Sunday, July 29, 2007


Senate results are in

I got elected to the Seanad on Wednesday morning on the first count. It was a great result for everyone who has helped out over the last while, and it is a tremendous honour to be put into this role.

I have to thank loads of people, and will have to limit it to those that helped just in the Senate campaign. Locally, Aidan, Greg, John K, Brendan H and others helped with the NEC nomination process. On the NEC Peter Keaney and Mark Langhammer kindly nominated me for the role, Mike Allen and Adrian Langan gave me some very sound advice on the process. Joe Costello put a hell of a lot of work in as Director of Elections. Ita McAuliffe provided lots of assistance, Thanks to Deputy Joanna Tuffy for her advice on campaigning and to all of the party candidates, Alan, Alex, Brendan *2, Eric, Ivana, Michael and Phil. We passed information to each other along the way and had some fun in the process. Back at base Alice and Fiona were great and on the road I was fortunate to have the company of Keith M and Paul Q. On the ground much thanks to John Gilroy, John Kelleher, John Ryan, Billy Kyne and Michael O'Brien.

Of course, it couldn't have happened without TDs and Councillors going out and casting their vote, so I'm much grateful for everyone's support.

And finally, E, J and S of the KC were their usual brilliant selves.

Brendan, Joe and Dominic
Myself, Deputy Joe Costello and Senator Brendan Ryan

On Friday evening we had the constituency mid-summer party. It had been arranged for a few months, and because of the result it turned out to be a celebration party. We booked a room in the Ashbourne House Hotel and we had a great night. I had intended to use the occasion to announce the retirement of my Director of Elections, but the fella has done the party some service, so I might leave him where he is for the moment.

Finally, some people have already been on to me asking what this means locally. The key thing to say is that I will continue to be available for all issues in the East Meath area. If you have a problem or a question, get on to me and if I can help I will. It's business as usual!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Another 700 homes granted for South Drogheda

This week´s Slane area meeting saw some good news in relation to road safety in the County. The engineers, in conjunction with the new road safety officer Mike Finnegan, have agreed to reduce speed limits outside all schools in the county down to 50kph.

We were shown maps of the vicinity of each school, highlighting where the 50kph zones will take effect. We were also shown the proposals for other areas where speed reductions are being proposed.

As Councillors we were all given an opportunity to comment on the proposals and to suggest changes. In the main, I had very few comments. I particularly welcomed the proposed changes at Bellewstown, where the limit will now stretch for 1500m at the top of the hill, and in Donore village and at the Grammar school.

Myself and Councillor Tom Kelly proposed to extend the speed limits in Stamullen, so now there will be a reduced limit in place from outside the school on Cockhill Road right down to the village, then across the Gormanstown Road as far as the college. I also asked for the limit to be extended along Bryanstown Lane, from the Eagle service station right across to Stubbs Hill. This part of south Drogheda is growing rapidly, with 400 houses currently under construction.

The engineers are going to take away our comments and work them up before the speed limits go on public display.

And in relation to south Drogheda growing rapidly, I heard on Friday that Niall Mellon of Menolly Homes has received permission for another 700 houses at the top of the Rathmullen road beside the Highlands. This one development is an increase in the town's population of in the order of 5%. In the last year the planners have given permission for 1,100 houses on this side of Drogheda. They need to be sure other agencies are aware of their actions.

Finally, my Senate campaign finished last week. Thanks to all those who helped out, whether by driving me around, ringing friends, or just plugging the gaps when I was aware. Results come out next week, so we will know then.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Summer School in Galway

The Local Area Councillors met this week for a presentation on the Beach By-laws from a representative of the Beach Advisory Committee. A lot of effort has gone into reviewing the draft byelaws, and now the committee has come back with some proposed improvements. The view from the Councillors was that the officials should seek to take these on-board before publishing the final bye-laws. After all, that's why we set up the advisory committee in the first place.

On Friday I headed down to Galway for the Tom Johnson Summer School. The topic for the weekend was "Where next for the Left". About 150 attended the weekend in the Menlo Park Hotel. In attendance were about half of the Parliamentary Party, including Pat R, Eamon G, Michael D, Jan O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Tommy Broughan, Joanna Tuffy and Ciaran Lynch. I spoke on Migration on Sunday morning. Although the session started at 11 the room was quite full. Generally Sunday morning's events are the ones that see fewer attendees, because of the night before.

Tom Johnson 2007
Henry Upton, George Cummins, James Heffernan and Alan Kelly at the Summer School

I also had a chat with Jeremy Corbyn MP, who was speaking at one of the sessions in the afternoon. Jeremy was my MP when I lived in Islington and I'd attended events he had spoken at in the past. It was good to hear him speak again.

The weekend was great fun. Although we've just had a poor performance in the general election the mood was very "can do" and upbeat. There's lots of work to be done, but there's a hell of a lot of talent and energy in the party.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Local Plan for Stamullen out for Consultation

The Local Area Plan for Stamullen moved a step forward this week. At the Council meeting on Monday it was agreed to put the plan on public display. The plan provides details of the future development of the village, particularly between the Gormanston Road and the Cockhill Road. It comes about because of a deal done by the GAA with local landowners. The key points are that the GAA swap their land for 3 new pitches and the community gets a new linear park along the river Devlin. There's also an extension to the school site and a new sewerage treatment facility - infrastructure that is badly needed by Stamullen and without which it would not have been possible to allow the plans to proceed. In return the landowners get land zoned for residential purposes. The deal was agreed a few years back, but like everything else, it takes time for something like this to reach fruition. This latest stage means that the public have the right to look at the plans and provide their comments prior to the Local Area Plan being formally adopted by the council. The draft plan is available to view at the One Stop Shop in Duleek and I'd encourage people to drop in and have a look.

On Saturday I attended a Conference on Local Authority Planning issues. It was fairly well attended and I got to meet a lot of fellow Councillors there. One particularly good session was hosted by Councillor Tom Kelleher of Fingal County Council. He covered the issue of how Councillors can use local government leglislation to achieve their aims and also had a general discussion about how to constrain development when local services are not available to accommodate additional building. I made the point that what we are doing in places like Donacarney and Bettystown is to limit development by means of a cap for the life of the plan, and that this has now been incorporated into the County Development Plan. Other councils seem to be doing similar things - Councillor Kelleher outlined how Fingal have a zoning objective to zone residential land only for the life of one plan (5 years). That allows then to revisit their decision at the time of the next plan and if necessary, dezone the land without fear of being sued for compensation by the landowners. Perhaps we could look at something similar in Meath when we come to producing the local area plans for our towns and villages next year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Quarrying in East Meath

I attended another public meeting about the local impact of a new quarry, this time in Bellewstown. Over the last few months a quarry has "intensified use" to the point where locals are very concerned about the impact on safety around the top of Bellewstown Hill (and outside the school).

The whole issue of quarry permissions was meant to be addressed a few years back by the government. However, it would appear that a few loophopes may exist that need tightening. Also, there are real problems with enforcing conditions. For example, if the operation of a quarry has been curtailed to certain hours (e.g. not before 7am and not after 6pm) then how is this actually enforced? From my experience around East Meath it would appear that it's entirely a matter of self-enforcement. So, if a quarry owner decides to open earlier then what happens? I've passed on numerous allegations of early-opening by other quarries around Meath to the enforcement section of the County Council, who claim they are unable to do much because they don't have the resources to validate any complaints about breaches of conditions.

Quarries are essential for the construction industry and it's also more effective to source the building material closest to where it's needed, so I accept that there are strong arguements for the need to have quarries within the north Leinster area. As well as that, most quarries probably do comply with the conditions imposed on them. However, it's the rogue operators who are causing problems for all of us.

My view is that the law needs to be be revised. I'd also say that there's a strong case to be made for additional funding to be given to local authorities from the government to enable effective monitoring of quarries and enforcement of operating conditions.

Meanwhile, the residents of Bellewstown are now going through the same heartache and frustration that has happened elsewhere in County Meath over the last few years.