Sunday, April 29, 2007


Election is called

Five to eight on a Sunday morning and the phone goes. So much for my last lie-in before the election. Bertie decides to go to the Park before the President went to the States.

So, we are on. It's a gorgeous day out there and it's time to get the posters up:)

Election posters go up
I got the first one up at 8:40 this morning!

More over the next few days.....

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Stamullen needs Community Policing

On Monday night I attended a meeting of the Kilbreck / Glasheen residents Association in Stamullen. I was there to listen to issues in relation to the completion of the estate, facilities for the village and the challenges presented by anti-social behaviour.

There were about 70 residents present. I was able to give an update on the proposed footpath outside their estate, as well as a report back on the successful Stamullen Broadband campaign that we ran at the end of last year.

A key issue for the group was the lack of Community policing in Stamullen. Here’s one of our commitments for the next Dail.

Our Commitment on Community Policing

At the monthly area meeting on Wednesday I raised the subject of the footpath again and was told that the work is expected to commence imminently. I await in hope. We also heard back that the foreshore licence has still not been signed by the Department of the Marine. This licence is holding up the construction of the pedestrian bridge and the playground at Laytown. The Council is hopeful they will have a signed licence back shortly, as the contractor is expecting to start on the bridge in May.

The General Election is almost upon us and we were lucky to be chosen as the first constituency for the visit of Labour’s Election battle bus. It’s certainly impressive and stands out on a street. After lunch in the Ashbourne House Hotel we boarded the bus and drove over to Ratoath, then down to Dunshaughlin and finally into Dunboyne.

In Ratoath we met the photographer Joe Fanning. He was telling me that so far this week he had seen three party leaders in Meath (Bertie, Enda and now Pat) and he thought this was a first time for such an alignment of the stars!

We stopped in Dunshaughlin to meet people and hear about their thoughts on the future of the country.

The Make a Change tour
At the Frozen Veg counter

The bus is all wired up to send and receive information to and from the election HQ in Dublin. It caused a bit of a commotion in Dunboyne, as can be seen in the next video. I tried to get the party to leave it in Meath for the weekend – I even offered them all a cab back to Dublin, but they just wouldn’t have it.

In Dunboyne with the Battle Bus

At the end of the week we finalised our plans for the election campaign. It looks like Bertie will dissolve the Dail on Tuesday or Wednesday week for an end of May poll, so we are putting together “to do” lists for the time between now and the start of the campaign. So, if you have any time and want to get involved then call our advice centre on 041 988 6307.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Steps to combat Climate Change

Our €1 bus fare continues to attract a lot of comment on the doorsteps. I met a public transport employee in Millmount Abbey on Friday and he was asking me about how it will work in practice. Obviously it will need a lot more buses, and it will require additional drivers, so there are issues with training and recruitment. It forms a core part of our strategy on Climate change. We want to see more journeys made on buses so that we reduce the amount of carbon emissions that come from Ireland.

Again in relation to Climate Change, I was interested to see that Fr McDonough from Dalgan Park in Meath has been asked to join Al Gore’s advisory team on the environment. I’ve been to the Dalgan Park complex a few times and have always been impressed with the commitment they show to environmental matters.

The issue of building on open spaces within estates came up again this week. I was in Supple Hall in Dunshaughlin, where the developer has in the past tried to build on the area which the residents use for open space. There was a planning application last summer and at the time I had a few queries from the residents about it.

Supple Hall
Open Space in Supple Hall, Dunshaughlin

I told a few of residents about the new restriction that I put into the County Development Plan, which will prevent developers from building on open spaces in estates from now on.

Of course, the change in the County Development Plan comes too late for some estates. I went into Inse Bay in Laytown on Saturday, an estate where planning permission was granted for an additional 40 houses, despite the objections of residents and councillors.

I spent the whole day in the estate and managed to speak to hundreds of residents. The main issues that came up were school places, the issue of the extra houses, and of course the health service. I got a few questions in relation to our position on childcare. Here's a short video on our Committment to Change the position on childcare.....

It was a lovely day to be out talking to people and as a result of this everyone was in great form. I had a great response from the residents of Inse Bay and it buoyed me up for the rest of the weekend.

On Sunday morning I went up to Abbey Street in Dublin to the Today FM Studios. Party HQ had been asked if any urbane, young candidate was available to go on the Sunday Supplement Show with Sam Smyth. Unfortunately Cllr Alex White had a cold so they had to do with me (urban, middle-aged).

Today FM
Outside Today FM studios

I was joined on the show with Senator Fergal Browne and the very glamorous Liz O'Donnell, Deputy Leader of the PDs. I haven’t done much of this sort of thing in the past, and Liz was very gracious in helping to create a calm atmosphere in the ante-room.

The show itself was good fun. Sam tried to get me to call Bertie a crook, which is a place I was not going to go, despite his best efforts. The time flew. We had good craic in the studio when the microphones were off, although Liz O'D was a bit put out at one stage to be called Deputy Leader of the Labour Party by Sam.

I was happy with the show. Afterwards, I headed down to Duleek for a quick meeting before heading out to the advice centre to deal with some representations. All in all, a very busy week!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


More staff needed in Duleek Civic Office

The monthly County Council meeting took place on Monday. Whether it was because it fell between Paddy’s Day and Easter, I don’t know, but the chamber was a lot emptier than usual. I believe that some members were sick and some others were away on trips (for example, two Slane Area Councillors were in Bulgaria).

At one point it looked like we might have to stop the meeting, because there was less than a quorum in the chamber (a quorum is a third of members). However, luckily the tenth Councillor came back from a toilet break just in the nick of time.

By the time it got to the Motion submitted by the five Slane Councillors I was the only councillor from the area left in the Chamber, so it fell to me to propose the Motion. Our Motion called for the Minister to increase staffing levels at the Duleek Civic Offices and in the Council in general. At the moment there is a recruitment freeze in operation.

I argued that the population of the East Meath area has risen by 25% since 2002 and that Duleek itself has grown by 50% in that period. I also made the point that since the County Manager (in his wisdom) has withdrawn a motor tax service from the Civic Offices in Ashbourne the workload on Duleek staff has increased further. Almost any day you choose you will see queues stretching out the door of the Duleek Offices.

The other councillors supported the Motion and a letter is to be sent to Minister Roche arguing for more resources.

The situation in relation to Ashbourne is a bit farcical. It’s one of our designated growth towns, we are all looking for a sustainable development, where local services are provided locally, and yet the Manager relocated the motor tax service miles down the road!

I was also in Ratoath during the week to talk to people about the issues facing the growing village. Many residents asked about whether the current rate of population growth would continue. I was able to explain the thinking behind the recently adopted County Development Plan, which will limit the amount of housing allowed in Ratoath over the next six years. In effect, residents can expect to see a lower rate of population growth - it’s a period of consolidation rather than mass expansion.

A major issue at the doorstop was the commute to and from Dublin. One lady told me about her two children travelling up to DCU each day and paying a hundred euro a week in bus fares. I told her about our policy of bus fares from Ratoath. €1 fare each way, which we intend to do by including Ratoath in the commuterland fare structure.

People also complained about the condition of bus stops. I had been in Dublin to the bus stop at Beresford Place on Wednesday and could empathise. The bus stop itself is a disgrace. It's covered in graffiti and a printed timetable wouldn't go amiss.

Beresford Place Bus Stop
Beresford Place bus stop

How can we expect to attract more people out of cars into buses if we don’t think about the end-to-end experience? I wonder if the Chief Executive of Bus Eireann would be happy to let their son or daughter wait at that bus stop on a rainy evening? Especially if the next bus is at least 20 minutes away! I wrote to the Chief Executive and told him as much.

Some good news this week -the long awaited completion of a footpath between Laytown and the school is only days away. It will mean that families can walk with their children down to the school from Inse Bay, Seaview and other local estates in safety. It’s something all of the Councillors have been pushing for over the last two years.

Laytown footpath
The Laytown footpath should be finished before the end of the Easter Holidays

The election is around the corner and at this stage people are asking me what my position is on this issue or on that subject. Here’s a short video on a commitment I’m making for our hospitals.

My Commitment on Hospitals

Monday, April 02, 2007


Taking care of the Environment

Ireland’s future is our young people and this week I was again privileged to be asked to address a class in Ashbourne Community School on Environmental Issues. The class has to do a practical project in the Ashbourne Area about the environment and I was asked to give an overview of the local issues as I see them.

We discussed

1 The lack of litter bins in the area
2 The inadequate recycling facilities
3 Pollution of the Broadmeadow river
4 Impact of the growth in population Ashbourne on the environment

The students were very enthusiastic, and we came up with some ideas for how they might tackle problems, including lobbying the county council, councillors and TDs, issuing a press release about their campaign and distributing a newsletter to increase awareness of the problems.

Their project is ongoing, and I hope to keep in touch with them on it.

I’m also supporting the campaign to hold the forthcoming general election at the weekend. I think this makes it fairer for students and workers to get the time to vote. I know that rumours abound mentioning a poll on a Thursday. My hope is that Bertie will see the sense in a weekend poll.

I was at a meeting in Inse Bay during the week to discuss the commencement of new parking spaces on some of the greens. The spaces were not part of the original application for the 50 houses, but Woodgreen proposed some more parking at the “further information” stage. Some residents were unaware of the parking proposal, so the commencement of them was a nasty surprise.

Inse Bay
Woodgreen commence the construction of new parking spaces in Inse Bay

I’m asking any resident to contact me if they see any evidence of unsafe methods of construction, or if they think the builders are not complying with the planning conditions to the letter.

The Jodi Factory in Duleek is the site of the new Credit Union facility. The old factory is currently being demolished and that involves the removal of some asbestos.

Basically, to remove asbestos, you have to prepare a method statement for its removal, which includes things like the form of removal, protective clothing, transport from site and the name of the licensed landfill facility it’s going to.

I got a call to go and investigate whether the asbestos was being removed illegally. I visited the site, where nothing was happening (although I could make out some roof tiles still in place) and I went down to the Area Administrator and engineer to discuss the situation. The engineer had already been on to the issue and was satisfied that everything was being done correctly. I also rang the Health & Safety Authority (HSA) and they confirmed that they were doing an inspection of the site. LMFM rang me up and asked me to go on Michael Reade's show with Deputy McEntee. I agreed and we did an interview on the subject, basically trying to allay any concerns about due process being followed. Certainly from what I’ve been able to establish all is well with the removal of the asbestos.

The new Credit Union facility will be great for the village and surrounding area and the sooner it comes about the better.

The Irish National Teachers Association held a further meeting in the Boyne Valley Hotel about class sizes. I reckon there were about four hundred people. I was talking to lots of teachers and parents from the East Meath area. What with population growth and poor educational planning, class sizes are amongst the highest in East Meath. That’s something we all are committed to fight.

Census results show 24% growth in Meath East population

Finally - some positive news about the proposed Incinerator. It looks like they might just go away. Better recycling facilities - that's the key!