Sunday, December 23, 2007


Mobile Phone Bills - French Pay less and talk more

An interesting finding from the latest survey by the Communications Regulator was that Ireland pays very high rates for mobile phone usage compared to the rest of Europe. The French talk longer on their mobiles and yet pay about €100 less a year than we do. It's something I raised in the Seanad, asking the Minister to look at ways of reducing costs.

I also brought up the subject of the costs of electricity for industry. At the moment we pay 20% higher than the European average. It means that the costs of doing business are higher in this area, and given the economic outlook it's something that the ESB should be brought to task on - they made over €200 million last year in profit.

I am a member of the Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs and this week the issue of Extraordinary Rendition was discussed. We had invited in the Irish Human Rights Commission to talk through their recent report on the matter. Dr Maurice Manning from the IHRC attended with his staff, as did representatives from the Departments of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Transport. I was one of the (few) members calling for independent, real-time investigations to be carried out.

The Seanad broke up on Thursday afternoon for the year. I've certainly enjoyed the experience to date. A key part of being a member of the opposition is to highlight areas of concern and put pressure on the government for changes to be made in these areas. I've probably spoken in the Chamber about 40 or 50 times on a very wide range of subjects. Next year I hope to continue to do this.

This will be my last blog for 2007. It's been a hugely exciting year for me, what with the preparation for the general election, the campaign itself, the Seanad campaign and then settling in to my new role as a member of Seanad Eireann. I couldn't have gone through all of this without the support of a large number of people, so much thanks to everyone for their help in this and previous years. Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007


More Pressure needed to ensure Le Ceile gets the go ahead

I had my first opportunity to suggest amendments to a Live Bill this week when I was responsible for suggesting some amendments on the Draft Defamation Bill. In the House was Brian Lenihan, Minister for Justice. Although the issue is not in my area, one of the other Senators couldn't attend and I covered the topic for him.

On Tuesday I had a meeting in the Le Ceile Educate Together school outside Drogheda. The parents, teachers and children had hoped to receive funding from the Department of Education for the construction of a permanent school. I brought the matter up in the Seanad on Wednesday evening. My speech, and the Minister's response, can be seen in the following video.

Earlier that day I made a speech on broadband rollout across the country, which can be read here.

Thursday saw the signing of the European Reform Treaty in Lisbon. On the way in to Leinster House on Thursday I noticed a truck campaigning for a No Vote. I briefly mentioned the issue on the Order of Business of the Seanad, calling for all sides to work for the passing of the referendum on the matter.

I spent Friday delivering leaflets to houses in the constituency. It was good to get a bit of exercise for a change, rather than sitting in an office all day. It was also nice to go around estates that I haven't been into in a few months and get an update on some of the issues from local residents.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


British - Irish Parliamentary Body meets in Oxfordshire

I spent the weekend at the British Irish Parliamentary Body meeting in Oxfordshire. These meetings take place every six months, alternating between a location in the UK and one in Ireland. In all there were about 50 representatives from parliaments across Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.

I got the chance to meet a lot of Seantors and TDs from the Oireachtas that I hadn't met socially before. I also spoke on a couple of issues including the plight of elderly Irish emigrants in the UK and the need to harmonise the driving penalty points system between the North and South of Ireland.

In the Seanad I spoke on the issue of Reform of the Seanad. I would hope that we can see real change so that the franchise can be extended from the current base.

The news that the government is to launch a €15m campaign to raise awareness on climate change was good news and is a positive development in the lead up to the Bali summit on Climate Change.

I was appointed to the Labour Party National Executive Committee as a Parliamentary Party nominee and we met for the first time on Saturday. It was my first NEC meeting and, what with the new make-up of the group, future meetings promise to be lively affairs.

Afterwards I flew out to Niger in West Africa for a study tour of the aid programme in action. With a population of 13 million, Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. I spent four days in meetings with aid agencies, ministers (including the President, Mamadou Tandja) and touring various villages to see programmes in action. These included water irrigation schemes, horticulture farms and a teacher training college. I have to prepare a detailed paper on the visit for the Foreign Affairs Committee, and when I do I will put a link on to it here.