Monday, 21 September 2009

Meeting the VEC Challenge

As previously mentioned, September has been fairly hectic for meetings. As well as the meeting of the full County Council, we'll have completed two area committees, four Draft Development Plan meetings, a traffic management meeting and an OPF (organisation, procedure and finance) meeting by the end of the month. That's not to mention Labour Party meetings, meeting with residents' associations, individual residents and the rest.

I'm not complaining, by the way! It's an honour and a privilege to have been elected and I like to think I attend without making a meal out of it!

But one meeting I didn't mind attending in the slightest was tonight's meeting of the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee. I was nominated to the VEC by South Dublin County Council back in July. Tonight was my second meeting, held in the VEC Offices in Tuansgate, Tallaght - just across the road from the old Woodies.I'm a VEC graduate - having attended Greenhills College VEC from 1995-2001. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm genuinely passionate about education at all levels; and the wide coverage of the VEC, which runs community schools and colleges at second level, new community primary schools and other educational centres including Traveller training and Youthreach, will hopefully mean that I can help play a part in advancing the education of our communities in the years ahead.

One of the areas I am interested in is the new community model of primary schools being developed by County Dublin VEC; two are already open, Scoil Choilm and Scoil Ghráinne in Dublin 15.

Tonight, I was appointed by the VEC to three Boards of Management until the VEC's "Quinquennial Meeting" in December. The three colleges are Coláiste de hÍde in Tymon, St MacDara's CC in Templeogue and my alma mater, Greenhills College. More meetings in the months ahead, but I really don't mind!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Getting Our Priorities Right

The Progressive Alliance in control of South Dublin County Council, which consists of nine Labour and three Sinn Féin Councillors as well as non-party Cllr Guss O'Connell, unveiled our pledge on expenses on Monday.

We have agreed to forego all funding for external conferences - for which Councillors are entitled to up to €4500 per annum - and have instead earmarked that money for the provision of the first ever emergency homeless accommodation centre in South Dublin. If all 26 Councillors donated from this fund, over half a million euro could be raised for the centre. We have invited all Cllrs to sign the pledge to ensure that the real needs of the County are met in these awful times.

I am glad to say that as well as the 13 Councillors in the Alliance, two other Councillors have also signed the pledge; Cllr Gino Kenny (People Before Profit Alliance) and Cllr John Lahart (Fianna Fáil). I'd hope to be able to report that the other 11 Councillors have signed at some stage in the near future.

Pictured at the launch of the pledge are, from left, Cllrs Gino Kenny (PBPA), Guss O'Connell (Ind), Dermot Looney (Labour), Robert Dowds (Labour), Caitríona Jones (Labour), Deputy Mayor Paddy Cosgrave (Labour), Cathal King (SF), Matthew McDonagh (SF), Pamela Kearns (Labour), Eamon Tuffy (Labour) and Seán Crowe (SF). Signatories not pictured are Mayor Mick Duff (Labour), Cllr Marie Corr (Labour), Cllr Eamonn Maloney (Labour) and Cllr John Lahart (FF).

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Clarification on the Lisbon Treaty

In recent weeks I have been contacted by a number of constituents, members of the public, various campaigns and the press regarding my position on the forthcoming Lisbon Treaty Referendum. I want to use this short blog post to clarify my position on this matter.

In 2005, during the public discourse on the then-recently signed EU Constitution, I spoke and wrote in various contexts against that document. I was not heavily involved in that campaign, nor have I played a significant role in campaigning against its subsequent manifestation in the Treaty of Lisbon (primarily due to other political commitments). However, I was opposed as a matter of record to both the original EU Constitution and the initial Lisbon Treaty referendum. I also clarified this stance on frequent occasions during my recent successful campaign for election to South Dublin County Council, as evidenced by an "Election Diary" blogpost here.

I recently signed a document, along with a small number of other Labour Councillors as well as others from the left, in opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. Details on this are available at I have also contributed a short piece, similar to this blog post, to our local 'paper, the Tallaght Echo, who requested all 26 Councillors on South Dublin County Council to contribute their views on the Treaty.

I respect the democratic decision at recent Labour Party conferences to campaign for a yes vote for the Lisbon Treaty. Out of that respect, as a Labour Party Councillor, I intend taking no part in campaigning against this treaty and I will not be making any further comment to journalists or other parties. I've directed all those who are interested to this blog post for a clarification on my stance.

I have been on record since 2005 as opposing this Treaty on a number of grounds. It would be hypocritical of me to reverse a well-known and public stance. There has been a tradition of dissent on European matters in the Labour Party, right back to the time when some Labour members supported entry to the EEC in 1973 - in contravention of then party policy. Although, with regard to this campaign, I am voting ‘no,’ I share the same overall vision for a social, democratic and sustainable Europe as those campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Labour Party.

The referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is one of many important decisions in front of our country in the coming weeks and it is crucial that as many people as possible exercise their hard-fought franchise by using their vote on October 2nd. gives a fairly neutral overview as well as links to the treaty itself and information on how to check the voting register.