I care deeply about our heritage and history... that's why I am running for the Seanad

Dr Jenny Butler, a UCC lecturer, is running for the Seanad Éireann in the National University of Ireland constituency. Here she outlines her campaign for the seat
I care deeply about our heritage and history... that's why I am running for the Seanad
Dr Jenny Butler

I’M running for election for Seanad Éireann in the National University of Ireland constituency because I love Ireland and want to be part of making it a better country for everyone.

My campaign focuses on two intertwined areas: education and preservation. Education relates to Primary, Secondary and Third Level. Preservation extends to Ireland’s cultural heritage and environment as regards biodiversity and built heritage.

I care deeply about Ireland’s heritage and history as well as the future of our nation. As an academically trained folklorist, I have a wealth of experience of documenting Ireland’s cultural traditions both ancient and modern, and my research work deals with the interconnection between people, place, spirituality, and identity.

I’m an experienced educator with over 18 years’ experience as a University Lecturer at University College Cork and I’ve taught children through University College Dublin’s Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI) and have volunteered to work with children with special needs.

I’m aware of the necessity for fully funded educational systems and of how best to exposit cultural programmes. I’d like to introduce special cultural programmes in primary and secondary schools to educate children on Ireland’s rich literary and mythological traditions and folklore.

Taking Finland as a model, children would learn about the Irish epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge, akin to how Finnish children learn about their national epic, the Kalevala in school (including a version of the stories for small children). As part of this, children would learn about the Irish landscape and the significance of ancient sites upon it. The destruction the M3 motorway caused at the Hill of Tara was sadly motivated primarily by Celtic-Tiger-Era greed; these sites are ancient and unique and of spiritual, cultural and historical significance and once they are damaged or gone, it can’t be undone.

“Another proposed schools programme would be where children learn about local natural habitats, geology, and flora and fauna,”says Dr Butler. Picture: Stock
“Another proposed schools programme would be where children learn about local natural habitats, geology, and flora and fauna,”says Dr Butler. Picture: Stock

While such a programme would have children learn about Irish cultural forms, it would also have a pedagogical core where they would learn about each other and the world through storytelling. Ireland is a multicultural and pluralistic society, as all modern societies are, thus the sharing of cultural aspects and identities through shared narratives would be emphasised.

Another proposed schools programme would be where children learn about local natural habitats, geology, and flora and fauna. Children would be taught about the significance of the natural world and how to care for it, sustainable living, and learn how to tend a garden. Many are unaware that particular hedgerows are 500-years old or that Ireland is home endangered species such as the Red Squirrel, Corncrake, and the Barn Owl.

Animal welfare is important to me and I’d lobby to introduce further measures to prevent animal cruelty as well as ensure that laws already in place are properly implemented. I would like to see a system for animal rescue introduced that is government — run with a helpline and not leave this to charities with over-stretched resources.

Climate action is something that needs to be addressed globally. Public policy should encourage people to make changes and not penalise them; recycling bin charges should be abolished.

Austerity measures only engender hate and resentment while incentives work better so that we can build a better world together.

Ireland has a dark past. We must recognise that Ireland was colonised, its culture and people degraded. Any commemoration of that past must be sensitively approached — and not by any memorial or remembrance of the Black and Tans. Part of Ireland’s dark history is that of institutional abuse which must be fully acknowledged and dealt with; this means no sealed documents and justice for survivors of Magdalene Laundries, industrial schools, and clerical abuse.

Justice is not just monetary but also involves appropriate acknowledgement. People should be treated in a fair, dignified and respectful way so that they can heal and society can move forward.

I support healthcare reform and I’m for holistic treatment of people in relation to mental and physical health. The service should cater to people in emotional distress by listening to them and offering real help through counselling and development of coping skills.

A person-centred approach works better than an over-reliance on medication, or tablets being the first “answer” for emotional problems. I would call for an end to forced medication and to so-called “therapies” like Electroshock. Let’s end the stigma around mental health issues.

I’m an art lover and a creative writer and I truly believe that the promotion of creativity is core to a healthy and happy society and fosters connection between people.

I have a background in trade unionism and lobbying for worker’s rights. Due to my own life experiences, and having grown up in a socially disadvantaged area, I understand what equality of opportunity really means and I want to work together with others for equality and a better Ireland for the future.

For more about Dr Jenny Butler see www.votejennyb.ie

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