Sunday, July 02, 2006
Broadband for Stamullen
I was contacted by people from Newgrange who were complaining about the state of the bins at one of Meath’s premier tourist attractions. I was told that the bins had only been emptied twice in the last month. I went out shortly afterwards to have a look for myself but by then the bins had been emptied and everything was spic and span.
I got on to the council and asked them to set up a system of checks to ensure that a schedule is put in place to empty the bins regularly.
I spoke to a few candidates over the last week about progress on the election campaign. Cllr Ged Nash in Louth is finalising his team, and asked me to attend a strategy meeting to share ideas. I met Ivana Bacik at the Gay Pride celebration in Parnell Square. She looks great after having given birth so recently, but has decided not to throw her hat into the ring on this occasion.
My attendance at Gay Pride was picked up by the Irish Times. As a result, the two Drogheda papers contacted me and asked me for comments, which I provided. I felt that both articles were well written and the comments I have received on the back of them have been very positive.
I took a bit of criticism in the local press about missing a vote for Cathaoirleach at Monday’s council meeting in Navan. I got there on time at ten o clock for the meeting. It was scheduled to last for an hour, and so I had arranged other meetings immediately afterwards (the first with my fellow Slane Area Councillors Jimmy Cudden, Anne Dillon Gallagher, Pat Boushell and Tom Kelly to discuss Stamullen). I had also arranged to see a planner directly after that.
For some reason the outgoing chair let the proceedings run and run. Although we were there to elect a Cathaoirleach there was a considerable amount of time spent discussing the roads. One councillor insisted on speaking about the roads in the north west of the county.
“They’re in a shocking state. It would bring a tear to your eye”, was the essence of the contribution, spread over a ten minute monologue.
On sitting down Councillor B stood up “You think your roads are bad? Come over to my village. The roads are a crying shame there” he ventured, and continued to give a detailed description of how much of a crying shame they are.
Councillor C followed, and proceeded to spend ten minutes telling us about the roads in the south west of the county.
“The roads are the worst in the county. Maybe even in the country. They would make a grown man weep!”
Now I am as concerned about the state of our roads as the next man, but to continue on reiterating s***e like this all morning when our purpose was clearly to do something else was a bit irritating.
By half eleven it was still going on and there was no end in sight. I moved around the chamber to speak to each of my Slane area colleagues and we agreed to defer the Stamullen meeting. By twelve there was no sign of a vote. I sit beside Jimmy and mentioned to him that I had to pop out to see a planner.
“Don’t be late, we could be voting in ten minutes” said Jimmy, who I had agreed to support for Cathaoirleach.
“I won’t be late!” I responded.
Well, I fu***d up and got caught with a planner for 15 minutes. By the time I returned I entered the chamber and Jimmy was in the Chair. He had been elected without my support.
I felt very embarrassed, because I know how this could be made to look. I had driven to Navan specifically to vote for him and I had missed it. (If I wanted to avoid it I could have been otherwise engaged on a business meeting in London or New York). There was nothing to do but apologise profusely to Jimmy, and the Chamber for missing the vote.
In my two years as a councillor this was the biggest mistake I made, and if I could have re-lived the day I would have made sure I didn’t leave the chamber at the wrong time.
The County Development Plan was put out for public consultation this week. I attended a meeting on Friday morning when Forward Planner Bernard Green outlined the plan. It sets the framework and context in which the towns, villages and rural areas of the county will progress. It has specific sections and policies in relation to settlement, housing, economic development and infrastructure. It predicts an increase of housing units across the county and suggests how to expand our job base. It has sections on the character of the landscape and also proposes to almost double the number of protected structures across the county, up to 1,400 historic sites.
I will be particularly interested in any proposals for additional housing and how they can be justified given the existing level of infrastructure shortfall. This won’t be just confined to our largest towns and villages. Two graigs (small rural centres) have specific proposals for development: Curragha and Cushenstown. I met with a group from Curragha last week. I had thought that development there was likely to be limited to ten or twenty houses, and was shocked to discover that there are proposals to zone sufficient land to accommodate hundreds of houses.
I will be keeping a close eye on proposals such as these and liaising with the local community to make sure their views are taken into account.
Ashbourne United soccer club are trying to expand their facilities and I held a meeting with them to discuss their proposals. They can build a complete new clubhouse, new pitches and an all-weather facility if the council will allow them to sell off 4 acres for additional housing. The club serves the needs of over 200 players in one of our fastest growing towns. From speaking to the club I was impressed with the dedication of the committee and the enthusiasm they have for improving their club and town. I will be talking to the planners about this to try and get their support.
A member of the Irish Labour Party, deputy Joe Costello needs to go talk to him accompanied by independent observers and engage with his complaints. We sometimes call this "humble pie".
Deputy Costello must do this not only as an act of public compassion but also in the political interest of the Irish Labour Party. None of us would presume to put words in deputy Costello's mouth, but very few of us concerned by this case will quickly forget how he has avoided it. It bodes ill for any Labour participation in Ministries of Government in the future.
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