Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD
My alarm goes off…
I am not a great sleeper so when my alarm goes off I am delighted to get up and start the day. I have usually spent the night thinking about all the things I need to do, phone calls I need to make and places I need to be. So when the morning rolls around I can start to action all the things I have spent the night thinking about!
I am responsible for…
I am responsible for everything related to Higher Education within the state.
I am committed to leading the development of national policy on equity of access to higher education for all students, overseeing a range of support measures which facilitate greater levels of participation by disadvantaged students, mature students and students with disabilities.
In November 2017 I named my taskforce on Gender Equality within our Higher Education Institutions. I am determined that Ireland’s female academics will have all the same possibilities of career advancement as their male counterparts.
I am dedicated to supporting the Irish education system in becoming more internationalised, by encouraging and assisting with the development of further links and relationships between Ireland and many partners at individual, institutional and country level.
I am due to travel to India this week as part of a trade mission with Enterprise Ireland to encourage Indian students to consider Ireland as a potential destination for their higher education. I firmly believe these bonds will serve our nation and economy fortuitously into the future. We will have educated our own ‘international ambassadors’ who will want to do business with Ireland when they return home to their own countries.
My typical day…
There isn’t a typical day! The only thing that is uniform is they all start very early. On rising, I like to catch up on the latest news both at home and internationally. I have the radio on and read the papers on my ipad. Over my breakfast I like to do a quick whizz around all the social media sites to see what has happened in the world as I tried to sleep.
I then check my diary and familiarise myself with the shape my day is going to have.
Before I leave the house I do a few emails and early morning phone calls.
I spend Monday’s and Friday in the Department of Education and Tuesday through to Thursday in Leinster House.
At the weekend I catch up with my constituents and I like to attend local events.
Every day is very different. The only thing that makes them similar is I am working on behalf of my constituents and the nations students.
The best part of my job…
The best part of my job is a little clichéd but it is helping people. Helping my constituents solve local issues and problems that have impacted on their day to day lives.
On a national stage, helping all the country’s Higher Education Institutions reach their full potential in offering the highest calibre of education. At the heart of everything I do are the students. I want all our students, from all backgrounds and levels of ability, to receive the best-in-class education possible. I want to equip each and every one of them to stand among their peers the world over, confident that they can aim for any job – a get it! I want to fuel their ambition to reach for the stars because of the quality of the education they got in our Irish Universities, IoT’s, and Colleges.
I want to spread the word that in Ireland you can start with a PLC course after your Leaving Cert and with some hard word and dedication you could end up with a Phd. Access and progression underpin the education system of 2018.
The most challenging part of my job…
Keeping all the demands in the air and accomplishing something concrete at the end of every day.
I am inspired by…
Great orators. People who can motivate with words. I love reading and hearing about great speeches whether they are national or international. To win over a room full of people simply with what you are saying inspires me. In the same vein I love a good book. One that stays with you well after you have finished it!
There sort of isn’t an after work! If I am not working in Dáil Éireann I am working in my constituency. This is a seven day a week job and I love it.
The motto by which I live my life……
‘Do onto others as you would have them do unto you’ There is no cost in being nice and I am a firm believer that good deeds and aiming to help people as you journey through life always comes back to you in bucketful’s.
Respect yourself and respect the people you encounter. A handshake is such a loaded gesture – and I love offering my hand in friendship.
Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD is Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education having been appointed on 14 June 2017.
She previously served as Minister of Business, Enterprise and Innovation from 6 May 2016, leading on the creation and maintenance of high quality and sustainable full employment across all regions of the country, seeing, for the first time in almost a decade, over 2 million people employed in Ireland.
Mary first got elected as a TD in 2011 and represents the constituents of Dún Laoghaire, Rathdown.
In 2011, the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny appointed her as the Chairperson of the Internal Fine Gael Education Committee based on her successful career in education. She was also responsible for writing the first draft of the Fine Gael Education Manifesto 2016.
As a young student growing up in Milltown, Co Galway Mary always wanted to be a teacher. Her mum was a teacher and she knew from a very young age that she wanted to follow in her footsteps.
She came to Dublin and studied in Carysfort College – which she describes as “Simply the best days of my life! The freedom of living away from home for the first time and the joy of doing something I absolutely loved”.
Years later Mary was School Principal in Scoil Cholmcille in Skryne, Co. Meath before taking the reins of The Harold School in Glasthule, Co. Dublin, a large urban school of over 600 pupils. She has an Honours Masters’ Degree in Education and Management from National University Ireland, (NUI) Maynooth.
Mary believes that great teachers are like great leaders, the legacy they leave on young impressionable minds is phenomenal. They inspire, they nurture, they build confidence and germinate a love of learning. Mary knew while she was training that she wanted to be an inspirational teacher.
She has a lot of past pupils who stay in touch and keep her posted on their up’s and downs, successes and in some cases their disappointments – so she hopes that to them she was a great teacher.
Mary is a strong advocate of lifelong learning – she believes that our journey should end before our journey of learning should end and that there is always so much more to experience.
Mary sounds like our kind of lady at Rathú and we are delighted to feature such a strong Irish female role model in our March newsletter for International Women’s Day!
A huge thanks to Mary and her team (including Jason Clarke for photograph) for contributing to this feature – Go raibh maith agat!