Thursday, 17 April 2014

Campaign Launch - Welcome to the new-look site

Welcome to my new look website. I am relaunching the site as part of my local election campaign launch today. I am asking for your vote in the upcoming local elections on May 23rd. Please find more information on the "About Me" page.

If you read through the archive here, you'll find I was once an opinionated blogger - but that the frequency of posts has drastically diminished over time. Why? Simple. The move to social media. If you want to hear my latest news, or read my latest opinions, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. What I'm trying to do on this site is provide some more information than I can on social media - hence a page detailing over 500 motions and questions.

Let me know what you think! Dermot

Monday, 31 March 2014

Give Dubs their say on a Directly-Elected Mayor

I was honoured at today's Special Meeting of South Dublin County Council to propose the resolution on holding a plebiscite on a Directly-Elected Mayor for Dublin. And I was happy that, after a worthwhile debate, 19 Councillors voted in favour and just 3 against. You can read my speech at http://pastebin.com/Z7vaim4z .

I managed to catch the last few minutes of the meeting in Fingal on their webcast and caught up on the remainder on Twitter. It was regrettable that Councillors in Fingal in essence viewed themselves as gatekeepers to democracy and blocked the resolution to hold a plebiscite.

The plebiscite vote was passed by 50-0 in Dublin City Council. 23 Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councillors voted unanimously tonight to put the vote to a plebiscite

In total, 92 Dublin Cllrs voted in favour, and just 19 voted against.

The quadruple lock of requiring all four Councils to pass this by an absolute majority was an invention of Minister Phil Hogan and his Government, who clearly have no appetite for giving Dubliners their say on this. It gave finality to a convoluted process in which Councillors were expected, without time nor budget nor staff resources, to formulate a structure, to consult publicly and to put forward detailed proposals on a directly-elected Mayor. The plans are not perfect but despite the protestations of some Councillors today they are quite detailed.

Dubliners are rightly angry that they have been denied a vote by this convoluted invention.

There is a straightforward way of proceeding which will give Dubliners the right to have their say and which will protect residents in Fingal and other authorities from a city centre focus.

The Minister could call the plebiscite, requiring that it pass by a majority of voters in each local authority area.

That would be democratic for Fingal, and democratic for Dublin.

There is nothing stopping him - legal or otherwise.

Will he and his Government have the guts to put it to the people? I doubt it.

This blogpost was edited to take into account the result of tonight's vote in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Looney publishes expenses and remuneration for 2013

Independent Cllr Dermot Looney, a candidate in the Templeogue-Terenure electoral area in the upcoming local elections, has welcomed the imminent publication of Councillor expenses for the County for 2013. In 2011, Looney won a long campaign to secure the publication of all Cllr expenses. The publication of the “S142 Register” giving these details is due on the Council website in the coming days.

“I am again happy that this important information is being made accessible to the public,” noted Looney. “Following my election in 2009, I campaigned to have this information made readily available online in the interests of transparency and accountability. As well as releasing a full list of my Council pay and expenses since 2009, I am also the only Councillor to publish my expenses as a member of the ETB (formerly the VEC) and four of its subcommittees.”

“My election as Mayor half-way through 2013 means that I have taken leave from my job as a teacher and taken a full-time wage from the Council. My first decision as Mayor was to cut my pay by €7,000 - €3,500 of the Mayoral Allowance for 2013 went into the Mayor’s Fund for community groups, and a further €3,500 has been cut for 2014.”

“In nearly five years on the Council I have refused to attend ‘conferences’ at home or abroad. Instead, over €20,000 foregone by me has gone to providing homeless accommodation, assisting Council tenants in need of window and door replacement, and funding mobility grants for the elderly and those who are disabled.”

“It is disappointing that almost €122,000 has been spent on these ‘conferences’ over the last five years, mainly by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Councillors. If I am re-elected in May, I will continue my pledge not to claim money for ‘conferences’ and to continue to oppose the junket culture.”

Cllr Dermot Looney – Remuneration and Expenses 2013
2013: Representational Payment €16,657.72; Mayor Allowance €17,900.02 (includes deduction for Mayor’s Fund) – total salary €34,557.74
Expenses €6,486.87; Home Conferences €0; International Travel €0; Phone, Broadband and Mayor Travel €4,727.14; VEC/ETB Expenses €1,053.82 (covered 2012-13); Other Expenses €0. Total Expenses: €12,267.83

Cllr Dermot Looney – Remuneration and Expenses 2009-2011
2009 (June-Dec): Representational Payment €9,731.10
Expenses €3,587.47; Home Conferences €0; International Travel €0; Phone & Broadband €300; VEC Expenses €283.64; Other Expenses €0. Total Expenses: €4171.11


2010: Representational Payment €16,797.26;
Expenses €6,306.65; Home Conferences €0; International Travel €0; Phone & Broadband €829.35; VEC Expenses €810.40; Other Expenses €0. Total Expenses: €7,946.40


2011: Representational Payment €16,723.92;
Expenses €6,486.87; Home Conferences €0; International Travel €0; Phone & Broadband €985.72; VEC Expenses €769.88; Other Expenses €0. Total Expenses: €8,242,47


2012: Representational Payment €16,723.92;
Expenses €6,486.87; Home Conferences €0; International Travel €0; Phone & Broadband €650.62; VEC Expenses €567.28; Other Expenses €0. Total Expenses: €7,704.77


Notes:
 

The “Representational Payment” is, in essence, a Councillor’s ‘salary;’ it is fixed at one-quarter of a Senator’s salary and is dependent on attendance at meetings. As it is subject to PAYE, PRSI, USC and other deductions. I receive approximately €8,000 per annum nett. The Mayoral Allowance in 2013 was paid in the six months from July-December. It is also subject to these deductions.

The main “expenses” figure – formerly the “annual allowance” refers to travel, subsistence and other expenses incurred in carrying out the duties of a Cllr. “Phone and Broadband” refers to the payments made for mobile phone and broadband usage. A travel allowance is provided to the Mayor in lieu of a car. “VEC expenses” are €40.52 for every meeting of the VEC or its Subcommittees that incurs more than 3 hours work. Expenses do not apply to Community School boards or meetings which take less than 3 hours.

Full details of attendance and expenses for all SDCC Cllrs are available at http://www.sdcc.ie/the-council/council-meetings/s142-register

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Looney appeals to Archbishop - defer plans to merge Greenhills schools to consult parents, staff and community

Cllr Dermot Looney, Mayor of South Dublin County Council and the only public representative based in the Greenhills area, has called on the Archbishop of Dublin to defer plans to merge three local primary schools, and to take more time to consult with parents, staff and the wider community.

Principals in St Peter’s Boys NS, St Paul’s Junior Girls NS and St Paul’s Senior Girls NS were informed by phone last Friday that the Archdiocese would be closing all three schools and reopening two new schools on the site of St Paul’s this coming September. Parents were informed of this on Monday and there has been considerable anxiety with regard to the speed of the proposed changes and the lack of consultation.

Cllr Looney, a past pupil of St Peter’s, in which he also trained to be a teacher, stated that he and his family have a long involvement in the schools. “My three brothers and two sisters also attended St Peter’s and St Paul’s, while my mother served on both Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations in the schools. I chair the Board of Management of Greenhills College, to where many of the boys from St Peter’s move. As a teacher myself, as well as a local resident, I am deeply familiar with the issues faced by the schools in terms of demographic shifts, changes in parental choice and relationships with other schools locally.”

“No-one who is aware of the history and current status of primary education in the Greenhills area will be particularly surprised with proposals to merge the schools. I am a supporter of co-education and would welcome the long-term security given to children and their parents in Greenhills from a combined approach.”

“However, having spoken with staff and parents from all three schools, I am deeply concerned with the nature of the announcement and with the intention to proceed with a merger in a few months time.”

“I have been informed that parents and staff have had no say in the nature of the amalgamation and were informed by phone call last Friday that the Archdiocese intends pressing ahead with the new schools this September. This runs counter to the inclusive approach which is championed in all three schools and has resulted in significant anger locally. People in Greenhills and nearby areas have a long and proud history with these three schools and such a rushed approach would be disrespectful to the community as a whole.”

“There are a variety of crucial issues on which parents and staff – and in some cases the community at large - should have their say; whether the new school/s are vertical or split into junior and senior, issues of accommodation such as classrooms and toilets, the future of the St Peter’s site, the names of the new school/s, the formation of Boards of Management, etc.”

“In the circumstances, I believe it would be prudent to delay the proposed changes until the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, giving the relevant Boards of Management and the Archdiocese itself the time and space to engage in genuine, binding consultation and planning with parents, staff and the wider community.”

Cllr Looney has written to the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, to the Director of the Diocesan Education Secretariat, Anne McDonagh, and to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn to call for the deferral of the amalgamation plans.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Statement from Cllr Dermot Looney

I am announcing today my decision to leave the Labour Party with immediate effect.

On a personal level, this has been a difficult decision. I have been an active member of the party for most of my adult life and given more than ten years service as an activist, officer and, most recently, public representative. In that time I recruited and worked closely with a large number of new members, some of whom have left the party, and others of whom I will leave behind. I have worked in a progressive Labour group on South Dublin County Council and have enjoyed campaigning with many decent activists and representatives over the years.

However, on a political level, it has been clear to me for some time that the Labour Party is no longer for me, nor am I for the Labour Party. Over the last ten years I have done my best to advocate for policies and ideas rooted in the values of the left which brought me into politics. Over the last three, I have been dismayed at the failure of Labour in Government to advance these values and ideas, and am equally concerned at the long-term outlook for these politics in the party.

There is no one individual policy on which I am making a stand; there have been dozens over the lifetime of the Government with which I fundamentally disagree. Labour has kowtowed to Fine Gael’s economic agenda, presided over cuts across the public sector which worst affect those who are vulnerable, and implemented a series of demonstrably regressive budgets.

I have spoken with many local people who voted for me in 2009, or for Labour in the general election, who feel utterly sickened by Labour’s implementation of the austerity agenda. Their views match my own.  I stand diametrically opposed to government policy – and by extension that of the Labour Party – in areas as diverse as healthcare, local democracy, housing, state assets and taxation.

I believe that Labour has abandoned even the most basic of social democratic concerns in Government, and my decision to leave is based as much on the direction in which the party is headed as on its record in Government.

While I and others have argued for a change in direction, it is clear these arguments – even when made successfully via structures such as party conference – have had little effect. In my experience, Labour is controlled in effect by a democratic centralism which ensures power in the party is concentrated in the hands of a small few.

One can only rail against the inevitable for so long; in my own case, I have no distance left to run in the Party. Instead, I will be looking to continue a track record as a principled and hard-working Councillor by seeking election in May as an independent candidate in the “Templeogue-Terenure” Local Electoral Area. I will not be joining any other parties or groupings but hope in the future to play a constructive role in working with others on the left at local and national level.