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Life after an election: ‘The hurt, the hard work and signing on the dole’

Nicola Cassidy, a former Green Party press officer, chronicles what happens when it all goes pear shaped.

Nicola Cassidy

Nicola Cassidy, a former Green Party press officer, chronicles what goes on behind the scenes in the run up to an election. 

She also has insight into the life of limbo political support staff go through when the rug is pulled from under them, which ultimately results in job losses for many. 

IN 2011, OVER 30 staff working for or with the Green Party in Government became unemployed after the general election. I was one of them.

Having worked in a busy press office, it was a shock to find myself with long days to fill and limited job prospects. But, the year of unemployment was to become one of the happiest and healthiest of my life. Turns out, there is life after politics.

21/2/2011. General Elections Campaigns Green Party pre-2011 election. Source: /Photocall Ireland

January 2011

We’re back to work early. The manifesto is nearly ready. The posters are ready. We’re tired already. The canvassing teams are out in the cold, most evenings. We don’t know when the election will be. But it will be soon. We can sense it. We’re producing short videos to showcase the different areas where we’ve made change. Civil partnership. The Cycle to Work Scheme. Advancements in renewable energy. We’re proud of these achievements, but we wanted to do so much more.

February 2011

Deal with Johnny Logan saying one of our female candidates ‘needs a kick in the gee’. There’s an internal row over Twitter etiquette. The election has been called. We’ve had last minute press conferences and heated exchanges. Media appearances clash with prime canvassing time – the morning rush hour. I’m commuting four hours a day and working twelve. But there’s excitement; the adrenalin and the rush that only a general election can bring. And the voters vote. And we’ve lost.

March 2011

We’re gutted. But exhausted. There are staff emails flying back and forth of support, of understanding, of comraderie. We’ve battled the press, the public, our own members. But we never lost our cool with each other. We were all we had – even our families can’t understand. The hurt. The hard work. The misrepresentation of what we were trying to say. But the country is sore. We are in recession. And we retreat. To regroup. To recover.

April 2011

Set up a Linked In account on advice from other team members. Decide I’m not going to look for work for a while. A few weeks maybe. We’re in our new house two years and there are endless jobs that haven’t been seen to. I see a small westie dog on Facebook who is up for adoption. I call the number and a few hours later, the scruffy dog arrives at the door. She holds her tail between her legs, barely lifting her eyes through her scraggy fur. She is broken. A bit like me.

May 2011

I’m wakening up in the mornings with a sense of relief. I didn’t notice the stress I was carrying. In my neck. In my veins. In government, if felt as though the weight of the world was on our shoulders, that we were responsible for every single problem the country had. Spending more time with himself; it’s almost as though we are starting again – I have been very far away these past months – years maybe. I join the gym and sign up to do a 10k. I’ve put on weight – a diet of sandwiches and stress will do that to you.

June 2011

We’ve built a deck and I’ve planted vegetables in the garden. My sleep patterns are all over the place; sometimes I find myself on the beach at 7am with the dog, having not slept much during the night. I don’t know what to do with this time. Send out my first tentative job application. Think about going back to study. The green team are in good contact. Most are taking breaks like I am. We share job tips and contacts. We don’t know it yet, but 2011 is not a good year to be job-hunting. Take some freelance work for the presidential campaign.

July 2011

A close friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness. We are reeling and don’t know what to say. There’s been a lot of denial this year. An ignoring of the truth, so that we can exist day to day. I keep busy with exercise, household tasks and job applications when I can find them. Marketing roles are drying up. Companies are letting staff go. Starting to worry – about everything.

August 2011

Decide to do a short diploma in online marketing and PR. I can’t understand the job applications as they are written – what is SEO? PPC? Even though I’m unemployed and worried about the future, I realise I am happier than I have been in a long time. I am healthy, busy. I have time for things. For me. Politics was thrilling, enthralling, all encompassing. But that was the problem – there was no life outside of the political walls. And the walls were high, the media saturated. I don’t have to listen to the news anymore.

I feel free.

September 2011

The course is interesting. I realise there is a future in online marketing – this is where the traditional communication roles are heading. But I am being rejected for all the jobs I apply to. I wonder if my CV is affected by my time in politics? Has our disaster of a result affected our employability?

October 2011

Have been officially unemployed now for six months. Find that I’m getting a bit depressed some days – I hate not knowing what direction I’m going in and am worried about our finances. There is a project in Drogheda called Local Heroes – it’s an RTE TV show where members of the community come together to try and boost the local economy. Decide I’ll volunteer once my college work is over.

November 2011

Local Heroes is a godsend. I’m late to the project but I enjoying helping organise some media coverage and being involved with a team of people who are trying to move things forward. There are tourism initiatives, small business schemes and valuable networking. I’m broke, but I feel hopeful. I look forward to Christmas. I have time. I realise that life is precious.

December 2011

I buy a coat for the rescue dog. She has become the focus of care since the election. The Green team meet for Christmas drinks, to reminisce, to talk. Some are working, some are not. I didn’t think I would still be unemployed at this point, but I hope that the New Year will bring a new start. And it does.

In February 2012, I returned to work, having met my employer through my volunteer work in Local Heroes. The year of unemployment taught me many things, but mostly how to value the important things in life.

Now, a whole new set of election casualties will find themselves signing on the dotted unemployment line. I would tell them to breathe. You never know what this year will bring.

Nicola Cassidy writes a lifestyle, parenting and literary blog at www.ladynicci.com.

Read: ‘When political parties backtrack on promises on who they would go into power with, I feel lied to’>

Read:  Will we have another election? Looking back to 1927 could help us find the answer>

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