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Limerick West’s Tom Neville talks cultural revolution

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Tom Neville (right) on his first day in Leinster House with his father, Dan. Picture: Irish Times. Copyright: Tom Neville

Fine Gael’s Tom Neville sat down with Political editor Cillian Ryan to talk about his first year in the Dáil, political background, mental health issues, and Limerick’s potential.

Tom Neville’s first Dáil term came with one of the biggest political crossroads in Irish history.

“The first few months were a bit topsy turvy because there was no government formed. The people asked us to do something that had never been done in a long time, form a minority government, so it took us a while to analyse and ascertain the decision the public made, and to grapple with that.

 “Even after the government was formed, that was in the back of my mind, would this last? I don’t know if this type of government would have survived five years ago because of the difficult decisions that had to be made in 2011 and 2012.

 “Five years ago, for example, we could only pay public servants within a four month plan and anything after that, we didn’t know where the money was going to come from. It was governing by the seat of our pants. But now we have forward trajectory, and that changes the dynamic,” Mr Neville said.

Mental health is a project Deputy Neville is particularly passionate about, carrying the torch, as it were, for those suffering with depression and related problems as his father Dan did. He’s determined to continue shedding light on this area, raising awareness and effecting change.

“Obviously I worked closely with my father who is the president of the Irish Association of Suicidology, where he started out getting suicide decriminalised in 1993. I know it’s hard to believe, in our generation,” he said.

I remember canvassing in the 1990s, and basically sometimes we had the piss taken out of us on the doorstep, people saying ‘haha you’re the minister for suicide’, and that wasn’t everyone, but there was a culture. I even saw captions calling my father the ‘suicide senator’,” he continued.

Now the 41 year old  TD feels that this culture is changing, but more work needs to be done.  “People are more informed. But there is still a stigma and we need to break that down,” he said.

That takes a lot. I know we need to be conscious of the language we use, because there might be vulnerable people who are affected, but the message I want to get out to people at that crisis point is that when something triggers you, reach out, talk to someone. It’s those small steps that can make all the difference,” he continued.

Arts and culture are also hugely important to the Limerick West TD, who is an actor in his spare time, and took part in the monologue competition of the Richard Harris Film Festival last October.

Speaking on the future of Limerick’s cultural scene, he said, “With Troy studios coming, there is no excuse for Limerick not to become the film making capital of Europe. People say I’m mad for saying that but I honestly believe it.

All the ingredients are there. You have the city, the county, we have the talent. Commercially, from an IT perspective, we have all the multinationals who are based here, the infrastructure is there, the airport is there. There’s huge tourism potential there, just look at Skellig Michael, in Star Wars. So why can’t this happen for Limerick?

From an artistic perspective, he told us how Limerick has come through dark times, but those dark times can breed great cultural movements, likening the potential in Limerick to the explosion of Britpop in the late eighties in Manchester.

The Rathkeale native also gave some insight as to what it’s like working with the father figure of Limerick politics, Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

“The one thing I love about Michael is that he’s street smart, and he’s very on the ground. He understands people, across all backgrounds. I don’t know if people see the human side of him, but there’s an undercurrent there, and he has it on both levels, both intellectually and street smart. You don’t stay in politics as long as he has without being good at it,” he said.

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