Tom Clonan on running for election: "I can't sleep at night - I have to do this"

Irish Times security analyst tells Newstalk why fears over his disabled son's future care has led him to seek election

Dr Tom Clonan, the Irish times security analyst and former army captain, has said he is running for election to the Seanad because he “can’t sleep without doing something.”

Clonan’s son, Eoghan, suffers from a rare neuromuscular disease which means he will require constant treatment and care throughout his life. And it is the cuts to his son's treatment in recent years, and a growing fear over what awaits Eoghan when Clonan is no longer able to care for him, that has driven him to seek election in the hope of fighting for people with disabilities.

Speaking to Newstalk Lunchtime, he said 13-year-old Eoghan “will never live independently and I’m faced with the prospect of wondering ... is he going to be institutionalised, will he be housed by the HSE somewhere? Over my dead body. I will work to reverse the cuts to the disabled and carers, and that’s just the starting point.”

“I can’t sleep at night without doing something,” he said.

More traditional political motivations aren’t behind his choice to seek election, Clonan says, but rather a deeply personal one – and a desire to see change within the Irish political system.

“I have a reason for doing this – I’m not some sort of a career political hack.

“I don’t belong to a family or a dynasty, I haven’t inherited a seat or anything like that,” he added.

Running without any funding or support team, Clonan hopes to get elected to one of the three Trinity College seats in the Seanad, with social media playing a significant role in his campaign.

 Tom Clonan's son Eoghan, and his assistance dog, Duke

In 2000, Clonan published his doctoral thesis, on bullying and sexual harassment in the Defence Forces. The findings within were eventually made public, with both a profound public effect on defence forces policies and culture, and on Clonan’s own personal life, as he was isolated and ostracised by colleagues for his role as whistleblower.

He says he will carry the same spirit that sustained him during that time with him into Leinster House.

“If you put me into Leinster House, if you put me into that bubble, you’re putting a whistleblower in there. 

“I’m somebody who single-handedly ended decades of sexual violence against women” in the Defence Forces, he said.

The political fight for Clonan would “start with disability,” and the need for a more compassionate politics for the vulnerable, he said.

“It’s about time our political class started to straighten up and fly right.

“You look at what Ireland has become in my lifetime. Ireland has become a very cold, hard place for the elderly, for the homeless, for the sick, for children and for young adults with disabilities.

“I cannot sleep at night, I can’t look my son in the eye – I have to do this, I have no choice.”

Listen to the full Lunchtime interview with Dr Tom Clonan below