Sunday, December 24, 2006


For sale, one Christmas tree, €8,000 ono

Although it was Christmas week I had to attend four Council meetings in four days, because of essential business. Two of these meetings were taken up with the Annual budget, one with the County Development Plan and one with the monthly Slane Area meeting. (I also had to attend a Meath leader Board Meeting in Navan on Wednesday).

In between, I managed to get to Dublin to deliver the broadband petition for Stamullen to the Chairman of Eircom at his office on St Stephens’ Green.
Broadband Petition delivered to Eircom
The broadband for Stamullen petition of 188 names is delivered to Eircom

We approved the budget on Thursday evening after a lot of debate. In the end, we managed to get a bit of extra cash out of the manager for road repairs. The Manager also agreed to put flashing lights at three schools in each electoral area within the next year. Not enough in my view, and a campaign I intend returning to in the New Year.

The Slane Area meeting gave us an update on the project within the area. The Laytown footbridge is now expected to commence in February. Once again, it’s been delayed and once again I found myself arguing with the manager about the timescales for the work.

I also queried the cost of cutting down a tree in Stamullen. The tree overhangs a resident’s property and they worry that it might fall down onto their kitchen. The council received a quote of €8,000 to cut the tree down (it’s hard to get to). Considering I had recently bought a Christmas tree for just €30 (an d that includined the cutting down business) this seemed quite steep. I told the manager that one of my brother’s is home for Christmas and that we’d do the job for a couple of hundred euro, but sadly he declined our offer. The money's obviously not coming out of his pocket. Thankfully, the engineer said that he’d go back and have another look at the situation.

This will be my last blog of 2006. It’s been an action-packed year for me on the political front and I’ve certainly learnt a few lessons. I’ve met several thousand of people, at front doors, at meetings and in shopping centres. I’ve heard a lot about what’s going wrong with the country, but I’ve also seen the good things that still exist in our country. We can count ourselves lucky that we live in such a unique place. Next year is certain to be challenging for me: as a general election candidate and a serving County Councillor I will hardly have a spare minute for the first six months of the year. It’s a challenge I am looking forward to.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Stamullen Broadband campaign continues.....

Monday kicked off with our first meeting on the Council’s budget for next year. The Head of Finance at Meath, Fiona Lawless, took us through the details of the budget. I made a few contributions on subjects such as:

(a) the need for more money to be spent outside all schools in Meath on issues such as flashing speed signs and general traffic calming measures.
(b) the need for more money to be put towards a “Parks Department”, including expenditure on new playgrounds (there’s only one in the East Meath area!) and on the maintenance of playgrounds.
(c) The need for resources to be earmarked for capital and operating costs associated with any new beach management issues. The Council is considering bringing new by-laws for the East Coast beaches. These will be un-enforceable without more financial resources.

Fiona is to come back to us next week with a revised budget.

Our campaign to bring Eircom broadband to Stamullen continues. I called around to scores of more houses in Forge Hill, Kilbreck and Glasheen asking people whether they would be interested in signing up to a service. The Chairman of Eircom, Pierre Danon, told me that if we can show him that a certain number of people would use the service, then he will provide it. I have gathered a list of names and will be passing them over to Eircom in Dublin on Tuesday.

Campaign for eircom broadband for Stamullen

One good bit of news was the decision by the planners to turn down a proposed development in the back lanes of Duleek. Duleek is an ancient village, and the part of the village under threat consists of single storey homes in a mature environment. An applicant sought to put FIVE houses on a tiny plot of land. I submitted an objection, arguing against the development on the grounds of over-intensification of the site and on the lack of parking. I was pleased to see that the planner listed both of these reasons in their decision to refuse. It’s a nice Christmas present for the families close-by, who were united in their opposition to the proposal.

I attended another meeting in Duleek during the week on the issue of the proposed extension of the Lagan quarry, which was recently given approval by Meath planners. The meeting was arranged by the residents association of High Meadows, who are considering making an appeal to An Bord Pleanala over the coming weeks.

We finished out last leaflet drop of Ratoath for 2006 on Saturday. It was a clear afternoon so a few of us made the most of the dry weather and went around the houses. We were in the Old Mill estate, which looked lovely with all the Christmas lights on.

Christmas in Ratoath
Christmas Lights in Old Mill, Ratoath

Despite the protestations of my Director of Elections, I am not going to go calling to any more houses between now and Christmas. It’s getting too cold and I don’t want to end up in bed with the flu for Christmas. We’re finishing off delivering one last batch of leaflets on Beach issues and that’s all the leafleting we’re doing for 2006. Our advice centre is open until Friday 22nd, and that will be that for the year! Obviously we’ll still be answering the “emergency line” phone lines, and we’ll be trying to make the most of the festive break.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Pat Rabbitte Visits the East Coast

The first week of the month is probably always my busiest in terms of meetings. On Monday my first meeting kicked off in Bettystown at 9:45 in relation to the proposed new school at Laytown. Afterwards, I drove over to Navan for the 11am meeting of the Corporate Planning Group. This group meets prior to the full council meeting to review the proposed agenda and to discuss key issues and themes likely to arise during the meeting.

Kevin Stewart, the Head of Planning, was there and so I used the occasion to ask him about the obtaining legal advice on the East Meath Plan (in relation to the Inse Bay decision). Kevin had still not heard back from the solicitors.

At two on Monday our full Council meeting kicked off in the chamber. The agenda follows a set pattern every month. By half past four we were still on “Correspondence”. A letter from Minister Dick Roche was being argued over. Roche has refused a request to meet with Meath Councillors to discuss our inadequate funding.

The Council meeting usually finishes at six o clock. This month we hadn’t finished the agenda, so the Cathaoirleach asked for permission to extend the meting. I stayed until 6:20pm but then had to leave as I had an appointment with someone to discuss a planning issue in Ashbourne. After that meeting I drove over to Ratoath, where I hold a monthly advice centre. That was just Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of advice centre meetings (in Duleek, Stamullen and Bettystown). On Wednesday night I attended the December meeting of Meath Partnership. I had to skip the annual Christmas Dinner after the meeting because I had another meeting in Julianstown at 9pm.

On Thursday, Pat Rabbitte came to town. We lined up a series of meetings for him in Laytown and Bettystown. I took him into Inse Bay for a meeting, and I showed him Alverno Heights before our meeting with the Chair of the Residents Association of Alverno Heights. I also showed him the school site before our meeting with the Concerned Parents of East Meath group to discuss the issue of provision of schools.

Pat visits Bettystown Advice Centre
Myself, John Brodigan of Alverno Heights and Pat at the Advice Centre

We switched area and drove into Drogheda. Councillor Ged Nash, Labour candidate for Louth, welcomed us outside the offices of Drogheda Borough Council offices. We walked over to the Abacus school on Fair Street where we met with Jacinta Walsh, who has been instrumental in improving services for autism in the region. The school educates children from Drogheda, Louth and East Meath. As Jacinta pointed out, the demand for places is increasing all the time, because of local demographics: the South Louth and East Meath area is becoming home to many young couples who are starting families.

Ged walked us across town down to the new de Lacy footbridge, which we crossed over to get to Scotch Hall. It was cold and starting to rain, so we were all pleased to be going indoors. Scotch Hall was busy. We met up with Nessa, the Hall’s Marketing Director, who kindly gave up her time and showed us around the complex. We were also joined by local members (and members from East Meath). Our latest recruit, Cormac Bohan, was there. It was my first chance to greet Cormac personally since he joined. I’m looking forward to working with him.

Scotch Hall is a wonderful development and we had a very enjoyable walkabout for an hour, before having dinner in Borcelino’s restaurant in Mell. We had Pat back in his car by 9:30.

My fifteenth and final Councillor related meeting of the week was on Friday morning, where the County Development Board met in the new Knightsbrook Hotel, in Trim. We had a first class presentation from Mr Kevin Kidney, of Failte Ireland, who briefed us on their plans for the next few years. It was impressive. The key things I took away from the meeting were that Ireland intends to increase the number of overseas visitors by 50% over the next few years and that County Meath is set to increase its share because of the number of good quality hotels coming on stream. As long as we remain welcoming and offer value for money our tourism industry should continue to grow.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


€1 Buses from Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunshaughlin to Dublin

The Labour Party launched its proposals for getting Dublin moving this week. These include the purchase of an extra 500 buses, an extension of the Quality Bus Corridors to speed up bus traffic going into the city centre and, of great benefit to Meath commuters, an extension of the fare zones to include Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunshaughlin.
RTE's news coverage of our Bus Policy

Our policy is that every journey from Ashbourne, Ratoath and Dunshaughlin will cost the commuter just €1 each way. Fares to other local destinations, such as Duleek and the East Coast will be tapered so that the fare paid per passenger mile by bus and train users will be on a par with what is paid by commuters in other counties.

So, it's bringing fairness to fares policy. It will cost money, but all of the analysis done on the plan shows that the overall benefit to society (remember that word?) exceeds the costs of the policy. And if it gets Dublin and the region moving that means larger economic growth and more time for people to spend with their family and friends.

Getting Dublin Moving
Myself and Deputies Ruairi Quinn and Roisin Shorthall launch Labour's Bus Policy

I took a trip to Curragha school during theweekk. I'd met with some local residents on a number of occasions to talk about road safety at the school, so I dropped along to observe the situation in the morning rush hour.

A key problem is that the car park is at the opposite side of the road to the school. With the growth in traffic and the number of lorries using the road you really need your wits about you when you cross. Coupled with that the road into the car park is in an absolute state.

Curragha school
Walking on the Moon - actually, it's Curragha school and some serious potholes!

I've written to the County Engineer asking him to address the potholes issue. By the way, one thing the Council is very careful about is to fill in any potholes that they have been told about. Otherwise they leave themselves open to claims if someone damages their car. So, once they hear about a pothole they are generally very good in filling it in. Let me know if you need one filled!

We are still awaiting news on the situation in relation to the Inse Bay decision, which is the subject of this week's video clipping.

Advice on Inse Bay decision eagerly awaited!

The updating of the Electoral Register continues to be a concern. I'm getting a lot of queries from frustrated residents who, despite their best efforts, are still not on the register.
RTE's The Week in Politics summarises the current situation

I intend to raise this subject with the County Manager at next week's Council meeting