General Election 2020 will mark the third time that Lisa Chambers has put herself before the people of Mayo in a general election - yet it all still feels very new to her, Chambers told the Mayo Advertiser this week: "I suppose, going back it was just 11 years ago when I joined Fianna Fáil and we were just talking about it with my team and I still feel very new, even though I am the best part of ten years in politics - I contested my first election in 2011 - you are learning all the time."
When she did put her head on the block for the first time in 2011, Chambers admits she knew she wasn't going to win a seat, but it was a massive learning experience for her and a foundation block for her to get her political life up and running: "I knew in 2011 when I contested that election that I didn't have a hope of being elected, I knew that. But I knew we needed a second candidate in the county, Castlebar always had a candidate, so I knew even though I wasn't going to be elected the focus was on it being an opportunity to start my political career, get out there and meet people, get a profile and hopefully get a reasonable vote for the party, which we did. I was probably the only candidate in the country celebrating having not won a seat, which is remarkable."
She backed that up by winning a seat in Mayo County Council three years later before taking a Dáil seat two years after that. Winning that council seat was another massive learning experience for her, she added: "I had done that job for that election and there was huge support from the organisation and it was a good place for me to start to cut my teeth in local politics and win a seat. I spent the best part of two years campaigning to win that seat. There was no vacancy when I contested that seat in 2014 and we took three seats that time."
People are being receptive on the doors
With Fianna Fáil looking to return to government since the first time in almost a decade, the reaction to her and her party have been very positive on the doorsteps, she says: " It's been very positive, I am far better known, but even though I am ten years into it, I still feel new - but people feel they know me a bit better, they feel I've done a good job at representing the county on the national stage and when I compare it to 2011 and 2016, I can see the difference and the changed attitude towards Fianna Fail.
"We had a very difficult election in 2011, a much better election in 2016 - I got elected and we more than doubled our seats nationally, but even since then, the mood has changed even more, and people want change. People feel there needs to be a change of government and change of approach to how government is run. Fine Gael are in their tenth year in government and in that time the country has gone in a certain direction, not everybody is unhappy, but a lot of people are - there is a lot of anger out there the health service is coming up all the time.
"People do say that once you get in the door, the care is excellent, but it is getting in the door - the access, the amount of people on some sort of a waiting list for some sort of treatment is phenomenal.
"I don't agree with the line that it can't be fixed, we are the worst in Europe when it comes to waiting lists, people can't even get to see their GPs it has got that bad. It can be fixed, we can do better, we can come from the bottom of the list and start moving up the table to where we should be. It is not about just money, it is about how you manage the money going into the health service."
Counting the cost of childcare
Another major issue that is constantly being raised is childcare and this is something she says she has a keen interest in getting right for the country, telling us: "I have a particular interest in this area - because I think we are a laggard in terms of other European countries. The cost of childcare, if you are putting two children into childcare, you are talking about €320 a week, that is bigger than most people's mortgages - we have some of the most expensive childcare in Europe, so we need to fix that.
"The other big issue here is the pay level in the sector, where most of the workers are female. Some of them have four year degrees and are not getting paid that well. We have to start valuing this work, you are not just minding children, you are educating them. These are the formative years, talk to anyone who works in the industry and who have their qualifications, the first few years are so important, before they enter primary school so much has happened and it is so important to their development.
"The cost is coming up on the doors, it is women who are bringing it up, it often falls to mums to stay at home - that is fine if you want to. But even yesterday evening, two separate women said to me, I can't afford to go back to work, which is crazy and that should not happen, if a person wants to go back to work. I spoke to a lady who is about to have her third baby, she said with three children - one in after-school and two others in creche - that she could not afford to go back to work and she is a qualified professional person.
"If you take five years out of work and you want to do it, fine, but if you are only doing it because you have no other option and then you go back to work, to find the person who was your peer has been promoted ahead of you - the cost of childcare is the single biggest barrier of getting women back to work and that is 50 per cent of our talent and if we don't use the talent in the country, everybody is losing out. We need to start supporting women and families to offer genuine help with childcare so that it isn't a factor in terms of career progression and how they work the family system."
Broadband is key to the future
The delivery of broadband to help people get a better work life balance is also something that needs to be delivered upon for the people of Mayo, she added: "It is crazy we are now in 2020 and you can't be guaranteed decent broadband. I say this to colleagues and friends from the cities and they can't get over the fact there are parts of Mayo you can't send or receive an email. We were promised broadband by this government in 2016, then it was 2017 and then 2018 and it's now 2020 and not a single bit of fibre has been put in the ground by the national broadband scheme.
"For a county like Mayo it is essential for delivering jobs and even for people working from home, flexible working arrangements. If we can do one thing for the county that will deliver, jobs and investment and for our entrepreneurs and allow working flexibly, broadband is a game-changer in that."
Asking people to put their faith in her
As for retaining the seat she won last time around, Chambers hopes the people of Mayo will put their faith in her again this time around, but she isn't counting her chickens yet: "I took the last seat in the last election, I am not complacent, I have a lot of work done and I hope that people would like to see me re-elected to represent the people of Mayo, but certainly I don't think there is any politician confident at election time, all I can do is ask people to continue their support for me."