Ireland's First Independent Senator
Senator Gerard Craughwell is Ireland’s’ newest and only independently elected Senator. He is a teacher in the further education sector and past president of the Teachers Union of Ireland. He was elected to the Culture and Education Panel of the Seanad and is a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection.
Since his election in October 2014, Gerard has made a very significant contribution to the legislative process by proposing amendments to a wide range of Bills. He has remained true to his promise not be “whipped by any party” and to “consider each vote as it arises”. He is passionate about the value of the Independent Politician as a leader and advocate of honest politics.
He is deeply committed to Seanad Reform, Education and the Labour Movement.
I was born in Galway in 1953 and am one of eleven children. I am married to Helen and I have two children David and Rebecca and one grandchild Ellie. I started work at the age of 16 as a bar man in London but was always drawn to a military life and a few months after starting work in London I joined the Kings Division Depot of the Royal Irish Rangers as a boy soldier. The training was tough but by the time I was 17 I was a first class signals operator, the youngest Lance Corporal in the regiment and had completed my first instructors course. Life was good.
I stayed in the British Army until 1974 when I was forced to make a choice between the British Army and a return to Ireland and I choose the latter. I was fortunate to be able to join the Irish Army and having survived the ordeal of recruit basic training for the second time and this time as Gaeilge, I was soon transferred to the Non Commissioned Officers training school for the Western Command where I was appointed as Corporal and later Sergeant and a instructor in the training school.
In 1980 an opportunity came to allow me to leave the army and take over a contract my father had with Calor Gas. Three days after I finished with the army, Calor Gas took a decision to dispense with external contractors. I was out of the army and had no contract. I formed a Limited Company GAS Ltd (Galway Appliance Services Ltd) and very soon secured a contract with Flo Gas. The business grew rapidly we moved from domestic work into industrial work. Despite working every hour God sent me the Company failed and in 1983 it went into Liquidation. This was a very tough time for our family as we lost our home and everything we had.
Encouraged by my wife Helen I looked for work everywhere and got a job as a Part-time Driver with Underfoot Distributors Ltd Athlone, Co. Westmeath. The work was hard and the hours long but I was grateful to be able to provide for my family again. As luck would have it I was blessed to get a good job with Aughinish Alumina Ltd in 1986. The company paid for our re-location to Limerick where we began a whole new life. In 1990 as a result of a serious back injury my career with Aughinish came to an end. I was 37 and without qualifications. Once again fate intervened and an ad in the The Limerick Post’ offering a BSc in Economics jumped off the page at me. My early days at Limerick Senior College were among the most stressful days of my life, but unlike my earlier educational experiences, LSC was not like school. I will never forget the kindness and professionalism of those who taught there.
Despite many pressures I succeeded in my course and one of the proudest days of my life was my graduation from the London School of Economics in the Barbican Centre London. Following my graduation I was given 11 hours teaching at LSC while undertaking a Post Graduate Diploma in Computing at the University of Limerick. In 1995 having qualified with a Graduate Diploma in Computing I started work at the Senior College Dun Laoghaire and my family made another move, this time to Dublin.
From the moment I arrived at SCD I was aware of the “can-do” ethos just like I had experienced at LSC. However now the shoe was on the other foot and I was the one at the blackboard. The level of collegiately I experienced at SCD was incredible. I became an Assistant Principal in the school and an active member of the Teachers Union of Ireland where I was Chairman of the Further education Committee for the TUI Executive Committee and a Board Member of the TUI Credit Union. I was the sole Irish Committee Member of the Information Technology Certifying Organisation CompTIA. In 2012 I was thrilled to become the President of the TUI a post I held until 2014.
In September 2014 I entered my name as a candidate for the Seanad By Election and was elected. It was with great pride and honour that I took my seat on the 14th of October 2014 as a member of the Culture and Education Panel of Seanad Eireann.