seanad as it is currently constituted, the university seats are arguably the only ones truly independent of partisan politics and therefore possessing the ability to speak truth to those in power and hold the government of the day to account.
As someone with a lifelong passion for education, I truly admire the way the Irish place such a high value on education, based on their instinctive appreciation for its transformative impact on people’s lives.
However, this has not been reflected in government investment trends.
For example, the proportion of GDP spent on the entire education system – Primary, secondary and tertiary education – is only 3.3 percent and is the lowest among all OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. In fact, only 0.6 percent of GDP is spent on all higher education.
Given this relative underinvestment, Ireland also has one of the highest teacher-to-student ratios among developed countries, with a ratio of 23:1 compared to the OECD and EU average of 15:1. Ireland’s flagship university, Trinity College, has a 12:1 ratio, while Oxford has a 3:1 ratio and Cambridge has a 4:1 ratio.
This underfunding cannot last much longer before it sends our higher education into crisis mode, as has been the case with housing and equal access to health services.
As well as issues related to the quality of higher education, we also need to address the fundamental lack of equitable access to Irish universities.
It is unacceptable that people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds continue to be grossly underrepresented in Ireland’s top universities. As my motto is to hold no one back and leave no one behind, I believe we must do our utmost to expand access to accommodate those whose life chances are impacted by their socio-economic background or other diverse disadvantages – from living with disabilities to membership in minority communities. We must do this without denying anyone their well-deserved offer of places.
As diversity and inclusion are core values in my life, I am keen to look for spaces in Irish public life and the political landscape where diversity can be promoted and inclusion enhanced. For that reason, I look forward to more calls during this by-election for a more diverse and progressive spectrum of Seanad voices.
If it is true that without us there can be no representation of us, then we must promote equal access to our political system.
Currently one in five Irish residents are part of our new communities. However, out of a total of 949 municipal councils, only nine come from new municipalities and there is virtually no representation at parliamentary level. This is a blatant democratic deficit that can only be remedied by greater political representation and participation by all social groups.
As Ireland prepares to host thousands of Ukrainian refugees, more than ever we need to inspire greater engagement and participation in our national political landscape across all sectors of society and show that we can be seen as a truly inclusive nation and that this the Seanad is no longer an oldie club.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/why-i-would-be-a-voice-for-diversity-in-the-seanad-41497229.html Why I would be a voice for diversity in the Seanad