Senator Lynn Ruane: 'I listed off the drugs I’d been taking...'

Senator Lynn Ruane tells The Women’s Podcast at the Body & Soul festival about her path to the Seanad

When she 13, the mother of two wrote a list outlining the things she would achieve in her life – one of them was to have a child by the age of 15 and another was to become a senator. She did both. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

When she 13, the mother of two wrote a list outlining the things she would achieve in her life – one of them was to have a child by the age of 15 and another was to become a senator. She did both. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

“I remember looking at her and going, do you know what? That’s what’s very wrong with this system”, recalls Independent Senator Lynn Ruane, of her first experience with a drug counsellor at the age of 14.

She had just reeled off a list of all the drugs she had been on, only to be asked for a urine test from the counsellor who clearly hadn’t been listening.

The experience wasformative: “I said, I’m actually going to go away now and learn how to be a drugs worker and actually listen to what the people in front of me are saying”, she told Kathy Sheridan, presenter of The Women’s Podcast on the Wonderlust Stage of the Body & Soul festival in Co Westmeath last weekend.

A former president of Trinity College Students Union, Senator Ruane says she has spent her life challenging things that she felt were wrong, starting with being kicked out of playschool for insisting she played with a tractor rather than dolls. Girls at her former school can wear trousers thanks to her and she was among the first female alter girls in her parish – though she packed that in after a few weeks, happy that she had made her point.

When she 13, the mother of two wrote a list outlining the things she would achieve in her life – one of them was to have a child by the age of 15 and another was to become a senator. She did both.

Before getting to the Seanad, Senator Ruane trained as a drug counsellor and set up an addiction service in Dublin’s Bluebell, which she fought tooth and nail to save during the recession. That’s when she decided to go to Trinity.

“Every time I was placed in front of a politician I screamed and shouted because I didn’t know what else to do. But I couldn’t really, really get them to understand what it was that they were doing to the people I was working with, so I felt that Trinity was going to give me that language that I could use so I could articulate between the two spaces.”

Senator Ruane joined a panel including activist and theatre director Grace Dyas, along with Future Voices founder Mairéad Healy, to discuss the underrepresentation of working-class voices in positions of power and the media.

The Revolution 101 episode also featured a musical performance by Anna Mieke Bishop and a Herstory reading of St Brigid (Not Jones) Diary by Tara Flynn.

We want to hear your thoughts. Email thewomenspodcast@irishtimes.com or message us on Facebook or Twitter @ITWomensPodcast.

Individual episodes of the podcast are available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher and on irishtimes.com.

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