Goodbye Office of the Councillor…

In some ways, it feels like I am starting fresh. Technically, as of Friday afternoon I have a new job: Intern for the Office of the Mayor of South Dublin County. My boss, Emma Murphy, is no longer county councillor, she is chairwoman and first citizen of the county serving her term as mayor after a contentious campaign and election cycle! I stayed for the proceedings on Friday afternoon and watched as Emma defeated her two male challengers to become the first openly gay woman elected mayor in the Republic of Ireland. On the eve of Dublin’s Pride festival, the victory tasted even more sweet. 

But…the road to get to victory was rocky. For my entire internship Emma has been actively campaigning her colleagues for their votes. She was rarely in the office, often scheduling multiple one on one meetings with various individuals throughout the day, juggling her constituents needs and her other job working for Member of the European Parliament Barry Andrews. I have communicated with her primarily through text, and spent many days alone in the office, with no one to talk to. When Emma came in she was stressed, and would rattle off a list of tasks to complete before bolting out for a meeting or prior engagement yet again. The life of a politician is nothing glamorous. Emma has shown me the significant personal strain it causes, and made me realize how, without work-life boundaries, the stress can quickly invade the rest of your life. 

There was a small victory for me before the vote was even recorded, but it came with a frantic flurry of stress. For context, the council meeting where the vote for mayor would occur began at 3:30 p.m. sharp. At 2:15 p.m. Emma texted me with a page of notes and a few random voice memos to tell me she needed her acceptance speech written. What ensued was a frantic hour of writing, incorporating random voice memos Emma sent over, doing policy research, and trying to meet the deadline to have her speech done, edited, printed, and in hand in time for her to meet her colleagues in the council antechamber for last minute campaigning before the meeting began. Despite the stress, overall I am very proud of how the speech turned out, and honored to have helped write her acceptance speech. 

In that process, I also learned how much I enjoy speechwriting and policy writing as a whole. I have always known I enjoyed writing, but writing under pressure like that was a relatively new experience. Speechwriting as a whole has always been something I enjoyed, but recently my confidence in the area took a hit. Getting back into it, with no time to hesitate or second guess my abilities, forced me to overcome that anxiety. I am extremely proud of how the speech turned out, and happy to have the experience of professional speechwriting. 

Speechwriting, and policy writing as a whole, represent the “hard” skills I am developing in this internship. In prior work experiences I developed the ability to work with constituents and manage their needs, skills that I am expanding on in my placement here. When I started working for Emma, I told her I was the most interested in improving my policy writing skills, because that was an area that I did not have much experience in through this point. Fortunately, Emma has been extremely accommodating, and regularly assigns me pieces of policy to research. With that experience and constituent work already under my belt, I have crafted a competitive resume for public sector jobs. 

The “soft” skills I am developing at this internship come in the form of personal advocacy and communication. Because Emma was frequently absent from the office, I had to advocate for my needs more actively than I would have had she been present. Initiating contact and asking for assignments took some getting used to, but with time I learned that speaking up and communicating when I could take on more, or when I had questions, helped the office more than waiting to be told what to do and how to do it correctly. Emma was willing to answer all of my questions and always had something for me to do, I just had to ask for it. With persistence I feel as though I have earned her trust, and can now take on larger cases. The one I am assigned to today, and likely will work on for the next few weeks, is an inter-county housing transfer to provide accommodating housing to a local mother and her four children, one of whom is on the ASD. I hope that with Emma’s support, and the skills I have learned so far, I can be an effective servant to this family.