In addition to her city base at Number 4, Waterside, Deputy Butler also has a permanent presence at Number 74, O’Connell Street, Dungarvan, an integral development given the reality of constituency support and her broad support base.
“It’s important to let the people of Waterford city and county that both these offices are open five days a week, and the office on the Waterside is open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 1pm or by appointment but my two staff members are here the whole time.”
Deputy Butler added: “Patricia Lyons, who is originally from Cork, came first to Waterford through her work at the Tramore Branch of the Bank of Ireland at the age of 18 – and she never left! She retired from the bank a couple of years ago and had worked on a voluntary basis during the general election campaign – and she was the perfect fit. She has great experience in both political and financial matters and has been a fantastic help and support to me in my initial months as a TD.
“My second member of staff is my secretary Michelle Cullinane from Lismore who recently finished college; she’d worked on the Leader’s Tour during the general election and was a class member of the Washington Ireland Program last year and met Vice President Joe Biden during his recent visit to Ireland, and I must say I’m fortunate to have two such capable people working for me on my behalf, taking in representations and queries during times, for example, when I may be in Dublin on Dáil business for three if not four days a week.”
As for opening the Dungarvan office, in addition to her Waterside presence, Deputy Butler explained: “Firstly, I received a huge vote in the west of the county and secondly, we’re inundated with representations from that side of the county, so opening an office in Dungarvan just made sense. Thirdly I had always said that if I was elected I would open an office in the west of the county, and it’s important for politicians to follow through on pre-election commitments.
“The reason I was a little delayed in opening the second office was due to the fact that we were waiting to see if we had a government – I couldn’t sign a lease on any place before that happened. And the Dungarvan office will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 10am to 1pm, for the time being and I’ll see where I’m at once it’s settled in. The Dáil is due to rise on July 21st and thereafter I intend to work out of Dungarvan myself right through the summer – that’s the plan as things stand.”
Deputy Butler told The Munster Express on Friday last: “It has been a hectic first few months in the Dáil, no two ways about it, and it has been a bit of an adjustment. We’ve heard a lot of talk about family-friendly politics but in my experience we’re somewhat away from that at the moment. I left the Dáil on Tuesday night at 10:55pm after debating zero hour contracts and last (Thursday) night I left at 10:05pm; I was a member of the Housing and Homeless Committee and we presented that document to Minister (Simon) Coveney and we debated it last night and I drove home to Portlaw after that, so I was home shortly after midnight – the M9 is a help, but as a rural TD, there’s no doubting you have to make a lot more sacrifices on the domestic front than, say, a TD in suburban Dublin or the Dublin commuter belt.”
Deputy Butler, who is chairing the Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee, is also her party’s junior spokesperson for Older People and Public Health Promotion.
“When you take all of that into account in terms of what I deal with on a daily basis in Leinster House, then having two offices in Waterford city and Dungarvan is essential to allowing me fulfil my constituency duties as well as keeping on track when it comes to my Oireachtas responsibilities. So having Patricia and Michelle here, dealing with representations, is absolutely essential. And I believe it demonstrates my commitment to the people of Waterford city and county.
Regarding her chairing of the Oireachtas Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Committee, Mary Butler stated: “The Oireachtas Committees are going to be central in the process of holding Government to account, developing policy and passing legislation to an extent that we have not seen before. It’s going to be a tough job but I’m up for the challenge.”
She added: “Tackling the high rate of unemployment will be a key goal for the committee. We need to determine the best way forward for getting people back to work and addressing long term unemployment. We often hear of new jobs being created within multinationals in the tech sector, which of course is welcome. However the key challenge for us is to stimulate employment in other sectors of the economy.
“I’m also particularly concerned by the variations in the rates of regional unemployment. The South East for example has the highest rate of unemployment with 12.5 per cent currently looking for work, compared to 7.8 per cent nationally. What’s worse is the fact that unemployment in the South East actually increased by 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year as compared to decreases elsewhere.
“I want to work with the other members of the committee to devise new policies to help attract investment into the South East to ensure the true potential of the area is realised.”
Among the other issues which Deputy Butler has on her desk at moment include the future of post offices, particularly in rural areas, the lack of diabetes services in Waterford, which Kieran Foley has reported on in these pages, pay equality for newly qualified teachers and the future of Waterford Airport.
“I’m a quick learner, I’m up for the challenge and I’m really enjoying it,” said Deputy Butler. “It is a great honour to represent the people of Waterford in the Dáil and I am intent to devoting my time to serving this city and county as best I can.”