Sunday, September 24, 2006


Labour visit the Real Capital

Our annual Pre-Dail “think-in” took place this year in Cork. Along with TDs, Senators and senior party staff, this year all of the Dail candidates were also invited. In all, about 40 of us attended the two-day event.

I drove down with Ged Nash from Louth on Sunday. The session didn’t start until Monday so we used Sunday evening to do a reconnaissance mission of Cork city.

The rest of the delegates started to arrive on Monday morning. We kicked off at lunchtime with a press conference. The afternoon was spent listening to a series of speeches on electoral strategy from key party staff.

Cork Pre-Dail PLP Think in
Cllr Ged Nash, myself, Gen Sec Mike Allen and Deputy Emmet Stagg in Cork

At six pm we broke and travelled to a Civic reception at Cork City Hall, which was hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Michael Ahern. My dad is from Cork so I made sure that I got a picture with the Lord Mayor in his office. On the walls are pictures of Terence MacSwiney and Tomas Mac Curtain.

Cork Pre-Dail session
The Lord Mayor of Cork and I

On the way back to the hotel Ged Nash called me over:

Morning Ireland are looking to do a few clips with some of us” he said.

Do you know how many they want to do?”

They probably only want a few. Stick close to Kathleen O’Meara, she knows the interviewer”.

I sat behind Kathleen on the bus and when we got to Silver Springs Hotel I followed her in to the lobby. She immediately greeted Cian, the Morning Ireland interviewer, and introduced myself, Kathleen Lynch, Ged and Aidan Culhane to Cian.

I’m really sorry, but I can only do a few of you.” he told us. “I’m going to have to leave you out Ged.”

Ged took it well. He had been on RTE TV and TV3 earlier in the day (check out so he was happy enough.

We went up to Aiden Culhane’s room and Cian recorded us all one after the other, asking us questions about Pat R’s leadership, the latest poll and our thoughts on Enda Kenny.

Enda K joined us for dinner that evening. He gave a strong speech to the delegates, which was covered by the press, so I won’t bother repeating it here. For me, the night was very informative. I’d just come from a family wedding so I was in good form for working the room. I think I got to speak to everyone that attended the event. In the process I got a very clear view of how each deputy and candidate expects the party to do.

I rose early for breakfast and turned on Morning Ireland. Cian had told us that our piece would be on at about eight thirty. In the event, it wasn’t on then and instead there was an interview with Pat R. I wandered down to join Liz McManus for breakfast; she told me that our piece had been on at seven thirty.

Candidates spent the first couple of hours discussing issues in relation to election planning. We then joined the PLP to contribute to their discussion on how the next Dail-session was likely to pan out. The session was very thought-provoking and gave me a flavour of what I can expect if I am elected next year.

At lunch I got the opportunity to sit down with Eamon Gilmore and Ged Nash to discuss various issues, including planning fees, the Laytown school issue, the M3 and the proposed incinerator.

That concluded the think-in. Rather than go straight back home, I spent the afternoon in Crosshaven, where I had holidayed for many summers of my youth.

The next morning was spent the local area meeting in Duleek. It was an ill-tempered meeting as far as I was concerned and I didn’t achieve as much as I had hoped to. Once again, I brought up the lack of action on street furniture for Donore village. This time the Area Engineer has agreed to come out on a site visit with me to see what can be done.

Last week’s Sunday Business Post published an article about Broadband in Stamullen. It quoted me saying that Stamullen is of sufficient size to warrant and Eircom broadband service. Eircom rubbished my clam that there are 900 houses in the village. I was a bit surprised: I have delivered leaflets around the village on a regular basis and can vouch for that number of houses. I have written again to the Chief Executive of Eircom, asking him to accompany me to the village so that he can see for himself the potential business they could capture.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


New ideas in Waste Management

I got a very interesting email from someone who had seen my interview on the RTE News at Nine a few weeks ago, when I was interviewed about the anti-incineration campaign in East Meath. They wanted to bring my attention to a new form of waste management which separates waste and then treats it using various non-thermal processes. In addition, it generates energy and water.

An explanatory video can be found here:

I must admit I have always been a bit wary of people and organisations coming along saying they have found the way to “The Promised Land”, so I watched the video with some scepticism. However, I was much impressed. The system has been adopted by the municipality of Tel Aviv, who will be using it to treat all of their waste. It could be scaled up so as to treat all of the waste from the North East Region of Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. I’d be really interested in hearing from any readers about their thoughts on this process. Is it too good to be true? Should our government incentivise plants and processes such as this over incinerator plants? Let me know what you think.

My advice centre is now more or less up and running. It’s a great help to me and it means that we can deal with queries and representations a lot more quickly. Already Fiona (my assistant) has received a bunch of flowers from a satisfied constituent.

Advice centre
Fiona helps with a constituency query.

This week also saw the wedding of my sister in Belfast. It was a wonderful occasion for us all. As time goes by our family often only meets on sad occasions, so we were intend on making it a memorable wedding.

Dad and Sis
My big sis and dad leave the hotel en route to the wedding service at Belfast City Hall

We managed to keep it going long enough to stretch to one of my sister-in-law’s birthday, so in effect we had a three-day family meet. The weather stayed fine and we all enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Road Safety outside Laytown School

As a result of a meeting with parents representatives the Councillors in the East Meath area are submitting a Notice of Motion for next week’s East Meath Area Meeting. The purpose of the Motion is to try and improve safety for children at the school. The wording of the Motion is as follows:

“The Slane Area Councillors hereby instruct the Manager to undertake the following actions (and where necessary to prepare by-laws) as a matter of urgency to address traffic problems at Laytown School:

(a) Install LED flashing speed limit signs on both approaches to Laytown School.
(b) Introduce a 30kph speed limit outside Laytown school under Section 9 (9) of the 2004 Road Traffic Act
(c) Paint a Yellow Box at the junction with Beach Park.
(d) Introduce double yellow lines opposite the school.
(e) Introduce double yellow lines from the Garda station in Beach Park down to the junction.
(f) Provide funding for a traffic warden for Laytown school and commence the employment and training of said warden as soon as possible.
(g) Progress the completion of the footpath between Highfield and Inse Bay.

The Motion will only succeed with the support of the other Councillors. I know the parents have spoken to all of the Councillors. Let’s hope that the Motion goes through and the officials make the improvements as soon as they can.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


New Community Centre Opens in Ratoath

This week saw the official opening of the new Community Centre in Ratoath. It’s a fantastic achievement for the village and is down to a considerable amount of hard work by the residents of the village. Since I was elected in 2004 I have witnessed the tremendous efforts made by the fundraising committee to get this centre built. They are an example to us all.

Party leader visit to Meath East
Myself and Pat Rabbitte outside Ratoath Community Centre

The official opening was performed by President McAleese and it seemed like the whole of Ratoath had come out to meet her.

Ratoath Opening 2

Crowds enjoy the sunshine at the Official opening of the Community centre.

I moved around the crowds and chatted to a few people about how much this means for the growing village. When I was at school down the road Ratoath was a tiny place. I don’t think any of us would have believed that it would grow so large so quickly. The opening of the centre is a welcome and much-needed boost for the village.

Ratoath Opening 1
Martial Arts on display after the opening ceremony.

Local Councillor Nick Killian is the manager of the centre. I know from my experiences with Nick that the centre will be well-run and the whole county wishes Nick, his staff and the people of Ratoath the best.

During the week I attended a briefing on the political situation in Northern Ireland. The Conference was held outside Newry Co Down and was hosted by the SDLP. It kicked off with an analysis of the current state of play from Mark Durkan MP MLA and Leader of the SDLP.

It was interesting to hear his views on how each of the parties in the north had worked together over the summer to try to iron out differences. Both governments have stated that unless an agreement is reached by November then they will bring the curtain down on things. If that were to happen then devolved government may be off the agenda for a generation.

SDLP Conference

Mark Durkan, Liz McManus and I outside the Conference Hall.

Attending from the South were Deputy Liz McManus, my party colleague Hughie Baxter and Councillor Ged Nash from Louth. Also there were members of the Oireachtas including Seamus Kirk TD (who is set to lose out to Cllr Nash in the General Election), Damian English TD, Seymour Crawford TD, Dinny McGinley TD, Senator Brian Hayes and Pat Carey TD (Deputy for Ballymun, who lives in Ashbourne and is thus one of my constituents). I told Deputy Carey that I had been in contact with the council to try and get some additional funding for the road outside of his house. I’m hoping that I might get a number 2 off him!

In the discussion that followed much debate was had over the impact of the General Election in the South and the current uncertainty with Blair’s leadership across the water. I wish that I could say that I found the outlook positive but I came away from Newry feeling that there’s quite a bit of distance to travel yet before we get to a workable solution.

At this week’s council meeting we agreed to introduce a special levy on all new houses within 1 km of the proposed rail link from Dublin to Dunboyne. Developers who build within this area will have to pay several thousand euro for each house constructed, corresponding to about 1% of the price of each house. This money will then be placed in a special fund which will be used to contribute towards the capital cost of constructing the line. The adoption of the scheme brings the opening day of the line a little closer, but the reality is that it must be at least four years away.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Laytown race-field takes shape

The annual horse races in Laytown are taking place next week and the village is preparing for the influx of thousands of day-trippers. It’s one of the busiest days in the year for villagers and one of the most exciting.

This year there is a bit of a cloud over the event, what with the situation in relation to the lack of space in the local school. I’ve been talking to people about it all week and feelings and emotions are running very high on the issue. At this stage the situation is delicate and the next week is very important.

Laytown Race field

Preparations are made on Laytown Race Field

Other schools in the area are also not without their problems. At Donacarney school the children returned to school this week to find that the roadway outside was being dug up. This is despite the fact that the area engineer assured councillors that the works would be finished by the end of August. I was contacted by numerous parents who were perplexed that the work wasn't finished.

Donacarney trench

Roadworks continue outside Donacarney School.

On Friday I met with the Area Administrator and the Area Engineer to discuss the matter. It transpires that the work was help up by the ESB, who didn’t come on site until too late and who didn’t complete their works until the end of August, a full month after they had originally planned to do. As a result the council wasn’t in a position to commence the works until Monday. Why the engineer couldn’t have predicted the delay I don’t know; we all know that the ESB have a very poor delivery record in the area.

I dropped over to the school to talk to a few parents. While there I chatted to a couple of the workmen on the site and it looks like the roadwork could continue for up to six weeks. Looking at the traffic movements I still have concerns about the safety of the works, and I have brought these concerns to the attention of the engineer. I think that there should be more supervision of the traffic during the morning and afternoon school opening and closing times. The engineer countered by saying that he felt that the situation was safe. I disagree and I told him so. I will be raising the matter with the Area Manager and asking him to improve safety at the school.

The village school in Slane is also a matter of concern. A planning application is about to be decided upon which, if approved, will allow a temporary road to be built through the school car–park and the child drop-off point. The road will be used by construction lorries on their way into a development site where 35 houses are to be built.

It’s a very strange case, because the planners have already given permission a few weeks ago for the 35 houses, despite that fact that the field they sit in is landlocked and has absolutely no current road access. This second planning application seeks to provide that access. I met and spoke to several local residents; they really don’t understand how this could have got the go-ahead. Frankly, I'm at a loss to explain it myself. It's one of those decisions that leaves people scratching their heads and wondering what exactly is going on.

I will be meeting with the planners this week to get an explanation for their decision and to see what can be done. Meanwhile I advised residents to bring the case to An Bord Pleanala.