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April 2021 - Kieran Skehan

Since my last blog, we have been through a mixed period of both office and home-based working due to COVID restrictions, which has brought the additional challenges presented by virtual meetings and not having face-to-face interaction with colleagues. During this time, I have continued to be heavily involved with Committee work, supporting the Economic Policy Review Committee in carrying out its inquiries and assisting the Legislative Council Standing Orders Committee to produce its latest report. I have recently taken on an additional committee, becoming assistant clerk to the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee. The Committee has a wide-ranging remit and large workload which I have become fully involved in, despite having only attended meetings virtually so far!

I have also had the opportunity to work on one of the many external activities that Tynwald participates in – a working group on COVID-19 organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The group has included Members of the Gibraltar, Wales, Falkland Islands and Isle of Man Legislatures who have come together to share different aspects of their respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group have also hosted webinar-style events for the wider CPA Membership to attend and contribute to. These events are a useful opportunity for Members to discuss with each other what has worked well and what could have been done differently in their jurisdictions. It has been interesting to learn that other smaller jurisdictions are in a very similar situation to the Isle of Man, with particular common ground found in areas such as testing capacity, vaccination procurement and how to re-open society and borders post-COVID.

Recently, I have started working on our education outreach activities. I have begun to welcome groups of students form local schools to Tynwald, leading them on a tour of the Legislative Chambers, which finishes with a mock debate in the House of Keys. The visits are important to develop an understanding of democracy and politics on the Isle of Man and introduce students to the features of Tynwald that make it and the Isle of Man so unique. It is also an excellent opportunity for pupils to meet their constituency MHK and find out more about the person who represents them and what their job involves, helping to make politics more accessible.

I have also helped out the Tynwald Messenger team by providing cover for some of their work. Messengers work in the Chambers during sittings and ensure that Members are able to communicate with each other through passing handwritten notes, receive copies of amendments when they are to be moved, and generally have everything they need to ensure the sittings run smoothly. Messengers get a unique insight into political debate, being one of the few non-Tynwald Members actually in the Chamber, and it was good to make history as (probably!) the youngest ever Messenger.