Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Votes at 16 Campaign; The Southside People

Article by Jamie Deasy in the June 12th edition of the Southside People.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Press Release - Labour candidate Looney welcomes rejection of St Mel’s development

Dermot Looney, the Labour Party’s Greenhills representative and a candidate for next year’s local elections, has welcomed the Council’s rejection of a speculative development between St Mel’s Avenue and Greenpark Estate.

The proposal by Lansdowne Francs Properties to construct six houses on a grass play area was met with massive opposition from residents of both St Mel’s Avenue and Glendoo Close. Labour and its local representatives Dermot Looney, Cllr Eamonn Walsh and Pat Rabbitte TD were to the fore in opposing the speculative proposals.

The original application was neither rejected nor approved, with the developer being asked to send in additional information. However, according to the Council’s own documentation, records were discovered in the interim “additional information” period which showed that a previous application on the land was rejected due to concern about land ownership.

These concerns, which were raised on numerous occasions by Labour throughout this application process, were clearly influential in the final decision. The Council’s decision, available at, noted that “[t]he applicant has not demonstrated to the Planning Authority that he has sufficient legal interest to carry out the proposed development, as third party rights exist by virtue of the unfettered use of the land as public open space by the public at large for over 30 years.”

The status of the area as a play space was also copperfastened in the decision taken, with the Council also citing the “scale, height and bulk” of the proposals as being “visually out of character with the existing pattern of development in the area.”

Congratulating local residents on a hard-fought victory, Greenhills Labour representative Dermot Looney noted that “this decision should put the nail in the coffin of this speculative proposal and finally confirm this land as a public amenity for the residents of Greenhills and Greenpark. Although the developer can officially appeal this to An Bord Pleanála, I am confident that the grounds for refusal are definite.”

“While others remained quiet as mice on this open area, Labour were to the forefront of the campaign to retain the play area in the interests of the local community, with a public meeting, a number of leaflets, official submissions and close work with local residents,” Looney said. “Our staunch opposition to this proposal comes from a belief that open space such as this should be used in the interests of the local community. Now, I want to continue the dialogue I have started with residents on St Mel’s and in Greenpark as to how best their needs can be met with this area,” said Looney.


The full application history on this site is available at

Speculators and Greenhills; A Community Responds

Last Saturday, June 21st saw the launch of the Greenhills Community Garden in the laneway at the rear of St Peter's and St James' Roads.

The garden was launched by local residents in response to a speculative development proposal on a patch of land we always knew as "The Green Triangle." I played lane football with friends nearby for years - though we'd always try to avoid stray shots to the triangle, which was overgrown and, betimes, infested with rats.

The land had been left in trust to the Greenhills Residents Association many years ago but fell into dereliction in recent times. Under a charitable guise, attempts were made over the past 3 years to build houses on it. But a campaign led by local residents on St Peter's and St James' Roads involving a mix of legal, political and community approaches managed to see off the threat of housing in favour of a magnificent idea of community allotments.

Chairman Pat Dunne, Secretary Eileen Kenny, Treasurer Miriam Cullen, Vice-Chair Christy Mullen and all those involved in the project were proud as punch last Saturday to see the fruits of their labour over that time recognised. The allotments share a variety of vegetables, fruits and flowers. I pass the site on a regular basis but was particularly impressed with how well it looked, - despite the rain - last Saturday.

The healthy crowd braved Saturday's wind and rain to tour the allotments and retired to the Greenhills Community Centre to share thoughts and a well-deserved celebration of their achievements so far. I was glad to be mentioned along with the variety of other political representatives in Pat Dunne's opening remarks before interim South Dublin Council Mayor Tony McDermott (Greens) cut the ribbon. Indeed, with the recent ward revision, it was more Council Chamber than wet laneway at times with Cllrs Joe Neville and Máire Ardagh (FF), Colm Brophy (FG), Cáit Keane (PD) and Mick Murphy (SP) there to press the flesh with Charlie O'Connor TD (FF), along with my Labour colleague Cllr Eamon Walsh.

Pat Dunne, who has chaired the project, was almost elected to South Dublin Council in 2004 as an independent socialist. We share a great many beliefs, including a mutual love of St Patrick's Athletic, and go as far back as 1993 or so when I was a lanky runner and Pat my coach for the Under 12 600m Community Games events! Having reached the Dublin final in my first year at that level I was unlucky enough to break my arm a few days before the Dublin Games the following year; Pat's commitment to community politics is beyond doubt and while I cannot say I share his party political analysis, he is someone for whom I have enormous respect.

From humble beginnings the Greenhills Community Garden has now become a shining light for communities across South Dublin as a response to speculation. And it has been a good couple of weeks for the Greenhills community, with the rejection of the St Mel's / Glendoo Close housing application (post to follow).

And the movement against speculation has led, importantly, to the rebirth of the Greenhills Residents Association. I was delighted to serve as a Committee member on the GRA for the last few months, but due to my candidature, had to take a step back. Photos from Saturday, taken by the GRA Chair, Alice O'Brien, are available at . The more ardent of this blog's readers will be delighted to know that I manage to make it into Picture 9!

Blast From the Past

It was neither today nor yesterday that I started at this!

Here's a letter to the Sunday Independent from August 29th, 1999, age 16. It's in duplicate form at


As a fifth-year vocational school student of working-class background, I am appalled by Miss Synon's selfish views on educational privatisation. Education is an entitlement for all, equally true for third-level as it is for primary school. Without nationalised colleges thousands are denied liberty to learn. Private colleges are simply unaffordable.

Dermot Looney, D12.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Local Levels of Affordable Housing a Sham

It will come as no surprise to local people, particularly those looking for their first home, that there is an acute lack of local houses available under affordable and social housing programmes. But the fact that just 17 of 753 houses procured for affordable housing in South Dublin County have been in the Terenure-Rathfarnham ward, which includes Greenhills, shows just how serious this is. The Council are in the process of procuring another 93 homes in the ward, of which just three are in Greenhills (Temple Manor).

I believe the limited “Part V Scheme” of the Planning and Development Act, which was intended to be used to ensure that 15% of all new housing developments would be for social and affordable purposes, has been an utter failure. Loopholes have been exploited to ensure that the social and affordable elements are relocated elsewhere, or as is very common, money is paid off to the Council to get around the clause.

In some cases, it has led to developers putting in speculative applications, such as at St Mel’s Avenue, in the hope that the affordable element will mean it is approved.

Working people deserve better than the speculator-led policy of the current Government. Labour believes in a strong-arming of housing policy and laws to ensure homes are available to those on modest or low incomes, and to eradicate the scourge of homelessness. I am committed to working with local authorities and residents in ensuring legitimate developments are supported, while continuing to take a stand against inappropriate development.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Lowering the Voting Age Campaign - Press Release

Labour candidate Dermot Looney calls on Minister to lower voting age to 16

Labour's youngest candidate in Ireland for the 2009 local elections is to lead a campaign to allow 16 and 17 year olds vote in next year's polls.

Dermot Looney, a Labour Youth activist and community campaigner from Greenhills in Dublin 12, has called on Environment Minister John Gormley to lower the voting age in local and European parliament elections from 18 to 16. He is joined in his campaign by secondary school students from across the local area and by Labour Youth, the youth section of the Labour Party.

Looney has been recently selected by Labour to run in the Terenure-Rathfarnham Ward of South Dublin County Council. He has said that the campaign, which will be launched on June 16th as a symbol of the change demanded, will write to all secondary schools in the country to seek the support of students.

Looney will also join with Labour Youth in launching an innovative online campaign through sites such as Bebo and Youtube, and has called on young people of all political persuasions to join with him in demanding their voting rights.

"16 and 17 year olds have a great deal of experience with the democratic process. The teenagers of this generation have far more knowledge of politics through the CSPE programme in secondary schools. They are increasingly engaged in political and charity campaigns. And they are heavily impacted on by decisions made at local and European level," Looney stated.

"Articles 12 and 16 of our Constitution enforce a voting age of 18 and above for Dáil and Presidential elections in Ireland," Looney said. "But there is no such constitutional requirement for local and European elections, such as those happening in 12 months time."

"As someone who is in contact with young people on a daily basis and in a variety of capacities, I am constantly encouraged by their commitment to social justice, equality and democracy. And a great many teenagers are rightly angered by the demonisation of youth by conservative politicians and media outlets. Now's the time for young people to stand up and be counted," stated Looney.

Colm Lawless (16), a fellow Dublin South West Labour Youth activist who has just completed Transition Year, said that; "Teenagers are constantly under-estimated by politicians. We're far more engaged and interested in politics than they realise, and we want to have a vote in the issues that matter to us."

Lawless continued; "Our research indicates that 16 and 17 year olds in Austria and much of Germany are permitted the vote at local level. According to their general election manifesto, the Green Party share Labour's policy on reducing the voting age for local and Euro elections to 16. Now's the time to act on this promise," he said.

Lawless concluded, "As someone who is currently disenfranchised, I'm joining with Dermot Looney to call on Minister Gormley to enact the change."


Note for Editors - The National Youth Council of Ireland currently support the lowering of the voting age in local and European elections to 16. Austria permits municipal council voting from 16, and the same applies in the German states of Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein.

Dermot Looney will be hosting a photoshoot with young supporters calling for the lowering of the voting age on Monday June 16th - full details to follow next week.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Indecent and Uncivilised; Healthcare for the Elite

Originally penned for the latest edition of Left Tribune

The Dublin demonstration on March 29th in support of decent public healthcare brought yet another outlet to a national anger felt at Ireland’s crippled health system. Dermot Looney looks at the history of Irish healthcare and the political issues which place public opinion very firmly on the left.

There are simply no issues in politics that touch us as personally and emotively as health. All of us have been patients to varying degrees. Many of us have been deeply involved as family members, professionals or others in the vast array of services and institutions that comprise Irish healthcare. Matters of death and life, pain and recovery and suffering and wellness affect us innately. The strings of conscience and empathy are pulled for all as shared experiences of illness and treatment strike universal chords.

Therefore, it is not surprising to have seen and heard the unprecedented levels of personal testimony across the airwaves and in print from those most affected by deficiencies in Irish healthcare in recent times. Emergent from a history of bit-part residualism and dominated by today’s self-serving neoliberal agenda, it is no wonder that people in Ireland are becoming increasingly enraged at the failure to provide a world class public health system.

Ireland’s experience with healthcare in the modern age has been borne out of traditions of poverty and exclusion, along with the unseemly alliance of liberal economics with the pre-eminence of the Catholic hierarchy. An unconnected system of voluntary religious-based institutions dominated from the first semblance of public healthcare for the ‘deserving poor’ under the workhouse systems to recent times. Initial attempts to socialise medicine were mere pipe dreams against the hegemony of subsidiarity in Irish social policy.

Halfway through the twentieth century, just a couple of years after Nye Bevan could successfully launch a comprehensive National Health Service across the Irish Sea that was universal, paid for through general taxation and free at the point of access, a mild effort by a fellow socialist towards a much narrower universalist provision for mothers and their children in the Republic of Ireland was met with a vicious response from the hierarchy and medical profession.

Noel Browne’s attempts to follow up his successful campaign against the scourge of tuberculosis with the Mother and Child Scheme ended in defeat for his proposals. But his exposé of the role of the Church and Irish Medical Association in the aftermath showed that, despite governmental efforts to take onboard public healthcare more seriously with the formation of a Department of Health in 1947, true power continued to lie in the hands of wealthy doctors and powerful clerics.

Shamefully, the initial support for the scheme from the Labour Party members in government was soon withdrawn in the face of pressure from institutions and individuals of the deepest conservatism. The scandal also played a part in the downfall of the Clann na Poblachta party and instilled a fear factor for those pursuing progressive health policies for a generation.

Health reforms have come and gone, with the 1980’s being a key time for cuts in beds and care due to a series of regressive budgets. The economic prosperity of the late 1990’s should have brought about a sea change in the provision of a healthcare policy that in secondary (hospital) care is ostensibly universal and free. But instead of the extension and expansion of provision at both primary and secondary levels, and in mental health and other key sectors, the record of successive Fianna Fáil-led administrations has been one of politically-motivated sham. Support for their private sector friends and an outright refusal to extend medical card cover for the less well-off have been just two of the moral outrages led by these governments.

Understandably and correctly, much of the focus of the widespread criticism has been on the scandalous levels of incompetence and repeated ‘systems failures’ – a term devised, no doubt, to make administrators and healthcare professionals sound more like machines than members of government-devised teams and structures. There has also been an enormous emphasis from media, patients groups and professionals on hospital cleanliness, an issue which 10 years ago would have seemed one truly at the micro-level.

It is crucial for Labour and the left to address issues such as these not only in terms of competence, but as a result of a series of political decisions by the most avowedly right-wing Irish government in the last 50 years. Chronic underfunding in a number of key areas – not least recruitment – as well as a political decision to effectively outsource the administration of healthcare to the HSE, a highly centralised body with no real public accountability, were a result of governmental policy. The unapologetic neoliberalism of the Progressive Democrats made an easy bedfellow for the conservative dodgery of Fianna Fáil.

But, significantly for Labour and the left, the economic thrust of health provision in terms of the privatisation agenda has also been a source of enormous opposition across the country. For now, it certainly seems that public opinion is very firmly on the left; supportive of public health and not the need for outsourcing our sick people to private profiteers.

An already-unacceptable two-tier system which forced those lucky enough to afford it to take out private health insurance has been exacerbated to the point that it could now be argued that not having private insurance is now a sign of poverty in itself. The campaign for a system that is both public and decent recognises the need for improvements in competence to be based on and accompanied by a commitment to public healthcare, not a system which, fancy language and specious arguments notwithstanding, continues to reward those who happen to be very rich. It seems the concentration of power has remained in the hands of elites all along; be it the Church hierarchy, conservative doctors or, increasingly, the healthcare capitalists.

Nye Bevan, the visionary socialist behind the British NHS, wrote in his book In Place of Fear that “no society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.” Such an appalling vista exists in one of the supposed wealthiest countries in the world. If we are to rediscover our civility and compassion as a society, retaining the morality of public and universal healthcare will be at the forefront of the campaign for change.