| 16.1°C Dublin

Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu reveals friend's tragic suicide as she urges support for Pieta House fundraiser

The loved one is just one of those who'll be remembered at this year's virtual fundraiser for suicide prevention charity Pieta on Saturday, May 8, with participants encouraged to share 'One Sunrise Together' online using the hashtags #BrighterTogether and #DIL2021.

Close

Lord Mayor of Dublin and Green Party councillor Hazel Chu

Lord Mayor of Dublin and Green Party councillor Hazel Chu

Lord Mayor of Dublin and Green Party councillor Hazel Chu

Some people invested in an air fryer, others splashed out on a Netflix subscription - Hazel Chu says her best lockdown purchase was a punch bag.

"I bought a freestanding punch bag about two months ago," she tells Magazine+. "I have to say I use it a lot and it's great. It's great to relieve stress. Katie Taylor is a great inspiration!"

After almost a year in the role, the mould-breaking Lord Mayor of Dublin knows all about being used as an emotional punch bag by online trolls and, occasionally, in the case of far-right protesters who gathered outside her home earlier this year, real-life ones too.

But it was being sideswiped by the loss of a dear friend to suicide last November that inspired the Green Party politician to sign up for the annual Darkness into Light event for the first time.

The loved one is just one of those who'll be remembered at this year's virtual fundraiser for suicide prevention charity Pieta on Saturday, May 8, with participants encouraged to share 'One Sunrise Together' online using the hashtags #BrighterTogether and #DIL2021.

"I don't want to mention her name," Hazel says, "but I think, thinking about her and understanding this is a very dark time for so many, we have to keep going. It's why any bit of relief you can get or positivity you can get from someone or somewhere is really important.

"I think a lot of people look at Covid, and look at the physical side of Covid, whereas there is a massive mental health side of Covid that we're only coming to see now, so it's incredibly important that we have to try to keep services like Pieta, which provides life-saving services, up and running."

Close

Hazel Chu with her family at Dublin Zoo

Hazel Chu with her family at Dublin Zoo

Hazel Chu with her family at Dublin Zoo

The trained barrister first came to national attention after her poll-topping election to Dublin City Council in 2019 alongside her partner and fellow Green Party councillor Patrick Costello, before being elected as the 352nd Lord Mayor of Dublin last June.

But she insists she has no regrets about her recent feather-ruffling - and ultimately ill-fated - by-election bid for the Seanad, which further publicly exposed fault lines within the Greens.

"A lot of people [said] 'Did you just run for the Seanad to make trouble?'" says the mum-of-one, who ran as an independent candidate in defiance of party leadership. "No, I ran for the Seanad because in this day and age, in 2021, there shouldn't be a ballot where it's just male - the least you can do is have a woman there, I'm sorry.

"I went into it knowing there was a very, very slim chance I would win. And I actually knew I would get probably no votes bearing in mind that I'm a member of a Government party that's not the Government candidate.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

"So I kind of knew I would be a no-hoper, for want of a better phrase, but I don't know why...," she trails off, before realising, "actually, I do know why - I'm looking at her right now because she's at home with me.

"I have a three-and-a-half-year-old, who's a girl who is mixed race, who hopefully in the future can see that there's a lot more people that can run for political positions, apart from the one or two that had been the case.

"No one's telling you to just go find a woman or find someone from a diversity background that can't do the role," she continues of the Seanad's 60:40 male to female ratio - a gender imbalance which is even more pronounced in the Dáil, where just 22pc of TDs are female.

"I hope it makes all parties - including my own - cop on to the fact that this has to change. I like to think that the next time they run candidates they'll go, 'Oh yeah, we should look across the field in case another Hazel comes along and tries to ruin things!'"

As the first woman of colour and only the ninth woman ever to wear the Lord Mayor's Great Chain of Office, the political figure has used her voice - and Twitter account - to speak out about racism and sexism in Ireland today. Invariably, now she can't even post a harmless snap of her treat day chai and cheesecake from a local bakery without a slew of bigoted slurs appearing in the replies.

So has it ever made her consider pulling a Chrissy Teigen by quitting the social media platform altogether?

"I did that this weekend a bit," laughs Hazel, whose parents moved from Hong Kong to Ireland in the 1970s, before they met here working in a restaurant. "Although I was still on liking things.

"I've always been quite open with people on social [media]. For me, I always think, well, if I'm open with them, there's less they can find to bash me with. One thing I'm determined to be is to still be open, but there are times that I will just let the phone drop and go, 'You know what, I don't really care or have time for this'.

"Like, I've given up on Facebook completely. With Twitter, at least it's short messages, so because people are restricted with characters, there's only so many ways they can call you a slur or provide you with racial abuse in some form - whereas with Facebook there were literally people writing long tomes.

"And I made friends with the mute button."

Close

Hazel Chu helping to hand out food to the homeless at the GPO

Hazel Chu helping to hand out food to the homeless at the GPO

Hazel Chu helping to hand out food to the homeless at the GPO

A Taskforce on Homelessness and Night-time Economy Report tackling two of the capital's biggest issues will form just part of the legacy left by the Lord Mayor when her unusual term at the Mansion House - amid a global pandemic - comes to an end next month.

A seat at the table in Leinster House is next on her growing to-do list, the Green Party chairperson freely admits - but what will be written beside her surname on any future ballot paper after clashing with leader Eamon Ryan and watching other female members like Saoirse McHugh walk away from the party, Magazine+ wonders.

"There are many things that I see in this party and that it was why I joined this party," says the 40-year-old, not speaking in her capacity as chair.

"I do also, however, accept that a lot of our colleagues have left for valid reasons. There were issues and those issues need to be addressed. And if one day those issues continue still not being addressed, then it will be perhaps the time for me to reassess my position.

"But, as it stands, I really hope that we will just work together and make sure that we can do the best we can for the public, because I think there's a lot that can be done."

One coalition that remains rock solid, happily, is her forthcoming nuptials to party colleague Patrick, whom she met while studying politics at UCD.

Like thousands of others, the couple have put their big day on ice, she explains: "It was scheduled for August, and now it's scheduled for June, but to be honest I don't know. We have definitely deferred the reception to next year, but we wanted to have my dad over for the marriage part because he's living in Hong Kong. I don't know if he's able to make it or not. They have very low cases in Hong Kong, but I'd just be worried because he's older, and he would be in the vulnerable category."

And the Lord Mayor is otherwise all ready to make it official. "I bought my dress online ages ago," she laughs. "I saw it in a sale and was like, 'There you go!'"

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Privacy