By Emily Leclerc
BU News Service
BOSTON — Liz Breadon, one of two final candidates for the Allston-Brighton Boston City Council seat, was raised amidst the drone of helicopters in County Fermanagh, Ireland.
She grew up during a military conflict known as The Troubles, between those in Northern Ireland who wished to remain a part of the United Kingdom and those who wanted to leave and form a united Ireland.
“Basically, we had troops and armored cars and people with guns and helicopters,” Breadon said. “So even though I was living in a rural area where we were protected from much of the intense conflict that was in the more urban areas, it really permeated my whole growing up.”
Breadon was happy to escape the divisions created by The Troubles when she went off to college at the University of Ulster. There she studied physical therapy.
“The community was pretty segregated, but when I went to college I got to interact with a broader group of people and became really committed to creating peace,” Breadon said.
Breadon immigrated to Boston in 1995 in pursuit of a physical therapy job in a different health care system. She settled in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood and has been there ever since. Her partner Mary, whom she met in Boston, helped Breadon get involved in her new community.
Mary grew up in the neighborhood, and her family has long been involved in the community, Breadon said. Her grandfather was a station master down in Oak Square, her aunt was a librarian at the Faneuil branch library and her mom was a public school teacher.
“I connected with the neighborhood through her and her very, very deep roots in the community,” Breadon said.
Boston became a safe space for Breadon when she immigrated here, which made the community around her all the more important.
Breadon identifies as lesbian, and said Northern Ireland’s attitude towards the LGBTQ community is not the kindest. Ireland does not officially recognize the U.K.’s right to equal marriage for LGBTQ people.
“That’s where I was coming from, so when I came to Boston it was liberating,” Breadon said. “I was able to be out in a very affirmative and supportive environment.”
Breadon has built a deep-seated connection with Allston-Brighton. She is now resolved to run for Boston City Council because she wants to give back to the community that has given her so much.
A massive influx of unaffordable housing in Allston-Brighton ultimately motivated Breadon to run for Boston City Council.
“We felt like we were at a tipping point,” Breadon said. “We’re seeing people leave and we’re seeing communities being displaced.”
She said she became increasingly concerned at the changes she was seeing taking place in Allston-Brighton.
“We really felt that the changes in the neighborhood were being driven by this outside influence; developers coming in with big plans and not really listening to the neighborhood. They weren’t considering the big picture,” Breadon said.
Part of Breadon’s vision is rethinking Boston’s public transportation systems. The way the systems are now is unsustainable, she said. Boston was once considered an innovator when it came to mass transit but the current systems have not adapted to modern day strains.
Breadon is concerned not just about traffic relief, but also about resolving the inequities caused by having such a troubled transit system. She described how an unreliable, and at times expensive, transit system often leaves lower income families behind.
“I live in Oak Square and there is a nursing home down there. Many of the healthcare workers come to work on public transit. I see them coming in, plodding up the road to the nursing home at seven in the morning,” Breadon said. “I know that they’ve been on the go for two hours to get there because coming from Mattapan or Dorchester takes an hour and a half to two hours.”
Those who have been pushed from the city by rising housing costs may not even be able to afford to take the commuter rail in the mornings, she said.
“The folks who have been displaced from the city, who are low income often find the monthly commuter pass beyond their means.” Breadon said.
As part of her campaign, Breadon is pushing to preserve the community that has been built in Allston-Brighton.
“I really feel strongly that community doesn’t happen,” said Breadon. “You have to really work at it. The neighborhood is a physical space, we’ll be here whether or not people come and go. But the community is something that needs to be cultivated, nurtured and supported.”
Lee Nave, an endorser of Breadon’s who originally ran against her in the preliminary election, commented on how her community-oriented views are a large part of why he chose to back her.
“She comes at it from a community-activist standpoint,” Nave said. “She’s been a person who moved into this community, who immediately saw an issue and started working on it. She’s been doing that for over 20 years.”
Some of Breadon’s focus on community stems from her passionate environmentalism. Breadon inherited her environmentalism from her mother who brought her up to be aware of the environment around her.
“We live on a small planet, and when you live in a local area you think ‘oh, everything’s fine,’” Breadon said. “But, the evidence is really stark that we need to do something drastic about the climate change issue.”
Her mother’s passion for the Earth inspired her to alter her lifestyle and engage in more environmentally friendly practices. Breadon makes sure her house is energy efficient in every way possible by composting, harvesting rainwater, using solar electricity and driving a fully electric car.
Her concern has influenced many of the policies she hopes to implement if elected, from improving mass transit to take cars off the road, to improvements in the city’s plans on protecting green spaces.
During her career as a physical therapist, Breadon has come into contact with all sorts of people and built connections with those from very diverse backgrounds.
She originally considered acupuncture, as her brother, sister-in-law and partner are acupuncturists. Breadon said she thought that was enough acupuncturists for one family, so she decided to explore other complementary therapies. This eventually led her to homeopathy.
Breadon explained that she uses homeopathic remedies in conjunction with her physical therapy in order to assist patients with different issues. She believes the alternative system has a long-proven history of effectiveness.
“It is a very holistic approach where it makes you look at the big picture,” Breadon said.
Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, developed the system in the late 1700s. Breadon explained how he, as a trained medical professional, became disenchanted with the inadequacies of healthcare during his time. So, he developed a medical system that he saw as less violent, more patient-oriented and more effective than mainstream medicine.
Notably, homeopathy has long been considered a pseudoscientific system by western medicine.
In 2015 the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council did a comprehensive assessment on homeopathy’s effectiveness in treating a large number of different clinical conditions. The assessment found that the evidence was not compelling and that it failed to show that homeopathy is effective in treating any of the looked at clinical conditions.
A number of the key concepts that underpin the system did not agree with fundamental scientific concepts, the NIH reported.
Regardless, homeopathy is still widely used across the United States. The NIH estimated that five million adults and one million children have used homeopathy in recent years.
Outside of politics and activism, Breadon loves to cook up a nice breakfast and have all her friends over. She said she takes great pleasure in sitting down for a good meal with friends and having engaging conversations.
Her house is currently empty of pets as her two elderly cats have recently passed on.
“We wanted to just take a little break, before we decide to have another one,” Breadon said. “We’re not currently looking, but we really feel that a kitty who needs to come and live with us will turn up one of these days.”