Ireland’s newest senator has said he never expected to win and will now use his position to run a “very noisy, radical campaign” for disability rights.
Campaigner Tom Clonan was last night elected on the 16th count to fill the Dublin University seat vacated by the new Labour Leader Ivana Bacik.
The final count saw him take the seat with 5,358 votes.
Maureen Gaffney came in second with 5,198, while former Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu came in third.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning Senator Clonan said Ireland is “the worst country in the EU to have a disability” and vowed to use his position to turn things around.
“I didn’t think I would win at all,” he said. “I ran as a protest and I’m very surprised to have been elected. I am determined now to take absolute the maximum opportunity this provides to work on the causes I have been involved in for 20 years now.”
He said his 20-year-old son Eoghan ran his election campaign for him.
“Eoghan has a neuromuscular disease,” he said. “He is a wheelchair user; he is partially sighted.
“As a family, when Eoghan’s diagnosis came about and he became ill, we went through that … it’s like Alice through the Looking Glass; we went through that parallel world - and I know a lot of people listening who inhabit this space we are in - of just having to fight for really poor services.
“Ireland is the worst country in the EU to have a disability or to be ill or the vulnerable and that is on every measure.
“We can do better and that is what I want to do is make things better and improve some of these measures.”
"Make a lot of noise"
Senator Clonan said he is going to get into the Seanad and “make a lot of noise”.
“I think the campaign around disabilities rights should be a very noisy, radical campaign and I want to just have an impact,” he said.
“We have had an impact already as a family in terms of measurable positive outcomes for people and I think we can probably achieve more by being physically in the Parliament, where we can access the people who make the decisions as opposed to being outside the gates, where I have been so many times, shouting and roaring and waving banners.
“It will be great to be inside.”
Voting for the Dublin University seat is only open to Trinity graduates and of the 68,000-strong electorate, just 13,418 cast their vote.
Senator Clonan said he voted in favour of Seanad reform and supports calls for the vote to be extended to more people.
He said he still believes the Seanad has a very important role in Irish politics.
“We’ve had Government after Government who enact legislation that empowers everything from vulture funds to cuckoo funds,” he said.
“That have eroded public services and supports and health so I just want to be a loud voice in Leinster House and vote against every piece of legislation that would empower those types of groups and try and do something good.”
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