Native of Ballina, Dara has been an elected representative serving the constituency of Mayo in Leinster House since 2007. In 2009 he was made Minister of State with responsibility for Labour Affairs and in 2010 appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Public Service Transformation.
The current Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, speaks honestly of his involvement with the ‘infamous’ Erskine Childers Cumann, opportunities presented to him and even failing a year.
Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Dara Calleary
Enrolled in Business, Economic and Social Studies, I started in Trinity College in 1991 as an eager young enthusiast from Ballina. – It seems a long time ago now. The course was excellent, Trinity was city centre and a gang of my friends were starting there at the same time-so my mind was made up.
I couldn’t speak of Trinity without identifying it as key part of shaping who I am today. I know my time in college contributed to the decisions I made and contacts I built which helped form my career path.
In my mind Trinity brings together the experience of Ireland’s oldest and most established college, the best professors in the country and an ethos which above all supports your own personal development. It gave me the opportunity to take ownership of my decisions and of my goals. – And this I will be for ever grateful for.
My time in Trinity wasn’t all A grades and ‘getting involved’ though- I did slip up in first year and ended up failing the year!
I think it’s important for me to tell you about failing and not just about all the flowery stuff, as we all know life isn’t always ‘flowery’ and after all failure is just an experience or lesson which drives a person to achieve.
At the time it felt like one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, but there are a lot of positives that I take from it now. It’s easy to think that everybody is judging you after you fail exams. You may feel embarrassed or ashamed that your classmates are progressing and you are not. –Trust me nobody is!!! And it doesn’t mean you are not able for the academics- in my case it was simply because I wasn’t good at managing my time. A skill I quickly had to adopt!!
Achieving balance between academic, extracurricular and of course your social life can be challenging. Let’s be honest you are spoilt with opportunities in college to get involved in extracurricular and with parties to attend nightly. It can be particularly difficult for first year students who are transitioning from a highly structured high school environment to a less structured college environment.
Actually, no matter what phase of your life you are in, achieving balance is a hard skill to master. Me, I was a member of the Fianna Fáil Cumann, the Hist. Debating Society and the Students Union and whilst they often took up a lot of my time, the skills and experience I gained from my involvement in these societies have been invaluable to my life and to my career.
Looking back, if I adhered to some basic time management principals my start at college might have been smoother. Principals such as learning to prioritise, setting boundaries and planning ahead.
Easier said than done-I know!
Erskine Childers (Wolfe Tone)
Regardless of this I loved my involvement and particularly my time with the Erskine Childers Cumann (now Wolfe Tone ) which still remains one of the more prominent third level Cumann societies in the country.
I remember we used to have a great time as a society, socializing and debating (well debating where to socialise) and it was always very inclusive and open.
I really believe every student needs a club or society in college like that as it provides an outlet and support you might not be able to access from your lecturers. I depended heavily on the friends I made in the Cumann and in fact I am still friends with them to this day.
I got over failing, immersed myself in student politics and continued my college life like any early twenties country boy- with the right amount of academics (as not to be sent packing back to Mayo completely)-and a lot of exploring the bars and nightclubs of Dublin.
I really value Trinity as a university for the lessons it taught me, as well as time management, it taught me to persevere and work hard for what I wanted. I am not advocating that you deliberately try and fail a year of college but the point I am making is it will not break you if you don’t let it. Nobody in this world chooses to fail, but everyone does at some point so it really is down to how you handle it- think of it as life’s greatest teacher!
My advice to you as you start the new academic year or as you start college for the first time: Take the opportunities that clubs and societies offer and if you have an interest in an area follow it. You’ll make friends outside of your course and acquire skills and experience that will stand to you for life