Sunday, June 22, 2008


Meath East gets extra Council seats

This week saw the publication of the new report on the representation on local councils. The report has major implications for Meath County Council. The Slane electoral area (where I was a Councillor before I became a Senator) has increased from five seats to six seats. The Kells area has dropped from six to five seats and the Dunshaughlin area has increased from six to seven seats. This more accurately reflects the populations within each area. Our constituency council will meet very shortly to discuss our strategy in the light of these changes.

The changes are welcome and reflect a movement to improve and reform the whole electoral system. One key element in the reform will be the setting up of an Electoral Commission. I got a chance to ask Minister Gormley about the proposed Electoral Commission during the week. He was attended the Environment Committee, of which I am a member, to outline his response to our report on how to improve the election system in Ireland.

I queried the amount of time it is talking to set up the Electoral Commission. His response was that he will make sure that this is done as quickly as possible. I will keep an eye on this!

The prevalence of drugs in Irish society is a concern of everyone. This week the Progressive Democrats tabled a motion in relation to the new National Drugs Strategy. I am my party's Seanad Spokesperson on Crime and in my speech I concentrated on harm reduction strategies, such as needle exchange programmes.

The disparity between supermarket prices in the north and the south was highlighted in a report this week. I raised the issue in the Seanad on Thursday morning, and my contribution was subsequently broadcast on that evening's Oireachtas Report. The price differential is having a major impact on shopkeepers and shoppers in the Louth / Meath area.

I also raised the subject of trade agreements between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific bloc countries. These agreements are meant to be signed off within the next few months but there is still a lot of disquiet about the impact they will have on the developing countries. I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider making changes to them.

Discussing Trade Agreements between the EU and the ACP countries

That evening I attended the AGM of Lagavooren Manor Residents association in Mother Hughes pub in Drogheda. I am more used to being in Mother Hughes apres match - it's the main watering hole for the Drogs fans - so it was a new occasion to attend a meeting there. Despite the German / Portuguese match there was a fair crowd, and I ended up with a number of actions to chase up in relation to the estate.

Saturday saw the annual Pride parade in Dublin. The Labour Party had organised a bus for the event and I dropped up to join in for a while. Despite the awful weather there was a reasonably sized crowd, including my colleague Senator Deirdre de Burca (a Wicklow Green) and Deputy Joe Costello.

I couldn't stay long because I was invited to a Family Fun Day in Dunboyne Castle Estate. When I got there the rain was bucketing down and everyone was indoors. It's always a pity when events fall foul of the weather. Just as long as the whole summer isn't like this!

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