17 May, 2010

An update from Dún Laoghaire

These guys have good reason to celebrate.

They're Simon Evans and Fearghal O'Nuallain, and for the last year and a half they've been peddling around the globe, and I joined them for the last lap on Saturday, from Blackrock College down to Greystones. There was around 150 of us on the ride, and it was all for a good cause, raising funds for Aware - a charity tackling depression. After a 30,000 km bike-ride they had good reason to break open the champagne, particularly as Bubble Brothers provided some sponsorship.

Meanwhile there's ructions in Sandycove at the moment. The Council proposes slicing of some green space at Newtownsmith to accomodate parking for nearby residents, but my worry is that this could be the thin end of the wedge, particularly as the Council always seems to be chomping at the bit to provide more parking around the town, even it involves reducing green space. I've suggested that with a bit of tweaking and reducing the width of the road, footpath and wall they could squeeze in car parking if they really feel the need. It begs the question as to how everyone has managed to cope without parking along the sea-front, but that's a question for another day.

Up on Georges Street in Dún Laoghaire, traffic is also causing problems. Despite the Green Party's best efforts, the councillors voted to allow all traffic back onto the main street in Dún Laoghaire. Not suprisingly this is causing lots of wear and tear to the ill-conceived choice of rough granite cobbles that were put down when the environmental improvements were carried out several years ago. Now the plan is to rip up the granite road surface during the month of June and put down asphalt, at a cost to the tax-payer of several hundred thousand euro. I'm annoyed that the Council chose dodgy cobbles in the firsts space, but I'm mad as hell that the councillors performed a U-turn on pedestrianisation. At least there'll be less people tripping up on the rough surface and that can only be a good thing.

The main streets of Dún Laoghaire have had a tough time trading over the last few years. There's a life cycle to every business, and sometimes the second generation that takes over a business don't make as much of a go at it as their predecessors. Dundrum, and the city centre have also attracted some customers away for the County Town. High house prices also deterred young families from moving to Dún Laoghaire during the 'Tiger' years and that has taken its toll on the demographics over the last decade. There is some good news though, the Council has appointed a Brand Manager to develop a marketing plan for the town, and a new evening arts and music programme is about to kick off on Thursday 20th May. I am told that a typical Thursday evening will begin with film screenings and live performances at 5pm in the Pavilion Theatre Gallery followed by 'artist talks' series at 6 pm at the Sunshine Café', on Georges Street. At 7pm in Weirs of Dún Laoghaire, the Damian Evans Mixed Ground Jazz Series will be running, offering attendees the opportunity to hear both local and international jazz artists in a fun and informal setting. Meanwhile, art projects and performances by Naomi Sex and Sinéad Mc Cann will be underway every Thursday evening (and at other days during the week) at the artists' studios on Lr. Georges' St. I'm sure it'll give a much-needed great boost to the town.

In other local news, the Council has announced that it is withdrawing from providing a waste collection service. I'm not suprised, given that under a Fine Gael/Labour ruling alliance it has run up debts of €30 million in unpaid charges over the last ten years. It doesn't help, mind you when some councillors are saying that no-one should pay their waste charges. I'm told that the Council will ensure that there will be a seamless transition period, and I've urged the County Manager Owen Keegan to make sure that no-one is left without a waste collection. I'm glad to see that they've put up the answers to some frequently asked questions here. I suspect the withdrawal of the Council from direct waste collection services may make it more difficult for the four Dublin Local Authorities to press ahead with their plans for the Poolbeg incinerator. You can get the lowdown on our waste management challenges here at the DublinWaste website, but be warned, it does come with a pro-incineration bias.

Finally, it's nice to have some warmer weather on the way, though Met Eireann are warning that there's a chance of potato blight. Hopefully my Orla potatoes will prove resistant, as we head towards the summer and a busy few weeks ahead in the Dáil.

One last thing - the Green Economy Expo is on in Croke Park this Friday and Saturday21-22 June 2010 , lots of good ideas and speakers discussing ways of creating environmental job opportunities, and you can find out more here.

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