Saturday, June 24, 2006


Laytown Pitch & Putt club gets €30,000 grant

This is the week when grants are awarded to local clubs to enable them to carry out improvements to their facilities. I met with Pat O’Brien, of Duleek soccer club to discuss their application.

Pat explained that there are a dozen teams using the facilities but that once winter comes they have to drive across to Navan, because of the lack of an all-weather pitch. They were seeking a grant of €100,000 to help develop an all-weather facility.

Pat O Brien at the soccer club

The club takes players from all across the East Meath area and recently was very successful in winning the County final at United Park. I promised my support to Pat.

As a Board Member of Meath Leader I was invited along to the “completion party” for a new art studio in Rudder, Bellewstown. Dave Newton, a local artist, had successfully received grant funding from Meath Leader to assist in the construction costs.

Dave Newton celebrates Meath Leader grant

About sixty people attended the party on a lovely early summer evening.

The proposals for St Pats GFC, Stamullen continue to be developed. Myself and my fellow councillors met with the St Pat’s steering group to thrash out a few details about the framework plan. I am very hopeful that this stays on course. The facilities being developed would be of great benefit to the entire community.

This month’s local area meeting was held in the Newgrange Lodge. The lodge has recently opened and is serving the needs of travellers to Newgrange / Bru na Boinne.

I hit out at the Area Manager for the continued failure to commence works on the Laytown pedestrian bridge. The construction of the proposed Laytown playground is being held up because they need to use the playground location as a site works compound for the bridge construction. I questioned why land on the other side of the railway bridge, could not be used, but was told that it would be too expensive.

I was fairly frustrated about the whole issue of council expenditure. We approved funding for community projects a year ago (such as the proposed boardwalk at Bettystown) and still they haven’t got to the construction stage. The process seems to be excruciatingly slow!

Some good news was the awards of grants to local groups. The council official proposed to award Duleek soccer club €50,000. Unfortunately, despite the fact that there is €200,000 going a begging (I clarified that with the Area Engineer), the other councillors would not agree with my proposal to increase the grant from the €50,000 proposed by the council officials to the €100,000 that the club wanted. I was a bit disappointed; the club deserved more.

However we did get a result on Laytown Pitch & Putt club. The officials suggested a grant of €20,000, but I successful argued for that to be increased to €30,000. On this occasion the other councillors supported my proposal. Grants were also awarded to St Colmcilles GFC, the Boyne Canal and Broomfield and Starinagh Residents Community Group.

After the meeting I got a tour of the new lodge. I travelled extensively around the world a few years ago, and spent most of the time in traveller accommodation, so it brought me straight back to those days. The facilities are excellent, and there are great views across the Boyne to Dowth. The rooms are comfortable and offer value for money. I am sure it will be a great success.

The proposed refurbishment of Alverno Heights estate in Laytown continues. I attended a meeting in The Neptune Hotel, Bettystown to discuss the proposals. 25 houses were represented out of the 120 houses affected. The council proposes to construct an additional 18 houses in the estate in an attempt to try and reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour. The residents who attended were very concerned about this amount of additional housing. I will be liasing with them over the coming weeks to get a steer on the best way forward.

On Friday Pat Rabbitte came down to the constituency. We toured Dunshaughlin, Ratoath and Ashbourne before visiting Donore Primary School and Ard Ri estate in Drogheda.

Party leader visit to Meath East

The residents of Woodside, Bettystown are concerned about the Management Charge payable to the Estate Management Company. Pat & I met with a representative of the residents association and discussed the various options open to the residents.

We concluded the day with a visit to Laytown Train station, where we met commuters returning home.

Party leader visit to Meath East

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Slane Forum leads the way

Our study continues into how anti-social behaviour is perceived. I was in Ashbourne to discuss the issue with residents. The local community is particularly keen to see an improvement at the GAA field beside St Declan’s School. I called to many residents in Crestwood Crescent and Castlepark and some of the stories I was told were very disturbing.

The problems seem to be particularly bad on the weekend evenings, when large groups of people gather to drink on public open spaces. Coming into summer the worry is that these instances increase.

Ashbourne drinking

After the canvas in Ashbourne I went home to my own estate. I also overlook a green open space. One of my neighbours put out an England flag, in celebration of their victory in Germany. After a while a gang started to congregate on the green. A few of them started to play “postman’s knock” at my neighbour’s door. When he opened it they taunted him with racist language from the green. This went on for about 20 minutes until finally my neighbour removed the flag from his window. Another victory for the sons of Ireland!

When I discussed the incident afterwards with a couple of my neighbours it transpired that a few of us had witnessed the event from our front rooms. Yet none of us dared to go out to confront the gang. We’ve all been warned not to.

Since the start of June I’ve had lots of similar stories of intimidation, verbal abuse and street drinking. The anti-social behaviour study we are undertaking is going to continue for another month. Then I hope to use the results to talk to various groups (the Gardai, local community organisations etc.) to try to come up with ideas for how can our society can tackle this issue on a national and local level.

Slane is a community with a clear vision for how to improve the quality of life for their village. I attended a meeting organised by Slane Forum which presented the initial findings of a report on the future of Slane. The presentation was given by architect Professor Philip Geoghan, who is being retained by the Forum.

The meeting was attended by around 100 local people, elected representatives and council officials. Considering that Brazil were in action on “the other channel” that was a huge turnout in my view.

Myself, Professor Geoghan and Cllr Dillon Gallagher at the Forum

I threw my support behind the group and reiterated my commitment that I will not support any developer’s proposal for rezoning unless Slane Forum are in favour of the proposal.

Deputy Emmet Stagg, from Kildare North came up to Dunboyne to join us on a canvas on Friday. We met in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa and had lunch on the terrace. It was a lovely afternoon and we talked to people in Plunkett Hall, Lutterell Hall and Congress Hall. People were in fine mood for talking.

In Congress Hall we were astounded with the quality of the Electoral Register. In one house there are 11 people registered (from three different families, 2 of which don’t live there). In another house there are seven people registered from three different families (only two people live there), in another house there is a lady registered who moved out ten years ago and the new occupants aren’t registered. In the house next door to that the people who moved out five years ago are still on the register. There are only 17 house in Congress Hall. Why is the register so appallingly bad for this estate?

Congress Hall, Dunboyne

I’m coming across instances such as this on a fairly regular basis. Coupled with this is the inability of the council to take the issue of electoral registration seriously. I purchased a copy of the electoral register a month ago for €80 and just last week discovered by chance that it does not contain any voters from the village of Slane. Now, I am sure they are on the paper register, but it was really annoying to me that the Council couldn’t manage to put the electoral register onto a disk without forgetting to include the village of Slane. And we are asking them to police the building of an incinerator?

I’m going to keep on to them about this…

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Unfinished Estates get National Coverage...

As part of our election preparations a number of new Labour Candidates met up in Brussels to share experiences and discuss local and national election tactics.

We had a few formal sessions and then had a chance to get to know each other over dinner in more informal surroundings.

We also received presentations from a leading Dutch politician and from Mr Poul Rasmussen, who was Prime Minister of Denmark for many years and is now the head of the Labour Party grouping in Europe.

Myself and Poul Rasmussen

The timeout was extremely useful for me. It confirmed that we are right in many of the things that we are doing, but I also learned some interesting things that other candidates are doing, so I will try them out in Meath East.

My phone didn't have a signal when I was in the Parliament Building, and it was only when I came out that I noticed that I had a missed call from TODAY FM. They had wanted me to go on The LAST WORD to discuss an article in the Irish Independent on Unfinished Estates. Unfortunately I got the message too late to go on.

The Independent's article was by Paul Melia and it discussed how many builders leave estates unfinished. I spoke to Paul last week and provided him with a few quotes about the issue (which he kindly printed!). I also gave him with names of people in a few estates in Meath.

Paul did an interview with MB from the Residents Association of Ashvale Court, Duleek, where the lights in some parts of the estate have yet to be completed. He also spoke to MC in Brindley Park, Ashbourne, where the developers have failed to move off the agreed open space.

Brindley Park Open Space

I also missed a call from West Cork FM, who wanted me to go on air. That's the problem about leaving the country when news breaks!

When I got back home I had a meeting in the Duleek Area office to discuss the closure of a laneway in Betaghstown Wood, just off the Eastham Road, Bettystown. The Residents Association have been asking for the laneway to be closed for the past year: at the moment there is an element of anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of the laneway. I met with the Residents Association and the Area Engineer and we agreed on the steps that are needed for a closure application to be made.

Afterwards the Area Engineer upated me about an impending crisis in the water supply for East Meath. I couldn't believe it! We had one of the wettest Mays on record and after a few days of June sunshine we are faced with water shortages! It's a sure sign that we must have significant leakage problems somewhere in the system.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Another 10 hour meeting at County Hall....

The Order of Malta launched its Strategic Plan for the Drogheda & East Meath region on Monday morning. I didn’t manage to get there for the official launch (by Dermot Ahearn) but did get there in time for the disco dancing, which continued until 3pm. I spoke to the Manager, Mike Egan and to one of my neighbours Angela, who works for the O of M . Their catchment area extends right into East Meath and as a result I also bumped into a couple of my neighbours who avail of the services provided by the organisation. Four key themes have been identified in the Strategic Plan: The Provision of Holistic Services, Human Resource Development, Structural and Administrative Supports and Financial and Capital Resources. Over the next three years the organisation will be working on each of these four areas.

Wednesday saw the debate on the County Development Plan Strategic Policy document. By law, the Councillors had to vote on the Strategic Policies by the start of June, otherwise the Manager’s views would be deemed to be adopted. We agreed to go through each of the 70 motions for as long as was necessary.

The meeting kicked off late at ten thirty. Progress was slow and by lunchtime we had only got through about ten motions. One motion took an hour alone. Another motion of particular interest to me was the one to rezone Cushenstown as a graig.

A graig is a small centre where limited additional housing is permitted, in order to relieve housing pressure on surrounding rural development areas. Cushenstown currently consists of a small gathering of about 15 houses and a country school, just off the Dublin to Derry road. Past Taoiseach Charles J Haughey was a pupil in the school in the 1930s.

I am also a past pupil of the local school so I know how important it is to keep school numbers up, and this can be achieved by permitting more housing around the school. But I felt that we should listen to the planners advice, which is to carry out some initial analysis of this proposal and decide on whether to implement on the basis of that analysis. Certainly that would give the planers time to consider the merits of the proposal, and it would also give me time to talk to local residents and get their views. As a result, I abstained on the motion.

The proposal was put forward by Councillor James Mangan and despite the advice of the planners not to zone it as a graig, the motion was passed by the majority of the councillors present.

The day passed quickly. One of the motions was our Reserved Housing policy which has got caught up in some uninformed sensationalism in the media. The policy is trying to ensure that villagers who have grown up in the area are not displaced. It also helps to protect them from competing with speculators who buy two or three houses for investment, in the process often forcing up prices.

Councillors agreed that 25% of new houses built in small towns and villages should be reserved for local first-time buyers instead of the 50% policy previously proposed. The 25% rule will apply only to smaller population centres in Meath, such as Donore, Donacarney, Duleek and Slane. The restriction will mean that people who have lived within 10km of the development for at least 5 consecutive years of their lives will have 25% of housing in that development reserved for them. Also, people who work in the area will be able to buy from this reserved pool of housing, regardless of how long they have lived in the area.

There’s no limitation on buying houses in larger towns like Ashbourne, Navan, nor will there be limitations in Dunshaughlin, Bettystown or Laytown.

One annoying part of the day was the blatant lobbying of councillors by a certain group of developers. Councillor Z had a motion on the order paper, seeking to get approval for a local plan for the developer’s land. When I came in on the morning I had noticed a very glossy brochure on my desk, selling the merits of the proposal; there was nothing on the document to identify who had produced it.

I went out for a walk at lunchtime to get some air and I was immediately jumped on by the developers, who wanted to explain their proposals to me. Developer A came up to me and stood within 6 inches of my face:

We’d like to sit down with you and explain why you should support our motion” he said.

Was that your document on my desk this morning?” I asked.

Yes it was

Have you spoken to the planners about your proposal

Yes we have.”

Well then I have all the information I need. I’ll read your document and I’ll listen to what the planners have to say, and I’ll make my mind up then” I said.

Yeah, but the planners don’t always get it right” he retorted. “This could bring thousands of jobs to Meath!”

Thanks, I’ll have a think” I said, walking away from him.

I was a bit annoyed with him. He could have sent me some information in the post, or he could have phoned me months ago to ask for a meeting, but to try to press-gang me into supporting him got my back up.

When I returned I listened to the planner. Her view was that if there were thousands of jobs to be had then the developer should just make a normal planning application; there was no need for this motion. The majority of the members were in agreement with her. Councillor Z, who had proposed the motion, kept glancing over to the developers in the public box, to gauge their views. In the end he withdrew the motion. One look at the developers as they walked out suggested that they were less than happy with the end result.

After the meeting I drove straight to Dunshaughlin, where the local branch meeting was in full swing. We discussed issues such as the feedback from the local bus survey and village parking. It appears that people often have to walk in the road to get round cars parked on footpaths and this is a handicap especially for parents wheeling prams and also for elderly people.

Dunshaughlin Car

I undertook to write to the local Gardai asking them to make periodic checks and make an example of some of the worst offenders.

At the invite of the Drogheda ABACAS school I attended the launch of the round Ireland Cycle in aid of Irish Autism. The cyclists are from a GAA Club in Carlow and are cycling to every county group in Ireland over an 11 day period. They set off from Drogheda on their way to Parc Tailteann in Navan. By the end of the day they will be in Roscommon, 90 miles away!

Preparing for the ABACAS Flag Day

I went across to Navan after the launch and stood at the junction of Trimgate Street and Cannon Row, collecting money from passing motorists. I was delighted by the overwhelming generousity of Navan people. I reckon I must have collected five hundred euro in a matter of a few hours.

On Friday morning I went to the launch of the Green flag at Bellewstown School.
The Green Flag is awarded to schools who successfully complete the Green-Schools programme. Green-Schools offers a well-defined, controllable way to take environmental issues from the curriculum and apply them to the day to day running of a school.

The Flag was raised overlooking Bellewstown Hill on a fabulously sunny day. There are few places as beautiful when the weather is fine! Afterwards I joined some local parents, teachers and school children for a picnic in the school grounds.

The disappointment at the Drogs falling at the first hurdle in the defence of the FAI Cup will take a while to recover from, but at least the team recovered enough to beat the Bohs 1-0 on a glorious Friday evening at United Park. Half way through the first half Fabio went down. From where I was standing he looked to be a good two yards outside the box, but the referee blew and gave us a penalty.

Oh no Fabio!

The keeper guessed correctly and thwarted Fabio’s effort.

He immediately made up for it with a well taken goal which was ultimately all that divided the teams. The win keeps the Drogs at the top of the league. On the way home I nearly got caught up in a mini-riot. Some local “fans” - gurriers were throwing rocks at the Gardai outside the Lourdes Hospital. The Gardai seemed to be coping well, so I moved on out of there.