16 June, 2009

Crawling from the wreckage

Ouch, that hurt!

It's small comfort, but it was great to meet up with Garret Fitzgerald and Mick Rafferty in the RTÉ Election studio in Donnybrook as the votes were being counted on Saturday 6th June.

Mick took over on Dublin City Council after Tony Gregory stepped down, and after a few years he passed on his seat to Maureen O'Sullivan who was in the process of being elected to the Dáil that Saturday that we were in studio. Mick is a real renaissance man, and compared to his work as an activist, organiser and Thespian I suspect that the minutiae of Dublin City Council's Traffic sub-Committee didn't quite engage him sufficiently. Garret was in fine form, and had several tomes of results from elections past with him, and almost every number on each page had his own annotations about the particular results.

It was a rough result for the Green Party and it is tough not to have representation for the next five years on Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Councils. There's enormous scope in the capital to deliver on Green Party policies, and it hurts to be sit so hard within the Pale. We have achieved a considerable amount in the Departments that fall under control of Green Ministers, but there wasn't enough airspace to make that point in the recent campaign. People were mad as hell about the wasted opportunities of the boom years and while Fianna Fáil were taking the brunt of the kick, we were also a target.

We could walk away from government, and unless there's greater delivery of Green Party policies, particularly in areas of responsibility that don't fall directly under our control I think we should. The failure to publish the Civil Unions legislation before the Local and European elections definitely cost us votes. There's other areas where we have to ramp up Green Party policy delivery. Another round of significant cuts is on the cards in the December budget, and unless we see reforms within education, health and social welfare, it would be hard to stand over additional billions being pared from their budgets.

I'm hoping that the Commission on Taxation's Report which is due out in July makes the case for radical changes in how we fund local government. I want to see local authorities given financial autonomy, and that may well be proposed. Some form of residential charge may be needed to replace the windfall receipts that we got from stamp duty during the boom years. I also want to see a climate change levy, and an assurance that any such charge will be poverty-proofed. The home energy grants are already creating jobs, and there's huge potential to ramp up and expand that programme to ensure that people on lower incomes have their homes well insulated and draught-proofed.

Speaking of reform, that's the theme of next week's Leviathan gig down at the Button Factory. I'll be speaking on the theme of Does Ireland Now Need Radical Political Reform?" along with Killian Forde, Noel Dempsey and that McWilliams fellah.

It's on Wednesday next 24th June 2009 at 8pm, so if the Government loses the usual 8.30 private members business vote next week, you can blame the Greens.

04 June, 2009

Thoughts from the hustings in Dún Laoghaire

Finally, It's Election Day.

That's one of my favourite pics from the Campaign - Cllr. Ruairí Holohan buying 5c lemonade from some sharp business women in Carysfort Park in Blackrock, just a stone's throw from the Smurfit Business School. It was real lemonade, complete with pips.

That was the day it hit 25 degrees in the shade, and was much appreciated.
Over a drink in Tonic on Temple Road later on that evening I tried to persuade Ruairí not to climb the old diving platform at Blackrock Baths to put a poster on the top, but I sensed I wouldn't win the argument.

Here I am in the back of Cllr. Tom Kivlehan's van on Corbawn lane in Shankill. It was like an oven in there yesterday, and you couldn't see a thing, as you tried to hold on through the mini-roundabouts.

Tom can eventually win over almost anyone at the doors:
-"Look, it's between Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and myself for the last seat. You need a green voice on the Council."

Unfortunately, by the time he's done this, the rest of us have the entire road completed, but tenacity is vital part of any councillors' work. Tom's brother-in-law is a printer and that gave us a very nice turn-around for last minute leaflets last Wednesday.

That last pic is of Cllr. Gene Feighery and some of her crew at around nine o'clock last night in Dalkey. Our smile's are a bit Queen Motherish, but that's got to be expected in the last hour of a campaign. Gene's husband Aidan used his management skills to arrange for a 12,000 print run of "Why Me?" newsletters to be distributed around her ward yesterday morning and I'm sure they'll swing a few wavering voters.

Clearly under the influence of Tom, I had a long wonderful conversation at a door in Dalkey last night. An elderly women - Eithne Doog had memories of my grandmother, which was quite extraordinary, as she would have died around 1963, the year I was born.

We ended up in Finnegans Pub in Dalkey afterwards for refreshment.That's where the fun started. Trevor Patton (The Patton Flyer candidate) and his crew appeared to have lost their way while canvassing pubs from early on that evening, and were in fine form. "Fight for your flights" is his slogan, not the most compatible with the Green Party's founding principles, but he was buying and we didn't complain. His other tag line is equally compelling: "If you can't beat them, join them, ... then beat them."

His mates were taking bets on how many votes he'd get. I put €5 on Trevor getting 273 votes, so we'll see how that pans out. If Patton is elected it'll be the first time on the face of it that a bus has won an election, but stranger things have happened in Irish politics. I like the way his flyers (Patton Flyer, boom, boom) have the timetable printed on one side. He reckons he's got about €50,000 worth of free advertising from his campaign. Hmmm. Several photos were taken as the night wore on, but hopefully none of them will see the light of day. All of his crowd had the whole cauliflower rosettes thing going on with red and green colours and goldy writing "Vote Trevor" which was a bit confusing towards the end of the evening. I summed it up as being a curious mix of Mayo meets the Tories in the Shires circa 1972, but I liked his style.

Today's relatively quiet. A few phone calls, a clatter of emails, and hopefully a trip to the movies this evening.

Good luck to all our candidates out there, I wish you well.

02 June, 2009

Walking in sunshine

Sixty hours until the polls open, more or less, and only mad dogs and candidates are braving the midday sun.

It's hot on the Dún Laoghaire Riviera, damn hot. Factor 50 all round this week, short-sleeved shirts, and 24 degrees in the shade. I'm avoiding the baseball cap though, as William Hague and George W. aren't exactly role models.

Broken windows, homelessness, dog dirt, selective mutism, the 45 bus. You see, and hear it all. One of the real challenges of politics is being able to absorb the extremes of views that you experience from one doorway to the next. Someone who works for Anglo-Irish tells me that he's taken to describing himself as a civil servant when people asks him what he does. Another is worried about noise from a partying neighbour.

These pix are from a few weeks ago when we had a whistle-stop tour with John Gormley and Deirdre de Burca through the Dún Laoghaire Dáil constituency. That's Cllr. Ruairí Holohan in the top photo, along with John Gormley walking on water in the middle of Dublin Bay. Deirdre de Burca, our candidate for Dublin is in the background. Karin Dubsky from Coastwatch Ireland had invited John out to Booterstown Strand to celebrate Biodiversity Day, and watch oyster spat being released.

John took a lift in Ruairí's electric Reva car to Blackrock where we chatted away to people on the Main Street before hopping on a DART to Dún Laoghaire to catch up with Cllr. Gene Feighery . We walked along Georges Street to Sandycove Glasthule, where I think we canvassed an unfortunate woman three times on the stretch of road between the Shopping Centre and the People Park. We kept passing her out and then dropping back. The good news was she started off promising us a number 3, and we got her to a number one on the basis that we'd stop tormenting her and get back on the DART, which is what we eventually did.

In Shankill we walked down to the end of Corbawn Lane to have a look at coastal erosion. The railway has had to be moved back twice in the course of the twentieth century to avoid being washed away, and yet there are still some councillors who want to rezone lands by the water's edge. Dubious rezonings have plagued Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council over the years. I was glad to see that Cllr. Tony Fox was refused a nomination from Fianna Fáil. Apparently he received money from Frank Dunlop, but I was saddened to see that he's put his name forward as an independent candidate. In Shankill our candidate is Cllr. Tom Kivlehan (pictured to my left). Tom has stood up to those who wish to rezone the lands beside Clontra House, on the water's edge.We had a mellow couple of hours listening to people's concerns as people came and went from the local Spar. The Ryan Report had just come out, and people were absorbing the horror that it documents. Perhaps some sort of Truth and Reconciliation Commission is needed to fully address the contents of the Report.

Finally a couple of recommendations: Claire Wheeler is running for the Greens in Dublin's South Inner City ward, and has a long track record in providing for communities. She's an engineer by background, and called for a clean and sparkling Dublin Bay long before many others supported the cause. I'd say give your second preference to Mannix Flynn, not for his awesome poster, but for his wealth of experience, as well as his artistic and literary integrity.

In the North Inner City, David Geary is our candidate. Dave lives in Stonybatter, and works in wind energy. I'm hoping people will give their second preference to Patrick Maphoso, who I almost persuaded to run for the Greens five years ago. It's not that often that you can someone with a strong track record with the ANC a vote!