Senator Martin Conway“I became the first legally blind, visually impaired member of the Oireachtas.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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The Ryan Tubridy Show Wild Atlantic Way Tour paused in Ennistymon, Co Clare this morning, where Ryan invited Senator Martin Conway and his wife, Breege into the chip van for a chat.

“I became the first legally blind, visually impaired member of the Oireachtas and you know, that was exciting and challenging. Difficult, but very enjoyable.”

Ryan asked Martin to put a figure on the percentage of sight he has, but it’s not that simple, Martin told him. In fact, it’s hard to tell sometimes. But his average visual capacity, he says, is about 16%. Which means he’s 84% blind. And he was born like that, so, as Ryan put it, he knows no different.

“I’d love to have a pair of glasses that I could see, for even a day, full sight, just to see what it is like and get the experience, but that will never happen.”

Martin told Ryan that, apart from a dalliance with trains as a boy, he always wanted to be a politician. Indeed, he met his wife Breege – a blow-in from Kildare! – in college where they both joined Fine Gael. Breege told Ryan that she reckons that she has a pretty good awareness of disability, as her sister Úna has Down Syndrome and as a family in Maynooth they would have regularly met people with various different challenges. And she needs her wits about her too as she is heavily involved in Martin’s political career.

“Typically, in terms of politicians, they look around the room, they work the room, they see who’s there, they do the pat on the back, but Martin isn’t in that position, so I’d be very much inclined to say to him where people are in the room and who’s actually here.”

There’s often plenty of opportunity for ‘robust debate’ between Martin and Breege after a function or meeting, as they compare what they’ve taken in from their own perspectives, something that Martin finds extremely useful:

“I don’t always get it right and Breege will be the very first one to put a counter argument if there is one to be put.”

Like the West Wing Irish-style, Ryan observed.

You can hear Ryan’s full interview with Martin and Breege, as well as the rest of the Ennistymon shenanigans on The Ryan Tubridy Show here:


© The Listener 2019

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