Social Media Transparency Bill 2017

We are all aware of the substantial and increasing role of social media and online fora on our public discourse and in the political sphere. Yet the many rules and safeguards which have emerged in the traditional spaces, everything from disclosure of donations to campaign fund caps, to a requirement that all printed materials must carry a label saying who printed and published them. None of these checks are present in the online space as the legislation has not kept pace with technology.

I introduced my social media transparency bill in the chamber today. The bill applies only to 1) paid political advertising 2) deliberate usage of multiple fake accounts for political purposes (bots).

The main provisions of the bill are:

– The requirement for a disclosure statement on any online political advertising
– The disclosure statement is similar to that already on printed flyers and election posters
– The disclosure statement will state exactly who published and sponsored the post and the target audience
– The social media platforms will be required to capture this information when the ads are purchased
– Failure to provide accurate or truthful information in the disclosure statement will be an offence
– Separately, deliberate usage of multiple fake accounts, for political purposes shall be an offence
– The prohibition on the use of public money for party political uses is re-stated (as per the McKenna judgments)

A link to the bill is Online_Advertising_Social_Media_Transparency_Bill_2017 and my speech earlier today, introducing the bill, is below.

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Naas Shopping Centre Finally For Sale

Naas Shopping Centre has finally been put on sale, ten years after it was originally due to open. Negotiations have been ongoing between KCC, NAMA and the developers and agreement was reached at the end of the summer. Further to this, Kildare County Council have signed off on an agreement with the receiver which allowed it to be put up for sale.

KCC has also taken possession of the Cill Corbain houses immediately adjacent as their value represents some of the money owed to the Council for the original development. I am pleased to hear that all obstacles to the sale of this site have been removed. I have been actively seeking a resolution of this problem for nearly a decade and the sale of the Shopping Centre is a vital part of the revival of Naas town centre. 

Dunnes Stores Opens in Naas

Dunnes Stores recently opened on Naas Main Street at the old Superquinn site. The shop includes a grocer, cheesemonger, fishmonger, butcher and a light houseware section and I am delighted to see it up and running.

I had engaged with the firm at corporate level on their move to Naas and greatly welcome them to the area. This is a much-needed boost to Naas town centre and, along with initiatives like the purple flag award, hopefully signals the beginning of a much wider revival for the county town.

Extra Bus Service to Sallins Station Secured

I was delighted to secure a change to the 139 bus route which will provide Clane commuters with a new public transport link to Sallins train station. I recently wrote to the NTA suggesting that the 139 route should be allowed to be used for short hop journeys between Clane, Sallins and Naas, therefore providing support to the train service. The NTA has agreed to these changes and they informed me that they were effective from August 2019.

I am delighted that the NTA has agreed to implement my suggestions. The severe pressure on parking facilities at Sallins train station is well recorded. While there is work underway to provide a second carpark it has always seemed to me that more public transport links to the station was an obvious solution to the dependency on parking spaces. The 139 was introduced a cross county route and it was a positive development, however the prohibition on short hop journeys meant that it offered little support to commuter rail services. I am pleased that this has now changed, and I am hopeful that this, along with the eventual opening of the new carpark, will soon lead to an improvement in the current situation.

I also raised the need for bike storage and parking facilities at Sallins station with the NTA and they have committed to providing more bike stands while also looking into the option of more secure bike lockers if there is sufficient demand for them. Additional facilities for cyclists are a crucial part of the solution to the parking shortage at the station. While better cycle lanes and safer roads are also needed, more bike storage facilities are something which can offer an improvement to the commuter experience in the short term.

M7 Widening and Sallins Bypass Update

I am delighted to see three lanes open in both directions on the M7. This will be a huge help to commuters who face lengthy journeys and congestion on the M7 every day. The M7 widening project is vital to improving journey times and I am glad to see it move closer towards completion. This represents a €110 million investment in the area and the last phase of this is the Sallins Bypass, completion of which is expected by Quarter 1 of 2020 and I am delighted to see these infrastructural improvements become reality having campaigned for them for a number of years.

Expansion of Naas Hospital must be Prioritised

Kildare County Council recently allowed the HSE to extend the planning permission for an extension to Naas General Hospital. The proposed extension includes new endoscopy and day services units. Physical medicine and oncology departments would also be constructed.
The extension of planning permission is welcome. However, it highlights how the HSE have stalled on this project since planning permission was first granted in 2014. I have visited the hospital to inspect existing facilities and I have raised this in the Dáil with Minister Simon Harris. It is clear how badly needed the endoscopy unit in particular is needed. Therefore, I welcome this decision but it is imperative that the HSE present concrete plans and funding as soon as possible to develop this much-needed extension.