Anne-Marie McNally is a former journalist and community development worker in Dublin. She completed a Master’s degree in Political Communication in 2011, after which she joined Catherine Murphy’s Dáil team. She is a Social Democrat candidate for the Dublin Mid-West constituency in the upcoming general election. Twitter: @amomcnally, Facebook: AnneMarieforDubMidWest
You’ve come into the public spotlight relatively recently, having previously been involved in work with a lower profile. Do you see the work that you’ve been doing with Catherine Murphy – and more recently with the Social Democrats in your own right – as a natural continuation of the community work that you were involved in previously, or does it feel like a dramatic shift for you to end up running for a seat in Dáil Éireann?
I absolutely see it as a continuation. Everything I’ve undertaken professionally has had a political slant to it in trying to somehow address inequality and injustice in society. I had always envisaged running for election at some stage, it just came about sooner than anticipated!
Having worked as a journalist and a community development worker, you returned to college in 2011 to undertake a Master’s in Political Communication in DCU, which was a precursor to you joining Catherine Murphy’s team. Was the decision to go back to college a pivotal one for you? Were you always hoping to return to do a Masters, or what prompted it?
I was working in a community and voluntary sector that was being decimated by funding cuts. I knew my job was in danger and I also knew I wanted to do something where I could continue trying to bring about change. I have always been fascinated with how politics is communicated and the reasons for the disconnect between it and many people’s lives, so the DCU course seemed to perfectly marry the two. It was a game changer for me in that it brought me directly into contact with professionals from within both the media and political sphere and I found myself passionately energised by the opportunities to bring politics back to the people by way of communication. Going to college as a young person with an undetermined vision of your future career path is a very different thing than specifically choosing a topic and being passionate about it. I was working full-time when I undertook my MA which was also full time – I was exhausted but I loved every minute of it and worked hard to achieve the First Class Honours MA that I did.
Your general election candidacy was announced recently for the Dublin Mid-West constituency. Were you yourself thinking for a while about running, or did someone suggest it to you? Was there much arm twisting involved, or did you know straight away that you wanted to do it?
I have always wanted to do it but as I said, it came about slightly faster that I had anticipated. Initially I was reluctant for financial reasons but thankfully the three leaders of the Social Democrats gave me the confidence boost I needed to take the step.
The campaigning hasn’t ‘officially’ begun just yet, but how have you enjoyed the early skirmishes so far? What has been the most challenging part for you?
Getting out and about talking to people is absolutely the best part of the entire thing. There is a real thirst for change and so the engagements with me about the Social Democrats have been wholly positive. The most challenging part for me is physically finding the time to canvass. Working full-time in the Dáil office of Catherine Murphy and managing the media side of things for the party is hugely time consuming and totally unpredictable so it can be hard to stay organised. Luckily I’ve a great campaign manager and a solid team who hit the ground even when I can’t.
You had your Vincent Browne debut recently, a rite of passage for any self-respecting politico! Do you still feel nervous or apprehensive before you go onto live TV or radio, or is it old hat for you at this stage?
I think everyone still gets butterflies when there’s a camera or a mic in front of them – it’d be wrong not to, but I’m fairly confident and it wouldn’t overly worry me.
Do you have a particular hero or idol (contemporary or historical) that you look to for inspiration in your political life?
Catherine Murphy is obviously my political mentor and the way she goes about public service inspires me daily. Kevin Rafter, as Programme Director of my MA and a lecturer in politics and the media, instilled in me a passion for the game of politics and the importance of the media side of things. Ultimately my dad who drummed into me from an early age the relevance of politics to our daily lives!
What genre of books do you tend to read? What was the last non-fiction book that you read, and what did you learn from or enjoy about it?
I’m a sucker for a good serial-killer style thriller and my all time favourite author is Irishman John Connolly with his superbly indescribable genre of mystery, horror, superstition and literary acrobatics. The last non-fiction book I read was Kevin Rafter’s book on Democratic Left – I always enjoy an inside perspective of Irish political life.
Thanks for your time, Anne-Marie!