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.

A Message Amidst Madness Series: Dealing with Changing Times.

By Cathy Lee

Ireland is a place for decisive and divisive referenda.

The Divorce referendum of 1996 and of course The Marriage referendum of just last year come to mind.

Call me biased, but these all happened in my lifetime.

Last week the Literary and Debating Society in NUI Galway held a debate on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment of the constitution.

This of course is topical as it has been raised as an election issue currently, with some politicians showing their true colours as is to be expected.

But some politicians have been giving mixed messages about their stance on the matter.

About a year ago a Fine Gael TD claimed that he himself was pro-life in his stance but would agree with the need for his party to call a referendum on repealing the 8th and legalising abortion.

The term that first comes to mind during this time is “uncertainty” in these changing times.

We can’t be certain what’s to happen and what really defines “progress and change” to Irish politicians.

What is good for the country moving forward versus the sincerity in the views of Irish politicians seems to be an issue.

The government changed legislation in 2013 to make abortion accessible on the grounds of when a woman is showing signs of being suicidal.

Pro-Life campaigners were unhappy with this legislation and Galway representative for this campaign told me she’d like to see this legislation changed back to the way it was before 2013.

Although this legislation passed, you take the example of the “Ms Y” case of the same year (that is still ongoing) where the woman in question claimed to be suicidal and was still not able to access her own wishes to abort the foetus who had been conceived through rape.

Pro-Choice campaigners would prefer to have the 8th amendment of the constitution just be deleted and therefore avoiding any confusion around matters of defining whether a woman is sincere or not etc.

Deleted is a key word to this, as phrasing is so important when trying to convince the general public of complex views.

Last month national radio station NewsTalk launched their conversation campaign around Election 2016.

Their phrasing really struck me.

Their slogan was “Time to terminate the 8th?” with a photograph of a 6 month baby scan.

I couldn’t believe that this campaign was spread across the main billboard in my small home town.

(Just 100 metres away from the Catholic church too I might add).

We can experience bias when it comes to these referenda when we are presented with a fogged view of the reality.

When speaking to a local county councillor at home in Wicklow, he explained that a campaign to repeal the 8th would be certainly harder to achieve than other referenda.

With the “Yes Equality” campaign running up until last May, there were positive stories to tell about couples finding love and wishing to marry.

With abortion, often the stories are highly sensitive and not always positive.

But it also makes you wonder where all the losers on the side of these referenda go?

Do they just disappear off the radar when their views aren’t the majority?

Do those who voted “No” in the Marriage referendum boycott same-sex weddings or those who said “No” to divorce just force wedding rings back onto fingers now?

I understand everyone is entitled to their opinions and moral views on these topics, but it just get to wondering where is the future and will it actually facilitate everyone?

The conversation must be opened more instead of one side shunning the other’s views out.

Compromise is key in my view for this debate.

A Message Amidst Madness Series: Seeing people as real.

By Cathy Lee

So as it’s election season, this has brought focus to the chosen few in each constituency as to who is to represent and triumph at the polls.

The promises are thrown out and repeated on end, with the key words of “progression” and “prosperity” to be seen everywhere.

With posters shining above us upon most lamp posts and the odd fence, it’s easy to fall into a trap of seeing these running TDs as some new form of super-hero or celebrity.

I understand that these people are public figures, but it’s key to remember that these guys, although politicians, are still people at the end of it all.

Respecting somebodies status is a social phenomenon that we’ve all grown up with.

Such as respect your parents, respect your teachers, respect the priest, respect your boss.. and the list goes on.

But this week at the University of Limerick, RTE showcased the Party Leaders Debate, presented by journalist Claire Byrne.

I was very impressed to see that when questions were taken from the audience, the crowd had little fear to question the big bosses and ask them about their intentions.

I think this is only right and totally necessary.

If there’s one characteristic that running candidates or party leaders should have, it’s simply to be answerable.

(Not too much to ask from a person supposedly to be trusted with the running of our society.)

The way this election is going, there appears to be an act of desperation to get in rather than a practical approach to problem solving.

Don’t get me wrong that I’m being all preaching here, I know problem solving is hard.

I just don’t understand how in my home constituency of Wicklow, giving out Valentines cards from your local TDs, “refreshing” hand wipes or talk about going on the “Ferris-wheel” is really the target to assure a prosperous government to rely on for the future.

TDs want to be taken seriously but also want to win the sort of popularity contest that is currently going on.

These concepts can clash together creating confusion among the electorate.

A new approach is needed.

I believe that each person, as a citizen of this country, should be registered to vote and be informed.

If they are not, they can easily be manipulated by the next to nothing propaganda that’s happening at the moment of party-pushing.

It should be the standing obligation of our national government to make sure people are informed about the election process.

Instead TDs are acting somewhat manipulative, not thinking of the country as a whole rather their own career gains.

In recent elections, a lot of people had a change of mind on who to vote for within the last couple of days of the election.

These are fighting times, where it could really go either way.

Power and who holds it impacts, history has taught us that on many occasions.

So I encourage you to ask the TDs the hard questions, forget about their titles and make them earn your vote instead of a feeble attempt at buying it.

A friend recently told me a piece of advice that has been passed down through her family: “people may have their titles, their success and their status: but you must remember that they use the toilet in just the same way as you or I”.

 

 

 

A message amidst madness series: Facing Challenges

 

By Cathy Lee

“Cancer”.

It’s a threatening word that faces us in modern day life, something that we can’t back down from.

The pronoun before the dreaded word is very important too. “You have, I have, your wife has, your friend has” and so on.

Cancer is a sickening challenge, like that one competitor in the game who’s a born dominant fighter that you have to rise above to have a chance at overcoming.

Not an easy thing either, I might add.

How people tackle the beast of the C word has always fascinated me. From those suffering with the outer skin types, the internal organs types, brain tumours and in my opinion the worst case, the blood.

One in three people in Ireland today are affected by Cancer directly, but think about how many families and friends are indirectly affected.

This probably sounds like it’s going to be a downer piece but trust me, it’s not.

I want to share with you an incredible story of friendship, innovation and generosity which I witnessed in my own home town recently.

Last week I came across a link called “Aaron’s fight” that friends from home were sharing online. The image attached to the link looked kind and familiar, like I recognised the kids in the photograph across the screen.

The online world is a hectic place. Things such as these are easy to scroll past or look at half-heartedly. But not this one.

I clicked in, thinking some young lad from home had gotten in a fight or something. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this wasn’t the case.

“Aaron’s Fight” is a fundraising campaign for a young man, Aaron de Veerde, who has been fighting T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia for just over one year now.

Fighting is not strong enough of a term to describe this young man. From my reading and from talking to his best friend Blaine McKeever, who started this campaign, he’s an inspirational kid who has never wanted to give up.

Since his diagnoses, Aaron

has suffered the loss of sight in one eye and also missed out on the chance to finish secondary school with his classmates, a big step defining step in any adolescents life.

With this in mind, feeling inspired by his friend, Blaine came up with the innovative idea to use online means to secure Aaron a fighting chance at overcoming his cancer.

Blaine is a UCD student aged 19 and comes from Wicklow and is a long standing friend of Aaron. This campaign was a simple idea of telling Aaron’s story and appealing to the generosity of others in order to raise €10,000 for Aaron to travel to Florida to seek vital survival treatment.

This escalated over the last few days, with nearly 350 people donating to the cause online as well as directly to Blaine himself.

The €10k was collected in under a week from friends, neighbours and even those outside of the Wicklow catchment area.

The response was huge, as now there is even a charity concert being planned for early March with local bands who are friends of Aarons providing the entertainment.

“Aarons’ Fight” will go on until April, and the campaign continues today.

The extra donations past the now reached target are being used for family support and other donations such as to St. Vincents hospital, Dublin.

The support is huge and Blaine has been amazed by the ultimate generosity saying “It’s the people sharing and donating that deserve the thanks”.

What we can take from this story is that friendship is something extraordinary and any challenge, even one such as brutal as cancer, can be stepped up against with the strength and support in valuable numbers.

Daily, people complain about money constraints and their unwillingness to spend, yet this is such a different case. As the story grows and continues, I think the nature of giving will as well once this strong sense of dedication to friendship is recognised.

Check out the campaign here and I encourage you to donate to “Aaron’s Fight”. https://www.gofundme.com/aaronsfight

A Message Amidst The Madness Series: Lessons Learnt.

By Cathy Lee

A lot of not very “every-day” things happened in my every-day life last week.

Let me just say before we get into this that you shouldn’t worry as this won’t be a diary entry.

Last week I began my usual college student routine, doing what I was supposed to be doing. By Saturday, I had had three cover stories in three different newspapers.

I also won first place at a competitive Poetry Slam (but that’s a different story).

The overused term that comes to mind is “that escalated quickly”, but if the shoe fits.

The irregularity of these events come from the content of the cover stories and the fact I was even involved in a Poetry Slam.

The stories were an analysis of changes in property prices in county Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow which were spread across three pages each.

That’s altogether nine pages of house prices, analysis and content coming from a student journalist who doesn’t own a home and isn’t an amazing tenant either.

Also currently I live in neither Dublin nor Wicklow and believe me, not even Carlow.

The point of this post is that life is quite unpredictable and basically I believe you need to take every opportunity, big or small, that comes your way.

I will tell you just how I did that this time around.

Back in December, I met with the editor of the papers to do an interview about the upcoming general elections in Ireland in 2016.

I had completed work experience at their “Wicklow Voice” paper over the summer, a two week stay at a paper I grew to really enjoy writing for.

He was very willing to talk and gave a good interview, I was happy with how it went.

He told me during our talk that day that he would have some upcoming journalism work for me and also mentioned the magic and underused word of “paid”.

Of course, I was delighted at this.

Then, the horror of the words hit like a ton of bricks on the horizon of a ghost estate, (now growing from ghostly to homely I might add).

“Property”.

I sunk at the thought, knowing that property was not in my vocabulary never mind my journalistic abilities.

15,000 homes were sold in Dublin 2015. I looked at the name, location and price of each property.

500 homes were sold in Carlow and 1,300 in Wicklow. That’s nearly 17,000 homes.

With the extremity of excitement in uncovering information such as this, I was beginning to lose faith in terms of whether anybody would even want to read this endless jargon of stats.

I soon learned that I was wrong. People love putting their nose in others homes, to see how the other half lives in some way.

I listed the cheapest and most expensive sales and also the top ten homes in the counties.

People go crazy for these things and such stats, I found out when I saw the spread of numbers and cartoon homes on the published papers.

I also noticed that each other national paper and locals had property stories too, so I didn’t feel alone in my extensive investigative research into the “Property Price Register”.

I think I got the shock when the killer headline was in big bold print and I had the beloved by-line to go with it.

I almost felt like a spreader of my personal property propaganda that the poor readers in Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow had just me to read on the cover of their locals.

Last year in the first year of my journalism course in Galway, a speaker from thejournal.ie told us that you can’t predict what stories readers will like the most.

That idea flashed into my mind all through last week.

I think in this game I’m now invested in, you have to just take it as it comes.

Never say no, nod along and figure out the ins and outs later because a high percentage of the time, you can figure out the best way around a tough situation.

We are born survivors aren’t we? Embrace that inner strength and grab at these chances.

Who knows, maybe when I buy my first home. I’ll know where to go and look, because the stories stick with you, no matter how far gone you are.

Carlow

 

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I attach links to the property stories and photographs of the cover stories, feel free to browse and thanks to Wicklow Voice, Dublin Voice and Carlow People papers.