Wednesday 29th September 2021 Vol 001 Edition 00019
by photojournalist Jim Campbell
Working as a politician’s assistant, you’ll provide administrative support to an elected politician. You’ll help with secretarial tasks, research, and publicity.
Although job titles and locations vary, the primary task is to do whatever behind-the-scenes work is necessary to enable politicians to represent their constituents. Politicians generally have between one and three assistants.
secretarial duties, such as managing the politician’s diary
The duties of a Parliamentary Assistant respond to enquiries known as progressing casework – from constituents, other politicians, the media, lobbyists, and pressure groups.
Perform secretarial duties, such as managing the politician’s diary, making travel arrangements, taking minutes at meetings, and undertaking administrative responsibilities, such as filing, ordering stationery, responding to correspondence, and updating databases.
Attend public, private, and sporting functions to assist the politician and sometimes stand in when the politician cannot attend. Liaise with government and local government members, party headquarters, other politicians and their staff, embassies, commissioners, relevant interest groups, the media, voluntary sector organisations, and constituents.
Help draft amendments for reports, prepare briefing material and provide the politician with the support needed to get an issue on the political agenda, e.g., research or liaising with key individuals or groups.
My profile for my ‘A day in the Life of’ is George Lawlor, the Parliamentary Assistant for Deputy Brendan Howlin TD, former leader of The Labour Party.
George, a former Mayor of Wexford and Deputy Mayor, came from a political background; following his late grandfather’s footsteps, publican Eddie Hall a former Mayor of Wexford in the 1950s. Eddie had a public house at the corner of Cinema Lane – Costa Coffee
George grew up in Kennedy Park, a residential housing estate in Wexford town. He was educated in the Presentation Convent National School, CBS Primary School, and CBS Secondary School.
In Dublin Institute of Technology, George completed a course in Lithography
The young men who attended the CBS Primary School could continue their education with the Christian Brothers and attend the CBS Secondary School. Alternatively, they could attend St Peter’s College or the Wexford Vocational College (now called Selskar College).
“We have a lot of difficulties now with people getting secondary school places; back then, once you were in the CBS Primary School if you wanted to, you automatically went into the CBS Secondary School.”
George progressed to the third level following his Leaving Certificate, attending the Dublin Institute of Technology in Bolton Street. In DIT, he completed a course in Lithography. Lithography is a printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them, while the non-image areas are made inkrepellent.
George joined his uncle Nicky’s printing works, ‘Lawlor Print’
After graduating from DIT, George joined his uncle Nicky’s printing works, ‘Lawlor Print’, where he completed his apprenticeship. In 1996, George started his own print business called ‘Impression print.’
After 23 years, the self-employed printer sold his business to Hogan Print, a well-known printing company in Enniscorthy. “Self-employment is a tough place to be. You are chasing so many things. You are trying to keep all the balls juggling. It probably wasn’t something that suited me, I particularly hated chasing money.”
New chapter in George’s career when he took up the position as Parliamentary Assistant to Deputy Brendan Howlin TD
George was elected Councillor in 2004. Seven years later, and with the experience of local politics behind him, the Kennedy Park man began a new chapter in his career when you took up the position as Parliamentary Assistant to Deputy Brendan Howlin TD.
With modern technology and social media, George’s job as Parliamentary Assistant has become twenty-four-seven, unlike many office jobs where you start at nine and finish at five. “It wouldn’t be unusual for me to get seventy mobile phone calls in a day. I would also have messages on social media Facebook, Twitter, etc. Which is grand but processing it all can prove challenging. And everything is so instant now. It’s now twenty-four-seven, three-six-five.”
George would commence his day’s work as early as seven-thirty when he would start receiving calls from the public. From there, he would be dealing with current issues such as housing, road works, water supplies, and passports, to name a few. Some of these issues, for example, housing, can be life changing for a person or a family.
“It’s is a terrific job, and I would get a buzz out of getting a result”
The Parliamentary Assistant would also receive phone calls and texts late into the night. The day can be varied from housing, homelessness, people losing their accommodation, leaks in the road, people in financial distress, and drug addiction. The latter would come for assistance and guidance. “It’s is a terrific job, and I would get a buzz out of getting a result. Sometimes you don’t get a result or the result that you want, but when you do, it can be hugely satisfying.”
The job is never an eight hour-day; George would have meetings and functions to attend to in the evenings. Sporting and other events to attend to during the weekends. Attend with the Teachta Dála at official openings of schools, new companies, offices, exhibitions. At times would appear at the launch of new products.
Assisting the Teachta Dála (TD) with his speeches and research
Parliamentary Assistant to Brendan Howlin TD has many and varied duties, including working with the Labour Party staff internally, Interaction via Parliamentary questions with Leinster House, and the Irish Government buildings in Dublin. Parliamentary questions are where a member of the public raises an issue with the Parliamentary Minister.
In turn, the assistant would refer that question to the relevant Minister in Leinster House to try and resolve the issue. Meeting with various groups and delegations on behalf of Deputy Howlin; assisting the Teachta Dála (TD) with his speeches and research; interacting with the local authority
There are also media briefings to attend. Whether you like it or not, the media play an essential part in political life. It is making sure that the information relayed to the public is accurate before being broadcast. This would include interviews with journalists, radio interviews, and the occasional television appearance.
Speaking about his role, George explains, “The Parliamentary Assistant allows the Minister or the Teachta Dála to focus on the national legislation while the assistant deals with the more local issues without bringing the national representative into it. Social welfare issues or housing issues, for instance, we can deal with them here in the office.”
“get involved in a party locally, whichever party, and build up knowledge on how the political system works”
On the advice to students wishing to pursue a career in political life. “get involved in a party locally, whichever party, and build up knowledge on how the political system works. There are openings in the political system; you can become parliamentary researchers, parliamentary assistants, work in the communication units within the parties. It is a very interesting field to work in, varied and not every day is the same.”
“It is an extremely interesting job, and being a councillor, it was a smooth transition for me to step into. It is something that I enjoy, and lucky to be working with one of the top Parliamentarians in the country. I have learned a lot from him.”
“Certainly, to be at the heart of things affecting what is happening in the country is terrific and most enjoyable“
My sincere thanks to Parliamentary Secretary George Lawlor, Deputy Brendan Howlin TD, Angela Roche Reville for their contribution to this blog. Very much appreciated…. JC
All images and original text © All Rights Reserved Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.