Sunday, April 09, 2006
It started with the Annual Labour Party Conference, which went well. We managed to raise €800 euro from a fundraising draw, which will help with our ongoing expenses. My speech was well received and they showed fifteen seconds on the RTE1 evening news. It’s amazing how many people see the news on a Saturday night. All week people were telling me that they had seen it. One Fine Gael Councillor, Jim Holloway, said he liked it and he even managed to repeat the line played (“tackling health is the last thing Fianna Fail will try, but the first thing that Labour will do”).
I was totally drained afterward and went straight on the John Bowman lunchtime show, live on RTE 1 radio. I felt that I didn’t do well. I was still coming down for the earlier speech and my focus was elsewhere. Lessons to be learned there!
I joined Councillor Brian Collins and Councillor Des Cullen, our candidates in Meath West and Cavan-Monaghan respectively, at a very interesting session on Election Strategy, presented by Adrian Langan and Colm O Riordan, two of the party’s bright stars. I reckon if every candidate had them on their election team then we’d all get in on the first count!
Myself and the future Deputy for Louth, Ged Nash, sneaked off to watch the Leinster rugby match in a pub in Drumcondra. A great move and a great result for the province. We returned to the conference in good form and watched the leader deliver a fine speech. Before we left the hall I gave another interview to the RTE 1 “This week” show, which was played at Sunday lunchtime.
The first Monday of the month is the day when the full council meets in Navan. I am Chair of Planning & Economic Development, so I am a member of the Corporate Policy Group (the local cabinet) which meets in the morning of the full meeting to discuss the agenda of the full council. I haven’t been at such a badly tempered meeting in a while. It culminated in one of the councillors and an official calling each other liars, because of representations in relation to one-off rural housing. The full council meeting had no such sparkle. The day was brightened up by a good review of my Conference speech by the Irish Time (plus picture) and a middling review from the Irish Independent (who quoted from a speech provided to them by HQ, and not the one that I actually gave to Conference), who said that I had an 80% chance of taking the seat and that “anything less is a failure”. No pressure Fionnan Sheehan!
In the middle of the week I found out that I was awarded the runner-up in Magill’s “One to Watch” awards (“More glory for Meath”, according to the Drogheda Independent). I was quite happy. My Director of Elections was of a different view. He suggested that if I had spent more time canvassing then I might have won it and that would have been something to be proud of. Of course, he was sitting in his central-heated sitting room when he said that.
I had my advice clinics all week. They are good fun, but run to very tight schedules. My Stamullen one over-ran and although I had dinner arranged with friends for 9:15, I had to cancel it because I was too late. I hate doing that, but it’s very hard to cut people short, especially if they have made an effort to come to see you about a problem. Luckily I have very understanding friends!
Our local branch met on Thursday and spent most of the meeting talking about issues in relation to in-fill housing in settled estates. In East Meath the settled estates of Alverno Heights and Inse Bay are both under threat of having additional houses imposed on them. We discussed ways of changing legislation to prevent this happening without the agreement of the majority of residents. We’re going to submit something to HQ and ask them whether they could incorporate this into party policy.
The good news of the week was that the Council and Iarnrod Eireann are inviting submissions for the Terms of Reference for the Dublin to Navan rail study. I am encouraging local residents to make submissions on what should be included in the study. I’m particularly keen on making sure that the study considered how to serve the south Meath villages of Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunshaughlin. If people from these towns can be included in the catchment area of the study then it can increase the economic viability of the route.
At the end of the week I visited the premises of our new offices. It will be a few weeks before we are ready to move in, but it’s great to be getting to the stage where we will have a clear physical presence within the community.