Sunday, October 28, 2007


Constituency Commission Report affects Meath East

A delegation from the Ugandan National Parliament was on a visit to Ireland last week. I was fortunate enough to be asked to join them for lunch on one of the days they were in Dublin. They were interested to hear about life in Ireland and seemed particularly keen to talk about issues in relation to farming and trade.

Afterwards they came into the Senate Chamber, where I gave a speech on Education and Life Long Learning. Present throughout the debate was Minister Sean Haughey.

Later, during a debate on the Criminal Justice Bill, I told the Minister for Justice that we need to ensure that laws are not drafted in haste. We were being asked to amend a law that was only introduced by his predecessor earlier on this year.

Minister Haughey was back in the Chamber the following day. I had put down a Motion calling for him to state his intentions with regard to improving the structures for Post Leaving Certificate courses. At Dunboyne College of Further Education last week I had been asked to try to find out what the Minister's Plans are for the sector. His response is here.

This week saw the publication of the Constituency Commissions recommendations on the Dail Boundaries. The review is quite detailed when it comes to the Meath East / Louth Area. I will be studying it in depth over the coming while to get a sense of what it all means.

On Friday I attended a "Bounceathon" by the students of the ABACAS school on Fair Street, Drogheda, as part of the national Telethon event. Mayor Anthony Donohoe was also in attendance. I was tempted to get up on the trampoline - it looked like fun, but then I remembered my knees and thought better of it. Fair dues to the Mayor for throwing caution to the wind and stress-testing his ligaments!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Presentation Night at the Dunboyne Castle Hotel

Dunboyne College has gone from strength to strength. This year 140 students graduated from the college and there are now over 180 students enrolled for next year. I attended the presentation ceremony on Monday night in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel. Myself and John Fanning, Chairman of the VEC, presented the award to the students. Afterwards I got a chance to talk to a few of them. It was inspirational to hear how some people had made huge efforts to go back into the education system to try to better their lives and the lives of their families.

The Incinerator outside Duleek got permission to be extended on Tuesday. I spoke about it on Newstalk on Lunchtime and then in the evening on Drivetime on RTE 1. It was a nightmare getting to the studio in Leinster House. I was leaving a meeting in Santry and it took me an hour to get to Merrion Square. I ended up dumping my car on a meter on Mount Street and running the last 10 minutes into the Leinster House studio. I had just about recovered my breath when the interview started.

Wednesday was a busy day for me in the chamber. I had to take the Order of Business at the start of the proceedings - I raised the subject of literacy in Ireland. Then I had to give a ten minute speech on the National Drugs Strategy followed by a speech on Crime (these are both my areas of responsibility within the Seanad). I've put a link to them all here

I also learned a lesson in house rules. I was sitting in a meeting prior to the crime debate and I knew that I would be speaking after Senator Phil Prendergast. I kept my eye on the debate proceedings (which are shown on the TV screen in the meeting room). When Phil started I made my excuses and left the meeting, leaving my jacket on the chair. Of course, there was no way the Seanad usher was going to let me into the Chamber without a jacket (I must have missed that rule when I read the Standing Orders), so I had to run back for the jacket. When I finally got into the Chamber it was too late for that slot, so I had to wait for another slot (about 50 minutes later). It's like sitting on the runway at Heathrow while other planes take off before you.

On Thursday I took the Order of Business again, and I brought up the issue of pension payments. I also had to give a speech on Trade and the IDA.

I got accosted by a member of the public on Friday as I was leaving Leinster House. A few of the Meath East members were up for a meeting about Ashbourne and as we left the Kildare Street Gate we were laughing about something. A total stranger came up to us and started haranguing us saying "how can you be so happy when the country is in such as mess". From now on I'm going to go around with a frown on my face, and only smile when I get back to Meath.

And smiling I was on Friday as the Drogs won the Eircom league for the first time. As someone who stood on the terraces since the mid-70's it was quite an emotional occasion. We were 1 -0 up from midway through the first half, and a win would seal the title. When Cork equalised in the second half it looked like we might have to wait until next week. So, when Bates scored with a cracker with just a few minutes left the place went wild. I have never seen such an outburst of pure exhilaration. It was better than the reaction to Fabio's goal at Landsdowne Road in the FAI cup final. We knew the title had finally come to Drogheda.

Eircom league winners, Oct 07
Myself and Ged Nash on the hallowed turf

I made it in to the Mansion House on Saturday for a Seminar on the Right to Read campaign. Cllr Aodhan O'Riordan put it all together and is running an excellent campaign to try and improve literacy in the country.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Seanad Motion on Education

The Meath East Labour Party Constituency Council met on Monday night in Ashbourne. It was mostly taken up with the Director of Election's report on the May election. We had a healthy debate about what worked and what didn't and what we need to do differently next time (get more votes!). We also agreed on the list of delegates for next month's conference in Wexford and discussed the forthcoming local elections. It was also an opportunity to talk about the key issues currently affecting the local area and discuss what we can do to work on them.

Every month or so we get the opportunity to introduce our own Bill or Motion in the Seanad. This week we introduced a motion on Education, calling for a new National Convention to tackle the whole issue of school access. My contribution can be seen here. We called for a vote at the end of the debate, but we didn't have sufficient numbers to get it through.

The situation in Burma continues to be a cause of concern. We had an all-party debate on the matter in the Seanad on Thursday. My speech can be seen here

Friday saw the Drogs visit Tolka Park in the top-of-the table clash against Shamrock Rovers. There were about 700 of us in the visitors section. It's a long time since I've seen that level of support for an away league game. It was a cracking match which we won 2-0. The game next Friday in Drogheda could end up being the title-clincher, so it could be a great night to be in Drogheda.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Climate Change Bill in the Seanad

This week the Seanad initiated a Climate Change Bill, which seeks to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced in Ireland. As the Party's Spokesperson on the Environment I was tasked with providing our response to the Bill. I spoke in favour of the Bill and my contribution can be found here:

The public gallery was packed throughout the debate, largely because of the publicity that had been generated. In advance of the Bill myself and the other Senators recoved about 300 emails from people asking me to support the Bill.

The Minister of the Environment came in and responded to the Bill and due to the support from within the Chamber it will go on to the next stage.

For the next couple of days I was still getting emails asking me to "Support the Bill on Wednesday" even thought the event had passed. With a bit of digging I discovered that the home page of the The Friends of the Earth website is still asking visitors to send us an email. I rang them to ask them to take it down, but today (Sunday) the link is still up and visitors are wasting their time sending myself and the other Senators emails asking them to support a vote that has already taken place. I hope they get around to taking it down soon and updating their viewers on the fact that the vote was carried.

On Thursday I managed to raise the issue about car parks in commuter areas. At the moment the charges at car parks, such as the new one at Gormanston station, aren't regulated, so Iarnrod Eireann can increase the charges by whatever percent they like. I asked that any increase should have to be sanctioned by the Minister, as is the case with train fares. You can see my contribution, and the response of the Minister here

Saturday saw the annual AGM of the Labour Equality Conference at Mansion House, and I was asked to speak to it on "How minorities are treated by the media". On the stage with me were Joan Burton, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (just elected on Thursday) and City Channel star Izabela Chudzicka. It was a very stimulating debate, which over-run the time slot. I got to speak to quite a few people afterwards from various minority communities and heard at first hand the problems that many are experiencing in relation to housing, health and education.