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Martin Flanagan Job Shadows An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

28/04/2015 Martin Flanagan Job Shadows An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Martin Flanagan from Greystones, uses the services provided by RehabCare in Dun Laoghaire on a daily basis. But last Wednesday instead of travelling from his home in Greystones to Dun Laoghaire, he kept going to Dublin city centre where he spent the day in the Dáil job shadowing An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Martin describes how this unique opportunity came about, “I was asked by staff in RehabCare Dun Laoghaire if I wanted to apply for the IASE (Irish Association of Supported Employment) Job Shadow Initiative, a fantastic opportunity had come up and due my interest in local affairs and politics it was right up my street.  I had to decide on the spot to go for this and say yes or no.  I put myself forward and hoped for the best.  The feedback was I was a perfect candidate to Shadow An Taoiseach.  I have a lot of experience in Advocacy, public speaking and community awareness around rights for People with Disabilities. My profile was chosen to go forward to the Taoiseach’s Department for approval and it was a waiting game for a week or so.  I was delighted that I was chosen.”

“My day shadowing the Taoiseach started with an event to launch a new business in Ireland. Zalando a tech and engineering fashion design company that’s hugely successful. This was a good news story of 200 jobs coming to Dublin. There were lots of media present, a fashion show and a crowd there to witness a talk by Taoiseach and Tánaiste Joan Burton.  The German ambassador was there as was the CEO and Directors of this multibillion euro company. When An Taoiseach arrived he greeted me and introduced himself and Tánaiste Burton. We posed for some photos as lots of cameras started flashing. This was the beginning of following An Taoiseach Enda Kenny during some of his hectic day.  We were accompanied throughout the day by Jackie, she has many years experience working in Government buildings and was an expert on the building and workings of the Taoiseach’s department.

“At this media event the Taoiseach introduced me to the crowd and explained I was with him for the day and called me to the front of the stage area. Cameras began flashing again, I was conscious I was in the spotlight. All the dignitaries gave speeches and there were more photo opportunities, I was asked to do a video piece for the Taoiseach’s press office. After this I headed to Government buildings as I had to get to the Public Gallery for leaders questions at 12noon. The Taoiseach’s office arranged transport for us and Jackie helped us through the process of getting into the building and finding our way through to Leinster house itself. We went through an external tunnel and were escorted throughout by security and ushers to the viewing gallery. 

“During leaders questions I saw the Taoiseach answering questions posed by Micheal Martin (FF), Gerry Adams (SF) and a couple of independents. The Taoiseach handled the questions with a calmness and confidence that showed that he had experience dealing with all this. There was drama when he got to Gerry Adams, the whole place erupted due to the Taoiseach’s answers which were very forthright. He was impressive in this situation and I enjoyed watching this aspect of his role.

“We then moved on to a lovely lunch in Leinster House in the Restaurant there, again Jackie treated us very well. We went for a walk in Merrion Square as we had extra time before my photo shoot. On arrival back to the Department of the Taoiseach we had to juggle our times around because the Taoiseach was due to leave Ireland for an urgent meeting of the European heads of state and had to meet the Secretary General. 

“Our Policy department meeting was therefore brought forward and we met Denis Breen and Lorraine Kavanagh.  I had the opportunity of a lifetime to address the Principal Officer with responsibility for Social Policy matters in the Taoiseach’s Department.  I got to talk about the real issues facing People with Disabilities such as Housing, Social Inclusion, Transport and Broadband outside of Dublin.  I got across to them the real and difficult experience of living in Ireland with a Disability, including mental health issues.  They responded very well giving me an overview of the policy and the difficulties they face.  I felt this part went very well, it was excellent.  It went so well we over ran our appointment with the Taoiseach.  Luckily he was held up in a high profile meeting.  As we made our way along the Taoiseach’s corridor past his advisors offices we viewed some of the gifts that have been presented over the years by visiting dignitaries to the Taoisigh. We then proceeded to meet the team who help run the Taoiseach’s office.  Everybody was very professional and everything went very smoothly.

“The photographers arrived and I was shown in to the Taoiseach’s formal office. The room was very nicely laid out with photos around of all the dignitaries that have met the Taoiseach. Taoiseach Enda Kenny greeted me and we shook hands. It was exciting and I tried to stay calm to ensure I could speak clearly for our meeting.  We spoke about general things like how I found the day and a lot about my background.  Lots more photos were taken. The Taoiseach then explained I was there on a historic day for investment in the broadband industry for Ireland.  A fibre optic cable would be laid along the Atlantic seabed from North America to the West of Ireland and therefore on to Europe. This had been one of the issues that I had discussed earlier with the Social Policy makers. This was an opportunity for the west of Ireland to develop, for everybody. I thought this was very good. Then after a chat about Michael Collins the Taoiseach presented me with some lovely cufflinks, and a glass paperweight with a design of Government Buildings etched inside. 

“Then rather than ending the meeting, the Taoiseach invited me to accompany him to the Cabinet meeting room.  Where he introduced me, personally, to all of the Fine Gael members of cabinet.  Each person spoke with me for a minute or two.  This was totally unexpected and a good experience.  I left Government buildings happy after a busy day and I felt it was very successful.  I appreciated the experience of shadowing the Taoiseach.  I would like to thank Jackie Coogan from the Taoiseach’s Department for supporting me throughout the day and being so welcoming.  I would like to thank the Department of the Taoiseach for allowing this to take place and to the Taoiseach for his time and commitment to the IASE Job Shadow Initiative.

You can watch a short video of Martin’s Day with An Taoiseach here


For more information contact Roisin Fitzgerald, Senior Communications & Public Affairs Executive, Rehab: 086 8101291 / 01 2057268

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