THE LAST BIRTHDAY PARTY

Looking back on old photos can be bittersweet. Especially when you have children with special needs. So many of us hope to carry on with family life as normal, and at first we think we can. And perhaps some families do.

But many differences become more noticeable as time goes on. More and more time has to be spent looking after their needs and attending appointments. Meantime other children grow older, and grow away from your child.

There are two moments in particular that stand out for me. One was a letter offering a secondary school place to Smiley at the same school attended by her sister. I cried. You see for several years I’d assumed that she would go to mainstream school. I checked them out for wheelchair accessibility. I put her name down on the lists. In the intervening years filled with battles with the State to get her any education at all, I’d forgotten my early optimism, until I got that letter.

The other time was much earlier, just before the battles began.

It was the occasion of her last birthday party.

When she was three.

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A MESSAGE TO POLITICIANS LOOKING FOR MY VOTE

So the General Election has been called in Ireland. There will be media coverage of little else from now until polling day on Friday 26th February. But I am so over politicians. I’m even over being an activist.

Things have got nasty over the past five years: I don’t agree with imprisoning people in cars, and intimidating someone just because you don’t like their policies. It’s the start of a slippery slope.

I still have no idea who I should vote for. Once again I am mostly afraid of being disappointed. Afraid of broken promises, and remembering the advice to politicians from one commentator:

“Never make a promise you cannot break”

Yet it seems the election will be all about throwing promises of money and services at voters. Tinkering with this, and tweaking that. No big vision for a better society.

This is what I want, but I don’t expect it to happen.

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HOW THE MARRIAGE REFERENDUM AFFECTS ME AND MINE

You’d become a millionaire if you could bottle the joy and pride of the past few days as we watched waves of young people arriving home to Ireland from around the world to vote in a referendum about extending the rights and responsibilities of marriage to the LGBT community, followed by the excitement of the count as it became clear shortly after the boxes were opened that this could be a life-changing result for thousands of people. I am so delighted that putting a simple X in a box is going to make so many people so happy.

But I have a confession to make.

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The ups and downs of elections

Once again the trees are going up in North Dublin, a sure sign that an election is imminent. Even thenewspapers agree with me. I must be a very special person, because this is the second time that a tree has been planted outside my house in the run up to an election. The other one died, along with the promises of the Government that other people elected. At least I could believe in some of the promises.

Not so when I look across the water to the UK.

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Dead trees and broken promises

I am one of those people that everyone loves to hate. A middle class pinko, a champagne socialist, a supporter of basic income.  Yet I also believe in rewarding the talented, the hard workers, the entrepreneurs who take the risks, but without dismantling the safety net that should give everyone the chance to live a worthwhile life, no matter what happens to them and their loved ones.

I’m also a carer, but I don’t fit the public’s image of what a carer should be like, so there’s no group or party that represents me, or seems to care about the interests of my children.  All we want now is a bit of support and the chance to live our lives quietly and free of fear.  Fear of the future and what the Government will do next.

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A message to everyone who thinks they want tax cuts

Do you have a parent in hospital?

A child in school?

A nephew with special needs?

An aunt with depression?

A friend who was burgled?

A neighbour who is homeless?

Tax cuts for you will reduce the help they desperately need. But apparently voters would prefer income tax cuts to improved public services.  If you are currently choosing between putting food on the table or heating your home, then I can understand why that would be your priority, even though any increase in your income is likely to be quite small.  But 44% of you?

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