Saturday, March 17, 2007

 

Back to school...

Even thought they may not be the best at answering their phones, as least sometimes the Council listens….

After much comment and advice from members of the public the Council engineers have agreed to withdraw their proposal to put boulders on the beach at Bettystown.

I have no doubt that the Council published the proposals for the beach in good faith. From talking to the engineers involved it’s clear that they had the beach interest of the beach at heart and wanted the best future for the area.

But on this occasion the proposal they put forward were not going to work. The feedback I received made it obvious to me that the solutions proposed are unacceptable. As one constituent said, “it’s using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

So……..

At this week’s Slane area meeting the Councillors unanimously voted to withdraw the proposals for boulders. I made a contribution along the lines that:

(a) we’ve all learned a lot about the blue flag process and the situation on the beach at the moment
(b) we now have a Consultative committee involving the whole community up and running. They KNOW about the issues facing the beach – let’s listen to their advice
(c) the whole proposal has raised awareness in the community about the need to do something, and now we have the chance to go and prepare more realistic, workable proposals for next year.

For me, its been a real learning experience. I’ve used the beach since I was a boy. I’ve swam, run, played football and I’ve even rode a horse on the beach. However I don’t have an exclusivity of views on the issue of how best to manage it and for me the last six months have been an education in beach management and coastal protection.

I’m still all ears to hear more on this. Not just about the Blue Flag issue. I’m just as worried about Coastal Erosion. Just take a trip down to the Laytown Pitch & Putt Club and see what’s going on. I’m going to raise this at next month’s Area meeting.

The Irish National Teacher’s Organisation (INTO) brought their campaign to reduce class sizes to Meath this week. I attended a meeting in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, where about 200 teachers and politicians debated the issue. It was a lively discussion and I was left in doubt about the scale of the problem in Meath.

Ø In Slane village there are two classrooms of 36 pupils
Ø In Bettystown / Laytown half of the classes have 29 students or more
Ø In Ashbourne two thirds of the classes have 29 students or more.

….. and commitments on this issues were given years ago…….. and we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world……and the European average is 20 students per class…

The news that the land at Laytown has not yet been acquired was shocking. I've been told to stay out of this, but exactly when does a Minister start taking responsibility for their inactions?

I went back to school myself this week. Minister Mary Wallace, Deputy Shane McEntee and I were asked to attend a mock election in Ashbourne Community School. Each of us gave 5 minute election addresses to one of the classes and then we were asked a series of questions ranging from road safety, politicians’ working hours, climate change and the like.

Wallace, Hannigan, Mcentee
Myself, Minister Wallace and Deputy Mcentee on the Meath East hustings

It was great fun and at the end of the session a mock ballot sheet was filled out by each student to see which of our would win the one seat up for grabs. On this occasion I was elected. Hopefully I’ll be as fortunate in May!

I went to Dunboyne during the week for a meeting with the local school, Gardai and community leaders to talk about the increase in the drug problem in the village.

Almost all of the resident associations in the village were represented at the meeting, and many spoke about how they felt the issues could be better addressed by more community policing and by a higher presence of Gardai.

Superintendent Charlie Devine and Sergeant Alan Dowling provided an insight in the whole issues of policing in the village. It all comes back to having sufficient Gardai available. Dunboyne, like the rest of Meath, has grown hugely over the last ten years. Our Gardai compliment has not. We need a higher compliment now and I’ll continue to push for this.

Also at the meeting were Councillor Noel Leonard, Councillor Charlie Brooks and Fine Gael’s new candidate from Ratoath, Regina Doherty. Since first meeting Regina in February I’ve now bumped into her at three different meeting in a month. Luckily she seems very pleasant, because I imagine I’ll be seeing a lot more of her over the next eight weeks!

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