A Message amidst madness series: Taking Alternative routes.

By Cathy Lee

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you choose one way rather than the other? Let’s take for example, your walk to college or walk or your system of commute.

Can you remember the first time you went that way, and why you did?

Did it stand out to you or present you with something good? Did it lure you in?

Think now about how much of an impact this has had on you now. It is now part of your regular routine, you must spend the majority of your days on this route.

It has become part of your life.

I believe politics to be the same.

There was a general election in Ireland just recently on February 26th  2016.

National media described it as a “very different” election and in turn will create a very diverse Dail.

But why is it different?

You may have seen the hashtag ‘ge16’ on Twitter (it even had a little Irish flag automatically attached

For me it meant travelling back to my home town of Wicklow, over 200km from where I’m living currently to attend college.

I know from those I met at the polling station that much more also travelled home to cast their vote and valued having their views counted.

I think for once I was proud of my hometown simply because the people were willing to branch out and away from the FF/FG politics.

This was not the case for the nation as a whole.

Wicklow saw over half of the people gave their first preference to neither Fianna Fail nor Fine Gael.

In Wicklow Stephen Donnelly was elected on first count when he soared over the quota. He was elected in 2011 as an Independent candidate and just this year he co-formed a new party, the Social Democrats.

I was overwhelmed to see this as it really surprised me the courage that my constituency took to try new paths.

Now this doesn’t mean that the Fine Gael or Fianna Fail didn’t make the cut, they did too.

But it’s the one that tops polls that sticks in the mind and captures the coverage.

I was talking to a Galway woman about it who remarked that Wicklow did “something weird didn’t they?”

I chuckled when she said this, also mentioning that Galway East were the same with an Independent Alliance candidate topping polls.

Honestly, I’m happy to be classed with the weirdos if it means some actual change.

Why can’t we give the alternatives a chance to change the curve?

I don’t see how it doesn’t worry everyone that ever since the foundation of the state, it’s only ever been a majority led Dail government of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

I study journalism and politics in college so as you may have guessed that I was interested. I had been speaking prior to the elections to many media-types and political analysists, ever since about October.

I think it was only a very few who thought Fianna Fail would make such a comeback.

Looking back to the leaving certificate, after studying Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth I learned not to trust predictions.

I think that lesson could be seen again here as the count results came flooding in quite random order over the days following the election.

I woke up on Saturday morning and my dad left for work saying “it looks like Fianna Fail” are coming up.

I slipped back into the pillow and picked up my phone to check Twitter immediately.

I checked my sources which were an article on the journal.ie, independent.ie.. it was all true.

I checked Facebook. Saw a friend’s status claiming that those who had voted Fianna Fail had done an injustice to the nation.

I couldn’t make sense of it. After some thought, I came up with this.

In my mind, this election for some presented this:

“I don’t like the current government. What options do I have? I haven’t looked to any other new parties and sure independents can’t get a word in. My options then are Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein. It’s embedded in me to have a fear of ‘what Sinn Fein would do if they were in government’. I’ll vote Fianna Fail then.”

This is a simple break down. It may be way off.

I can’t predict the future, as I said Mr. Macbeth taught me. But in the next while we’ll see if the old roots will creep back up and blossom.

And this was your choice.

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A day in the Irish Independent Newspapers

You know you’re in a place that means business when once you walk in there’s a statue of ultimate journalist Veronica Guerin on the wall saying ‘Be Not Afraid’. You know you’re a place where real things happen when you see ‘Je suis Charlie’ posters plastered across the walls and desks of a newsroom. You know you’re in the real-life Irish Independent Newspapers when you’re seeing all this first hand for the first time.

My Sunday shift started at 11am. Although admittedly I spent until 11:20 at the front desk waiting for my mentor and guide for the day, the deputy editor of the Irish Independent, to arrive and whisk me away to the unknown. I wasn’t unhappy to wait though, I felt the need to take it all in. Behind the security of the front desk you can see a spread out logo list of all the news outlets run by the Irish Independent. These included The Herald, The Sunday World and http://www.Independent.ie.

Independent.ie is what I have to thank for getting me this opportunity. You see each week they choose a ‘Weekly Read’ article from the student college news site ‘Campus.ie’. My first article written for Campus.ie was about New Years resolutions and how you could adapt them into college life and this article was picked as the Weekly Read luckily enough.

I’m a first year journalism student studying in NUI Galway. Although I have some experience under my belt as a journalist, I’m certainly not a professional and I am without a degree as of yet. Needless to say the night before the shift the nerves had festered and the feeling of uncertainty had come over me. I wondered whether the Irish Independent would even take me seriously, I mean I was only there for the day.

As soon as the shift started I knew this was not the case. First up when I had got myself settled onto the third floor in the newsroom came a press release from a business company who had completed a survey on couples spending for Valentines story. I had to turn this into a 150 word piece (without providing the company with any free advertising) to capture the bigger picture of what this survey actually showed. I accepted this relatively small challenge and I was given help and guidance not before but after the article was written. I knew then that this day would be more on an ‘up to me’ basis than I had thought.

Challenge one complete and it was only 12 noon. Next up I had to do a report on the unlawful killing of a rare bird of prey. This was a sensitive one because this particular bird was a special with a huge online following and a local community involved in its care. A TD was on the phone to me telling me about the incident and the implications. People say you can’t trust politicians and maybe that’s true – I mean he did talk to me for a good five minutes and then requested not to be quoted. But it’s fine, he was quite helpful considering it was a Sunday.

Honestly there’s something you should know about Sundays and maybe some of you already do know. People don’t want to be talked to or pestered by journalists, especially on Sundays. My third article was one that I pitched to the editor, but to make it a good news story a good quote was needed. Quotes are hard things to come by I learned that day.

I spent my last hour and a half of the shift trying to get a decent quote for the piece but of course people either don’t answer their phones on Sundays or else leave you to wait until normal office hours.

But looking back now it was an excellent work experience. I mean I didn’t even have to make tea for anyone, I actually went for tea with one of the news journalists, and I was taken seriously. As contacts are so important in journalism, I was happy and honoured to be working alongside them all and thankfully they were all perfectly willing to help me out. It might have helped from that perspective that Sundays are quiet.

Although something on the opposite to that Sunday quiet was the sports department. All the sports people come in at about three in the afternoon and watch their games, commentate and write their reports while the TVs, laptops and radios roar in the background. It really was interesting to see this in action, although I did have to move chairs because one of the sports guys needed it.

Now I’m really grateful for the experience and although I don’t know whether I’ll be back for another shift, the deputy editor did tell me my writing was good and if I had any story ideas to just drop him a line and we’ll stay in contact that way. It’s tough to sum up a conclusion to the day but all I know is it meant a lot to me and I could see myself enjoying the experience if I was to work there for real.

Thanks for reading and I just realised this is my first blog post so hope it wasn’t too bad!

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