D Franklin’s post-Women’s-Marches post (Women’s March: Where Next?) has reminded me that I meant to write my own post about Where We Are and What We Do Now.
I’m Irish, so American authoritarianism and the inauguration of a racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, transphobic, queerphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, hateful, science-denying, world-wrecking bigot as President of the United States of America? That’s not something that I can do much about, practically speaking. (Neither is the UK’s determination on self-immolation through Brexit.)
But it’s a hell of a wake-up call for local civic engagement.
So, What Do We Do Now, from an Irish perspective?
First, take a deep breath
Twitter is a firehose of information, most of it from the USA, much of it accompanied by anxious commentary, catastrophising, and urgency that frequently approaches — and sometimes spills over into — panic. Panic is exhausting, and will leave you with very little energy for meaningful action. Ration your exposure to things that inspire you to anxiety and panic, rather than inspiring you to act.
For information, sign up for mailing lists from organisations like some of these:
Friends of the Earth Ireland is one reliable place to get information and action items for environmental matters, while the Irish Wildlife Trust has a quarterly newsletter. For the right to choose, the Abortion Rights Campaign has monthly open meetings and sends regular updates. The Irish Refugee Council sends occasional updates, while the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland updates via its Facebook page. Amnesty International’s Irish branch will update you on local opportunities for activism. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties wants you to print out and post in a form for membership, but it, too, will update you on the issues. TENI, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, will keep you up to date on trans and nonbinary issues.
There are more organisations, but these are the ones I know will actually provide updates and Things For You To Do.
Speaking of Things For You To Do – this is a second piece of advice on What To Do Now. If you aren’t already familiar with your TDs and county councilors, now is the time to get familiar with them: sign up for their newsletters, check out their Facebook feeds, know what their parties are and what they stand for. Email them and ask them which way they’re voting on issues that affect you.
The website for the Houses of the Oireachtas, oireachtas.ie, is a great resource. Not only does it tell you who your TDs are, and their official emails, but you can find the order papers – that is, the published order of business, what the Dáil and the Seanad will actually be doing, for each day in the week – here, on Tuesday every week that the Houses are in session.
You can also find the Weekly Schedule – the timeline of when things will happen – here.
You can find transcripts of the proceedings from the Houses and from the committee meetings here.
And if you want to watch or listen to the proceedings – say you’ve spotted something in the Weekly Schedule and you want to know in real-time whether your TDs are arguing your corner – you can do that from here.
Also, if you want to call and leave a message by TELEPHONY with your local TDs, you can ask for their office through the Oireachtas switchboard, the number for which you can find on the Oireachtas contact page.
Your local county council has a webpage. It lists your local councilors and their official contact details. It should also have a “Service Delivery Plan” or something similarly titled, which tells you what your local council has planned for you and your area. At a local level? This is information that will be useful for you to know, if you want to lobby for change.
This is what I’m doing:
- I’m volunteering with the Abortion Rights Campaign and going to meetings.
- There’s a weekly check on my to-do list for “write TDs about $issue,” where the issue changes by week. Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, Anti-Fracking Bill, homelessness, ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, accessible public transport, the Moneypoint coal-fueled power plant, water, refugees, ending the Direct Provision system: I don’t want my TDs to get bored.
- Every so often I ask them to ask a question of the Minister for something: if they do, and tell me about it (which only one has so far, three cheers for Clare Daly TD), I put it aside to think of how to ask more questions from there.
- I’m getting familiar with what my local county council actually does, and what I might be able to lobby my councilors about with some hope of them acting in useful ways.
- I’ve started an LGBTQ+ bookclub at my local library, the first meeting of which is to happen this month. Because building community remains important.
- I’m investigating other avenues for local action, community- and capacity-building: it might be possible to start local monthly “coffee evenings” to bring together people on issues like lobbying for climate action or lobbying for accessibility issues (particularly with regard to public transport), but that will require a bit more knowledge and context than I have right now.
- I’m keeping an eye out for other opportunities to volunteer in useful ways, and to throw my shoulder behind other people’s wheels.
Small acts. Local connections. Discrete things that you can do. Start small, build capacity. Build connections. Do the thing in front of you. Do what you can with what you’ve got.
(I am terrified about doing some of this, by the way: I’m insecure about my competence to start with, and interacting with humans is terrifying. But, as the great Carrie Fisher said: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.“)
In Ireland, the next local elections for the county councils are scheduled for 2019: we have two years to start building the capacity to make local change.