Coppinger says Seanad should be used to promote progressive causes

Ruth Coppinger, the former Solidarity TD who campaigned to abolish the Seanad, is now seeking to be elected there.

Coppinger says Seanad should be used to promote progressive causes

Ruth Coppinger, the former Solidarity TD who campaigned to abolish the Seanad, is now seeking to be elected there.

After losing her seat in Dublin mid-west last month, Ms Coppinger says that "while the Seanad exists", it should be used to promote progressive causes.

"It is correct that the Seanad is elitist and undemocratic. In 2013, when this was put as a question to the public, I was involved with the campaign to and agreed with, abolishing it. The people voted to retain it however, so while it's there, we should use it. For the last seven years it has been used by the establishment and the right wing for their ends and I think as a socialist, I'll seek to use it as a platform for socialist ideas. The alternative is, I'll always be an activist, but this will allow me to maintain a national platform, for workers rights, women's rights, and the planet itself," she said.

Ms Coppinger was an outspoken TD and campaigner during her time in the Dáil from 2014, championing feminist causes, most recently the sex education bill and domestic abuse, on one occasion she waved a lacy thong at the Taoiseach in the chamber to make a point about how alleged rape victims are treated in court. She lost her seat during the much publicised Sinn Féin surge, which saw both Ms Coppinger and Labour's Joan Burton lose their seats in the constituency.

However Ms Coppinger also puts her loss down to the difficulty of running in the constituency itself and against a sitting Taoiseach:

"Well there was a huge surge to Sinn Féin, a jump in Dublin mid-west from 2016, and a jump in working-class communities."

"In other parts of the constituency, we saw a move to the Greens, it's a difficult constituency, I mean the taoiseach is obviously going to keep his seat, and Fianna Fáil always had a base here, they even held on there in 2011, therefore my seat was always under threat. I would've gotten the same type of vote as other SPBP candidates, but I lost my seat, it's that type of constituency."

One of a few high-profile women in the chamber who failed to be reelected, along with people such as Fianna Fáil's Lisa Chambers and Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell, Ms Coppinger says she doesn't see the losses as a gender issue.

"In general in society, women are judged at a higher standard, but in my case i don't think it was I was because I was a woman pushing issues related to women," she said.

"I think some women lost their seats and were punished because they took unpopular stands against women, Joan Burton for instance, her record in the past as minister cutting child benefit, or introducing cuts to rent supplements. Regina Doherty is seen as associated with measures in social welfare, I think Katharine Zappone was seen as part of that establishment too."

"There is no generalised reason, in my own situation, I've had a lot of people shocked I lost my seat, that's why I'm running for the Seanad, I have a national profile on issues affecting women, raising issues no one is raising. I don't think we would have such relatively progressive legislation if it had not been strong pro choice voices like me, who brought it up in Dáil more than anyone else. I'll seek whatever platform I can find to raise those issues, the Seanad has been used by some people to peddle misogyny, and ideas on behalf of the privileged, I'd use it as a platform for progressive policy.

Despite being a public representative since her election in 2003 to Fingal County Council, and now seeking election to the Seanad, she says she does not see herself as a "career politician".

"I've never looked at myself that way, as a career politician, I've been an activist since I was 17.

"I lived on an average wage as a TD, which is our policy, and would continue to do that as a member of the Seanad."

Polling closes for the Seanad elections on March 30.

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