Monday, April 28, 2008


Lisbon comes to Termonfeckin

This week saw the continuation of our Commuter Belt survey. Myself and the team were out delivering on Tuesday morning. - we managed to do about 1,000 houses in Duleek in a couple of hours. At this stage people are beginning to send back their responses and the results promise to be very interesting.

I raised the issue of Broadband speeds in the Seanad on Tuesday afternoon. Eircom are suggesting that higher broadband speeds are provided in the Gateway towns. Why stop there! There are thousands of workers travelling into Dublin every day from towns across the commuter belt. If people had high-speed broadband in places like Ashbourne and Ratoath then more people could work from home. Also, we might see more businesses relocating to these towns as a result.

I spoke on the Lisbon Treaty twice this week. Both times it was in the company of the Minister for Europe, Dick Roche. On Tuesday we shared a platform at the Irish Countrywomen's Association event in Termonfeckin, County Louth. Also on the platform were Donegalmen Deputy Joe McHugh and Senator Pearse Doherty.

It was a well-attended event, and the audience even included my mother (a local ICA member), who was very well-behaved.

I also spoke on the Treaty the following day in the Seanad. It was a busy day there. I had to take the Order of Business in the morning and later on I spoke about primary schooling.

A video of the Order of Business is below.

On Saturday I attended the Meath East Community Association Open Day at Laytown school. The hall was packed with table stalls of various local and national groups including the Laytown Pitch & Putt club, Meath Partnership, the Army Reserve, Sonairte - the National Ecology Centre and Meath Local Sports Partnership. Congrats to MECA for organising such a successful day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Life in the Commuter Belt

As the Spokesperson on Commuter Belt Issues I've started a major survey of life in Commuter belt towns. Over the next two weeks we will be sending out leaflets to towns in Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. In all, up to 80,000 households will receive a questionnaire from myself and the local Councillor for the area, asking questions about health, education, crime, planning and entertainment facilities in their area.

Up to now there has been little real research undertaken on Commuter Belt issues. I'm hoping that the feedback will give us a real grounding for understanding concerns and more importantly, allow us to develop policies to improve the quality of life for residents of the Belt.

The economy continues to be a concern with further announcements this week of job losses. A recent economic report on Ireland calls for more investment in areas such as education to help to maintain our economic growth. In the Seanad I pointed out that the report calls for more help to be given to lone parent families and that more needs to be invested into the education system.

The Nation buried our former President, Dr Paddy Hillery on Thursday morning. Dr Hillery was given a State Funeral, which I was privileged to attend. It as a well-
managed, respectful event and a fine way to mark his passing.

The week also saw the passing of a new Criminal Justice Bill. Its aim is to increase international co-operation for cross-border crimes. Minister Lenihan was in the House on Thursday for the debate, during which I spoke briefly on the benefits of the Bill.

I was in the Newgrange Lodge in Donore this week to open the latest art exhibition of one of our local artists. Many of the works on display resonated with the local landscapes - Newgrange, Oldbridge, the Boyne Canal. The opening was well attended was very enjoyable.

The Lisbon Reform Treaty is now less than two months away. We held a briefing night for our prospective canvassers on Friday in Kelly's of Ashbourne. The purpose was to increase people's knowledge of the treaty and agree on a strategy for spreading awareness of the benefits of the Treaty.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Pottering in the House

The works to upgrade Duleek sewerage system continues. Over the last few weeks residents in High Meadows Station Road Duleek have had to put up with road closures and diversions. I met with some of the residents on Monday night. They were livid that the Council didn't inform residents about the road closure in advance. As a result a lot of people were inconvenienced. Coupled with that the diversionary route was down narrow lanes behind The Commons - totally inadequate.

The work is going to continue throughout Duleek village for the next year (at least!). I spoke to the engineers and called for more communication, better management of the roadworks, proper notification to businesses and residents and adequate diversions to be put in place. Hopefully they will learn for the messy situation that arose over the last few weeks.

I was called to a meeting with residents from Kilegland House and Killegland Hall in Ashbourne, who are experiencing anti-social behaviour in their car-parks. It seems like a lot of the behaviour is alcohol related. I brought the matter up in the Seanad the following day,

On Tuesday the Seanad was addressed by the President of the European Parliament, Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, MEP. He spoke on a wide range of issues, including the European Reform Treaty.

I repeated some of his remarks at a meeting in Laytown that evening. The meeting was held to discuss and explain the changes and benefits that will arise from the adoption of the Treaty. The feedback from the meeting was that in general, it appears that people feel they don't have enough information on what the Treaty proposes, a point I made in the Seanad on Wednesday.

This week a delegation of Algerian parliamentarians came to visit Leinster House. On Wednesday I was asked to meet them for a half an hour. I had imagined that the event would be quite informal, maybe myself and another half dozen Irish parliamentarians grabbing a coffee and moving around the room chatting to them. However, when I arrived at the room a lady from the Department of Foreign Affairs stopped me from going in.

"Enda Kenny's not finished speaking yet" she said.

I noticed that I was the only one waiting to enter the room. Alarms bells started ringing.

"Just what exactly is the format here" I asked.

""Oh, has no-one told you? Deputy Kenny is speaking for 30 minutes, then you are on for 30, then they go for an audience with An Taoiseach" she replied.

I'm afraid my language in response was less than Parliamentarian, and I turned the air blue. I had nothing prepared at all. However, needs must, and so when Enda came out I went in.

There were about ten senior Algerian parliamentarians around the table. I took my place opposite them and proceeded, with the help of a translator, to chat to them until it was time for them to go to the Bert.

For my efforts I got an invite to Algeria and a large tray of fresh dates!

From there I went down to a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tibet. We were given a presentation from the Irish Tibet Solidarity Group. Their delegation included a young lady who had escaped from Tibet. She gave a heart-wrenching account of some of the atrocities visited upon her and her family. At one stage she broke down, but managed to recover to finish her presentation. Myself and Senator David Norris co-sponsored a motion calling for dialogue between the Chinese and the Tibetans, a motion which was carried unanimously. The following morning I brought up the issue of Tibet and China in the Seanad.

The race to be Mayor of London is hotting up. With just a few weeks left until polling day the main contenders, Ken Livingstone (Labour) and Boris Johnson (Conservative) are reputed to be neck and neck. Myself, Cllr Dermot Lacey and a few other Irish members went over to help with some canvassing in Kilburn on Saturday. Ken's reception on the streets was mixed. After being Mayor for eight years everyone knows him and they either love him or hate him.

Dermot, Ken & Dom
Myself, Cllr Dermot Lacey and Mayor Livingstone in Kilburn Irish centre.

The week ended on a sad note with the death of President Hillery. I met the man briefly once, in the late '70s. He came down to a scouting event (Jamborora) in Mount Melleray, Waterford that I was at. He always struck me as the epitome of what a President should be - dignified, gracious, accessible. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Kells picks its Candidate for Local Elections '09

I attended an event for the screening of new films by emerging Irish film makers in Drogheda Arts Centre. The evening was launched by the actor, film-maker, and playwright Mr Peter Sheridan. I had the pleasure of introducing him.

Arts Centre Speech

Speaking at the Drogheda Arts Centre (Film Director Fiona Ashe is on the left)
One of the films on display was about the M3 and the Tara Valley by the Director Fiona Ashe. You can check it out on youtube.

Alveno Heights estate in Laytown continues to suffer from a lack of investment. Despite high hopes in the last couple of years that work would be done, there are still no concrete timescales for the works. I took some time off to go canvassing around the estate last week and it's clear that opinions are still strong on the issue: the upgrade should not be linked to the provision of additional housing on the green areas.

This week saw the selection of our candiate for the June '09 local elections for the Kells electoral Area. Meath has five electoral areas, Slane (where I live), Dunshaughlin, Navan, Trim and Kells. Dunshaughlin and part of Kells, with Slane, form Meath East constituency, Navan and Kells form Meath West. I chaired the convention, which chose Cllr Brian Collins from Kells as our candidate.

Kells Area Selection Convention

Cllr Brian Collins, Cllr Tommy Grimes and myself at the Headford Arms Hotel

Brian won a seat on the Town Council in '04 on his first attempt. He also ran in the General Election last year in Meath West. So, he has been consistently building his profile in the area. It will be a tough campaign but I think he's going to win a seat.

I also headed north to Dundalk during the week and met our new Dundalk Candidate, Frank O'Brien. Frank has high hopes of taking a seat next year, and was in buoyant mood after his selection. Over the next few months we will be putting candidates in place across the northeast - the elections will be upon us before we know it!