Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Words on Wednesday...with Joanna Tuffy TD

Welcome to another edition of Words on Wednesday here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

Taking my questions this week is the newly elected Labour TD for Dublin Mid West Joanna Tuffy. First off let me first congratulate Ms Tuffy on winning her seat. Now then let's crack on with the questions...

What initially attracted you to political life?

I think politics impacts on everything and what party is in Government matters. I feel very passionate about the Labour Party, its ideas, its history including its founding by 1916 Leader James Connolly and I want to see the Labour Party succeed and be involved in a Labour driven Government. That is why I joined the Labour Party. The reason I ran for election as a public representative when I was elected to the Council in 1999 was because I felt I could get elected. That I had the drive and discipline to win a seat and do the work as an elected representative.

I read that you were born in England. Have you ever encountered negativity from anyone in Ireland because of that?

No. My parents emigrated to England from Mayo in the 1960's just after they got married and came back to Ireland when I was 5. Its part of my Irish identity!

Looking back at the recent election, what are your thoughts on Labour's performance?

I am disappointed more of us didn't get elected but we held our own I think and there are three new faces now for Labour in the Dail. I think we have to build on the position we are now in and I think we can and go on to have more representatives elected in upcoming and future elections and become a bigger more organised party, with a strong ideology and vision that will have more power in Government in the future.

You managed to win a seat in Dublin Mid West but there were some strong contenders up against you. At any point did you think you might not win the seat?
I was worried the morning of the Count at 7am when I got up to get the results of the exit poll that I might not make it. But even then I thought I might still make it. I had many strong contenders for the seats in my constituency but my campaign team ran a great campaign and we've been working on it since the last election when I came fourth in the then three seat constituency. I all through the campaign felt hopeful that I would win a seat for Labour in Dublin Mid West.

Why do you think Fianna Fáil did so well in the election?

I think there are lots of different reasons. But FF had this election well choreographed.

Mary Harney won a seat for the PDs in your constituency but her party took a hammering overall. Were you surprised by the bad performance of the PDs?

No. I thought it was very likely they would lose seats.

As I write this there is a lot of uncertainty over who will lead the next government with talk of a FF/Labour coalition and also talk of Fine Gael, Labour and the other parties forming a government. What would you personally like to see happen?

I want to see Labour build on what it has now to become a bigger party with more opportunity to bring about change in Ireland in the future.

Looking ahead to your future in the Dáil what are some of they key issues you are intent on tackling?

Issues I intend to raise as a T.D. include the need for better planning for school places in growing communities including in my own constituency of Dublin Mid West; immediate investment in our existing public transport infrastructure, bus and rail to ensure that we have good bus services, rail transport that ensures a good service both intercity and in our cities; better funding and resourcing of local government to do its work.

I know that crime is one of the issues you feel very strongly about. What do you think we need to do in order to make out streets safer?

I think a key approach that should be adopted by An Garda Siochana is that of community policing which is about working in partnership with local communities to prevent crime, solve problems, bigger emphasis on gardai on the beat in neighbourhoods, the gardai getting to know their community and vise versa. This is the approach that was considered best practice for e.g. by the Patten Commission when they looked at approaches adopted around the world. People will feel more secure with stronger garda visibility and will be more likely to report crime and work with the Gardai to solve crime. We need to do a lot more to address the issue of drug addiction and we need to be very tough on the drugs lords.

How do we solve the health crisis?

I think that it is important to put the public beds that are needed in our hospitals and step down facilities, including public nursing homes, in place as a first step.

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

1) Move away from developer led planning and build communities of affordable housing that have a nice environment, necessary facilities and infrastructure

2) Have lifelong learning central to our education system and a way of life

3) have a health system that is first class and that treats people according to their medical needs.

What are your thoughts on a united Ireland?

I would like to see it but in the meantime I think the priority is developing greater links, more cooperation.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now in your opinion?

I would like to see Ireland having had 15 years or so by then of Labour led government that invested in our infrastructure and public services in a sustained and planned way so that we would all have the right to a good education, a home, health care when we needed it, more time with our friends and families and fair working conditions.

What does the future hold in store for Labour in your view?

See above.

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following...

Bit artificial this but for the sake of it:

Pat Rabbitte - leader
Enda Kenny - Mayo
Michael McDowell - lost
Mary Harney - held
Bertie Ahern - cunning
Fianna Fáil - smooth operators
Labour - Connolly
Sinn Féin - the North
Progressive Democrats - decimated
Joanna Tuffy - T.D.

My thanks to Joanna for taking my questions. Best of luck to her in the Dáil.

Stay tuned to United Irelander for information on future interviews. Previous interviews can be found here.


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