Sunday, February 25, 2007


Beach Bye-laws go on Public Consultation

The future of the Bettystown, Laytown beaches is one of most pressing issues facing the coastal communities in Meath and an issue I’m very involved in.

At our Slane area monthly meeting we agreed to ask the community for their advice and comments on the Council’s DRAFT proposals for the beach at Bettystown and Laytown.

The proposals will be put on public display from (probably) the middle of March for a period of at least four weeks, maybe longer. Members of the public can make their views known. After they do, a report will be drawn up and presented to the Councillors, who will then decide on whether or not to accept the changes the engineers are suggesting.

When the Council last spoke about them, in November, I decided to inform people in the locality about what the issues were. I sent out 3,000 leaflets to homes all along the coastal region. I wanted to make sure that people were consulted early on in the process.

I’ve had excellent feedback. Lots of people rang me up, more emailed, and I held a number of meetings with individuals and groups to talk about the beach. One thing came out of all of these discussions. No-one has a magic solution to the problem so we must work together as a community for the best possible outcome.

The issues that are concerning people include;

• Do we seek to attain Blue Flag status?
• How do we accommodate the traffic that comes to the beach?
• How do we remove the problem of speeding cars from the beach?
• How do we ensure that Laytown Races aren’t affected by what we do?
• How can we ensure that coastal erosion is limited?

The position so far:

Are we applying for Blue Flag Status?

The engineers are pressing ahead with this. There are almost 30 criteria that have to be addressed in the application and they are spending time now completing this application.

Where will people park their cars?

The Council is still committed to obtaining an off-beach car park. However, that is at least a year away and could be a lot longer. So, unfortunately we have to live with beach parking for a while yet.

The Council engineers are proposing that we restrict parking on the beach to a certain area, beside the entrance at Bettystown, so that the vast majority of the Bettystown beach is free from traffic. The Council originally wanted to provide a park for 500 cars on the beach at Bettystown, and then have a small car-free bathing area beside it. Realistically this is not big enough and would not solve the problem of parking congestion in the villages of Laytown and Bettystown. Because of representations made by myself, members of the public and other councillors they are now proposing to extend this area to just over 1,000 spaces. They will also have the ability to allow a managed overflow from this parking area for the 2%, or 3% of days (10-15 days) in the year when there are more than this number of cars coming to the coast. This will help reduce the impact of all these cars on the daily lives of local residents going about their day to day business.

It is proposed that the BLUE FLAG beach would extend for 1.6km from just beside the parking area at Bettystown right down to Mornington. Note that the Blue Flag BATHING area would only be last for 500m of this, because the Bathing Area requires lifeguards. But the Blue Flag Beach will extend for another kilometre past this Bathing Area.

Can we get extra Cleaning for the Beach?

I asked about beach cleaning and enforcement issues. The engineer told me that they intend to hire additional staff for the summer months to undertake extra beach cleaning on the beach. If this happens it will be welcome news indeed. This is something I will keep putting pressure on until we get it.

What about Laytown Races?

The engineers said that the Laytown Races will in no way be affected. They wil continue as normal this year and every year. I will work to make sure of this.

How do we stop cars coming into the parking area from Laytown Beach?

The engineer is suggesting that large lumps of stone are used at the boundary of the parking area between Bettystown and Laytown beach. I asked the engineer whether there are any “softer” engineering options that could be used instead. He couldn’t come up with any. By softer I mean “less intrusive” options. For example, HAWHAW, Vegetation, Fencing - that could be used instead. He couldn’t come up with any. YOU NEED TO LET ME KNOW IF BETTER OPTIONS EXIST.

Also, at the moment, the draft bye-laws do NOT prevent access on to the beach at Laytown. Personally, I think some retractable barriers in the ground at the main access points to the beach should be introduced. They could be operated on a time system, open during the day, closed at night. What do you think?

Consultative Group

As part of comments received a Consultative Group has been set-up including the Coast Guard, the Beach Warden, local resident representatives, County Councillors. Coastwatch, the Gardai and the Council. This group will meet every few months on an ongoing basis to discuss issues in relation to the beach.

What next?

Before the Council adopts the bye-laws they are legally obliged to get the views of the community. At the meeting last week local councillors agreed to seek the comments of the local community. (Our decision to seek community advice has to be ratified by the full council meeting in early March, but this is largely a formality). Once this happened, the plans will be put on public display. The Community has then at least a month to make comments and suggestions. Once these are received, the engineers review all comments, respond to them in a report and put this report to Councillors for their approval. So, the bye-laws have not yet been decided. If you have alternative views to those presented, it is vital that they come forward with them. Please contact me with your proposals.

Your comments, Please!

I want your comments on these proposals. In particular, I want your views on the following:

1. Do you have a better proposal for parking areas?
2. Should we close off access ont the beach from Laytown during the evening?
3. What other methods could we use to enforce the boundary of the parking, as opposed to boulders?

Email me at or phone me at 041 988 6307.

Another tourist attraction in East Meath is the Megalithic tomb at Fourknocks. As this week's video explains, we need more road signage to help tourists visiting the site.

One other subject of note to mention was in relation to Donacarney school. Traffic has reached danger levels outside the school gates. According to the engineer, the cause of the problem is due to illegal parking, lack of enforcement and a need for more parking spaces to turn vehicles. It involves the Council working with the Gardai and the school authorities and parents council. I will be doing some work on this over the coming months.

On Thursday night I headed into Drogheda to attend a fundraising “race night” for Ged Nash, our candidate in Louth. The event was well-attended and I knew a lot of people at the place (McHugh’s pub on the Cord Road).

I’m not a big gambler at all, and as for betting luck, forget it. If I back every horse in a race bar one then the one remaining horse is the likely winner. Because it was for Ged I bet a few bob. Unfortunately I didn’t win anything, not on one single race!

Nash race night
But the pundits TOLD me that Brussels McGuinness was a dead cert!

I met Dermot there, from Le Cheile School in Donacarney / Mornington. He told me they were hosting a fundraiser for the school the next night. I bought two tickets from him and went along on the Friday evening to the Boyne Valley Hotel, where a large crowd had gathered for a comedy fundraiser. I managed to get a chance to speak to the School Principal, Michael, who filled me in on developments in relation to the school. They have a good team there and I’m sure they will be successful.

My Director of Elections agreed to give me the weekend off so I could fulfil a long-standing engagement with my brother. He’s a Man U supporter and had managed to get four tickets for the game against Fulham. Although I support another London side, I agreed to go for the craic.

We headed down to Craven Cottage about midday (it was an early kick-off). Craven Cottage is one of the smallest grounds in the premiership and there’s quite an intimate feel about it.

Fulham V ManU
The Red Devils attack again

The match was end-to-end stuff, although the quality of the game was not great. United got a late goal to win the game 2-1. Last week MY team came to Craven Cottage and won 4-0.

And of course, well done to the boys at Croker!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Unhappiness over Ashbourne Water supply

We launched a new website this week, called which explains how we intend to make Ireland a great place to live in. Billboard posters went up outside Julianstown this week. Of course, because there’s no bypass of the village, over 20,000 people saw the billboard every day. My Director of Elections says that I should hold off campaigning for a bypass until this advert cycle is finished.

There was more press coverage of the need for a Julianstown bypass. Some people are still of the view that the M1 could be an effective bypass if it wasn’t for the toll, and that the toll’s presence is causing traffic to divert through Julianstown. My view is that this is not the case. The majority of traffic travelling through Julianstown is coming from Laytown, Bettystown and South Drogheda.

Certainly, the removal of the toll would have some impact on levels of traffic through Julianstown, but I don’t think it would solve the problem. No, we need to keep pushing for a way to unclog the village centre.

Julianstown needs a bypass

I went to a public meeting in Ashbourne on Thursday evening. About 100 people turned up to discuss the proposed 7-story development on Castle Street. We just heard at the start of the week that the proposal has been turned down. The reasons were lack of water in Ashbourne and that the land was zoned for low density residential use.

The meeting was to let people know what happens now. I told people to:

1. Be vigilant, in case the applicant appeals the decision to An Bord Pleanala and
2. Put in submissions to the County Plan to make sure that the zoning of the land isn’t changed to allow high density development.

On Friday evening I went back to Ashbourne Community Centre, where community activist Joe Bonner was hosting a meeting about the water shortages in Ashbourne. About 80 people were there. Over the last weeks (and some would say years!) parts of Ashbourne have to do without water on an ongoing basis. This means that people can’t wash, cook or turn on the heating at times. That’s what people are waking up to in 21st century Ireland.

Coupled with that, parts of Race Hill are still without public lighting. So, no water, no lights. It’s something I’ve been on to the County Manager about all week, and I’m also ringing the Chairman’s office in the ESB to try to get some movement. I had a phone call back for a senior official on Friday afternoon to say that the Race Hill public lights should all be on in another ten days. We’re waiting!

At the meeting I spoke briefly about the need to make sure that a new water supply was provided for the growing town. My view is that its now time to provide a Town Council for Ashbourne. This would give it control of its own land zoning policies and allow it to spend development levies on its own water, road and community projects.

I left the meeting at about half nine, and on the way out had a chat with Tudor Grove Residents Association about issues in relation to their estate. I arranged to fix up a meeting in a few weeks time with them.

By the time I got home I had just enough time to have a quick clean up before sprinting down to Clarke’s for a well-needed pint.

It turns out that other parts of Ashbourne were also suffering from quality of water issues. I spoke to residents in Alderbrook on Saturday who had poor water quality last week. A key concern for them was also the potential opening of the road in Alderbrook. My attention was also drawn to the fact that some cars (and delivery vans!) are using the footpath to cut through the estates.

Inconsiderate drivers are cutting up the grass verges.

I will be mentioning this to the Area Engineer, and urging him to install another bollard.

Oh, and a big thanks to all who voted for me for the Irish blog awards. I was delighted to make it down to the final five!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Conference Weekend at The Helix

This month’s council meeting kicked off an hour late, all because of a bit of a rumpus over the €1.5 million announcement for the Community Centre in Ashbourne. Councillor Joe Bonner had claimed that it was all down to him, and erected posters on the way into Ashbourne announcing this. The other Councillors in his patch were having none of it. They said that the money had been available for years and that Joe had actually held up the process.

A row ensued and went on for an hour. For me, who was right or wrong was largely immaterial. The two things to come out of this were that the people of Ashbourne will get another €1.5 million for community facilities (great) and Joe Bonner proved once again that when it comes to a political stroke, he can outwit some of the more experienced councillors in his area. I’d have to say, hats off to Joe!

I had a question down about the Barcelona Declaration. I was trying to find out what Meath County Council has done to implement the Declaration in relation to disability rights. The Manager has promise a full report at next month’s meeting.

The saga of unlit public lighting in estates continues. I am currently working on three different estates which are without lighting. Trying to get to the bottom of things proves to be difficult, with the ESB, the developers and the council all blaming each other for the delays. Meanwhile, people leave their estates in the dark and come home from work in the dark.

Of course, maybe it’s the ESB’s way of cutting back on energy consumption. Because according to Duncan Stewart, that’s something that we all have to take a lot more seriously over the coming years. Report after report is being published to show categorically that life on earth is on a knife-edge. Tough decisions about how we live out lives will have to be made by the next government.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Duncan Stewart on Global Warming, speaking to the Labour Party NEC and Dail Candidates

Duncan gave a passionate speech to about 50 Oireachtas members, Dail candidates and NEC members on Friday night in The Helix at DCU at the opening of our Annual Conference. His speech was excellent and left none of us in any doubt as to the difficulties we face to counter this global threat.

At the meeting Pat Rabbitte completed his announcement of his 5 commitments to change.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Myself and Harry Barrett listen to Pat announce his 5 commitments.

Conference itself was great fun. It’s nice to see so many familiar faces and touch base with old friends.

I got to announce our policy to provide all under 5’s with a free GP card. My speech went out live on RTE 1 TV and I was happy with the reception it received. Also, a clip was shown on the lunchtime news, so about 250,000 people got to see a bit of it. You can read the speech here

Extracts of my speech to Conference

In the afternoon I attended a few workshops on media strategy, canvassing etc. It was all election, election, election stuff. I sneaked away to listen to a fascinating talk on the new Venezuela, and the changes that Chavez is introducing. Mark Langhammer gave a wonderful insight into what is being achieving on the ground. I spent some time in Caracas a couple of years ago, so it was good to get an update on the political situation in the country.

Afterwards I bumped into my Director of Elections.

How was the Campaign Strategy session?” I asked.

I decided not to go. I went to the session on the European Constitution instead” he replied.

And what good is that going to do us in Dunshaughlin? I teased.

Well, if anyone asks what the European Anthem is, I’ll be able to hum Ode to Joy to them” he snapped back.

Ninety days out from an election and he’s worried about when to celebrate Europe Day. He should be careful we don’t review Article II-62.2

I had to leave the conference a bit early, as I had a long-standing engagement at The ABACAS Annual Ball in The Boyne Valley Hotel. The Ball is run every year to raise money for the local school for Autism. It’s a wonderful event and a great chance to have an enjoyable evening out for a good cause. I’ve been going for the last few years and I share the same table every year with old friends.

About 300 people attended the event, and once again the event was a tremendous success.

Ball Organisers
The Ball Committee on Sunday morning at The Boyne Valley Hotel

Congrats to Anne, Cathy, Jacinta, Linda and Ruth for a great evening!

Finally, I got nominated for the Irish Political Blog of the Year award. If you want to vote for me click here

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Donacarney Celtic launch their new pitches

Donacarney Celtic launched their new pitches this week. The launch was held on Thursday in the Bettystown Court Hotel. Myself and the other Area Councillors attended.

The hotel ballroom was packed to capacity with each of the football teams and many of their parents. It was a very happy occasion for all, rounded off with photoshoots of the teams with Irish manager Stevie Staunton.

Steve Staunton
Liverpool star Brian Mooney chats with Steve Staunton at the launch of Donacarney Celtic's new pitches

The news that Meath County Council planners gave permission for 435 more houses in Brabazon made it into the Irish Times this week. By granting permission the planners in effect burst through the development ceiling we had set last week in the County Development Plan. LMFM asked me on to the Michael Reade show to discuss the issue. He gave me 15 minutes on the subject. I hope that I managed to explain what is going on and how people can appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanala.

The big news of the week for me was when I got a call on Tuesday from Pierre Danon, the Chairman of Eircom. I have been dealing with him over the last few months on the issue of getting eircom broadband to Stamullen. Pierre had asked me to show that the demand was there. On previous posts I discussed the campaign we carried out. In the end we got almost 200 names of people who would sign up for a service. True to his word Pierre came back to me and told me that they have decided to install broadband in a few months time.

The news leaked out from eircom very quickly, and the next I heard was when I got a chain email from residents in Stamullen, announcing the good news. It's a tribute to people power in action!

This week's video is on the issue of the proposed 5,000 new homes in South Drogheda.