Wednesday, March 6, 2024
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An open letter to my Dad, Kevin Conolly

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Kevin Conolly MP receives his award from Archbishop Fisher. PHOTO: three two one photography

Thanks to you dad, there are two questions I’ve been asked regularly for as long as I can remember. The answer to the first is: “one ‘N’, two ‘L’s.” The answer to the second: “No, I don’t have any plans to run.”

You’ve been involved in politics of some kind or another for as long as I can remember, as a councilor in Hawkesbury and later Member for Riverstone in NSW.

Growing up around politics had its perks and drawbacks. Tagging along as your plus-one to watch Australia win the Asia Cup in 2015, perk.

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Standing on the side of Windsor Road after school, waving around a sign with your face on it, driving around in a car with your face on it, and visiting an office with—you guessed it—your face on it, drawbacks.

Watching what internal politics does to people, definite drawback.

I hold you responsible for me being a young Liberal since the day I was eligible, and for not equipping me with the mandatory RM boots and beige chinos.

I was never a super-active member, but after watching you go through a particularly nasty preselection battle to retain your own seat in 2015, I wanted to walk away from it altogether.

I stayed a member in name only, and watched from the sidelines as you went through fight after fight.

Something that always eluded me was your “why.”

Why does a bloke to wake up every morning to fight, not just for his community, but against his own colleagues, just for the ability to fight at all?

To a very lost, nihilistic and responsibility-avoiding early-twenties me, it made no sense.
But in 2019, an bill to allow abortion up until birth was brought before the NSW Parliament, and off you went.

You were loud, stubborn, and fought like I had never seen you fight before (everything you’d always told me not to be or do). When all looked lost and others left the fight, you doubled down.

You knew you wouldn’t win it, but you went in every day to cause a scene and get what few precious amendments and protections you could.

It was hard to watch the toll it took. We could all see you were exhausted, but somehow that didn’t stop you gearing up to go again a few years later when the same anti-life politicians brought forward euthanasia legislation.

Once again, you were the last man fighting, and your “why” made sense to me.
You didn’t fight just to open a new train station or widen a road. Sure, those things make a big difference in people’s lives, but I doubt they’re getting many people out of bed in the morning.

No, you fought to make sure you were in the room when you were most needed.

You set an example for not just your kids, but for Catholics across Australia, with a demonstration of courage, commitment to virtue, and in truly living our faith.

It was in trying to follow this example that I agreed to become a political staffer for a fight I believed in, and I’ve now experienced firsthand how politics can be toxic, isolating, divorced from the real world, and can give trust issues to even the most secure person.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like for a conservative Catholic MP at a time when our values are being pushed outside the Overton window.

So thank you, dad. Thank you for fighting for the unborn and the sick, for the most vulnerable in our society.

Thank you for the example you set, for raising us in the faith, and for the wisdom, guidance, and advice you offer. I know I’m not the only one who would be lost without it.
Congratulations on your papal honour and thank you for the work you did to get it. I know I speak for us all when I say we are all very proud, and very grateful, to say you’re our dad.

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