I am Róisín Bradley, I am 19 years old and I am a third year Law student at Trinity College, Dublin. I come from a town called Buncrana in Inishowen in County Donegal. I can imagine that immediately alarm bells are ringing in your ears (*rolls eyes*): “Donegal…She’s definitely conservative.”
I’d like to begin by exploring what exactly it means to say that one is “conservative”. This is a complex issue, and a fluctuating one at that. It’s not like I woke up one morning and said, “Do you know what would be great craic? Being conservative, I’ll try that for the banter.” I’m not entirely sure how I landed on this side of the political spectrum. I guess when I considered each issue that arose I used my own initiative and sense of self-direction and morality, backed by evidence and extensive research, to come to the conclusions that I have.
But, I’m really not all that different to those of you who brand yourselves “liberal”. To be honest, part of me rejects labels, I think it’s a bad idea for anyone to pigeon-hole themselves in that way. We all agree on certain things, such as ensuring that we are not unfairly taxed, striving to reduce homelessness, promoting charity, the protection of children and other vulnerable persons in our society, the importance of education. We all want a trustworthy government who we can put our faith in to govern our country in a progressive and democratic manner, etc. So why, then, do we have these categories – liberal and conservative – that we box ourselves into?
In the context of this article, I am speaking on behalf of myself, as a student of this college. It’s interesting to note that, even amongst the more right-leaning students I’ve come across in Trinity, there are a wide range of views and opinions, just as there are between those of you who are more left-leaning. I am not conservative in every sense of that word. I am not totally and utterly averse to change, as some would have you believe. In fact, I find myself in favour of making changes – legal, social, political – whenever that change may be needed, whatever that change may be, so long as that change is for the better. I am not in favour of the death penalty, which is commonly known as a proposition supported by those who are “conservative”. Does that make me half-liberal, half-conservative?
We’re just like you
I am writing this article to let you know what it is like to be me, holding the political views that I do, in Trinity College today. I am a twenty-first-century woman, I have an iPhone (that you can practically see the inside of), I go clubbing (too much some might say), I sit at the Arts Block and smoke my (very badly rolled) rollies and I view the world with optimism and excitement, and a little nervousness, just as you do. The only difference is that I think about society and how it should be run in a manner that’s a little different to most people at Trinity.
But there are loads of students here I know who agree with me. We are not aliens, we are not fire-breathing dragons, we are not mutant six-headed talking spiders. Okay, I’ll say it: we are conservative. “DUN DUN DUN, and she bursts the idea of not boxing herself in.”
Okay, I know, that’s a bit dramatic. But I’m trying to make a point: we are normal people who sometimes receive animosity and hostility because we have a differing opinion to the majority. Most people who know me would think that I’m quite confident. I’m open about my opinions and I’m honest when asked about them. But sometimes, I do get nervous. Sometimes, I’m afraid that people will look at me differently or think that I’m insane. I’ve had conversations with people I’ve met for the first time who disagree with me, and not to my surprise, they’ve said at the end: “You’re actually not crazy and your views make sense. You’re actually sound.” Eh… Why would I not be? I always find that hilarious, people coming up to me to specifically find out if I’m totally nuts or not.
Guys, let’s get real. We aren’t always going to agree with each other on everything, but that’s just life. Sure, it would be boring if we didn’t have debate and discourse, wouldn’t it? So why, then, are students like me who are socially conservative subjected to tutting, the shaking of heads and the presumption that we hate fun and progression, and that we all sit around huddled up in a corner in fear of our own shadows? For those of you who know me well, you know that certainly isn’t the case. We are not weird or backward or stuck in the eighteenth century – “SURPRISE!”
Compared to some friends of mine, I haven’t received that much unfriendliness. Trinity students in general, with the exception of an extremist minority, are accepting and tolerant of those who are “conservative”. I don’t think that’s something I should be thankful for. I will not apologise for holding the beliefs or opinions that I do. They are well-founded, and outside of Trinity, there is a mass body of people, students especially included, who hold the same views as mine. That’s something that needs to be recognised. I am not the only conservative in the entire island of Ireland. “WOAH! Is she really not? Flip me, who knew!”
The one with the opinions
I don’t go around with my opinions tattooed to my forehead nor do I stand on top of the Campanile exclaiming them for all of the college to hear – I genuinely don’t know how so many people (that I’ve never met) know what my political beliefs are. But that’s my point. It shouldn’t be such a shock to hear that someone may be a little more right-leaning than the typical Trinity student. I’ve heard people describe me as “the one with the opinions”. Thank you for your deep consideration of my thoughts, but what on earth does that even mean? Sorry to tell you, guys, but I’m the only one with opinions around here – you can’t have any. “I am THE ONE with THE OPINIONS.” Now… that’s insane.
To finish up, I will leave you with this quote: “If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain.” This quote is attributed, some say falsely, to Winston Churchill, but that’s a debate for another day. Basically what I’m saying is, you’re all airy-fairy with your hipster jackets and your ripped jeans shouting “FREEDOM!”, and I’m an old head on young shoulders and eventually you’ll mature and see the light.
I’m joking. I wear hipster jackets and ripped jeans and I shout “FREEDOM!”, too. See what I mean? We really aren’t that different.