|Mary Lee Geary
As chairperson of the Community Development Association in Broadford in 2005, Mary Lee Geary turned activist and led the community in opposition to a proposed mobile phone mast in the village.
It would have overlooked the site where the community had just secured planning permission for a crèche, social housing and after-school facilities.
The community marched and campaigned to oppose the mast for health reasons and because it would take away from the area’s scenic value.
Mary is currently chairperson of West Limerick Radio among other voluntary positions.
What are you reading at the moment? A biography of Liam Cosgrave.
What’s the last film you saw? ‘The Guard’ starring Brendan Gleeson.
Person you most admire? Enda Kenny – because of his ability to bring people together.
How long are you volunteering in your local community? Since the early ‘90s.
How and why did you get involved?
The local community council was looking for volunteers and I got involved through my allegiances with Fine Gael.
What are the important issues in Ireland today?
Most of the important issues in Ireland are economy related – job creation, emigration and the future of our young people after they leave college.
Nationally, we need more …
Positivity. We should stop talking ourselves down and support the direction the government is taking. For instance, all that stuff we hear about burning the bondholders is nonsense. If we were to do that, how would we ever get back into the markets?
We need less … Economists, apart from George Lee.*
What difference has being a volunteer made to you?
You develop as a person and learn to work with other people and get to know your own community.
How have things changed since you became involved?
Lots of projects have come to fruition. For example, the old creamery has been converted into an enterprise centre and we built social housing. It’s thanks to the support we get from a core group of volunteers. We are up 50 points in the Tidy Towns, and of course the setting up of the crèche has been a great help.
WLR, the local community radio, which I’m involved in, has also been great for the people of West Limerick. We have applied for a new ten-year licence, and that should be granted in December, as long as we keep our two studios.
And the daycare centre in Broadford in association with the social housing projects caters for 20-25 people and is open from Monday to Friday.
Does anything annoy you in your voluntary work?
Getting projects up and running can be frustrating at times, but otherwise not really.
Is it as straightforward to attract volunteers as it used to be?
I don’t think it’s any harder. Most people are good to help out, to reach out to people. Recently we had a race day to fundraise for the local crèche and 54 people helped out. That is our annual event, and we raise between €12,000 and €14,000 through it.
I can’t finish without acknowledging the help we get from the Limerick County Council and Enterprise Board, without whom we couldn’t operate. And the people of Broadford are all incredibly supportive.
· *Mary is George Lee’s cousin.