Mayor of Kerry vs Pat Kenny

A quick post in relation to the Mayor of Kerry, Toireasa Ferris, and her appearance on the Late Late Show on Friday night. No, I’m not discussing her wardrobe; that was only a minor issue compared to the bulk of what happened, and I support Toireasa’s points on the matter in today’s press. Any paper that attacks her on her wardrobe shows a lack of ability to deal with the real issues of the interview and is simply going for cheap headlines.

A bit of background: Toireasa is the 26-year-old Mayor of Kerry, and daughter of Sinn Fein TD (and convicted IRA terrorist) Martin Ferris. She was on the Late Late show on Friday to discuss her position as a young person in politics.

Toireasa is one of the people often mentioned when people talk about the number of young people in Sinn Fein. That’s a myth we can dispell immediately. Fianna Fail has more young members, runs more young candidates, and has more young elected representatives than any other party in Ireland, north or south.

The interview was fairly gentle, until Pat pushed Toireasa on her views on the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. In a shocking piece of political-speak, straight from SF headquarters, Toireasa said she was “not authorised” to condemn the attack.

I couldn’t believe it. Yes, we need more young people in politics. Of course I’m going to support young people getting involved, particularly at a local council level. It is a credit to Toireasa that she has reached such a high position at such a young age. But, as young people, we should be there to stand up for what we believe in. I regularly speak out against Government policy, in public and in private. To say she was “not authorised” shows a shocking level of contempt for personal thought. Pat wasn’t asking for a SF line, he was looking for a personal opinion.

Either have some idealism and stand up for what you beleve in, or get out of politics. It’s that simple. If you cannot speak your mind as a young person, relatively new to politics, then you’re not going to be able to speak your mind in 5, 10 or more years time. Toireasa Ferris has all the hallmarks of the “new breed” of SF candidate- young, presentable, no previous convictions- but also shares the inability for independent thought.

No Councillor in Fianna Fail requires “authorisation” to say anything. That’s how democratic parties work. SF is (slowly) moving towards democratic politics (and performs well on councils across the country, including Letterkenny Town Council) but, as the saying goes, old habits die hard. One need only consider the case of Francie Molloy, Mayor of Dungannon, who was suspended from the party for straying from official policy.

So I’ll put my money where my mouth is. Here’s some things the Government have done that I think are wrong. The current situation at Letterkenny General Hospital is shocking, as is the failure to deal effectively with the needs of Cancer Patients in the North West. I’ve actively campaigned against Fianna Fail’s failure to organise in Northern Ireland. Funding for many schools still falls behind their needs, an example being St Eunan’s College. At tonight’s council meeting, I’ll be calling for Letterkenny to be included in the RAPID programme, which governemnt policy has excluded it from. There’s more than that, and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

Was I authorised to criticise the Government on any of those issues? Of course not. And I shouldn’t need to be. If Toiressa Ferris didn’t want to discuss those issues, that’s one point. But to say she “wasn’t authorised” shows how little individual thought is tolerated in SF.

This issue is being discussed robustly online here, here and here. The clip from the show should be available soon, I’ll update here when it is. Comments are open, if you have something to say.

Update: RTE have updated their Late Late Show archive, but have not included the interview with Toireasa Ferris. Thanks to everyone who has linked to this site; traffic has gone through the roof. I welcome all comments below.