Sunday, September 30, 2007


Don't forget your wellies...

I went along to the national Ploughing Championships in Tullamore on Wednesday. The one thing I was warned to do was to bring a pair of Wellingtons. The night before I put them at the front door, but what with the early start and all I completely missed them in the morning. I was going through Kentstown before I remembered them.

I got to the farm early enough and luckily the ground was nice and dry and I managed to find my way to the Labour Party marquee without getting too much muck on my shoes.

I spoke about rural transport, and how it leads to isolation for country dwellers. There were quite a few people coming and going, including Michael Ludlow and Marjan Boers from Meath Leader. I hadn't seen them since the last Meath Leader meeting I attended (I had to resign on becoming a Senator) so it was nice to bump into them. I also spoke to a few students who were there for the day. Whilst a few of them were in the tent to learn a bit about the political system, others were more interested in the free pens and the badges. Luckily we had lots with us.

I got back to Dublin in time for the start of the Seanad, where we discussed a Bill on Copyright issues. That evening I was elected as our party's Whip in the Seanad. After the election all six of us went out for a bite to eat.

In the Seanad on Thursday I spoke about the VHI Bill, asking Mary Harney a question on access to hospitals. I also spoke on the Are Lingus decision on Shannon airport. I heard later from my dad that RTE's Oireachtas Report covered a bit of my VHI contribution, which was a first.

I met with the anti-incineration lobby group on Friday to discuss recent developments. There is some cause for optimism about the proposed plant in Duleek, in that the proposal to put levies on incineration waste will mean that it is becoming more cost-effective to develop additional recycling facilities instead of incineration plants.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Alignments at Newgrange

The lack of an integrated bus service between Newgrange and Drogheda bus station was brought to my attention at the beginning of the week. Although the Interpretive Centre is open until 17:45 in Winter and 18:45 in Summer, the bus to town leaves before this. The result is that staff and tourists are often stranded at the centre, and have to hitch back or call a taxi.

I thought that it would be a useful idea to highlight this issue and managed to get the story covered by the Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Mirror, Star and Mail. It was also the main story in "The Irishman's Diary" the following day. As a result, it appears that Bus Eireann and going to sit down and review the bus service to the centre. Things may hopefully improve!

I got a lot of phone calls and texts about the RTE programme on Tuesday night, "The Naked Election", which followed candidates around during the recent election. The programme had a clip of me just as I heard the result. I haven't seen the programme yet (I was in Kilkenny) but seemingly I looked as sick as a dog (which is probably how I felt!).

I was delighted to be appointed Labour Party Spokesperson on Commuter Issues. The role covers transport, environment, planning, education and health issues in the new peri-urban communities in counties like Meath, Wicklow, Kildare and down the country in Cork, Galway and Limerick. My responsibility will be to highlight issues of government policy that affect people living in these communities, and to suggest where changes and inmprovements could be made to current legislation to improve the quality of life in these areas. I'm looking forward to the job!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


My debut on RTE's Questions and Answers

I had my first outing on RTE’s Questions & Answers on Monday night. The show is watched by over a quarter of a million people and is one of the station’s flagship programmes.

I did some preparations on Monday afternoon, got my hair cut and purchased a new tie. Then I went home for a shower and drove over to a friend’s house for dinner. They then drove me to the studio. On the way in I was introduced to the Director General, Mr Cathal Goan and I also bumped into Ruth, a friend of mine who is producing a different show for the station.

After my make-up was applied I was shown to the Green Room. This is where we all get to meet each other in advance of the programme.

When we got to the studio I was taken aback by the size of the audience. I had always assumed there were a hundred or so people in the audience. In fact, it was only about 40. What’s more, I recognised about a quarter of them! A few were from my own party, but I also spotted a number of known members of other parties that I had come in contact with over the years.

The show itself flew by. I felt that I took some time to warm up and I was really surprised at the end of the Shannon debate to discover that the show was over.

I’ve put a link in to the show here:

The contest of the Deputy Leadership of the party continues. This week saw hustings in Mullingar on Tuesday night, which I attended. There were about 100 people from the Midlands Region in attendance. Both candidates (Burton and O’Sullivan) were good. It will be a close contest, for sure.

I had an early start on Thursday because I was driving Eamon G down to Shannon, where we had a meeting about the Aer Lingus decision to scrap the Shannon – Heathrow services. We got to Shannon at noon and had three meetings in a row with staff and businesses in the area.

Thursday was my first day in the Seanad. It was largely a ceremonial occasion, the only function was to officially declare each Senator elected and to elect a Cathaoirleach. I was accompanied by four of my family for the occasion. Afterwards, I had to drive down to New Ross for an engagement and by the time I got home it was one am.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Two Elections in a Week

Because of the law governing dual mandates, I ceased to be a Councillor at the time of my election to the Seanad. At the Council meeting last Monday my successor was co-opted.

The law stipulates that when a councillor dies, retires, resigns or is excluded then rather than holding a by-election, the successor is appointed onto the council. The procedures outlining the appointment are set-out in each Council's Standing Orders, so they can vary from County to County.

The process is straight-forward if the councillor was elected for a particular party, in which case the party nominates the successor to be co-opted. However, the situation is different if, as in my case, the councillor was elected as an independent.

For instance, standing orders in Cork state that if an independent councillor goes, then their seat must be given to the candidate who finished just below them in the original election result of June 2004. In early summer of this year when an independent councillor died their seat went to a Sinn Fein person.

In Meath my seat also had to go to an independent. When I was elected to the Council in June 2004 I was asked to give a name in case of eventualities such as this. I gave the name of my election agent, Mr Eoin Holmes, and it was his name that went before the council for co-option on Monday.

I have known Eoin since school days, when he lived in Beamore, Co Meath. He now lives with his wife and family in Clonalvy (close to Ardcath and Stamullen).

I'm glad to say that the Council procedures worked well and he was formally adopted as a Councillor for the Slane Electoral Area on Monday afternoon last.

I wish him well!

The week also saw the election of Eamon Gilmore as Labour Party Leader. As his Director of Elections I was delighted with the result. It was a fairly straight-forward campaign from the beginning, and although it involved a few early mornings and late nights, it was a very enjoyable couple of weeks. Now the hard work starts....

Sunday, September 02, 2007


At the races

The holiday season is well and truly over. I went hiking in the Tatra mountains in Slovakia and then I went down to Istria in Croatia to lie on a beach for a week. Both places were very relaxing and I got plently of sleep.

The day before I was due to come back I got a text message simply saying that "Pat's gone". For the next hour I was on the phone trying to determine exactly which Pat we were talking about and where he had departed to. Once I managed to work out the details I got to thinking abot the situation. The phone was buzzing all afternoon and included a call from the Sunday Business Post, asking we to write a piece for the paper.

After dinner I found an internet cafe and wrote up the article and sent it to the Editor. Then I managed to get to a local cafe for a few last drinks of the holiday.

When I got home the next day there were various messages at the office. I knew I would be supporting Eamon Gilmore and I informed him of this.

Monday was busy, what with starting to catch up with constituency work and ringing around branch memebrs to get their feel about the leadership campaign. I was delighted to receive a call from Eamon G, asking me to chair the campaign, which I immediately accepted. Throughout the week I worked on putting a structure around things.

Bellewstown Races were in full swing when I arrived there on Thursday evening. I got to speak to people from all over the county. I met Councillor Jimmy Cudden and his family and chatted to them for a while. They had just backed a winner so were in great form. I also met a few people from the Drogheda Independent, who had taken a table at the event.

The big story of the week was the loss of over 200 jobs in the local Coke factory. It's a big blow to Drogheda and East Meath and certainly we all need to work together to try and ensure that more jobs come to the town as quickly as possible to make up for this loss.