So, how does one decide who to give a first preference to amongst 30 candidates?
I decided to go about a process of elimination, first excluding:
-Candidates I’m inherently opposed to (1)
-Candidates who didn’t bother contacting me in any way shape or form (3)
-Candidates I’m opposed to in terms of political or economic ideology (4)
-Candidates close to or members of political parties without openly disclosing this fact (or acting like it doesn’t matter) (3)
With all that, I still have 19 to choose from. 19! Of those 19, I had a closer look and put to the side those whose pitch and documentation failed to impress me as much as the others, whether it be due to their lack of or unimpressive experience, a certain difference in policy opinion, a lack of concrete policy, etc. Eight more bit the dust, leaving me with 11.
At this point, I feel like it becomes more and more difficult since it all starts to blend together: support of Seanad reform, better mental health services, repeal of the 8th amendment, gender equality, tackling suicide. I decided to go back to the issue of experience and be a bit more circumspect. This done, I was able to exclude another 6, leaving me with just 5.
I decided then to take a closer look at each of the remaining candidates’ primary focus and reason for seeking political office, in comparison to each other, and specifically also looked at their respective successes in advocating for those primary policies. I decided two more should now be dismissed.
The remaining three were Michael McDowell, Ellen O’Malley Dunlop and Kieran Rose.
Deciding a preference from there was harder. I decided McDowell would be third, because of my fundamental disagreement with him on the issue of Seanad abolition when the referendum took place, and because there is a certain whiff that his campaign is as much about a cosy retirement in an inefficient arm of government as much as anything else, notwithstanding my respect for his general policy views, legal career, political background and ability to get things done in the Oireachtas.
So it came down to O’Malley Dunlop and Rose, one a serious advocate for gender equality and victim’s rights, the other a serious advocate for the LGBT community and a leading SSM referendum campaigner.
In the end, it was as near to a coin toss as any such electoral decision can be. But I decided to give Rose my #2, and my #1 preference for Ellen O’Malley Dunlop.
She has already had a remarkable career. A decade at the head of Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre, an Adjunct Professor of Law in UL, a recognised Psychotherapist, a primary school and special needs teacher. She currently serves with entities like Gaisce and the National Steering Committee on Violence Against Women, having sat on the National Women’s Council and TUSLA.
She advocates for a clearer definition of consent in law, the provision of free counselling for victims of crime, a second SAVI report, the repeal of the 8th amendment, expanding psychotherapy services, increased state funding for sexual crime and domestic violence NGO’s, equality in education and the end of religious priority in school placement.
These are all things I can admire. But more than that, in a time and place when it seems to me that attempts to make “feminist” and “social justice” bad words, be it in real life, the media or the internet, when things like the “Gamergate” movement has actively ruined female lives for the most tawdry of reasons, when the issue of rape has become the most bizarre and unpalatable kind of political football, having a voice like O’Malley Dunlop’s in the Oireachtas, even if it was in something as weak and ultimately broken as the Seanad, would be a benefit, in the fight to combat gender inequality, sexual assault and the inherently repressive and hypocritical 8th amendment.
She then is my endorsement for this particular vote, but I would urge preferences for my other higher-ups too, which included, amongst McDowell and Rose, the likes of Karen Devine, Alice-Mary Higgins, Christy Kenneally and Paul D’Alton.
The polls close on April 26th.