Sunday morning, 25 May 2014
I have run the race and am reaching the end. I have yet to cross the line but it is in sight. My legs are sore, my breathing laboured and there are rubs on my feet. There are many ahead of me; a goodly pack of politicians, first timers, old timers, new seekers, tired thinkers, young ones, old ones and inbetween ones. There are even one or two stragglers behind me. We have all run our race, some with parties, some without, some with zeal, some with polish, some with ideas quite divergent and some with ideas that are as old as the earth we cross.
In this race there were moments when people slipped, were pushed or just fell. Mostly the other runners skipped over or ran around the runner on the ground. It was rare a hand was held out by another runner; it is not that kind of race. But it was common for the spectators to rush forward and pull the runner to his feet, to push water into his hand and to chivvy him on his way. No runner left behind, not until the fat lady sings anyway.
When I first put my name forward for this race, my friend and neighbour Tony said to me: Are you cotton pickin mad?. And I looked him in the eye and said; Yes. But I had it worked out in my head.
It was never about getting elected; it was always about making a difference.
This was the same conversation I had with Deputy Shane Ross; one of the first people I spoke with about running and who subsequently gave me the highest compliment possible; giving me his endorsement along with campaigner Diarmiud O’Flynn with a ringing cry ‘Two noble independent battlers. Both deserve seats.
I entered this race with the end in mind; the prize I wanted was the race itself. I wanted to use my time to talk about the burning issue at the heart of my personal campaign for the past three years: the unjust treatment of Irish families in debt. I wanted to stop to vilification of people in debt.
I wanted to change the law and language and the bullying.
To me, running was not about winning, it was about making a difference.
Of course, there were times along the way when the voice of pride spoke into my ear; you can win it said softly and sinuously. You can take a seat. You can go to Europe. I listened but shook my head. Winning was never about getting elected, whatever Selfish Pride might say. I knew from the start that my message, while loudspeaker noisy, was unlikely to translate into medals. I was unlikely to be in the ribbons. Still, when I heard my vote from the local count last night I was saddened a little.
Every vote I got was humbling, every vote I didn’t get was equally so.
But Selfish Pride washed no babies, helped no neighbours and gave no hope to a family in distress.
So, as I prepare to travel down to Cork to meet my fellow European candidates I do so with the right kind of pride in my heart.
The pride of having run the race to the end, to having treated my fellow candidates with respect.
The pride of helping where I could, and certainly not harming where I was able.
The pride of having stood shoulder to shoulder as we prepared for war; under the lights of the TV cameras, before the microphones in the studio, or caught in the glare of the inquisitor searching for the truth.
To my fellow combatants: I salute you on the race run. I am honoured to have run beside you, behind you and sometimes (in a rare moment) even in front of some of you.
And as I come to end of the race I ran, my wish is that people remember what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for until such time as fairness, justice and truth are the norm.
And now – the fat lady sings. For the hidden pain of debt – I think in hymns. And I thank you for allowing me to run the race.
And I cross the line.
postscript. I continued to Cork where I was amazed and proud to exit the race on 11,5000 votes. Now, my race is run. Thank you.