Senator Conway’s Story



Documentary on One Saturday 14th July @ 2pm

‘Blind Ambition’

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway has spent just over a year as a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas.  In April 2011, the 37-year-old Ennistymon man won a seat in the Seanad on the administrative panel, and is now the Seanad Spokesperson on Disability and Equality.   With just 16% sight, he is the first visually impaired Oireachtas member in living memory.

Martin is the third generation of his family to be born with congenital cataracts, as his father and his grandfather also had the condition. As a six-month-old baby, Martin was taken to London for a series of eye operations which needed to be carried out before his first birthday.  This treatment was groundbreaking at the time, and resulted in giving him some limited vision.

Martin was educated in mainstream school, which was, he thinks, very important in terms of developing his self-esteem and survival instincts.  He went on to study Economics and Politics in UCD, where he became one of the founder members of AHEAD (Association for Higher Education, Access & Disability), which played a pivotal role in the creation and implementation of policies to enable access to third-level education for young people with disabilities.

Martin has been a public representative in North Clare for the past seven years.

He was first elected to Clare County Council in June 2004, representing the North Clare area and was re-elected in 2009, topping the poll.  After getting a seat on Clare County Council, he had to adjust to being a public figure with a serious disability.  But campaigning and getting elected was just the start of the process.  Being a politician who can’t drive, recognise people easily and read well holds its own set of challenges.

Martin relies on public transport to travel to Dublin each week to attend the Seanad, and regularly uses buses to travel around County Clare.  He depends on family, friends and supporters to assist with constituency work by driving him to meetings across the large rural area of County Clare.

Martin’s disability isn’t very obvious, so few people realise the severity of his vision impairment.  This can be problematic, when so much of politics is about meeting the public.  People often think that he is ignoring them, unaware that he cannot see a familiar face across the street, or know if someone is waving at him.

Recent access to Apple iPad technology has revolutionised the way Martin works, allowing him to magnify the print to a very large font in order to read material with comfort.  He is the first ever member of the Houses of the Oireachtas to access parliamentary documents electronically, by using his iPad.

In this upcoming RTÉ radio documentary by Sarah Blake to be aired on Saturday 14th July, Martin speaks about the daily challenges of disability, his early childhood, battling through education and eventually becoming a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas.  We follow Martin as he goes about his work and gain a unique insight into how he has successfully become a national politician against the challenges he endured.

Produced by Sarah Blake






Fine Gael Press Office

Senator Martin Conway


Friday, July 13th 2012

Conway tells story of being first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas in new documentary

Fine Gael Clare Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Disability and Equality, Martin Conway, will tomorrow (Saturday) give his account of how he became the first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas, in a new documentary to be broadcast on RTE Radio One.

Martin is the third generation of his family to be born with congenital cataracts. When he was just six months old he was taken to London for a series of ground-breaking eye operations, which left him with 16% vision.

“I was delighted to be given the opportunity by Radio One to tell my story of how I progressed through mainstream school and onto UCD, before entering local politics and managing to get elected to the Seanad as the first visually impaired member of the Oireachtas.

“Life as a visually impaired politician can be tricky; I can’t drive, so I have to rely on public transport and friends and family to get from Clare to Leinster House and to attend constituency events and meetings. I’ve developed a pretty sharp sixth sense, using voices and sounds to recognise people either in Leinster House or in my constituency.

“While my sight difficulties can pose some considerable challenges during the course of my work, I am determined my condition will not impede my determination to ensure disability issues are given prominence on the national agenda.

“Since being elected to the Seanad, I have worked with my Government colleagues to ensure that the equality agenda is in no way compromised due to the challenging economic environment. The Government is committed to the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, with the necessary legislation being progressed. This will represent a significant advancement for people with disabilities all over Ireland.

“I would like to pay tribute to Sarah Blake, who produced the RTE documentary, for her hard work and support over the last number of months.”



Sarah Meade

Fine Gael Press Office

01 618 3379