Caitríona wants to speak for the disillusioned

Socialist Party DEM candidate Caitríona Ní Chatháin stands with the people of Palestine. Photo: Brendan Gleeson

SOCIALIST Party candidate Caitríona Ní Chatháin believes that Limerick City and County Council should divest from products manufactured by corporations connected to the Israeli military. The teacher and trade union activist also wants the local authority to twin with a Palestinian city, and to see an end to the US military’s use of Shannon Airport.

Speaking to the Limerick Post ahead of the June 7 ballot, Ms Ní Chatháin put the genocide in Gaza, the ongoing mental health crisis at home, falling living standards, institutionalised transphobia, and unconstrained ecological destruction high on her campaign agenda.

Active with Teachers for Palestine and Workers Action for Gaza, she believes that collective action like blocking commercial access to the Book of Kells, as happened in Trinity College Dublin recently, are necessary to support the people of Gaza.

She also takes the view that workers who answer the call of Palestinian trade unions to halt manufacture, infrastructural support, and transport of arms and military aid to Israel must have the full backing of the Irish trade union movement when doing so.

Ms Ní Chatháin says that because the Government refuses to inspect US military planes as they land in Shannon, airport workers have been kept in the dark as to how their labour may be aiding the genocide in Gaza. Caitríona supports worker’s rights to take collective industrial action to end this complicity.

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A member of the Socialist Party and an organiser with ROSA Socialist Feminist Movement, Caitríona’s election campaign, she tells me, is about building a new, broad, dynamic movement for all and for socialist change.

“I’ve been living and working in Limerick for seven years. I was living abroad before that in France and Spain. My experiences of living abroad has shown me that while public services might not be perfect in other countries – like the healthcare system in Spain isn’t perfect, but it is far superior to what we’re experiencing here, especially here in the Mid West.”

Alan Jacques speaking to Caitríona Ní Chatháin on her mayoral campaign. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

‘I want to fight’

On the current housing crisis, she said that she has had her own experiences on the front lines.

“Around this time last year, I was renting and I had been served an eviction period and unlawful rent increase. That obviously made me very angry, and that’s something I want to speak out on, on behalf of other people who are experiencing the same issue,” she said.

“I can fight because many people who are in very similar precarious position can’t do that, and it’s important to have a voice for them.”

A Socialist Party mayor, she believes, should prioritise public services, such as public housing, decent health care, school services, and special needs.

“It’s absolutely scandalous that our present government are boasting about their billions of euros surplus. Yet, people are languishing on trolleys. That’s something I really want to fight. I want to point to a much better vision for Limerick, which would be a socialist feminist vision.”

If elected mayor, Ms Ní Chatháin says she would work to end the trolley crisis. Among her priorities are to re-open St John’s emergency department and re-nationalise Barrington’s Hospital to provide step-down services under the public health system.

She also wants to use council-owned property to create accessible community and public spaces, invest to provide adequate public epilepsy, diabetic, and autism services for children in the Mid West, and establish accessible and neuro-affirming adult ADHD and autism diagnostic services.

Another one of the Socialist Party candidate’s goals is to build social and affordable housing, end the scourge of vacant homes and see them requisitioned for public use, as well as ending the reliance on the private market.

Alan Jacques speaking to Caitríona Ní Chatháin on her mayoral campaign. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

Young people craving change

Ms Ní Chatháin also wants to see Limerick lead on climate action, including real grants for mass retrofitting of homes, biodiversity programmes, and planning rules for energy efficiency.

Her campaign, she enthuses, is being welcomed by young people craving change and a better quality of life with it.

“I’m getting a really positive response. I think it’s fresh, it’s new, it’s more youthful. A lot of younger people probably weren’t even thinking about voting, because they feel completely left out at present. For example, in many other schools, teachers are actually considering emigrating because of issues with pay and the costs for settling down or buying a house,” she says.

“Of course the same thing is happening in the health section as well. We have nurses who are leaving because they’re not being valued.”

The young mayoral hopeful believes that the political strategy for the establishment parties and independents is to turn health into a business, not a service. She also firmly believes that Limerick must be a city run for people and not for profit, a city where empty council properties are brought into use as accessible public housing and accessible and public community venues where appropriate.

“I bring a completely new vision, a socialist feminist vision,” Caitríona insists.

“My posters speak to the revival of the Limerick Soviet, and that’s something that I’m doing very, very intentionally. We’re seeing Limerick being marketed to outside, to the corporate sector, and I am completely against that. I believe in creating a Limerick for all of us and making it accessible and open to everyone and accessible in the sense of people with disabilities. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen.

Socialist Party moyoral candidate Caitríona Ní Chatháin. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

“And sure, as mayor, I could bring forward the 40 council members and they could agree or disagree with me, but in the same way that I will disagree and agree with what they have to say, but I will actually be asking why they disagree with my vision. You know, actually putting them on the spot. I’m very open and direct about my politics, and I would hope that others would be the same. I’m open to dialogue.”

The Socialist Party candidate wants voters to broaden their horizons. She points out that the Limerick Soviet showed that when the working class ran the city for two weeks in 1919 it was workers, and not big business, who were the real backbone of the economy.

Caitríona leaves me with a noble thought. It would be truly historic, she suggests, if we elected a mayor who stood firmly in this radical tradition and pledged to use this position for the needs and interests of working people and the oppressed.

“I want to actually speak for people who are disillusioned, people who are feeling left out and offer them a different vision, something actually that they can get behind.”