Maureen Gaffney is a psychologist, speaker, broadcaster and writer. Her last book Your One Wild and Precious Life was the winner of the RTE Audience Choice Award in the 2021 Book Awards.
I have served in many areas of Irish life, including:
The Mental Health service was already creaking under the pressure, but Covid has led to a 25% increase in the need for care – previously well people who have developed problems due to the pressures of lockdown and Covid, and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions for those who with serious mental illness. We have better recognition of mental health issues in society but we don’t have adequate services to deal with them. Access to psychology services in the public system is almost non-existent from primary care. Services for children, adolescents and young people have unacceptably long waiting lists. We need more funding and we need reconfiguration of the services there: better links between primary and secondary care, better integration of counselling, psychology and psychiatry services, better child to adult service transitions. I want to help bring about those changes.
I did not grow up in privilege. For me, education was the only pathway out of a life in which aspirations were limited. University is a gateway to opportunity and I am passionate about further improving access to Third Level for those from less represented groups: the socially disadvantaged, mature students and the disabled. I also know first hand, both as a student and Director of the Doctoral Programme in Psychology, the pressures facing those completing PhDs. I am committed to supporting those trying to make a life for themselves, while completing their undergraduate or post-graduate degrees
Ireland has come a long way from the Ireland of my childhood. We now have divorce, marriage equality and the right to bodily autonomy in women’s reproductive choices. But the fight for social justice is far from over. The problems of homophobia, ageism, violence against women remain and equal rights for those with disabilities still has a long way to go before we reach equality for all. I will fight for the rights of all those who have not yet been adequately represented in society.
We are finally emerging from a remarkably difficult two years. The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us as individuals and as a society. There is much work to do to repair the damage caused by Covid and to support those still struggling with its effects
Our mental health and wellbeing have been severely compromised by this long period of social isolation and disruption in our normal routines and social relationships. For those already struggling in their lives, the effects are likely to be more severe. Now, more than ever, we need to reform and invest in mental health services, improving access for all, but in particular for children and young people who have been disproportionately affected by lockdowns and the pressures of living with Covid. Young people and families, trying to launch themselves and make that leap to adulthood and independence, are grappling with the problem of a housing crisis which means they cannot even begin to set up a life.
In my clinical work, organisational work and research, I have had the privilege of hearing directly from people about the challenges facing individuals and families at all stages of their lives. For those in the rush hour of life, there are concerns about affordable quality childcare, accessing educational opportunities and supports for themselves and their children and caring for older relatives. I know that the issues of equality for the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities are far from resolved. I know that ageism is the next prejudice we need to tackle if we are to flourish throughout our lifespan.
As a mother and grandmother, a regular cyclist and a hillwalker, I am acutely aware of the evolving climate crisis. The complexity of resolving such a challenge can seem overwhelming and our response can be one of paralysis, apathy and hopelessness. Sometimes it seems easier to just look away than to try to grapple with something that has no simple solutions.
But if Covid has taught us anything, it is that we are capable of radical change, if we are called to do so.
Today’s Ireland is a better place to live than the Ireland of my childhood. We have divorce for those trapped in unhappy marriages; we have reformed the legislation on rape and child abuse; we have marriage equality– all issues that I worked on during my career. The Trinity access programme has given under-represented groups access to one of the best teaching and study environments in the world. We are making progress in tackling climate change.
But there is still a lot of work to do and that will take courage and commitment.
We need positive voices to lead these reforms, and we need people who understand how to bring about organisational change. My own experience as chair of various bodies is that it is only through building consensus and engaging with all the stakeholders that systems can be reformed and changed.
With a liberal, progressive and common-sense approach, I would bring a lifetime’s experience to the work of the Senate, taking each piece of legislation on its merits and voting in a collaborative, conscientious and transparent spirit. I do this as an independent candidate, without the support of any political party. Trinity has a long and proud history of electing progressive thinkers and reformers to Seanad Eireann. We now have an opportunity to do that once more in 2022, the Seanad’s centenary year.
I hope you will consider giving me your Number 1 Vote to represent you and bring about real change so that the Ireland of tomorrow is a braver and better country than the one of today.
With sincere thanks,
Dr Maueen Gaffney was born in Midleton, Co Cork. The daughter of a bus driver, she was the first of her family to attend university. At UCC, she was awarded an Honours Degree in Psychology. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Behavioural Sciences at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Trinity College.
An expert in positive psychology, she has a longstanding interest in the relationship between individual psychology and public policy. As well as being an outspoken voice in the media for social justice, she has considerable experience in consensus building from her many roles as chair of public and private bodies.
Maureen has spent a lifetime helping people bring about change at a personal and organisational level, and she will bring that experience to the work of the Senate.