IT’S been more than 20 years since a Cork person was elected to the Seanad NUI panel and I want to change that.
I want to be an active Senator in the community who is not based up in Dublin all the time and I will stand up for Cork in the Seanad and hold regular public meetings in Cork so that people can have their say on the issues that matter to them.
We have been promised Seanad reform over and over again and nothing has been done. Like many of you, I campaigned to keep the Seanad in 2013 in the hope it would be reformed — we are still waiting for that reform.
I will push for voting rights to be extended for the Seanad and for online voter registration. There is an appetite for change and for a new politics and I believe that I have the track record and the vision to make a big impact in the Seanad.
I don’t see the Seanad as a consolation prize, I see it as a forum to effect real change and to amplify the voices of minorities.
Education is a priority of mine and I will ensure that I am active as a Senator in calling for increased funding for UCC and CIT and for all colleges. We have seen a 40% decrease in higher education funding in the last decade.
I visited the UCC #OccupyTheQuad protest recently to show my solidarity. The cost of rent for students and for all people is astronomical and as a renter myself I fully support a rent freeze. Students and their families have it hard enough as Ireland now has the highest college fees in Europe. If we are to main quality and access, we need to ensure that the sector is funded properly and that students are supported.
If I am elected to the Seanad, I will introduce legislation to effectively deal with hate crime in Ireland. It is shocking that we lag behind other European countries in not having proper hate crime laws in place.
In recent months, we have seen a rise in hate crime attacks on LGBT people, women and migrant communities in Ireland. The Gardái and judicial system are not properly equipped to deal with these cases due to the current law not being strong enough. In particular, the current law does not effectively deal with the issue of online hate crime which is unfortunately on the rise.
Other priorities of mine include: universal free contraception, collective bargaining legislation for workers, investment in public housing, investment in childcare and climate action and fair pay for public sector workers.
Originally from Gaeltacht Múscraí, Co: Cork, it was during my UCC days when I became political. I came out as gay when I was in college and this politicised me and I knew then I was not going to stay quiet about the inequalities in our society.
I narrowly missed out on a seat in the last NUI Seanad elections in 2016, placing fifth out of 30 candidates. Aged 33 I am the youngest candidate in the Seanad NUI elections to my knowledge.
During the successful campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment, I served as Head of Mobilisation for Together for Yes, organising a national ‘conversations tour’, which travelled across Ireland; and coordinating the ‘Get out the vote’ phase of the campaign. I am a former President of the Union of Students in Ireland (2014/2015 — I was the first woman to fill that role in 20 years.
In the lead up to the marriage equality referendum, I led the student campaign that registered 30,000 new voters.
I am passionate about change and equality and I want to bring my experience to the Seanad. I am asking all NUI voters in Cork to consider giving me your number one voter or highest preference.
Further information is available at www.lauraharmon.ie or on Twitter, @Harmonica26.
Laura Harmon was the Head of Mobilisation for Together for Yes. She was president of the Union of Students in Ireland during the marriage equality referendum in 2015.
She is from Baile Bhúirne, Co: Cork. She is a UCC graduate. She is running for the Seanad NUI panel as an independent candidate.
Follow her on Twitter: @Harmonica26
Tomorrow, Mick Finn outlines his campaign for a Seanad seat.