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.

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