Monday, March 31, 2008


Coastal Erosion in Action

I had a phone call after the big storms to alert me to the fact that the Laytown Pitch & Putt club had once again suffered damage. The club is one of the few local facilities in in the Laytown and Bettystown area and has a membership of over 100 people. Because of its location (at the edge of the beach) it suffers from coastal erosion.

Beach Erosion 1
The grass now lying on the beach was part of the course fairway!

One of the major enviornmental issues for the country, and not just Meath, is that there appears to be no defined planning strategy for how we deal with coastal erosion. With the advent of global warming the worry is that these storms will increase in frequency, leading to further damages to facilities along our coastline. I told Environment Minister John Gormley about this when he appeared in the Senate on Wednesday.

I also spoke on a number of other issues, including the high costs of mobile phones in Ireland, the new Motor Tax Bill which encourages people to use more emission friendly engines, and a debate on the draft guidelines for new residential housing estates.

As someone who working in the Planning Department of a local authority (the London Boroiugh of Camden) and as someone who actually lives in a newly built housing estate, I was particularly keen to make some points to the Minister. There are so many lessons that can be learned from the last ten years of house building. The need for new playgrounds, community facilities, schools, shops etc. to be put in place at the same time as the houses. I think everyone realises this now, and so the next generation of new homes should benefit from past mistakes. However, it´s not clear how we are going to retrofit badly-needed facilities on the residential areas that currently don´t have them.

And finally, thanks to those people who have left comments on myblog. Unfortunately, I have not been able to publish all of them. Even though some of them were very funny, and I might share the views expressed, I cannot allow anything up on the site that could be libellous. Otherwise, I´d be taken to the cleaners! So if you leave a comment, please omit any bits that could get me in trouble :) Thanks for your understanding.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Are Ministers milking St Pat's Day?

St Patrick's Day approaches and once again our national day is celebrated across the five continents. It's a great opportunity to raise our country's profile and in the process generate additional jobs and tourists to our shores. Therefore it's important to milk the day for all it's worth.

There was a lot of debate about whether some of our Ministers are milking the day in the wrong way. I raised the issue in the Seanad about whether it was really necessary for our Ministers to stay in rooms costing €1,650 a night in Italy. I've stayed in Rome on a few occasions and I know that you can get a fantastic room for €300. Why does a Minister need to spend like Madonna just because he has access to the taxpayers money?

I agree that these foreign trips, although they might sound like great fun to many, can be hard work. I don't begrudge any Minister a bit of privacy and comfort at the end of these days. But really, there has to be some sort of limit brought in for the sakes of decency.

This week the Labour Party introduced a Bill to try and provide increased protection in the workplace for Agency workers. I spoke on the matter on Wednesday night. My worry is that the proposed legislation by the Government will not go far enough. Our Bill was voted down, but myself and the Party expect to table amendments to the government Bill, if it isn't up to scratch.

Some positive developments this week for the residents of Bellewstown. Meath County Council agreed to issue a notice asking a local quarry to cease operations - concerns had been expressed as to whether the quarry was operating legally. My belief is that we need to see a review of the current legislation quarries, a point I made again in the Seanad on Thursday. Well done to the local campign group for their efforts on this.

The good news of the week is the launch of the new Youthreach centre in Bettystown Square. I attended the launch on Friday and spoke to the staff of the centre. It's not before time that this has come to the area. We have one of the highest rates of early school leavers in the country. Full credit has to be given to Peter Kierans and his staff at the VEC. The building also hosts an Adult Education Officer, who is keen to talk to anyone who thinks they have a need for courses. I am confident that the centre will be a big success!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Dublin Airport Authority need to up their game!

We got the chance to debate the issue of Cluster Bombs last week. The entire Senate was in support of the motion against their production and use. I made the point that there are still people dying from unexploded bombs for decades after they are dropped (such as in Laos and Vietnam) and called for money to be specifically allocated to the victims of these bombs.

The Seanad also debated the Fair Trade campaign. I spoke about how it can help to improve the livelihoods for small farmers in the developing world. There are currently 30 Fair Trade towns in Ireland and another 30 are seeking Fair Trade status.

I passed through Dublin Airport at the end of the week. The place is a complete rip-off! Their long-term car parking charges are now €9.50 a day. And, if you park for a part of a day they charge for the full day. So, because I stayed for 2 hours I had to pay €19.

And once you get to the terminal the rip-off continues. I had a cup of black tea (1 tea bag, 1 cup and some hot water, that I was charged €2.75 for, while sitting at a table that looked like it hadn't been cleaned since Christmas.

Dublin Airport
€2.75 to drink your tea from this table

It's time that some pressure was put on Dublin Airport Authority to up their game!

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Labouring to the Top

The Daily Star called up on Tuesday to inquire about my health. They had heard that I was still recuperating after my efforts on Kiliminjaro. I spoke to Catherine Halloran for a bit and she did a very nice piece in the paper on Thursday, including a picture of me at the summit. She called the article "Labouring to the Top".

In the Seanad we debated the issue of Civil Unions. The subject was introduced by Senator David Norris and I spoke in support of his motion. The debate was well attended, both in the public gallery and by Senators, and views were expressed from all sides of the political specturm. In the end, the motion was defeated. Minister Brian Lenihan, who was in the House throughout the debate, says that he intend to introduce the "Heads of a Bill" (I explain what this is in my speech) within the next couple of months. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get an actual Bill on the Statute books.

Wednesday saw another day of gridlock in Dublin, this time brought about by the closure of the Dublin Port Tunnel. A few days previously there was congestion due to some hoardings from Pearse Street flying around. A few weeks ago an accident brought the city to a standstill. I raised the matter in the Seanad and called for the emergency services to review their planning procedures. I don't accept that it should take so long to recover from these events.

I finished off the week with a visit to the opening of a new estate agency in Bettystown, A1 Auctioneers. It was a very pleasant event and I'd like to wish the proprietors, Mary and Val, every success.