I feel like I have began to settle into a routine in Dublin now that my internship has begun. This past weekend I spent the last few days before work started doing some travel and experiencing different parts of Ireland. I visited Belfast in Northern Ireland and saw the Titanic Museum, St George’s Market, and visited some local shops and restaurants. The conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland is complicated but very invasive into the lives of Irelanders and Northern Irelanders alike. I overheard snide remarks in Belfast mirroring those heard in Dublin and got the sense that the tension is consistent on both sides. I have not mentioned my visit to Northern Ireland to anyone at my work, as I have been strongly advised to avoid discussing the issue at all.
Sunday I planned to go to the National Galleries in Dublin with a friend, but a local 10k race blocked off our campus and completely prevented bus access within a 1 mile radius of where we live. I felt slightly frustrated at first, more so because none of us were notified that we would be effectively trapped on campus, but seeing as I had no real pressing plans I made the most of the day catching up on chores, homework, and enjoying some much needed relaxation. Since coming to Ireland I have been relentless in taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way, which means that I have not given myself much time to relax and assess my own personal self-care and mental health needs. Taking Sunday to recuperate and assess how I was feeling a week into this program was valuable.
On Monday Ireland recognized a national bank holiday, so our internships did not start until Tuesday. Myself and three friends visited the National Galleries in Centre City and spent time admiring Ireland’s art collection. There was great diversity in the pieces, from contemporary work to older pieces by Irish painters, Monet’s and Van Gogh’s all on display. The National Galleries are free to the public, reminiscent of the free access to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC. Free museum access is an excellent way to encourage education and culture in a community, and it was a privilege to participate in.
Tuesday was the first day of work. I am working at South Dublin County Council for Councillor Emma Murphy, a Fianna Fail politician representing the Firhouse-Bohernabreena area. South Dublin could be compared in many ways to a suburban community in the United States. I have about a 1 hour commute from University College Dublin, which is already 3 miles from Dublin city centre. Councillor Murphy’s area is divided between a suburb of the city with numerous residents and housing projects and rural area that is largely protected by environmental protection initiatives and used as farmland. Fianna Fail is technically a Republican Party in Ireland, but because of the American skew of the political spectrum the Irish version of a Conservative party is the American equivalent of a center-left to moderate politician. As a result, many of my personal views correspond with Councillor Murphy’s objectives.
Ireland’s method of voting, called single transferable voting (STV), is more representative than the majoritarian system used in the United States. As a result of STV, Ireland has a multiparty system dominated by the three major parties, Sinn Fein, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fail, as well as representation from a number of other, smaller parties like the Progressive Democrats, People Before Profit Party, Solidarity Party, Green Party, Labour Party, and a handful of Independent candidates as well. In South Dublin County Council, Fianna Fail holds a majority. The parliamentary system in Ireland means that the legislature elects the executive leader. In the case of South Dublin County Council, that is the mayor. As the sole nominee from the majority party, it is almost guaranteed that Councillor Murphy will be elected mayor by the other members of the South Dublin County Council on June 24th of this summer. Her election will likely cause significant disruptions and changes to my job as her intern, but I am excited to see how my work evolves under her as councillor to her as mayor. If elected, she will also become the first openly gay female mayor in Ireland, an exciting milestone for the country.
So far at my internship the structure we have developed is simple. Emma and I meet and discuss tasks once or twice a day at which time she gives me 2-3 assignments. I then use either her office, if she is out at meetings, or a nearby empty office, and complete whatever she asked of me. I am often alone or with one other person while I am working, which means that it is my responsibility to decide how to manage my time. I am a very productive person naturally, and work very well unsupervised. When given a list of tasks I find no difficulty in completing them before the anticipated deadline, and having flexibility in my own workload helps me decide how to pace myself in a way that gives me the stamina to continue working throughout the day. When assigning my tasks, Emma usually defines what the priorities are, and I complete those first. I use my lunch break as a deadline, trying to complete the 1 or 2 most important tasks before taking lunch, and then I can spend the afternoon either making edits to what I was assigned in the morning or moving on to less important tasks. This structure also gives me flexibility to handle pressing matters that may arise later in the day. By devoting the afternoon to work that was deemed less important by my supervisor I am able to adapt to new issues without Emma or I feeling like pressing matters are being ignored.