29 October, 2006

Howie or Hillary?

One of the great things about being involved in politics is that you get the chance to vent your spleen on the issues of the day. There's great satisfaction in haranguing a Minister on his or her incompetencies in the Dáil chamber, and pointing out how things could be done better.

Of course voting also allows you to give your opinion, and can be equally effective in putting a stop to the gallop of politicians that you don’t agree with.

When it comes to international issues it can be difficult to make your views known. However, I’m fortunate enough to have a vote in the forthcoming Senate race in New York. My mother was American and that allows me to hold both an Irish and a US passport. I remember a Guard at a rowdy party back in the 1980’s threatening me with the loss of an ‘American visa’ if I didn’t pipe down. Little did he know that I had a passport available to me if I needed it. As it happened I did spend a fair amount of time in the United States back then, and lived in New York and San Francisco at different times.

I've held on to my dual citizenship, though at times during the Bush presidencies I've been tempted to give it up. The US Government seem OK about me holding on to it, (unless I'm actually serving in a 'foreign'' government), and the Irish Government seems happy enough about it, and even Michael has acquired a certain taste for Jus sanguinis in the last few years.

My time spent living in Brooklyn back in the 1980’s allows me to choose between voting for Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Howie Hawkins (Green) in the forthcoming New York Senate election. I’ve enormous admiration for Hillary and her attempts to reform the American healthcare system, but at the end of the day she’s been hugely supportive of the war in Iraq. I wouldn't be a huge fan of Howie, for one thing he also seems to be a member of the US Socialist Party and the US Labor Party as well as the Greens, but I feel it's important for Hillary to know that there's concern out there about the War as she coasts home. That’s why I’ve filled in my ballot for Howie Hawkins as my choice for New York Senator in the mid-term elections on November 7th 2006.

16 October, 2006

Ideas for Blackrock Baths

Nessa Childers and I are holding an ‘Ideas’ meeting for Blackrock Baths on Wednesday 18th October at 8 pm in the Church Hall on Cross Avenue close to the junction with Mount Merrion Avenue.

Alanis Ltd controlled by the McCormack family and Treasury Holdings apparantly own the Baths and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is the tenant.

We’d love to see a Baths back on the site, but nobody’s jumping forward with a wad of cash to make this happen. It's a practical example of the the issues we discussed at our Dublin Bay Futures Conference last April. Ideally many of the Baths around the bay should be restored now that the water quality of the Bay itself is improving because of the new Ringsend Sewage Treatment Works.

The Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Plan says they want to “secure the re-development of Blackrock Baths for tourism and amenity purposes and improve the pedestrian linkages and visual amenity at Blackrock Baths, DART Station, Bath Place Car Park and the Main Street.”

Obviously any ideas for the site should respect the Protected Structures of Idrone Terrace. Clearly Irish Rail is also a key player in all of this. I’d like to see changes to the mess of surface car-parking at Bath Place itself. Shops on the ground floor with apartments overhead and a couple of levels of parking with a courtyard on top might be one way of doing it. Another would be to extend Blackrock Park southwards by widening the measly strip that provides pedestrians with a link to the Park from the Railway Station. Anything is possible if the will is there. The Sutton to Sandycove group also has great ideas for a cycle and pedestrian route around the Bay.

Hope you can make it along.

13 October, 2006

Valuing Families

It's about equality.

That sums up our policy on marriage and partnership rights that we launched yesterday. The Pic shows myself, Eamon Ryan and Trevor Sargent and members of the USI LGBT Campaign in front of the Dáil supporting Dr. Katherine Zappone and Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan in the court action to have their Canadian marriage recognised in

Roderick O’Gorman our candidate in Dublin West (grinning from ear to ear behind Trevor's shoulder) put a lot of time and effort into making this policy a reality.

The Policy concentrates on three issues:

-providing legal rights for partners that have been living together for three years or longer (co-habiting couples)

-putting in place a Register of Civil Partnership for those who wish to have the State recognize their relationship, and

-recognising civil marriage between same sex couples.

I’d love to see the State give a bit more recognition to civil marriage in the first instance. Here in Ireland you’re lucky to find the Registrar of Civil Marriage in an office at the back-end of a suburban office park. In Rome you can indulge yourselves in the City Hall beside Michelangelo’s Campidoglio.

If I had my way I’d install retired City Managers in the Rotunda of City Hall on Dame Street beside Dublin Castle, and give them purple robes to perform the ceremony.

Dream on.

10 October, 2006

Blogging the Election

Hope I didn't send out too many mixed messages in my stream of consciousness at the 'Blogging the Election Conference in the Digital Hub last Saturday. Blogging is one of the saner ways of campaigning, and yes it is like looking for votes in a bar.

Thank you John for your thoughts on time poverty as noted by Semper Idem.
Thanks for the pic from Red Mum. Am I allowed use that?

Damien Blake
is far too nice a guy to be in Fianna Fáil. His reference to knocking on doors when nobody's home struck a chord. Dominic Hannigan should do well in east Meath.

I liked Damian Mulley's suggestion that we should follow politicians around for a day. Here's my last twelve hours or so.

Watch the news about the Gort stand-off and issue a press release at 10h30 pm stating:
"The use of non-lethal weaponry by the Gardaí appears to have been a crucial factor in avoiding serious injuries."
Then listen to Vincent Browne and go woops! Issue an update at 11 pm saying:
"I earlier welcomed the use of non-lethal weaponry by the Gardaí. However in the light of more recent media reports that conventional weapons were used, we urgently need a clear report on the efficacy of such bean-bag weapons, and on the decision to use a Garda sniper to disable the man. Given that there may not have been independent witnesses, it may be appropriate for the Minister for Justice to direct the new Garda Ombudsman Commission to perform an investigation under Section 106 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and review the practices, policies and procedures used by the Garda Síochána in connection with this incident.

Wake up this morning; get feedback from Nessa, Tom and Kealin on the Monkstown Ring Road. Our proposal to drop the road was lost 11-16 with the usual shenanigans of councillors from the Blackrock ward voting with us, and their colleagues from other areas in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown voting against us. Good thread on Politics.ie on the issue. Then wrote up notes from the Leopardstown and Brewery Road Residents Association, who are being driven around the bend by the plethora of Planning Applications and Appeals for the Grange development on the old Esso Site.

Brief meetings of the Parliamentary Party and Party staff, and then with help from my Parliamentary Researcher drafted up a "Standing Order 31" motion on the plight of Mary Ucheh who was deported to Nigeria without her five-year-old son. Rosanna Flynn of Residents Against Racism had tipped me off on that one, and I had faxed in a letter to Michael McDowell asking him not to proceed, while Ms. Ucheh was being held in the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Burgh Quay in Dublin, but to no avail. This appears to have been the third time that this has occurred, and this week's Village also covers the story. The SO31 allows me to ask for a discussion of the issue on the floor of the house, but the Ceann Comhairle (chairman) Rory O'Hanlon TD has only granted this once in the four years that I've been a TD. You can watch it live if you've nothing better to do this afternoon.

Then off to a meeting of the All Party Oireachtas Committee of the Constitution where we discussed amongst other things letter from Sean Aylward, Secretary General in Justice regarding an OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. If that doesn't put you to sleep I don't know what will!

Bertiegate will continue in the Dáil later on. That was an interesting list in the Sunday Tribune of the attendees at a Fianna Fáil Dinner. Jerry Beades - not the same guy who had trouble with the Planning Authorities over unauthorised development in the North Inner City? Bernard McNamara - not the same guy who was landing his helicopter without Planning Permission beside the Booterstown Birdmarsh. Jim Mansfield - not the same person who was building a Conference Centre without Planning Permission in Lucan. Noel O'Callaghan - Surely not the same fellah who knocked down Archer's Garage, a listed Art Deco Building, and was forced to rebuild it. I could go on... And then you wonder about the lack of Planning Enforcement in this country.

Then, if I can escape from the Dáil I'm off for a couple of hours knocking on doors. That's a busy day, usually there's a bit more sanity to the whole thing.

Yikes, there's a call from someone saying that one of our councillors is issuing a press release criticising An Taisce for being a secret society, because they don't release their membership lists. Ever heard of the Data Protection Register? Never a dull moment. If politics doesn't work out there's always Crisis Management!

06 October, 2006

Time out with Leonard

Some times you just need to get away from the world of politics.

A bunch of us headed down to the Point for an incredible four hour long tribute to Leonard Cohen. That's a whited out Lou Reed in the pic - 64 and still rockin'.

Gavin Friday was sublime, as was Antony. Laurie Anderson was so-so, but having listened to her five LP set 'United States' to keep me awake through all-nighters in College, it was great to see one of my heroes perform live.

Nick Cave, was well, Nick Cave, complete with a drooping cowboy moustache, and Jarvis Cocker was chilled out and looked like he was enjoying the evening.

Another night out tonight ....I'm off with Eamon to the Alma Mater to see whether the 'Sulk Coalition' partners are still on speaking terms. Michael should be there, and An Taoiseach is the after-dinner speaker.

I'll update you if they start throwing bread rolls at each other!

01 October, 2006

Madness in Monkstown

It rained, it lashed, it poured,

We marched through the downpour.
It seems crazy that in 2006 a Local Authority believes that throwing more roads at the traffic will solve our transport problems. The amazing think is that that it's not a road like the new road between the Glenageary Roundabout at Sallynoggin and Church Road in Killiney. This thing is a monster. It will bring tens of thousands of cars past people's driveways every day. It will exceed the noise levels for National roads. It'll have the same amount of traffic as the Arklow Bypass, but it'll bring them on to what is currently a series of cul-de-sacs.

Well, the inspector said in his report that:
"...the proposed road development would represent an inappropriate form of development which would encourage increased car usage and would conflict with national, regional and local policies for the sustainable development of transport."

He also stated that:
"I am satisfied that the proposed road would be likely to lead to a modal shift away from walking towards short-hop use of cars, on grounds of safety. This would, in my judgment, be particularly likely in relation to school children, who currently have safe routes to walk to the local schools within a 300m - 500m distance, being driven to school in the future. This is totally contrary to the emphasis and policy direction of the Platform for Change Strategy (and indeed other Government policies in relation to health and children generally."

The solution is for Government to provide more buses, and better routes in Dublin, instead of endless wrangling between Government partners; improve DART frequency; and extend the Luas to Bray, as well as providing Safe Routes to School at a local level.

After spending days at the Oral Hearing held by An Bord Pleanála in the Gresham Hotel last spring I was delighted with the Inspector's Report but bitterly disappointed that the Board itself over-ruled his decision. Matters will come to a head on Monday week 2nd October in the Council Chamber of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, and it could turn nasty. The Green Party councillors led by ward councillor Nessa Childers will be voting not to proceed with the works under section 139 of the Local Government Act, and it's up to the other groups on the Council to decide what to do.

There's a lot of lobbying going on, as there'll clearly be winners and losers in all this. I've been receiving lots of texts and emails, and I do my best to win them over to my way of seeing things. Text lobbying seems to have emerged over the last few months. It's invasive, but effective. I just don't see the logic in spending €20 million plus on saving 30 seconds on a journey and reducing congestion by 1%, but as I said in my own evidence at the Inquiry even those figures are suspect. If more kids are going to be driven to school, it simply doesn't make sense.

Well done to Sean Mulvihill (shaking hands with Nessa and myself in the pic) and Barry Troy of the Rowenbyrn and District Residents Association for the time and effort that they've put into all of this. We'll see how it all pans out in the Council chamber on Monday week.