Proven Track Record on Environmental Issues

Proven Track Record on the Environment

  • Campaigning for better public transport since 2004
  • Secured recycling bins in Sallins in 2008
  • Was giving talks on “five mile rule” re local produce in 2005
  • Proposed cycle lanes and “staying alive 1.5” campaign when on council
  • Supported remediation of Kerdiffstown from landfill into public park
  • Vice Chair of the Environment & Climate Action Oireachtas Committee
  • Led for Fianna Fáil on the climate change Dáil debates
  • Over the past Dáil term I supported the following measures:
    • A ban on dangerous microbeads
    • A ban on fracking
    • A ban on further exploration of fossil fuels
    • Restrictions on single use plastics
    • Micro-generation solar schemes for clubs and communities

Local Democracy Ard Fheis Motion

My proposing speech on local democracy motion:

That this Ard-Fheis calls for the implementation of measures that would provide for greater participation in local democracy. (Sallins Cumann, Kildare North)

Opening

Minister, Teachta Daila, Senators, A delgaidi, etc etc,

It is a great honour to address this Ard Fheis.

Intro

In proposing this motion I intend to address a twin track of public representation and more generally citizen involvement in public institutions and volunteer sector as a whole.

Public Rep versus Private Employment

Delegates I put it to you that current structures preclude large sections of today’s society from involvement in local democracy be it at elected representative or volunteer activist.

Pressures of Modern living including commuting, raising a family, increasing demands of the workplace make it difficult for all but the most motivated individuals to find time for participation in community activity.

Furthermore we risk alienating a significant pool of talent from the ranks of public representatives if we fail to recognise the conflict that exists between private employment and public representation, certainly at local authority level.

The duties of local representation encompass a significant weekly workload, an availability of contact and access to constituents as well as journalists and other stakeholders as well as regular meetings to conduct official council business usually scheduled during business hours.

However council business is still largely regarded as an honorary or part-time occupation certainly for remuneration purposes.

Town Council is regarded as entirely a position of honour whilst after expenses county or city councillors take away perhaps one fifth the salary of a senator certainly not a living wage.

All of this poses great challenges for any individual who must combine private employment with public duties both through financial necessity and because the nature of their occupation does not lend itself to availability during business hours.

As a consequence demographics of the body politic are not fully reflective of the greater public, the majority of whom are 9-5, PAYE workers, as only certain professions can accommodate the demands of public service.

Arguably it also denigrates the representation of citizens where advocates must juggle demands of external employment with public representation as priority conflicts are not easily reconciled –

This also leads in many cases to a dilemma of double-jobbing –
And in a crisis who comes first – the boss or the constituent?

Delegates I believe the remuneration levels for councillors should be revised and made reflective of the workload and demands of the position. If we are to attract candidates from the broader demographic spectrum this is a necessary step.

In the meantime I believe there are certain measures which could help reconcile the conflict –
Council business, certainly official meetings, could be made analogous to Jury Service or training with the Reserve Defence Forces for example which currently enjoy special status.

Legislation mandating the release of employees attaining positions in public service to mandatory leave facilities akin to parental leave legislation could be enacted.

Citizen Involvement

Broadening the argument to general citizen involvement an overlapping series of initiatives could be piloted to enable greater participation in community or council activity for both elected officials and general citizen involvement.

Whilst there is no substitute to face-to-face meetings for key decisions or introductions, web technologies offer many possibilities for remote conferencing and for online collaboration reducing the dependency on meetings and physical presence.

Individuals on a team can participate at times of own preference, collaborate on documents, posting opinions to web boards, using internet technologies for both remote meetings and to bring together offline contributions.

Also as corporate social responsibility grows in importance in the private sector, employees could be encouraged to participate in community activism with support from employers. Similar programmes already exist towards many charitable activities such as the Junior Achievement organisation where employers allow employees time to work in

There is no reason this could not be rolled out to community and local government participation.
Public sector employers could lead by example in this regard.

Other options may include financial allowances such as tax credits for involvement in public service duties.

Conclusion

Delegates let us recognise the increasing role and workload our councillors perform and let us adapt to the demands of changing modern society. I propose that councillors should enjoy sufficient remuneration to be freed from secondary occupations and in doing so that we acknowledge the huge contribution they make to local and community process.

We would also enable a currently under-represented generation and demographic to embrace the political process.

I believe this would enhance our party, our councils and our communities in the process.

Housing Regulations Ard Fheis Motion

That this Ard-Fheis recognises the need for careful planning of residential areas, with provision made in high-density housing areas to ensure adequate parking facilities, sound-proofing, privacy and protection from anti-social behaviour. (Sallins Cumann, Kildare North)

Opening

Minister, Teachta Daila, Senators, A delgaidi, etc etc,

Intro

Modern society sees concentration of population around our capital cities and similar conglomerations around our other urban centres.

To meets the demands of housing accommodation within concentrated areas many developments have embarked upon a high density model with X units to an acre for example to maximise use of space and deliver affordable housing within confines of space and location.

Delegates however I now call for a review of planning guidelines and a concerted effort to ensure quality of housing is not allowed to suffer under pressures of rapid development.

Many issues emerge from our recent residential developments.

In some cases parking facilities are found to be inadequate. Complaints, Lorries, truck bays.

Sound-proofing is another significant issue that is frequently raised. Too often shortcuts in construction lead to technical faults in barrier walls which lead to unacceptable levels of noise pollution in many modern homes.

Privacy is always a challenge in high density developments. Open plan developments are becoming common on newer estates as private gardens are replaced with shared spaces and…

I believe this is contrary to the Irish psyche. As if proof were even needed for Irish obsession with land the success of allotment scheme Naas UDC…

In this scenario incidents of anti-social behaviour can be magnified and in the absence of adequate planning safeguards can lead to a Darwinist society

Confusion over standards, leniency over implementation

I believe revised planning protocols are now necessary to address these issues.

Parking – Lorry Bays

Sound Proofing – Proper controls, enforcement and inspection

Houses built in 70’s this not an issue

Open Spaces – proper delineation of boundaries

Sunny side of the street

Ambitious pan-continental energy project
The grid across the Med and beyond

(Disclaimer – this post was written on holidays and I’ve revived it now – could be a case of too much sun in every sense)
Finally another pan-European story that caught my eye this week (great thing about being on hols, having the international editions of papers like the Guardian and FT double bonus time to read them) concered some kind of cross-continental energy grid which would hook up everything from geo-thermal geyser power in Iceland to massive solar farms powered by the Saharan sun in North Africa. Apparently the proposal has been brought to the table quite recently by scientists and energy boffins and promises cheap, clean and renewable energy sources to supply all of Europes needs into the future. Brown and Sarkosy have given the thumbs up it seems and the next steps are an advanced pilot project. The grid idea is not particularly new but tapping into the Saharan solar potential would seem to be. I became a bit cynical reading the detail as it appears the European contributions to the project are really backup sources (such as the wind energy off UK and geo-thermal as mentioned) but that the Lions share comes from the dark continent. Just got me wondering was this some other new form of colonialism, our African friends “joining” the European community when they have something to give – a lot to give, in fact a lot more than the rest put together in this particular project, and I just hope they’re getting a decent quid pro quo out of it. Maybe I think too much..

Bottling it in Sallins

Latest thing I’ve been working on is the provision of recycling bins in Sallins. It’s something that’s always irritated me to be honest, that there were no local facilities, and it’s been into Naas or down to Clane with me and my bottles for the past several years.

The Naas facilities are close enough by but they’re overcrowded and awkward to access e.g. the ones at Tesco are in a very tight little corner of the car park. The Ballycane ones are better with open space in front and the Osprey/KCC campus has them but it’s something every village should have and Sallins and Kilcullen remain the only large villages in the county without.

So after Christmas I finally cracked. With a stockpile of glassware and empties of various sorts I resolved not to recycle until I could do so locally. First week of January I rang the Council Environment Section and spoke to Dara Wyer whom I’d dealt with previously when I kicked off my composting operation a few years back. Dara explained the council and himself as Environment officer were very keen to get such facilities in place but the locality had to meet them half way with site provision etc. There were a number of regulations such as access for the collection lorries, distance from residences, safe and open access, secured monitored site and so forth which had to be met.

I already had the Waterways campus (next to the train station) in mind as it is a mixed use development combining retail (SuperValu, Dominos, Ladbrokes), offices, services (medical centre, pharmacist, crèche), residential (apartments) and leisure (hotel). When I approached the owners, GK Developments they were willing to facilitate providing there was no imposition on themselves or their tenants. Similarly SuperValu as the anchor tenant were quite open to the idea. It’s a common pattern to bundle your recycling and your shopping and if there’s an increased footfall they won’t have any complaints.

The location should also be convenient to residents in and around Monread and it gives anyone who drives to the train station the option of incorporating recycling into their commuting routine as they can offload the boot while they’re there.

At this stage the site owner, key tenants, the council and myself are on the one page. We still need to identify the exact location within the complex and the various planning conditions need to be satisfied but I would say we are a good ways there. I will keep on it and fingers crossed we will have those local recycling bins soon.

I don’t know if my back garden can take many more empties!