Sunday, April 05, 2009

 

Mullingar Conference

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Our “Annual Conference” took place last weekend in Mullingar. I say “Annual” because it’s just four short months since our last one in Kilkenny. The move to an Annual Conference was agreed a couple of years back, and it’s just the way that things fell that we had two so close together.

The event was a success. There were many new faces there, not least from my own constituency of Meath East. The recent drive for new members, in the form of a “Membership Month” appears to have been successful. Certainly, we’ve managed to attract quite a few from around County Meath. Each new member brings energy, drive and helps to extend our network of contacts throughout local communities.

I managed to get myself “bumped” off the speakers list at the Conference. I had received confirmation that I would be speaking about Wave Power on the Saturday morning, and duly did a bit of research and prepared a script. Because my slot was at 9:10 in the morning I made sure that I stayed off the sauce and went to bed at a reasonable hour on the Friday evening. I presented myself on time on Saturday morning (even getting to the hall before the Conference starts) but because of some issue in relation to time availability I was told that I couldn’t speak. In the process a huge swathe of delegates was deprived of my musings on the future of renewable energy in Ireland. I hope no lasting damage was done.

The conference heard from many of our June local election candidates, including Meath’s Tracy McElhinney (she’s running in the Trim area) and Michael McLoughlin (He’s running in the Dunshaughlin area with Niamh McGowan and John King). Both Tracy and Michael spoke very well and were broadcast live on RTE1.

I also got the chance to meet our new candidate for Europe in Ireland North West, Susan O’Keefe. From talking to her I’d say she is going to be one of the surprises in the election.

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Meath's Eileen Drew, Kirsi Hanifin and Susan O'Keeffe chat in Mulingar

I did get to speak at a fringe event in the afternoon (a fringe event happens away from the main conference chamber). It was Deputy Tommy Broughan’s Transport Seminar. There were about fifty delegates present and we discussed public transport, cycling and I spoke about commuting from the Greater Dublin region to the capital.

I mentioned our idea to include car parking charges at stations within the fares regulation system, and talked broadly about the results of the Commuter Survey I carried out last year. The Transport Group is an initiative of Tommy’s and the intention is that we will meet on a fairly regular basis to debate issues and help to shape transport policy for the country.

Eamon gave a speech to the party at half eight – just in time to compete with the Ireland – Bulgaria match. It was unfortunate timing but one of those things that is outside our control. Afterwards the count for the elections to Labour’s National Executive Committee got underway. Despite valiant efforts, our own Mary Quinn narrowly missed out on a seat. The news filtered through at about 1am and it meant that all of the team went to bed disappointed.

By the time conference ended on Sunday I was quite tired from the whole thing, but another busy week beckoned with meetings every evening. I attended the Oireachtas Sub Committee on Thursday morning on Overseas Aid. Hans Zomer of Dochas was there, as was the CEO of Oxfam Ireland and of Concern. I had just finished speaking on the issue during the Order of Business in the Seanad. I was calling for the aid budget to be spared in the forthcoming budget – it has already suffered disproportionate cuts in funding over the year. With just days to go before Minister Lenihan stands up in the House we are all anxious about what his proposals will bring.

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