A person reflects on their experience of being part of the Citizen's Jury Project in Galway, Ireland - as part of the EUARENAS Project.

Yeah. So, um, I suppose I just like like yourself. I think it might have been through the public participation network. Perhaps the p p n

That we kind of maybe, as you say, all of us are probably already been involved in different community projects. Different, um, say social activities within our own communities. So when this message came out, they probably it would have come maybe via the Galway County Council and the Public Participation Network

Perhaps, as you say, there was, um, adverts in the local papers and so on as well. So that's how I came about joining. Also, my background was, um, I, as I said at the opening of the meeting had been involved in to was, was designated as one of the 27 most disadvantaged areas in the country

So other areas would have been created, like would have been subsets almost like Bally in Dublin, um, Ross in Limerick. Whereas she was quite unique. And it was it was the whole town was recognised as being disadvantaged, not just one area of it

So, out of that came a group called, Well, a national initiative called rapid revitalising areas. Through planning investment and development. And the whole idea there was it was almost like, kind of like the the citizen jury where you you were putting together subgroups that might be like the one I was chairing was, um, training and enterprise

There would have been others on maybe sport or, you know, different kind of areas. And you're engaging them with the communities to find out how best to revitalise an area as opposed to being kind of top down. And it was engaging with the citizens at a local level to see what they wanted

So I had also done a training course, and I don't know if you've heard of it. Mary at all. It it was

It's called ABC D asset based community development. You, you'd love it, Mary, you really love it. Look, it up online is excellent, and it's all about looking at what's strong, not what's wrong

And so what are the assets that we have? What are the good things that are available to us, and how best can we leverage those rather than continually going, Oh my God, there's a pothole in the road or all this all that because you know when you are working as a citizen, when you're when you're engaging with the different departments with the different agencies, I mean, they're constantly hearing the wrong things. So it was kind of important to come from a point of positivity. So and again when when I joined, you know, you had talked about the going where, you know, going out to the act of retirement

I suppose that would ruin one of my big things in the room was go where the people are. Don't expect people to come and meet us. We need to go out to where the people are

And I think that would would have been one of the the strength of the group is that we weren't setting ourselves up in a big town hall, you know, expecting people to come to us like the sage on the stage. We're not anything. It's the people who themselves who know

So I think by going out and and going to groups, we they invited us in as opposed to us pushing ourselves on them. So it was very much the there was no kind of power dynamic, and I felt you know one thing I wasn't quite sure about was the word jury and I I was kind of really struggled with that, because when you say to a community group Oh, we're a citizen jury and we'd like to come to your meeting. It's like, uh what You're jury and you want to come and see us

You know, there's there's a certain level of what are you doing? And where is this going? And a jury is somebody like who who convicts people and who you know who who makes decisions, you know, based on how good or not good you are. So I felt really always a little bit uncomfortable with the word with the word jury, I have to say, But, um yeah, I think, you know, as you said, getting out meeting with the people themselves. And I suppose what bubbled up was, um that, yeah, we all experience a lot of the similar situations

But the the civil servants, as it turns out, were kind of what that one step removed. And I think that was a key part of this was that level of engagement and taking it from the community level and listening to the people's voices and then going out and talking with the actual agencies themselves and trying to affect those changes based on what we had heard at the ground roots level, right? Yeah. And did you find, um I'm I'm picking up on what you were saying

There, the positive side of, um, you know, when you're dealing with people were there kind of instances, Was it all negative? You know that when people have feedback, or were they in? I think generally it was it was very positive, I suppose right from the start, my one big concern was it was I suppose the voice of the youth really was not in the room at all. We were all on the other side of 50 you know, and I felt that that was and indeed, I would say, also minorities. Um, you know, I said to him would be a disadvantage area, and that would be because it is the highest level of travellers in the country

But there were no traveller voices there. There were no kind of disadvantaged voices there. We were all good, good people of the towns

We were the ones who you know what I mean. We were all kind of We were all white. We were all you know, you know, went out and did volunteer work in our communities

So we were very much in a little bubble of our own, and I think it would have been better had there been younger voices at the table. Um, and indeed, you know, different minorities and and different, I suppose, life experiences. And how How do you think that that could have been done? You know, like we both spoke about the me, you know, it being advertised in the media or through the various community groups

How could they have? Um well, I think, you know, in all the schools as a transition year, and part of that transition year is time to to take to take out of the, you know, the general regular study and to look more at community and social, um, aspects of where you live, Why you live there, what you can affect, you know, volunteerism. All of that. I think there was an opportunity you missed to go into the schools and perhaps have a formal, even a subgroup, that that would then be part of the overall jury

as part of their transition year projects. There's also like, you know, there is the Galway Youth Partnership, you know? G IP. And I think we probably could have done a better job on including some of those, like even I think at the time, my son, what age is he then can't think now what age he was

Maybe he was 20 or something, and he was at university in Galway and I said, Look, I want to give up my place and I want to let my son come on this because I felt his voice was more important than mine. But I think because we were maybe a couple of sessions down the road, it was kind of thought, Well, no, you know, this is the way it is now, so it's probably better now. Yes, I do think overall, it was very good

But I think there were some opportunities missed that there could have been more inclusion, right? I can't think of anything else now to ask you. So do you think we have what I would say? I I, um I, the minister for Transport, has appointed me to the Board of Irish Rail And so I'm part of like I'm you know, when you look at that little chain of, you know the person and the there's the board and then there's the minister. I'm up there at the board

But to be quite honest, we have very, very little ability to affect change. So even though I'm right at the top of Irish Rail, and I suppose a lot of what I do is around accessibility disability my daughter has a disability herself. She's nonverbal

She needs 24 7 care for life. She won't ever drive a car. She needs public transport

It's It's what's called. It's the permanent government, Shall we say it's not the elected representatives, It's the permanent government, as in the civil service in the departments call the shots, and that is a real That was a real eye opener for me. That it's it doesn't matter who's in power today

It doesn't matter. Me and the board, it doesn't matter. The citizen or the person

Galway County Council. It's the so called permanent government in the departments. Um, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, OK, just go back again

I think you know, I think the cartoons or the characters were excellent. Um, you know, it did, you know, after all our kind of discussions, And it was quite hard at the start, Mary, if you remember, because none of us knew what we were really doing. And there was that kind of level

First of all, we had to build trust with one another, get to know each other a wee bit, and, you know, to be able to kind of, you know, talk and say, Well, I don't disagree. I don't agree with that. Or have we thought about this and to be able to coalesce it all into those set of carriages, I thought it was a very, very powerful thing that we did

We all were clearly able to listen to one another and take on board. Everybody's opinion were to come out, so I thought that was very positive. Yeah

Yeah. I mean, if you like, we all. I mean, I don't think there was any other member of that group who I knew before we joined as a jury

You know that we you know, considering Galway is a small place, as you know, So you could meet people easily, so yeah, it's good.

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