Sunday, 14 December 2008

Towards a New Economic Narrative - Debating the Way Forward

Irish Left Review is a superb site for all kinds of left wing discussion on issues such as crime and justice, education, health and media, amongst a vast array of other issues. But where it shines best is in the area of promoting and provoking left wing economic debate.

Michael Taft, who baulks at being called an economist but is certainly one of the foremost left wing Irish bloggers, includes the always-readable and eternally-useful "Recession Diaries" on both his own blog - Notes on the Front - and ILR. His most significant intervention into the debate on the current series of economic and fiscal crises came with a 10-point plan entitled 'Towards a New Economic Narrative.' It is, for me, the first significant attempt to provide not just a left critique of the last few months, but to provoke debate on a new way forward for left economics arising out of it.

You don't need to be an economist to read it. It's accessible, easy-to-read and digestable. Micahel summarises it as follows;

So there you have it:

  • Overcoming the fiscal trap by borrowing, taxing capital assets and opening up the Pension Reserve Fund to infrastructural and enterprise investment
  • Increasing demand and consumption through a new pay deal, extension of welfare benefits, anti-inflation measures
  • Putting our enterprise base on a new footing through a new Green deal, opening up new investment streams, an Enterprise Guarantee and new models of public economic activity.

Do with these proposals what you will. Improve on them. Come up with better ones. Add and subtract.

But it's worth reading in its entirety for anyone even mildly interested in how to get out of this mess - and let's face it, that's all of us.

It's worh noting that this is not a fait accompli. Michael podcasts on it here to explain that this needs to be the start of the debate, not the end. And the first major response is similarly significant. Terrence McDonough, of the NUIG Economics Department, responds here to note that "[o]nly socialism will get us off this long run roller coaster." Even Dan Boyle of the Greens has made a response, putting great faith in the ongoing Commission on Taxation to resolve the outstanding inequities in the taxation regime.

The most important thing for us all, though, is not merely to read the opening volleys of the debate, but to put our own views forward. The trained economists, the stockbrokers, hedge fund managers, professors and department heads got us into this with little warning - so it's clear that academic or other expertise is not required to take part in this broad debate. What is needed, right now, is a new commitment to an economics of equality that leaves neoliberalism confined to the history books. How we achieve that is a question for us all.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Press Release - Local Teacher Launches Hard-Hitting “Putting Kids First” Campaign


Dermot Looney, the Labour Party candidate in Tallaght Central for next year's local election, has launched a local campaign to defeat the vicious primary education cuts announced in last month's budget.

Looney, who is based in the Greenhills part of the ward but is a primary school teacher in Tallaght, said that children in working families and those who most need extra support are being targeted by a "failing Government with failed ideas." Looney launched the campaign on national TV with a speech at the Labour Party Conference in Kilkenny live on RTÉ One on Saturday, November 29th.

Looney's campaign, "Putting Kids First," focuses on the local impact of decisions to increase class size, cut pupil support programmes and reduce the spend on those most at risk through cuts in the School Completion Programme, the Traveller Capitation Grant and similar schemes.

Looney has contacted teachers and parents' associations in all the primary schools across the new Tallaght Central Ward, which includes parts of Dublin 12 such as Greenhills and Perrystown and parts of Dublin 6w such as Templeogue and the WORK area, as well as Tallaght. In total, more than 50 schools and associations have been contacted as well as local INTO representatives.

"I am asking teachers, staff and parents from across the ward to join with me and the Labour Party in putting children first by building a broad campaign," said Looney in a letter to local schools and parents' groups. "Turn your anger into action by joining with us."

Commenting in advance of the December 6th march by parents and teachers in Dublin City Centre against the cutbacks, Looney slammed Government attacks on language support, the School Completion Programme, funding for Traveller children, the free book scheme, library books and ICT grants as well as the "incredulous" policy to increase class sizes for children.

Looney also criticised hypocritical commentary by other conservative parties and politicians, noting that "a lot of politicians are all blow and bluster in talking about these cuts. Fine Gael have come out against the increase in class size but, without a hint of irony, lash into public sector workers such as teachers and school staff and favour the cutting of teachers' pay. Teachers and pupils deserve better – representation that cares."

"Our campaign won't succeed overnight. We'll need a combined effort across politics, civil society and the media. We need to work with parents' groups, the INTO, unions representing SNA's such as IMPACT, and with other political groups and figures. But if we fail to campaign now," concluded Looney, "these decisions will become an immovable part of our educational future. And this generation will have failed those who come behind."

Monday, 1 December 2008

Press Photo Release - Looney in Tune at Labour Conference

Labour's Dermot Looney, a candidate for next year's local elections in the Tallaght Central Ward which includes Greenhills, Templeogue and Tallaght, leads delegates in singing "The Red Flag" at the Labour Party Conference in Kilkenny on November 30th.

"The Red Flag," written by Jim Connell from County Meath, is an international socialist standard and was adopted as the official anthem of the Irish Labour Party on Looney's proposal in 2007.

Looney, who is an avid folk musician and singer and whose influences include Christy Moore, Luke Kelly and Billy Bragg, was featured on RTÉ's 6.1 News leading the thousand delegates in closing the Conference.

Picture by Shauneen Armstrong.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Press Release - Local Unemployed Abandoned by Heartless Government - Labour candidate Looney

Labour Party local election candidate Dermot Looney has said that the government has abandoned unemployed people and those in danger of losing their jobs with the latest local Live Register figures making for grim reading.

Figures made available to Looney from local Labour TD Pat Rabbitte show that the numbers signing on in Tallaght have jumped by almost 2,000 in the last 18 months, with 5,526 unemployed in October 2008 compared with 5,577 in May 2007 - a 54.5% increase. Nationally, there are now more than a quarter of a million people unemployed, including more than 100,000 newly signing on in the last 12 months.

Looney, who is standing in the Tallaght Central Ward which covers Greenhills, Templeogue and much of Dublin 24, noted that "not one positive measure to curb unemployment or to assist those out of work was presented in the recent budget. Scandalously, the only action brought forward by the Government was to actually make it more difficult to qualify for jobseekers allowance and restrict the period over which it is paid."

"Labour has proposed a series of measures to combat the unemployment problem that have been totally ignored by the Government. In terms of the thousands of workers involved in construction we have proposed a major school building programme to take 40,000 children out of pre-fabs and put them into proper classrooms. We have also put forward a national insulation scheme to make our housing stock more energy efficient, reducing carbon emissions and reducing household fuel bills as well as allowing people to work. We want to see more and better retraining initiatives across the sectors and to ensure a jobs policy and an economy which meet the needs of society - not the other way around."

"Yet again, the Government have shown a nasty, uncaring attitude to working class communities and those who are most vulnerable in our society. For Tallaght Central, now's the time for a real alternative," Looney concluded.

ENDS

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Press Release - Tallaght’s Youth Saying “Yes We Can” to Change: Labour candidate Looney

Tallaght's Youth Saying "Yes We Can" to Change: Labour candidate Looney

Dermot Looney, the Labour Party candidate in Tallaght Central for next year's local election, has said that Barack Obama's victory in the US Presidential election has given a huge boost to local young people who are demanding real political change. Looney, who worked on the Obama campaign in Virginia, was speaking after accepting a donation from Labour Youth at their annual conference in Limerick on November 8th.

Looney, the youngest candidate in the county yet declared at 26, has been a leading light in various student and youth campaigns over a number of years and has led the rejuvenation of Labour Youth in Dublin South West since joining the party in 2003.

A former Development Officer of UCD Students' Union, Looney is now working with students in Tallaght IT and young people across Tallaght, Greenhills and Templeogue in building a local Labour Youth organisation to campaign for what he has termed 'the real alternative' for the local area.

One of the key tools in their campaign is the use of social networking sites such as Facebook, a method used to great success in the recent US election, which has already attracted 250 local people to Looney's campaign group.

"I was lucky enough to spend a few days working on the Obama campaign in Virginia just prior to the election," Looney told the conference. "The inspiration and ideas generated by that campaign have resonated across the world, including the huge support and goodwill shown towards Obama by young people here at home."

"The model promoted by the Obama campaign can't be copied in an entirely different political landscape. But young people across Ireland who are desperate for real change have been inspired by the message of hope shining through in dark times."

"As well as being fired up by the idealism within the Obama campaign, young people are also looking for the change we need here at home – the change we need to break the politics of a long-gone Civil War, and the change we need in the issues which matter most to young people – jobs, education, health and housing."

Looney received a donation of €1,000 towards his campaign from Labour Youth's fundraising efforts at the Limerick conference, and asked the delegates to be positive about the change Labour's new generation can affect across Ireland. "Yes we can change Ireland and change the world. But the change we need begins here at home, and here in Tallaght Central we want to build on our success as the youngest election campaign in Ireland by growing our organisation and winning for ordinary people across the generations."

Looney, who will speak at an anti-fees meeting organised by IT Tallaght Labour in early December, has encouraged secondary school and college students, young workers and all local people under 26 to join with Labour Youth, which has seen its numbers boosted considerably in the recent economic and political tumult.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Press Release - Labour candidate Looney lashes Budget attacks on children & students

Dermot Looney, the Labour Party candidate in Tallaght Central for next year’s local election, has said that the Government’s budget, announced on October 14th, is a “vicious right-wing assault on children and young people, and on the promise of the 1916 Proclamation to ‘cherish all the children of the nation equally.’”

Speaking at the AGM of the Willie Cremins Limekiln-Greenhills Branch of the Labour Party, Looney, a 26 year-old national schoolteacher, said that while the budget was rife with attacks on working people and the elderly, attacks on education were among the most despicable of all.

“I am lucky enough to teach in a fantastic school in Tallaght, but to ask teachers like myself to implement the new Curriculum with more than 30 pupils in class in this day and age is ludicrous,” said Looney.

“That the Government would make a u-turn on years of promises to cut class sizes, and instead decide to increase them, beggars belief. We will now have the largest class size out of the 27 EU countries. The 100,000 children in classes of 30 or more who are destined to years of underfunded, under-resourced education – and their parents and families - deserve so much better than Fianna Fáil and their cronies.”

“It is particularly sickening that children who need the most support are the targets of government. Gone are equipment and resource grants for resource teachers. Gone is €2.1 million from school libraries which promote literacy amongst children. Gone is an astonishing €4.3 million designated for supporting Traveller children. And gone is the implementation of the EPSEN Act, the 2004 promise to support special needs children both legally and with Special Needs assistants and teachers.”

Looney, who attended Greenhills College VEC and was a student campaigner in UCD and nationally, also noted the government’s cutbacks in second and third level. “The increase in class size at second level is similarly baffling, while the decision to lash third-level students in Tallaght IT and elsewhere with a massive €1500 registration fee is a regressive nonsense.”

“Students from working class backgrounds have been helped by Labour’s free fees initiative – I should know, as I was one of them. Instead we have pseudo-left arguments from Fianna Fáil, the same party who bail out bankers and speculators but target the vulnerable time and time again.”

“Labour stands for a different approach to education; publicly-funded, universal and the best in the world. And Tallaght Central deserves a Councillor who will stand up for education of all our children and young people.”

Medical Card Crisis for Pensioners

It is nothing short of a national disgrace that the Government is hitting our old age pensioners to cut their budget losses with the abolition of the automatic entitlement of over 70s to medical cards.

For a long time the government’s right wing agenda has meant we have had a two-tier health service. But this decision will effectively give our pensioners a four-tier health system. Some will have medical cards, others will have GP cards, some will receive their €400 in cash, while others will have nothing at all.

There is genuine fear, anger and utter confusion among retired people over the treatment meted out to them by Fianna Fáil in this week’s budget. The removal of the medical card from over-70s will have a serious impact not just on people’s finances, but on their health.

While considerable attention has been drawn to the adverse financial implications that the government’s removal of the medical card will have, the implications for the state of their health are as bad if not worse.

We know for example that the medical consultation rate for people who became eligible for these cards jumped by 73%. This removal of the requirement to pay has meant more people going to the doctor for a check-up, a flu vaccine or for a routine visit and as a result, illnesses that can be identified at an early stage are being caught. This means that people are being treated before their condition becomes chronic, when they would invariably end up as a patient in hospital.

We also know from census data that the percentage of people over 70 who had a disability dropped appreciably between 2002 and 2006. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that this is as a result of better access to primary care and improved management of existing health conditions.

GP services and prescriptions are not the only services that will be out of bounds for those losing their medical cards. This ill-thought-out plan means they will not be able to get access to flu vaccine, home help packages, incontinence wear, dressings, nor to community physiotherapy and occupational therapy services.

Simply put, this decision must be reversed immediately.

This stingy Government targeted old people, workers and young families instead of their own developer buddies and the super rich. They’ll bail out bankers and speculators but not elderly people who have worked and contributed to society for all their lives. Labour is committed to a different kind of politics and a different kind of economics – truly putting people before profit.

Notes: WITHDRAWAL OF MEDICAL CARD FOR OVER 70s PROTEST
ORGANISED BY THE SENIOR CITIZEN’S PARLIAMENT

DATE: Wednesday October 22nd

TIME: 12:30 to 1.30pm

VENUE: Outside Dail Eireann, Kildare Street

WITHDRAWAL OF MEDICAL CARD FOR OVER 70s PUBLIC MEETING
ORGANISED BY AGE ACTION IRELAND

DATE: Tuesday October 21st

TIME: 11:00am

VENUE: O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel, Fenian Street, Off Merrion Square, Dublin 2 (beside the Eircom Building / Gingerman Pub)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Labour’s Looney Launches “Campaign for Community and Change”

Dermot Looney, the 26 year old Labour Party candidate for next year’s local election in Tallaght Central, launched his campaign on Monday October 13th at a rally in the Greenhills Community Centre. Looney was joined in launching the campaign by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore TD, local TD Pat Rabbitte, Mayor Marie Corr and outgoing Councillor Eamonn Walsh.

Looney, who works as a primary school teacher in Tallaght, has been campaigning for election since March 2008 but was previously involved in a range of local, national and international movements, including anti-war and anti-racist activism, development issues and workers’ rights campaigns.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 70 local residents and supporters, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore noted Looney’s commitment to local communities in Greenhills and the wider Tallaght area as the hallmark of Labour representation. “In Dermot Looney, local people have a vibrant, energetic and committed young candidate; a rising star who represents all that is best about Labour values,” noted Gilmore.

Outgoing Cllr Eamonn Walsh, who was presented with crystal from his native Tipperary to mark his impending retirement from the Council, noted that Looney was the best hope for local people at a time when the Government hit working people hardest. Local TD Pat Rabbitte called Looney “a magnificent organiser” and said that, along with fellow candidates Mick Duff and Pamela Kearns, Labour offered the real alternative in the new Tallaght Central Ward.

Thanking his supporters and the gathered guests, Looney said that “the politics and ideas of Labour are a strong currency in this ward. With Labour, there is no question of political donation from the powerful developers and the other interests that fund the conservative parties in Ireland. When a local person meets a Labour rep, they don't need to scratch their heads and ask ‘what side are they on?’”

“Our campaign is different. I am standing up for communities across Tallaght Central. I am standing for a radical change in how the Council works, where working people, the elderly and the excluded get the breaks – not developers, speculators and friends of Fianna Fáil.”

“Labour are the real alternative for Tallaght Central. Fianna Fáil must not be allowed to get away with it again. Fine Gael offer nothing but a conservative critique. At least the PD’s, whose policies have caused much of the mess, have had the decency to admit defeat and walk off the stage,” said Looney.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Campaign Launch A-Comin'!

We have been on the campaign trail for 6 months now. Our message of commitment to public services and community values has been met with an extraordinary response on the doorsteps.

Most recently, almost 500 local residents signed our petition calling for action on an eyesore which has dominated Greenhills for 5 years (see below). We have made all the right headlines, recruited new members to the Labour Party and taken the first few steps to ensure the Labour voice is heard loud and clear in next year's elections and into the future.

Now it's time to formally kick off our campaign in style with an official launch night, with special guest Eamon Gilmore TD (Labour Leader).

Event Page on Facebook

What: Looney for Tallaght Central '09 Campaign Launch Who: Dermot Looney (Candidate), Eamon Gilmore TD (Labour Party Leader), Pat Rabbitte TD, Cllr Eamonn Walsh
Where:
John Walsh Memorial Room, Greenhills Community Centre, Rere St Joseph's Road, Greenhills, Dublin 12 - find it here. When: Monday, October 13th at 7.30pm sharp!

More Details: Refreshments will be served on the night. Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore will speak about Labour's alternatives for the economy, given that the Budget will be announced the following day. The entire event is informal - it will take about 90 minutes and there will be a chance to talk to the invited guests. There is no fee as this is not a fundraising event!

I would really appreciate if you could make it along next Monday. The kind of support I have received from family, friends and political comrades has meant for a truly democratic, grassroots campaign. This night belongs to all those who are involved and who plan to get involved - no matter what the level. It's bound to be inspiring and engaging; a celebration of where we have got so far, and a commitment to a winning campaign for 2009.

If you are interested in coming, why not bring a friend or two from the local community? The event is open to all and the more people who get to hear the kind of ideas and policies we are promoting, the better we will do.

If you'd like to let me know if you can make it on the night, it'd be helpful to our planning. But there's no need to RSVP formally, so even if the mood takes you next Monday, drop by!

Is féidir linn!
Yes, We Can!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Separated at Birth?

Quick diversion now to the US Presidential campaign.

As a critical supporter of Obama - to the extent a non-voter 3,000 miles away can be a supporter - I've been checking out the left wing Democratic blogs like DailyKos, where I came across this gem...
It got me thinking. What with refusing to allow Palin access to the media for even the simplest of questions, with the constant focus on repeating soundbites, and the handlers referring to her using words like 'energy,' and 'commitment,' wouldn't this be more appropriate?

=

Victory for our Community: McHugh's Site Declared Derelict

Something very exciting indeed has happened in Greenhills this past fortnight.

After more than 5 years of witnessing neglect on our doorstep, we stood up as a community and said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH on the McHugh’s eyesore. The petition I launched 2 weeks ago on behalf of local residents has already amassed an extraordinary 450 responses from our community. And, finally, by working together we have had something of a victory on the site.


WHAT THE NEW COUNCIL DECISION MEANS


Responding to an Area Committee question from my colleague, Cllr Eamonn Walsh, the Council have now confirmed the site as derelict under the 1990 Derelict Sites Act. This decision leads to a number of possibilities. Firstly, the developer is now required to clean up the appearance of the site under what is called a Section 11. Secondly, the Council have confirmed that legal proceedings may occur if relevant work is not done. Thirdly, the pressure is now on both the Council and the developer to act on the site.


PRESSURE ON THE COUNCIL


I believe that in the interests of democracy and resourcing our community, the Council should purchase the site – a mechanism now made possible by declaring it officially derelict. The mass community campaign I have launched with hundreds of local residents has put further pressure on the Council to initiate this CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order). Declaring the site derelict is the first step to a CPO – but only a community-led campaign can make it a reality.


PRESSURE ON MCHUGH


Our campaign has also put the spotlight on this rogue developer and his pathetic excuses for this eyesore. Our campaign has already made the front page of the Southside People, and has had huge coverage to date in papers such as the Tallaght Voice and the Echo, meaning that McHugh is acutely aware of the powerful campaign we have built and the message we have put forward. We have joined together to demand that he cleans up the site and ensures the community services we need locally are provided – and we have made clear that we won’t wait.


BUILDING AND GROWING OUR CAMPAIGN


Many thanks to those who have already taken the time to sign the petition – many of you taking the trouble to post letters, drop them to my door by hand, or register online. If you haven’t signed yet, please take ten seconds to sign here.

I will join with Cllr Eamonn Walsh to present our petitions to McHugh and the Council in the coming days. We will continue to be in constant contact with local people in building this campaign and keeping you informed and updated. Please get in touch with me at any stage to discuss how we can advance this campaign.


Together, we will remove this eyesore and change Greenhills for the better.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Labour Correct to Oppose Bank Bailout

2008 was almost the Year of the Digout. Now, it seems, for us and our friends in the United States of Freedom, it's going to be the Year of the Bailout.

Never forget what has happened the past few days. The Irish political establishment, carrying the Greens and Sinn Féin in tow, voted en bloc to provide the biggest welfare cheque in Irish history to some of the wealthiest companies and individuals in the country.

As a Labour Party member, voter and candidate, I am proud of the stance our party took inside and outside parliament on this bill.

I would encourage blog readers to take 5 mins to read what you won't have heard in the mainstream media.

Firstly, take a look at Michael D Higgins' concise, accurate and crushing analysis. He notes that
the Minister for Finance is describing the external conditions, such as what he calls "the credit crunch" as a kind of international flu. I wish to state immediately that those who want to look at the different models of international finance must conclude that a debate is taking place at present in Washington about how one should respond to the failure and collapse of the neoliberal model of non-regulation.
Higgins also states;

There are matters for which the Government has explicit responsibility. One cannot blame the relationship between the Fianna Fáil-led Government and the speculative component of the building industry on the Washington consensus.
My colleague Michael Taft, who regularly posts on Irish Left Review as well as his own Notes On the Front, has a series of insightful articles on the shambolic economics of the past weeks on his blog, chief amongst them September 30th's entry in the Recession Diaries.

He notes, starkly;

Let’s be clear: these are institutions who have in the past engaged in widescale tax evasion, pursued investment policies that starved our economy and recently have been full and gleeful participants in the lunatic preoccupation of property speculation. And the Government has not just guaranteed deposits but liabilities as well – to the tune of between €400 billion and €500, or up to nearly three times the size of the entire economy.
There are issues of democracy at the heart of the debate too;
This is about maintaining a system whereby the ‘commercial’ (and I use quotation marks deliberately) decisions of a handful of people determine the economic health, welfare and future of everyone in the land. And now these ‘commercial’ decisions are no longer subject to the ‘discipline of the market’ (whatever the hell that might mean anymore), but rather to the largesse of a desperate and pliant Government. No accountability, no oversight, no new disciplines: in my book, if someone guarantees the consequences of my actions, then I can have no complaint when that someone rightfully demands accountability over my actions; and extracts a fair price. But not here, not in Fianna Fail-land.
Michael's conclusion, which I quote below at length, shows just how far things have got;

No one questions the need to keep banks afloat. To say that markets need capital is an insulting tautology. The issue here is on whose terms – the bankers or people, business, the economy. That George Lee, not known for spouting demands for the nationalising the commanding heights of the economy, pointed out that the Government could have bought half the four major banks for a cool €5 billion, suggests that taking the route that US and European authorities have taken is not so far-fetched. That capital injection would have provided much-needed liquidity and would have given the taxpayers a real stake in these institutions. This, then, could have been followed up with not only guarantees but an intervention in the investment practices themselves, specifically a redirection of 1% to 2% of banks lending portfolio into Enterprise Development Funds which would finance our indigenous base (this would have won support from huge sections of the business community).

Something like this would have been a rational approach. But it would have involved a socialisation strategy that is anathema to the Right. So what we get instead is capitalists without the capitalism, capitalists with a big fat welfare cheque, capitalists who are not allowed to fail no matter how unworthy their efforts. This is the system we are paying to save.

Extraordinary. And don't forget who is giving the bailout to their banking buddies, who is responsible for an inflated economy, whose connections to builders and speculators are now causing pain to hundreds of thousands of working people, and whose economic system has been proven for the house of cards it truly is.

There is an alternative, and it isn't to be found in Tweedledee to Tweedledum, or Podge to Rodge. Labour's plan for the economy is here.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

"Enough is Enough" Campaign hits the front page of the Southside People

Carrying on from the post below, I know it isn't possible to read the Southside People article - the paper's simply too big for my scanner!

So you can read it here, in this different scan - or you can see it online at http://www.dublinpeople.com/content/view/1064/57/ .

It appeared on the front page of the 24th September issue under the headline "Council given deadline on derelict site." For coverage in the Tallaght Voice, see the post immediately before this.

Extraordinary Response to McHugh's Campaign

Greenhills, be proud!

We have had an incredible response from people in Greenhills and the wider Dublin 12 area in South Dublin County to our petition on the derelict site of the old McHugh's Shopping Centre.
We delivered just over 1,000 petitions door-to-door in Greenhills Estate, Greenpark, Limekiln and Temple Manor.

From those, over the last few days, we have had approximately:

175 signatures by standard post or delivered by hand;

150 online signatories at the PetitionOnline site;
40 people contacting us by email to sign the petition;
40 freepost envelopes from the last batch delivered.

When you consider the majority of people took the trouble either to buy a stamp and post a letter, or deliver it by hand to my door, or log on online and sign up or email our campaign, you can see the serious community response there has been to this stain on our community.

There, are, we believe, much more to come. We are confident that by the end of our campaign more than 500 local people will have signed the petition demanding action either by the developer, or, as we suspect, failing any action on his part, by the Council. I have, in all honesty, never met with such a positive reaction from local people to a political campaign - mostly because people knew about me from previous canvasses and leaflets, know my record and that of the Labour Party in the area, and knew we were genuine.

This campaign has hit the headlines in all local papers. The Southside People covered it on their front page - the first time our campaign has been covered in this way. We also had a substantial presence in the Tallaght Voice (see below) and the Tallaght Echo, and were also covered in at least one other local publication. For the first time in 5 years, it seemed, our efforts have brought this issue to the fore - making, quite literally, front page news.

Other parties standing for election in Greenhills have obviously been taken aback by the huge response to the campaign I have launched. Amongst them have been the Socialist Party, who organised, over the weekend, a public meeting on the issue. This was held with approximately 70-80 people in attendance in the Greenhills Community Centre tonight.

Various political figures attended and spoke - Cllrs Mick Murphy (SP), Colm Brophy (FG), Cáit Keane (PD - soon to be something else) and Pat Dunne - blogged about here before. Pat curiously announced his intention to run next year for the People Before Profit Alliance, a Socialist Workers' Party-dominated outfit which was vehemently opposed by the last similar alliance he was involved with, the Campaign for an Independent Left. A number of local residents and people who had worked at the centre spoke passionately about the loss of local services and the dereliction Greenhills is now faced with on a daily basis.

Sadly, the meeting, in my view, was not well-organised and poorly-chaired, although from my own experience of similar meetings both locally and nationally this is a common problem. It descended into farce at one stage with the Socialist Party chair and FG Councillor Brophy engaging in an unceremonious screaming match while baffled local residents - myself included - looked on.

The SP had no particular solutions or answers to the community's concerns, other than to hope really hard that the developers take on board our views and maybe, just maybe, they might tidy up the site - perhaps, bafflingly, by building a car park. Mick Murphy scoffed at our campaign for a Compulsory Purchase Order, claiming we were "chasing rainbows." Cllr Murphy, it should be noted, has previously called for a CPO on the site on more than one occasion, and has also called for a CPO on the site of the old petrol station at the end of the Greenhills Road in Tallaght Village.

Nor did other political figures seem to have any real targets or solutions. On the conservative side, Cllrs Brophy and Keane indicated that they wished only to pursue issues through contact with the developer - similar to Murphy - or on the Council committee.

The PBP candidate called for a meeting between the developer (McHugh), Louis Fitzgerald - the publican who owns the Traders Pub next door and who has expressed an interest in the site - and local political and community representatives. I would be happy to attend such a meeting but don't believe it is, in itself, an adequate community response.

Unlike Cllr Murphy and Candidate Dunne, I believe very firmly that there is both scope and possibility, with public action, for a CPO of the site, and for its appropriate development in the needs of the community.
And having spoken to plenty of residents both at and after the meeting - many of whom came to us to sign the petition - I am convinced that this approach is best for Greenhills.

People often associate groups such as the SP and the PBP with 'hard left' positions, but in truth tonight's meeting showed a bankruptcy to their arguments that was nowhere near the left. There was plenty of talk of facing down developers and speculators but, faced with an existing and mass community campaign, rooted in Greenhills and its people, the best they could do was make a few suggestions - some of them random, others bizarre - in the hope of bringing pressure to bear on the developer involved.

Don't get me wrong. I prefer to work with others on the left and baulk at any sectarian abuse or critiques of other progressives. These are two fine candidates and will appear higher up my ballot than the variety of conservative candidates in Tallaght Central next June. But as a socialist who believes both in utilising both the parliamentary - in this case, on the local Council - and the extraparliamentary, and who believes in the maintenance and development of public space and the public sphere through local democracy, the attitudes of the other 'leftists' baffled me.

Fact is that the pressure has now been put on by the power of our campaign and that, given McHugh's continual failure to act over 5 1/2 years, this community response now needs to take aim at the Council. I believe the site to be derelict and to fall under the description of dereliction outlined in the 1990 Derelict Sites Act - and Council officials, who agreed with this analysis in 2006, will now be made realise the huge outpouring of community feeling to the site's dereliction and the need for its development.

Neither Cllr Murphy, who is based on the old Tallaght Area Committee, nor Candidate Dunne have access to the relevant Council meetings at the Terenure Rathfarnham Area Committee (TRAC). My Labour colleague, Cllr Eamonn Walsh, is continuing to push the issue and is raising it again at the next TRAC meeting on October 7th. Our experience to date has shown that committee work alone cannot achieve victory. But with a true community response, both in the future of the campaign and at the polls next June, progress is more than possible.

PS - If you haven't done so - don't forget to sign!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Drink of the Death Squads - Still

Perhaps the most significant political campaign I have ever been engaged in was concerned with people and places far away from my local hills of green, derelict sites and all. The boycott of Coca-Cola products in UCD, a campaign twice won by students in 2003 and 2004, has since spread to dozens of colleges and other institutions worldwide.

Many will know the background to union busting by Coke bottling plants in Colombia and the subsequent campaigns for justice. But even if you don't, yesterday's excellent article in the Guardian by British activist-comedian Mark Thomas, who has written a book on the issue, is well worth a read.

In UCD, we were able to take on the biggest corporation in the world, and beat it - twice. Through that kind of solidarity, gains at all levels of politics are possible.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

McHugh's Eyesore - Mass Petition Launched

As a local area representative and someone who has grown up and lived all my life in Greenhills, I know full well how great a community this is. We are rightly proud of our great local achievements and the wonderful work done by volunteers at all levels to create the community spirit which has defined our area for decades.

But that community spirit can’t thrive in an area without a neighbourhood centre. We cannot prosper when faced on a daily basis by neglect and dereliction. We deserve better than more than five years of shabby boards, gruesome fencing and weeds, and an eyesore which has come to define us.


The old McHugh’s shopping centre on St James’ Road was an important resource for local people to buy their messages, to see a pharmacist and to use the post office. It was destroyed by fire in 2003 and despite plenty of applications and negotiations, the site remains a derelict mess.


Let us be clear – the developer, now known as “Property International McHugh,” is at fault for this shambles. We have waited long enough for him to take action – more than five years, in fact. Will it be another five, or longer again, before local people are rid of this eyesore? How long will it be before our neighbourhood centre is restored, and with it the vital services that older people and families need?


Myself, Eamonn Walsh and the Labour Party have stood firm on this for years. Now it’s time for local people to take this campaign one step further. Below, you will read the facts of this debacle and you will be given a chance to sign the petition. Please go here to do so.

---------------

McHugh’s Eyesore:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Dermot Looney, Labour’s local area representative and the Greenhills candidate in next year’s local election, has launched a community campaign demanding appropriate action at the McHugh’s site. Here you can read the timeline of development on the site and sign the petition demanding action.

Timeline

12th March 2003 – A planning application (SD03A/0143) is made to change the roof & signage on the McHugh’s Shopping Arcade. Just weeks later, the entire centre is gutted by fire.


20th June 2003 – A planning application (SD03A/0415) to demolish the remains of the centre is made, and approved by the Council.


15th August 2003 – McHugh’s apply (SD03A/0601) to construct a three storey building mixing retail and apartments, including a basement car park. This is first deemed invalid as there was inadequate notice of the planning application at the site. A duplicate application (SD03A/0659) for planning permission is then submitted. The development will include two storeys of apartments (8 one-bedroom, 4 two-bedroom). It is opposed by residents groups and Cllr Eamonn Walsh. Further information is requested by the Council, who then approve the application in April 2004 with 26 conditions attached.


2003-2006 – No action taken on the site at any stage. McHugh’s architects claim that “due to changes in the market place, this scheme was found to be financially unviable.” On 1/11/2005 the Council notes that it “may also consider other options .. which could include acquiring the site by Compulsory Purchase Order or the imposition of a levy.”


4th April 2006 – Council note that “it is proposed to commence the procedure to acquire the site by Compulsory Purchase Order under the Derelict Sires Act 1990,” at the Terenure Rathfarnham Area Committee (TRAC) meeting.


5th April 2006 – Another application (SD06A/0248) is made. It will also have three storeys, but this time there will be 10 one-bedroom apartments, 10 two-bedroom apartments and 1 three-bedroom apartment. The Council note that “the residential density of the proposed scheme is excessive” and demand a reduction in the number of apartments. McHugh’s do not bother to meet this demand and the application is deemed withdrawn on December 4th.


5th September 2006 – Cllr Eamonn Walsh asks the Council to finalise the CPO. The Council respond that “it is intended to initiate the procedure to acquire this site by Compulsory Purchase Order under the provision of the Derelict Sites Act, 1990. Site drawings are now being finalised and the Compulsory Purchase Order procedure will commence thereafter.”


30th January 2007 – Yet another application (SD07A/0062) is made. It has three storeys with retail units on the ground floor, but with the Council’s restrictions it has 15 apartments on the top two floors (12 two-bedroom units and 3 one-bedroom units). It is granted in April. The Council requests more than €250,000 to be furnished for Council infrastructure and facilities.


6th February 2007 – The Council finally confirm the site as ‘derelict’ at a TRAC meeting.

2nd October 2007 – Council note that “the developer of the land in question has indicated that he proposes to commence development in late October/early November 2007.”

6th November 2007 – Cllr Eamonn Walsh tells the Council that “In view of the failure of the developer of the derelict shopping centre site to proceed with the development as agreed last May that the C.P.O. be re-introduced and to state that local residents are sick and tired of the false promises as they look onto a most offensive site in the heart of its community.” The Council take no action.

11th January 2008 - a small commencement fee is paid with commencement of work due to start on 28th January 2008 and a proposed end date of 30/1/2009.

6th May 2008 – Cllr Eamonn Walsh tells the Council that “this site has devalued the properties in the general area and has devalued the quality of life of the whole community and to be arranged as soon as possible.” The Council replies, saying that because a skip was removed, a gate was replaced and walls and fences were repaired, “the site is no longer considered derelict.”

12th June 2008 – Dermot Looney complains to Council that the use of the site as a storage ground for Dublin Bus is in breach of the planning permission. The Council reject the complaint.

12th September 2008 – Despite claims to the contrary, bus stops and other material remains stored at the site. No development work has started – 5 years on.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Another success for Labourstart

Labourstart.org , that most magnificent site for trade union campaigns the worl over, reports yet another success.

Eric Lee, Labourstart's webmaster, reports:

Great news:Turkish woman trade union leader Meryem Özsögüt has been released
from jail.

In a statement issued today by Public Services International, it was reported
that Meryem's union -- SES -- "thanked the international community for its
support and solidarity via the LabourStart campaign as well as PSI affiliates"
and others.

(The full statement is on the PSI website - http://www.world-psi.org/ )

Over the last 10 weeks, 8,586 of you sent off your messages of protest in one
of the largest campaigns LabourStart has ever mounted. It has now been crowned
with success.

This should inspire all of us to sign up to the remaining campaigns --
particularly those protesting repression directed against trade unionists in
South Korea and Iran. The full list of current campaigns is here:

http://www.labourstart.org/actnowen.shtml
Labourstart first came to my attention during the Joanne Delaney campaign, which it promoted worldwide to great effect. Just as greed and exploitation know no borders, neither should solidarity.

Make sure to visit labourstart.org today, sign up to their petition campaigns, and make a difference to the thousands of Meryem Özsögüts and Joanne Delaneys across the world.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Class Size Shame

I had a text read out on RTÉ's Drivetime programme just before six o'clock this evening in relation to class size.

For some reason my name wasn't mentioned, but you can hear it here by going to 1.25.55 in the programme.

Mary Wilson:

"This from a newly-qualified primary teacher who says he's in a great school with a brilliant staff but his first ever class has 32 pupils. The school has to work extra hard to fundraise for necessary resources and technology. Surely, he says, a nonsense like this should be consignded to the past. In an economic downturn, serious investment throughout the education system is a requirement, not an option. Shame on the shortsightedness of the government."

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Freedom of South Dublin for Ken Egan - Article from Irish Independent


Article on Page 4 of the Irish Independent (Broadsheet Edition), Wednesday August 27th

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Press Release - Labour 's Looney calls for Freedom of South Dublin for Boxer Egan

PRESS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Labour's Looney calls for Freedom of South Dublin for Boxer Egan

Dermot Looney, a Labour Party candidate for next year's local elections to South Dublin County Council, has called for the County Council to recognise the achievements of local boxer Ken Egan by granting him the freedom of the county.

Looney (25), the youngest Labour candidate so far selected in Ireland, has urged local councillors to move quickly in granting Honorary Freedom of South County Dublin to the Clondalkin-based silver medallist.

The freedom of the county has only been awarded on five occasions in the Council's 15-year history. The previous recipients are Ingrid Betancourt, the Franco-Colombian politician, Olympian Michelle Smith and footballers Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne.

Looney said; "There are two ways to honour Kenny Egan's magnificent achievement and the inspiration he has provided to local people, particularly youngsters. Firstly, it is entirely appropriate that the Council formally bestow its highest honour on a true Olympic hero."

"Labour Mayor Marie Corr has already noted that the Council will celebrate Ken's success in the near future. I am calling on councillors to go one step further and debate a motion to grant Honorary Freedom of the County at the next full Council meeting on September 8th."

"Secondly, the Council and country as a whole can honour Ken's achievements by showing a commitment to sports provision above and beyond the current level. It is shameful that the government have reduced the spend on the sports capital programme from €85 million in 2007 to just €50 million this year."

"The failure of the authorities to see sport as a serious instrument of social policy means that dozens of local clubs here in South Dublin, who provide such a wonderful community resource, will go on struggling to cope with expenses and other pressures. Long-term success will be reaped not only in terms of Olympic performance, but in the health of our people and communities," Looney concluded.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Ashleaf Redevelopment Decision - Council Set to Approve Plans?

It was with no little disappointment that I read South Dublin County Council's 'manager's orders' on the proposed redevelopment of the Ashleaf Shopping Centre - pictured here, by no means accurately. You may have noted my press release on this application which garnered a small bit of local press attention.

There were, in total, 50 objections made to the application from a variety of local residents, businesses, historical and residential groups and public representatives. My own substantial objection, available in full here, was based on a variety of factors around the height and scale of the development, the pressure on utilities, traffic and parking, and the lack of appropriate mix in the residential units promised.

In particular, the utter cynicism with which the developer tried to tie in families of sick children in Our Lady's Hospital - soon, according to government policy, to close - to the use of his proposed 'apart-hotel' showed up this development as callous from the start.

In making their decision on the application this week, the Council have chosen neither to reject nor approve it - the official decision is to "request additional information." This is, in effect, an approval of the plans provided a couple of conditions are met and the information the Council seeks on particular aspects of the development is provided. The decision is here - see pages 10-14 for the assessment of the application and 15-16 for the conditions attached and additional information requested.

It is common for Councils to make an "additional information" decision but given the fairly timid conditions and information requests attached, it seems that they are happy to go ahead with approving this application in the near future. Many will tell you an "additional information" decision points directly to an approval, but this is by no means the case in all circumstances - see my press release on the St Mel's/Glendoo development for an example of a rejection following an additional information request.

Talking to many local residents over the past few weeks, I have become more aware of the serious discomfort caused to local people during the initial building of the Ashleaf Centre and of the ongoing problems many continue to experience. I know how deeply disappointed many will be with an approval and I sincerely hope the project is not permitted to go ahead. I will be keeping in touch with local residents in the coming weeks and will keep all with an interest informed of the Council's decisions.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Apologies!

Sorry for the break in posting of late. I'm completing my final exams as part of the Higher Diploma in Primary Education, so educational theory and practice must take precedence for a short time! My final exam is in a few hours time - wish me luck!

Directly afterwards it's straight to Dublin Airport to fly to Gothenburg, Sweden - via Stanstead - to support St Patrick's Athletic in our UEFA Cup, Second Qualifying Round First Leg tie against IF Elfsborg of Sweden. Having missed out on our first round away leg in Latvia due to my spell in the Gaeltacht - this teaching malarky can really mess with your schedule as a football fan - I'm chuffed to be able to follow the Saints in the next round, particularly given it's our first two-legged victory in UEFA Cup history.

Socialism never takes a break, of course, and I have been pursuing a number of issues on behalf of local people and organisations - particularly in Greenpark, Greenhills Estate and around the Ashleaf Centre - as well as planning for the long campaign ahead. I look forward to a more regular chance to blog starting next week!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Monday, 28 July 2008

Radical, Refreshing, Relevant: The Politics of Labour Youth Now Online

Labour Youth have recently published their pamphlet, "The Politics of Labour Youth," online, outlining the vision and analysis that form the basis of modern democratic socialist thought.

It is entirely worthwhile for anyone with an interest on our politics to read through the full pamphlet, which at seven pages and in easily-accessible language will take a few minutes at most. But I thought I would take some quotes directly from it to highlight the difference of Labour Youth's analysis; radically different, and at the same time utterly relevant to modern life. And I, for one, am proud to stand by these politics as a campaigner, a Labour member and a candidate for election.

About Labour Youth
"Our organisation is determined to play its part in providing a formidable opposition to inequality, discrimination, war mongering and environmental destruction. We hope to build, in co-operation with others, a Socialist future where genuine democratic control over economic, political and social life becomes a reality for all people."

Labour Youth and the Labour Party
"Labour Youth believes in a fully democratic and inclusive Labour Party. We strive to use all avenues available to us to promote our political approach. We view the Labour Party's national conferences as being particularly important."

"We are committed to a Labour led government. We oppose the concept of Labour entering into a coalition as a minority partner to either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. We argue that coalition formations on the basis of FF/FG domination damage Labour party support and prevent the development of a genuine left alternative in Irish politics."

Left Co-operation
"Unity and co-operation throughout the left is a core objective of Labour Youth. We do not expect agreement on every issue but we believe that where agreement does exist, genuine political engagement and co-operation is essential. In addition to making links with others on the political left, we strive to establish good working relations with Trade Unions, community groups and other social movements."

Internationalism
"We played our part in the mass movement against the Iraq war and we insist that Ireland’s shameful role in supporting this war, as represented by the facilities on hire to the US military at Shannon airport, must be brought to an end."

"We stand for a fair, transparent and compassionate asylum system in Ireland and support anti-deportation campaigns."

"We believe that the natural resources of our planet should be owned by and operate in the interests of us all - not for the mega-profits of powerful elites."

Labour Youth, Economics and the Environment
"Labour Youth is in favour of the polluter pays principle. However, pollution begins at the point
of production, not the point of consumption. In practice, this means big business and industry
must be held to account for the waste it produces. For example, industry must be held to account for the vast packaging that is now produced."

"With regard to Climate Change, we see the Irish government's policy of buying Carbon credits
from poorer countries of the world as a form of environmental imperialism. It is true of course
that everybody must play their full part in the fight against Climate Change. However, we must
not be distracted away from the root caused of the problem. The massive oil companies, for
example, will not respond to moral pressure. The pursuit of ever great profits from the ever
increasing major carbon producers means that we can not follow a 'free market' policy to continue unchecked and expect action on Climate Change."

"Investment in public transport in Ireland remains lower than anywhere else in Europe. This
investment must be put in place if carbon emissions are to be tackled and provides an example
of why relying on ‘free market’ policies to tackle climate change will not work."

The Socialist Future
"The possibility of Socialism is often excluded from mainstream political debate. However, the rise of the Left in Latin America, particularly the success of the Venezuelan Revolution, has succeeded in putting the possibility of a Socialist future back on the agenda. The agenda of that Revolution - led by the people; the grassroots of all activism, working in close co-operation with President Hugo Chavez - has great relevance for people all over the world. The use of natural resources to fund public services, the expansion of public ownership, the vast schemes to eliminate poverty and illiteracy, the extension of democratic control and the establishment of an independent, antiimperialist foreign policy are some features of the "21st century Socialism" of the Venezuelan model and we applaud them."

"We are determined to work with others to develop and promote a model of 21st century Socialism for Ireland. We insist that public ownership is put back on the agenda. Why shouldn't the vast oil and gas reserves that exist off the west coast of Ireland be used for the public
good - i.e. funding for health, education, housing and the elimination of poverty - rather
than given away for nothing to Shell and Statoil?"

"The housing and health crises did not take place on their own. They have taken place because of
the ruthless application of the neo-liberal model which facilitates private profit for a few and
leaves the rest reliant on the 'free market.'"

"We reject the marketisation of public services, arguing instead for public investment over the
subsidisation of private profit and demand an increased say for communities in how public
services are run."

"In housing, we want to see a massive extension of social and affordable housing schemes and a sharp reigning in of the development lobby because we believe that housing is a right, not a commodity we should rely on the 'Free market' to provide. We extend this rights based approach to all public services."

"We invite you to work with us in building a new Republic based on the fundamental principles of solidarity and equality. This New Republic will not come into being unless people organise for it and it will not be realised without opposition from those who continue to exploit the vulnerable in our society."

Two particular attributed quotes stand out.

"The only true prophets are those who carve out their own future"
James Connolly, founder of the Labour Party

"The banner of Socialism should be raised whenever and wherever Labour Party members meet"
Labour Party President, Michael D Higgins TD.

Click here to read this worthwhile pamphlet, and if you are interested in joining Labour Youth, please click here or contact me for more information.