Personal Account #3877

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Sonofstan #3877

The household I grew up in was quite political, though I didn’t realise how much until, as NFB says, the obliviousness of others became apparent. For context: I was born in 1960 and my adoptive parents were quite old by the time I arrived, so my dad was slightly older than the state he served as a soldier, and my mother was born during the civil war, though at a safe remove in London, to an Irish family. This is important because the family memory bank went back quite far: their parents were all born in the latter years of the 19th century. My dad was fond of telling how he learned to drive just past his 17th birthday in order to ferry Tom McEllistrim around Kerry North during the 1937 election campaign in the Model -T his uncle owned but couldn’t drive. He was dyed in the wool FFer, I think, though when I accused him of that, he said he’d used his postal vote (his right as a soldier) for Dan Spring throughout because he had been a neighbour of the aforementioned uncle: when i said that sort of begged the question, he got annoyed…

Politics as a practical matter of voting, and influence was bread and butter over the dinner table, though actual ideology and the like was a dangerous topic as dad wa good a declaiming, less at listening, only partly a consequence of the firing range acquired deafness. My mum wa entirely different: active in all sorts of community organisations, and eventually achieving national office in the ICA, and later on the Council for the Status of Women. Later again she sat on some EU committee and went to Brussels every month or so, which hugely impressed me. She, and her friends, were no one’s cliched image of feminists but that’s what they were, and dad, to his credit, was totally comfortable with her activism.

First concrete memory is of Michael D. standing on a box (write your own joke) outside Salthill Church in Galway where we then lived during the 1973 election campaign. Mum stopped to listen, and was hugely impressed and I suspect, though she never said, that from then on the LP got a preference from her.

What I got was a sense that politics was a trade, a thing relatively ordinary people did, and that TDs and ministers, while useful to know, were not that special – something I think a lot of Irish people feel, and good, I think.

I became aware that I was a socialist in school, at OCS: one thing moving to Dublin (aged 14) did was force me to articulate the sort of thing that you hid in a country school for fear of being bullied as ‘brainy’. I was awestruck at meeting people who admitted to reading books, quite long ones, and could spend break time arguing about politics. It was there I first heard the word ‘stickie’ but a while before I knew what it meant….