A politician with a difference

Senator Rónán Mullen speaks ahead of the European Elections

Rónán Mullen is a politician with a difference. That’s according to the Independent Senator’s own website, which goes on to state: “With Rónán, what you see is what you get: principled, courageous and clear politics. No spin, no broken promises, no bending the knee to party leaders.” Sounds good, right?

Sitting down to speak with Rónán ahead of the European elections which he is contesting next month, it’s clear he’s a man on a mission. He is a candidate in the Midlands–North-West constituency of the European Parliament in Ireland, which will be represented from the May 2014 European Parliament election.

The constituency will comprise the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath; and the city of Galway and will elect four Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

So why should the people of the Midlands–North-West give Rónán their number one?

“I have a strong Independent voice. I defend the values I believe in and that matter to hundreds of thousands of Irish people – respect for life and quality of life, support for the family which is critical to children’s growth and development, and State structures to support, not control, people’s lives. These are the values in the Irish Constitution. These values have sustained generations of Irish people,” he said.

“I believe our communities and country have been let down by the dishonesty and a ruthless culture of spin in politics,” Rónán continued.

“I will work with individuals in any party where we have a common goal to protect the vulnerable and to invest in services for our struggling communities.

“I value our rural and community life. I want young Irish people to be able to live, love and thrive in the communities they grew up in – and not to be forced by economic necessity to leave their communities or leave Ireland,” he said.


There is no doubting Rónán’s passion and enthusiasm for his own vision.

Rónán is a farmer’s son from Ahascragh in east Galway where “benefitted from the great experience of parish life”. He fondly recalls the late Fr Joe Smith, Parish Priest of Ahascragh who was “a great mentor” to Rónán during his teenage years, “stimulating and encouraging” his interest in the Catholic faith.

Faith clearly plays a central role in Rónán’s life and has shaped his career to date. He is at pains to describe his gratefulness for be brought up “in the love of God”. In a family “where faith was real,” as he puts it. “I always had a great sense of the immediate presence of the love of God in my life and anything I have ever said and done I have tried to do in the awareness that my beliefs have to correspond with my actions,” he said.

From Ahascragh, Mullen went on to study French and English at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he was also president of the Students' Union. It was here that Rónán became involved with the Pro-Life movement, actively opposing the promotion of abortion on the campus “out of a personal conviction about the injustices of abortion”.

The students union was also very formative for Rónán in that it introduced him to the media and the political sphere, sparking an interest in both careers as possibilities for his future.

In 1993, he moved to Dublin and studied for a Masters' degree in journalism at DCU, after which he worked as a teacher and press secretary for the Dublin diocese where he “developed his Theological and Philosophical understanding of issues at a particularly difficult time for the Church”.


He began training as a barrister in 1999 at the King's Inns, during which he won the Irish Times Debate. He was called to the Bar in 2003. Since 2001 he has been a lecturer in the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown.

Mullen was elected by the National University of Ireland Seanad constituency in July 2007 and was re-elected for a second term in 2011. During his time as a senator, Rónán has been vocal on issues concerning social justice, human trafficking, support for improved end-of life care in hospitals, maintaining Ireland’s commitment to overseas development aid and social welfare protection for the economically vulnerable.

The recent debate around the Government’s abortion bill that became law at the beginning of 2014 was a particular difficult time in Rónán’s career. However, he is grateful for having the opportunity to take part in the public debate.

“If I had been looking in from outside I would have felt an enormous sense of frustration at the dishonesty of the arguments being made by the Government, the lack of sincere attention to what the research was saying around the various issues involved particularly around suicide, at the shocking disregard for people’s consciences and convictions within the political parties where their party leaders were trying to force them down a certain route.

“It certainly crystallised my thinking about the downsides of the political party system and system of the political whip and how that can really be used to act against people’s best interests and to act in a way that is very disrespectful of the preferences of the voting population.

“While people may vote for a party to be in power, they don’t vote for a party to break its promises, and they certainly don’t vote for a party to deprive its individual members of their right to express their deepest convictions on life and death issues.

“What we saw was a very bad moment for democracy,” he said.


However, not being in Government means Rónán’s work does not necessarily see him reshaping legislation very often. So what exactly is the value of being in politics as a representative politician if you’re not in power?

“The value is that you represent the values and ideas of lots of people and you try and keep the flame lit for the culture by trying to influence the culture over the longer period by putting alternative ideas on the record about how things should be done and can be done,” Rónán said.

This is something Rónán now wants to influence at a European level.

“More and more decisions are made about Ireland at a European level. That creates tremendous opportunities but it can also be dangerous. Part of that danger comes from a desire to have a single unified culture in which the smaller, more peripheral and economically dependent countries might be under a form of soft but relentless pressure to concede on their distinctive values and culturally traditions. 

“I want to get the best out of the EU in a practical way. I want to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye on development at EU level which could harm our ability to decide our own laws on issues at home. My concern is a balanced concern between economic issues and social issues,” he said. And that’s why he is appealing for your vote.