As many of you will already know I am a Fine Gael councillor with South Dublin County Council and I represent the Lucan/Palmerstown Ward. As someone who was elected after my very first political campaign I still consider myself relatively new to the world of politics, but believe that my role as a community activist prepared me well to serve my constituents. I have a wealth of experience working on community issues, especially those linked to access, disability and inclusion. In this blog, I would like to talk a little bit about my political journey and why I became involved.
Several years ago, I first met the now Cllr William Lavelle and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald during my search for information regarding services (or what I felt was a distinct lack of services and failings in my own community) for children with disability. My son had been diagnosed with a condition which brought me on a journey where I was regularly encountering barriers and obstacles hindering our path to progress. At the time, I called on every local representative for support in accessing what we required and to develop improved services in our area. No one was willing to step up to the mark effectively, yet there was still a very obvious need for support. I had a random, chance meeting with Cllr Lavelle, who wasn’t elected at the time and, having lost all faith, I told him our story. He didn’t have the answers but told me he would come back to me with a commitment from Minister Fitzgerald to address these issues, and we worked together from that day. That was almost 10 years ago now and their dedication locally is still to be commended.
My family and I had committed to giving them our full support as we believed in their work ethic, morals and commitment to all things local, which could only be advantageous to our community. At this point, I actively engaged with my own network, relaying this good work, whilst carrying on with my own projects, very much under the radar but with the full and constant support of Cllr Lavelle and Minister Fitzgerald.
Several months prior to the local election, having thought through what was not an obvious path for me, I decided I would put myself forward to run for Fine Gael and try to transfer the work that I was doing locally into a more formal setting.
I felt in order to make changes, I needed to be more involved and I believed I held similar qualities, values and work ethic required to represent my specific area of interest in a strong capacity.
I also felt that I was well equipped to represent Fine Gael in an effective manner as part of the great team in our area. As I was new to politics, my election team was small but worked very well together and covered so much ground with me. I engaged with the local branch and previous retired councillors, who shared their wealth of knowledge, experience and supported in my journey.
I always describe my journey as a “short sharp burst”. I stayed true to myself and my goals and I was never afraid to say, “I don’t know” or ask for advice when it was needed. As I previously learned from my first encounter with William, it is ok not to know as it gives you the opportunity to go away and learn and come back to constituents, showing them your commitment to help where you can which I feel is vital in my role as a local councillor. I also previously worked in South Dublin County Council, in the Finance Department so I feel my experience there has also helped to give me an insight into the workings of our local authority which is fantastic when dealing with my council colleagues.
Although it was tough at times, I thoroughly enjoyed my campaign trail and would urge members and the community itself to stay active – and remember, there are always ways to help your local representatives, from leaflet drops to canvassing to sharing thoughts over a cup of tea! Having been successfully elected, I am very proud of the opportunities that have come my way and I look forward to the next few years serving the people of Lucan and Palmerstown – tackling whatever challenges lie ahead together for the good of our community!
Cllr Vicki Casserly