Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Senators - Please, No More Gifts!

I have been blown away by the wasteful spending of certain Senators in parties other than my own who court votes from Councillors by sending frequent letters and, at Christmastime, cards and gifts.

Last year, my 'haul' included a number of diaries, a book on local elections, a box of chocolates and a tie. What a total waste of taxpayer's money and abuse of parliamentary resources!

I've already received one diary this year from a FG Senator - see left. I don't know who paid for it - but it came in a Seanad envelope.

In anticipation of receiving more, I wrote to all 60 Senators this evening as below. It will be interesting if I receive any replies from the "usual suspects."

A Sheanadóirí,

As a County Councillor elected in June 2009, I was very surprised last year to receive all sorts of "gifts" in the posts from Senators from parties other than my own, presumably in the hope of securing my support in a future Seanad election.

I received another such "gift" today. In anticipation of receiving any more, I want to state that I do not wish to receive any further "gifts" from any Senator. In my view, they are a waste of taxpayer's money as well as a needless expense. The only impact that the receipt of such a "gift" would have on my voting intention is negative.

I would encourage any Senator intending to spend their own money on sending Christmas cards or "gifts" to every Councillor in the land to instead give the money to one of the many worthy causes which need it most, such as their local St Vincent de Paul or other local or international charity.

Is mise, le meas,

Cllr Dermot Looney
The Labour Party / Pairtí an Lucht Oibre
South Dublin County Council / Comhairle Contae Áth Cliath Theas

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Article re Pat's-Rovers Crowd Trouble

Article re Pat's-Rovers match


Our Local Clubs Belong to the Fans, Not the Fools
- Cllr Dermot Looney

As a Councillor representing the Shamrock Rovers heartland of Tallaght – not to mention a teacher in a Rovers-mad sixth class in St Dominic’s NS, just down the Bypass from Tallaght Stadium - it’s hardly in my interest to be a St Pat’s fan. But that’s exactly what I am, long-suffering and all though my support has been.

So although my political sensibilities may have been split during the FAI Cup semi-final replay last week, my footballing loyalty held true to the bitter end. Constituents and schoolkids alike have since kept me well-reminded of Rovers’ 1-0 victory in the replay!

But outside of the fanbase of both clubs, all attention focussed on the crowd trouble after the final whistle. Within an hour of the final whistle, radio phone shows were buzzing with conflicting reports of what was likened to a full-scale riot.

Like everyone else with a passion for League of Ireland football, I’ve seen it all before – both the crowd trouble and the damaging reports. What rankles with me is that the extraordinary work done behind the scenes at both clubs – simply to keep them going – is jeopardised by a small group of teenage wannabes, a smaller group of grown men who should know better, and sections of the media who only realise that we have a football league in Ireland when there’s a hint of trouble.

The pitch invasion by no more than 200 of 2000 Rovers fans in the ground may have represented a natural overspill of emotion after winning the match, but the danger in which it placed players and others was unacceptable. Similarly out-of-order was the movement of this throng to confront the St Pat’s supporters in the West Stand, the half dozen or so St Pat’s fans who jumped onto the pitch to confront the Rovers’ fans, and the ensuing minor skirmishes and plastic bottles being thrown back and forth.

Those who seek to portray this as ‘part-and-parcel’ of the ‘rough-and-tumble’ of the game – as some did in the media last week - are doing a great disservice to League of Ireland football. There was real fear in Richmond Park on the night. The throwing of flares or bottles or scuffles with stewards are not welcome in Richmond Park, Tallaght Stadium or anywhere else in football.

But this wasn’t the first pitch invasion in football - and it won’t be the last. And it is wrong for any newspaper or radio station to sensationalise the extent of last Tuesday’s incidents. Some outlets – the Echo included – reported sensibly on the crowd trouble. Others hyped it up – a great boon for the few wannabe-hoolies who revel in such coverage.

For my part, I was struck by the discipline of Pat’s and Rovers fans on Tuesday who remained off the pitch and stayed uninvolved despite provocation by some of those on it. Football fans aren’t angels – stand beside me on the Camac Terrace on any given Friday night and you’ll testify to that – and nor should they be. The League of Ireland, for all its faults, has not been pasteurised and retains the working-class character and edge that has been lost in the Murdoch era of overpriced top-flight football across the water. But our ordinary, decent fans rarely get a mention and yet are tarred with the hooligan brush whenever incidents such as these are reported. We need to learn the lessons from nights like last Tuesday for these ordinary fans and their clubs.

Firstly, the punishment for those involved in any form of violence must now be strict and immediate. Fans have been banned by clubs in the past, but to save any confusion and to ensure the integrity of our game, perhaps it is time for an “FAI ban,” meaning that such ‘fans’ would be banned from the Aviva Stadium and FAI-sanctioned away trips as well as all domestic games. It is also clear that security must now be tightened both at and around games of this nature.

Secondly, fans should redouble our efforts to promote our clubs rather than have incidents like this sensationalised in the media. Community-based papers such as The Echo give excellent coverage to both Pat’s and Rovers, but other outlets treat so-called ‘domestic football’ with disdain. Real fans should challenge the sensationalism at all opportunities. I see on a daily basis the amazing work done by Shamrock Rovers in promoting a positive identity for kids in Tallaght, as well as their excellent youth set-up which keeps kids on the pitch and off the street corners. St Pat’s do likewise. Fans should seek to promote these plus-points in the traditional media and online through social network sites.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, longstanding supporters at both clubs have a role in encouraging younger fans to steer clear of trouble by both words and action. For me, the only thing more depressing than the scoreline last week was seeing a grown man throwing a bottle and another storming onto a pitch swinging an umbrella. After all, Pat’s and Rovers belong to the fans, not the fools.

Irish Daily Mail article

Aiden Corkery, a journalist from the Irish Daily Mail picked up a tweet I posted regarding a hate site targeting Senator David Norris two days ago and published an article in today's paper. It's not available online so I've typed out the piece below.

Norris targeted by hate-filled anti-gay site

A WEBSITE containing homophobic remarks has been created to attack the presidential bid of gay rights campaigner David Norris.

Despite appearing under the apparently pro-Norris name of davidnorris4president.com, the website repeatedly refers to Mr Norris' homosexuality.

It claims that homosexuality is a 'lifestyle which is often associated with sexual promiscuity' and that there is 'no genetic evidence' to support being gay.

'David has embraced a lifestyle which is blatantly out of line with traditional biblical morality,' it states. The slickly-designed site encourages fans to visit campaignforconscience.org, which contains even stronger attacks on the gay community.

And it describes homosexuality as a 'self-destructive lifestyle' as well as criticising the recent Civil Partnership legislation that allows homosexual couples to have their relationships legally recognised for the first time.

Both websites appear to have been created by conservative Christians Seán and Martina Burke who have a family of ten children in Castlebar, Co Mayo. They held a series of protests outside the Dáil in the run-up to the Civil Partnership legislation.

Last night, family spokesman Enoch Burke declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Daily Mail. The existence of the website was highlighted by Labour councillor Dermot Looney.

Mr Looney - who is supporting Labour's Michael D Higgins for the presidency - said he was sickened by the site. 'It reminds me a lot of the attack-style campaigning by the Republican party in the US,' he said.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Press Release - Ghost estates still a problem in South Dublin, notes Looney

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has said that the publication of the National Housing Development Survey this week highlights over 5,000 ghost houses and apartments in the county. The report shows that, like most counties, South Dublin has a significant problem with ghost estates that are in limbo and only partially completed.

“The report on ghost estates,” noted Looney, “is an indictment of the developer-led planning that blighted the Celtic Tiger era. The greed of developers and their friends in Fianna Fáil was allowed to flourish at the expense of good planning, affordable housing and sustainable communities.”

“Ghost estates have been characterised as a particular problem in small rural towns and in the so-called ‘commuter belt.’ However, there are issues particular to our situation in South Dublin. Here, unlike in other counties, it is clear that many of these uncompleted developments involve apartments, which make up approximately half of the units in the study.”

“This report found that there were 49 ghost estates in South Dublin encompassing some 9,425 units. Within these estates there are 2,953 units where construction has not even started yet. An additional 760 are still under construction while there are 1286 units completed but vacant.”

“Of the 119 areas set aside for open space in these estates, 45 were uncompleted. These add up to severe difficulties for residents of nearly 4,500 homes which are occupied in the partially-completed estates.”

“As well as the myriad issues regarding issues of good standards of living, estate completion and the creation of sustainable communities, the South Dublin area has a particular problem with management companies in apartment and other multi-unit developments. In particular, developers retain a controlling interest in many management companies but may not be contributing their management fee. This can create great difficulty for residents in getting vital work done in their estates. The issue of management companies is another failure of ‘light touch’ regulation in Ireland and regrettably the new legislation on management companies is not retrospective.”

Summary of the report including SDCC statistics is available at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad,24375,en.doc

Article for "Look Left"

Look Left is an excellent leftwing magazine which has had three issues in 2010 to date. The magazine is supported by the Workers' Party but is editorially independent.

I wrote the following article for Issue 3 of the magazine about the left-wing Alliance on SDCC. You can find out more about Look Left on the web at http://www.lookleftonline.org


A left-wing Alliance on South Dublin County Council holds fast more than a year on from the Council elections, writes Labour Councillor Dermot Looney

The 2009 local elections marked a move by voters away from Fianna Fáil and, in urban and suburban parts of the country at least, a shift to the left. Nowhere was this more evident than in South Dublin County, the third largest local authority in the country after Dublin City and Cork County, dominated by large towns such as Tallaght, Lucan and Clondalkin.

Last June, voters returned 9 Labour, 8 Fine Gael and 3 Sinn Féin Cllrs, along with one People Before Profit Alliance and one Independent Councillor. Only 4 Fianna Fáil Cllrs were elected out of 26 – three of those on the final count, one of whom required a recount.

The historic pasting given to Fianna Fáil enabled the Labour Party to enter negotiations to form the ruling group on the Council. But rather than reach agreement with Fine Gael, as has happened elsewhere in deals for ‘mayors and chairs,’ Labour looked left in negotiating an ‘Alliance for Change’ with Sinn Féin and Independent Councillor Guss O’Connell.

The Alliance of 13 Councillors forced Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael into effective opposition on the Council, with PBPA Cllr Gino Kenny tending to support the Alliance in most votes. Remarkably, it has been widely suggested that this may be the first ever formal left-wing Alliance in over 110 years of Irish local government.

Although the standard “Mayors and Chairs” pact is part of the Alliance agreement, all three parties to the Alliance – Labour, SF and Guss O’Connell – focussed on policy matters from the outset. A 36 point plan focussing on housing, environment and heritage, development and planning, enterprise, jobs and value for money priorities agreed in June 2009 remains the working agenda for meetings of the group.

All 13 members of the Alliance agreed to forego the €4,500 a year claimable in Conference expenses and instead divert the money to a fund to provide the first emergency homeless shelter in the South Dublin area. We were joined in this pledge by Cllr Gino Kenny (PBPA) and John Lahart (FF) but the three other FF Councillors, along with all eight in FG, continue to claim these expenses.

At a time of cutbacks and vicious attacks on working people and those left behind, Alliance Cllrs have been engaged in a fight to defend public services as much as to expand them.

The current Council Budget agreed just before Christmas differed greatly from its National namesake introduced by the Government just weeks before. The Alliance sought in its approach to protect frontline services and prioritise the most vulnerable, achieving, for example, a new €1.2 million project for essential maintenance on windows, doors and other features on 500 Council homes.

Indirect taxes too have been the focus of Alliance Cllrs in the Chamber. My own motion to oppose July’s 31% hike in the Council’s bin charges won support from all Alliance Cllrs – in fact, only FF refused to back it. However, the County Manager over-ruled the vote of the Councillors based on a 2003 Fianna Fáil/PD decision to withdraw the democratic involvement of elected representatives in setting waste charges. There is no doubt that the Manager will attempt to do likewise regarding domestic water charges, which were opposed as a matter of policy by the Alliance both in the Agenda and during a debate on a successful motion I brought to the Council last November.

Continuing to oppose these attacks on working people, standing up for quality public services and demanding a sustainable planning future for South Dublin remain the priorities for an Alliance which remains solid in the uncertain times ahead.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Great day at the Harvest Fair

Managed to get out of my sickbed this morning to attend most of the first-ever Greenhills Harvest Fair. Although I was involved on the Organising Committee, the real plaudits should go to the community groups who came together to organise a fantastic event. Find some of the pics from the event below as well as a video. I'm off now to get ready for the Barn Dance - where did I leave that stetson?

EDIT - some great new pics added (the four above) taken by Brian McArdle of the 65th Scout Unit.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Press Release - Fianna Fáil Let the Mask Slip on Tallaght Kids’ Hospital, Says Looney

Labour Party Cllr Dermot Looney has slammed comments at yesterday's Council meeting by a Fianna Fáil Councillor who supports the closure of Tallaght Children’s Hospital. Looney’s reaction comes in the wake of the monthly meeting of South Dublin County Council in which Fianna Fáil Councillor Eamonn Walsh voted and spoke against a motion calling for the children’s hospital to be saved.

The motion, proposed by Labour Mayor Eamonn Maloney, asked Councillors to oppose the closure of Tallaght Children’s Hospital and the planned Government policy to relocate it to the Mater in the North Inner City.

“Tallaght Hospital has only been opened for ten years but for most of that time the Fianna Fáil/PD axe has hung over the head of the Children’s Hospital,” said Looney. “Tens of thousands of parents from across Tallaght and the rest of South and West Dublin – not to mention Kildare, Wicklow and other parts of the country – have benefited from this excellent and accessible facility, staffed by hardworking and dedicated personnel who themselves want the Hospital to stay in Tallaght.”

“Four years ago, then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that a new Children’s Hospital would be built at the site of the Mater Hospital in his own constituency of Dublin Central. The scandalous lack of accessibility, parking and traffic issues around the Mater – never mind the cost – shows up yet another example of Fianna Fáil cute hoor-ism.”

“Ever since, Fianna Fáil’s representatives in Tallaght – particularly TD’s Conor Lenihan and Charlie O’Connor – have blustered and blown while our Kids’ Hospital faces the chop. They’ve put out leaflets and press releases and made speeches full of misinformation and spin, claiming to oppose the closure of the facility. One of them even turned up to a march organised by the Hospital Action Group and Mayor Maloney to save the hospital!”

“But now it seems, with Cllr Walsh’s incredulous speech on Monday, that the Fianna Fáil mask has slipped. Cllr Walsh’s bizarre suggestion that local parents should bring sick kids on the Luas to the Mater shows not only a heartlessness, but a cluelessness on FF’s part. His accusation of ‘emotional blackmail’ against Councillor colleagues who continue to support the hospital and its work shows Fianna Fáil at its core – nasty, brutish and unfair.”

"Labour wants the Children's Hospital to stay in Tallaght. We want to properly resource this modern facility which is easily accessible to hundreds of thousands of people. My colleagues Pat Rabbitte TD and Cllr Eamonn Maloney are standing on this ticket in the general election, whenever it comes - local voters should now be clear on where Fianna Fáil stands."

Friday, 3 September 2010

Reports of Children Being Turned Away from Special School Very Worrying

Tallaght-based Labour Party Cllr Dermot Looney has said that reports from St Joseph’s Special School in Balrothery that approximately 20 children with special needs were turned away from the school on its first day back yesterday are very worrying indeed. Parents were reportedly told on Thursday that the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) had decided that children previously earmarked for the school would now need to await a decision later in the month to determine whether or not they could attend St Joseph’s. It is now unclear as to the arrangements for these children to attend school in the meantime.

Looney, who works as a primary school teacher at another local school, has called on the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) to clarify the situation at the school as a matter of urgency. The NCSE tightened special schools criteria earlier this year and it is understood that these criteria are being used to justify yesterday’s announcement.

“The very existence of St Joseph’s was put under severe threat in February of this year due to Government cutbacks. At the time, the NCSE stated its intentions to cut 2/3 of the teaching and support staff, including a reduction from 16 to 6 teachers,” said Looney. “The school was also told it would lose 12 out of 17 Special Needs Assistants, although the cuts were somewhat alleviated on foot of a vocal campaign by parents and school staff.”

“In the case of yesterday's incident, it is unclear whether the local SENO had received, as reports are suggesting, the documentation on these children before the summer break, only to report today that children would have to wait until later this month before their situations are fully assessed. There is confusion over the designation of the special needs which apply to the school and it appears that the SENO has possibly taken a strict interpretation of “Mild General Learning Disabilities” which has discounted these children.”

“My understanding is that the school principal and staff, as well as parents, were until yesterday under the impression that the children were approved for attendance at the school. If this was the case it would appear that the Department of Education and Skills has failed in its basic duty of care to these pupils.”

“I understand the majority of the children concerned had been in mainstream schools last year and their parents had agreed to the huge step to move them to St Joseph’s. Uniforms were bought, transport arrangements were made and the children were all set for the year ahead when they were told the devastating news. The stories emerging from St Joseph’s of confused children in floods of tears coming out of the school are heartbreaking and everything must be done to ensure the situation for these vulnerable children is clarified immediately.”


Note: St Joseph's is a special school in Balrothery, Tallaght which caters for approximately 100 special needs children aged between 5 and 18. The school offers a range of FETAC programmes as well as the Junior and Leaving Certificate for older children. A discussion on the incident including eyewitness accounts, has been taking place on the Special Needs Parents Association Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000878825538&v=wall&story_fbid=123113721074191#!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Press Release - South Dublin Bin Charge Hike Due to Fianna Fáil, says Looney

Labour Party Cllr Dermot Looney has said Fianna Fáil are to blame for a 31% increase in bin charges in South Dublin County Council. Looney was commenting in the wake of yesterday’s (July 12th) decision by the County Manager to proceed with the bin charge increase despite Councillors passing a motion proposed by Looney against the hike.

Looney’s motion against the rise in bin charges, which won support from all Cllrs other than the three Fianna Fáil members present, noted the VAT charge of 13.5% and Minister Gormley’s increased landfill levy as part of the reason for the increase. In a speech on the motion, Looney also noted the decision by Fianna Fáil in Government in 2003 via the so-called “Protection of the Environment Act” to take away powers on waste charges from elected Councillors and give them to unelected County Managers.

“Fianna Fáil’s latest assault on local residents comes in the form of another jumped-up stealth tax,” said Looney, “and despite all the guff we heard at Monday’s Council meeting, they are squarely to blame for the increase.”

“Fianna Fáil attempts to blame Labour or any other party for the increase are beyond hypocrisy. Fianna Fáil decided in 2003 to take away powers from Councillors to impose and decide the level of charges and hand them to the County Manager. The Government are imposing 13.5% VAT on the charges by transposing an EU directive which benefits private waste conglomerates at the expense of ordinary people. Fianna Fáil and the Greens support year-on-year increases in Minister Gormley’s landfill levy, which has doubled since 2006 at a cost of millions to South Dublin.”

“Moreover, Minister Gormley and the FF/Green Government continue to give the two fingers to South Dublin by crediting the residents in our county with the lowest Local Government Fund allocation in Ireland. The chronic shortfall in support from central government has led to the further stretching of Council finances.”

“It is regrettable that the County Manager over-rode the decision of the people’s representatives on the Council – but let’s not forget who is to blame for this lack of democracy,” said Looney.

Charges for the standard black bin and newly-introduced brown bin will increase by almost a third from August 1st. Charges for black bins, currently at €8 per lift, will rise to €10.50, while the charge for brown bins, which deal with food and garden waste, is set to rise from €4 per lift to €5.25. Looney has said that the announcement could mean an extra €100 per year burden on local families as well as a further economic and environmental cost to the area because of increased fly-tipping and dumping.


Motion below

Motion Pursuant to Headed Item 12; Proposed Cllr Dermot Looney

We the elected members of South Dublin County Council oppose and condemn the decision by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government to impose VAT on the bin collection charge. Furthermore we condemn the increase of the Landfill Tax which has led to this proposed hike in the household bin charge. We call on the Manager not to increase bin charges.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Press Release: Looney urges no deal with Veolia on SDCC over Israeli involvement

Cllr. Dermot Looney, a Labour party representative on South Dublin County Council, is demanding that the Council refuse to deal with French multinational company Veolia given their role in building an illegal light rail system in East Jerusalem. Looney is bringing a motion to tomorrow’s (July 12th) full Council meeting to highlight the construction of a light rail system linking Israel to illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, and the involvement of Veolia, who run the LUAS service in Dublin as well as waste and water services across the world.

Looney’s motion comes on foot of similar motions passing in Dublin City Council, Galway City Council, Sligo County Council, Donegal County Council and Castlebar Town Council, and has the full support of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign. A similar motion will also be brought to Fingal County Council tomorrow by Labour Councillor Patrick Nulty.

“Veolia’s involvement in this project is utterly illegal and immoral,” stated Looney “and I am asking South Dublin Councillors to join forces in demanding that the County Manager does not sign any contracts with Veolia.”

“Ireland has a long record of international solidarity, including the historic role of Irish people in opposing apartheid in South Africa through boycotts and other actions. I believe that the representatives of a quarter of a million citizens in South Dublin are right to demand an ethical procurement policy which will rule out Veolia until such time as they disinvest from this illegal light rail system,” said Looney.

John Dorman, Divestment Officer with the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said that "the IPSC fully supports Cllr. Looney's motion, and strongly encourages all councillors in South Dublin County Council to vote in favour of it. They will be following in the proud footsteps of their colleagues in councils in Dublin, Galway and Sligo who have also adopted similar motions saying 'no' to a company that collaborates with the Israeli.state's theft of Palestinian land. Furthermore, the IPSC encourages all Irish town, city and county councils to pass such motions."


Text of motion is as follows;


“That this Council, in light of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people, recognises (1) that Veolia is a leading partner in the consortium contracted to build a light railway system linking Israel to illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, (2) that the Irish government and the U.N does not recognise Israel’s annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem and have repeatedly stated their views that the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank contravene international law and (3) that Veolia’s involvement in the project is in contravention of the UN’s stated demand that Israeli settlement activities and occupation should not be supported, and calls on the County Manager not to sign any new or renew any existing contracts with Veolia.”

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Press Release: Looney Slams Bin Charge Hike in South Dublin

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has said news of an increase in bin charges in South Dublin is a further blow to hard-pressed local residents. Charges for the standard black bin and newly-introduced brown bin will increase by almost a third from August 1st. Charges for black bins, currently at €8 per lift, will rise to €10.50, while the charge for brown bins, which deal with food and garden waste, is set to rise from €4 per lift to €5.25. Looney has said that the announcement could mean an extra €100 per year burden on local families.

“Local residents are already bearing the brunt of the recession with job losses, pay cuts and cutbacks to community services,” said Cllr Looney. “One of the few hoped-for benefits would have been a freeze on costs due to the low inflation or even deflation in the economy. Instead, though, one of the necessary services upon which hard-pressed local residents rely is set to jump by a third.”

“For a large family who need to leave out a black bin and a brown bin every two weeks, this represents an increase of €97.50, from €312 per annum to €409.50. As well as the economic cost to local people, there is evidence to show an environmental impact to such decisions, with fly-tipping and dumping set to rise.”

“The increases come in part from an EU decision to level the playing field between public and private waste operators, meaning that local authorities now have to charge VAT on their bin collections; great news for private waste companies, but not for local citizens. Furthermore, the fact that South Dublin County Council receive less per head of population than any other local authority from Minister Gormley’s Local Government Fund means that Council finances are already at a stretch.”

“These increases are an executive function of the Council, meaning that they are introduced by Council officials without the involvement of local elected representatives. Nevertheless, I will be calling on officials to cancel the increase and safeguard the under-threat waiver system at the full Council meeting next Monday.”

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Red Flag

I was honoured to be invited to the Jim Connell Festival in Crossakiel, Co. Meath earlier this month to sing "The Red Flag," the international socialist anthem. Jim Connell, born in nearby Kilskyre, was a Fenian and socialist, is commemorated in Crossakiel, the last place he spoke in Ireland.

You can read more on Jim Connell on Helena Sheehan's page here.

I have been involved with the song ever since the Tom Johnson Summer School was held in nearby Kells in 2004 and SIPTU historian Francis Devine presented a lecture on the song and the man. I proposed the song be adopted as the Labour Party anthem at the 2007 Conference, a tradition which continues to this day.

Here I am singing it at the Jim Connell Festival earlier this month. It was my first time singing with a full brass band - hence the timing issues!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Speech Proposing Review of Derelict Sites Legislation

Here is the speech I gave on my motion on Derelict Sites at today's Council meeting. The motion was unanimously agreed by the members of the Council. I'll be sure to update this blog with any reply from Minister Gormley.

Motion 4: Cllr Dermot Looney
"That this Council, in light of existing derelict sites in the county, including the McHugh's Site in Greenhills, and the likelihood of further sites in the coming months and years, notes that existing legislation, including the 1990 Derelict Sites Act, fails to empower local authorities and communities in appropriately resolving the dereliction and neglect caused by these eyesores. This Council calls on the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government to conduct a review of the relevant legislation and practice in the area and, on the basis of such a review, to introduce changes to redress the balance between the interest of developers and those of local communities."

The purpose of this motion is to set in place an historic review of the legislation governing derelict sites in this county and across Ireland. It is timely given the likely onset of dereliction across the grey swathes of NAMAland. But it is equally relevant to the extant eyesores which already pollute our area.

The citizens we represent are entitled to have their communities protected within, by and through the public sphere. That notion of a public sphere was under constant attack throughout the so-called boom. Developers and their developments, no matter how unsuitable or impracticable, were lauded in the name of progress.

Those of us who dared to question the landgrabs, the gazumpers, the get-rich-quick overdevelopment and the greedy hanging on to sites in the hope of further price inflation, were accused of begrudgery and drudgery. Now, as the bubble lies burst on so many of their properties, they’re the ones being bailed out by their Government friends, and as those developers retreat into comfortable obscurity, or scarper out of Ireland altogether, the ghost estates and other kips left behind continue to haunt our communities.

The existing legislation and practice have failed, and failed miserably, to protect the communities we represent. The legislation is out-of-date – as well as the 20 year old Derelict Sites Act, much of the role of our councils relies on a Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act from 1964. The legislation is overly-complicated – the myriad processes remain a mystery to communities after years of involvement in seeking cleanups and repairs. And the legislation is clearly pro-developer and anti-community.

The 1990 Derelict Sites Act tells us that “It shall be the duty of a local authority to take all reasonable steps (including the exercise of any appropriate statutory powers) to ensure that any land situate in their functional area does not become or continue to be a derelict site.”

Regarding the McHugh’s site in Greenhills I refer to in the motion, many of these steps and powers have been taken. But rather than a neighbourhood centre providing services to our community, or even a cleaned-up patch of open space, we are left with the neglect, the eyesore, the dumping and the rats. Up ‘til recently we also suffered vast scrawls of graffiti, an unsecured entrance, so-called antisocial behaviour within the site and the danger of bonfires at Hallowe’en. This Council called, as part of the statutory powers spoken of, for the provision of a brick wall at the site. Instead, the developer threw up a few sheets of MDF hoarding in a job that would make a cowboy builder blush.

The long, drawn-out process taken against McHughs and its sister derelict site less than a mile away at the Burmah Garage in Wellington, and the drip-drip of action and inaction, have led to almost 20 years of dereliction on these sites alone. There is no more damning evidence of the failure of derelict sites legislation than the failure to deal with those who own those sites. As Seán McHugh sits in the Spanish sun, the communities left without a neighbourhood centre, a Post Office for old age pensions or a pharmacy for medicines stay behind as victims of pro-developer legislation.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Press Release: Looney Takes Derelict Sites Campaign to Dáil and Council Chamber

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has taken his campaign against derelict sites to the Council chamber and Dáil Éireann. Looney is seeking to ensure laws governing eyesores - such as those at the McHugh’s site in Greenhills and the Burmah Garage in Wellington - are strengthened “to redress the balance between the interest of developers and those of local communities.”

Looney’s motion to Monday’s County Council meeting calls on Councillors to seek a review of the laws governing derelict sites. Meanwhile, Looney has worked with Labour’s Dáil spokesperson on Environment, Joanna Tuffy TD, to call on Minister John Gormley to review the 1990 Derelict Sites Act and other relevant legislation through a parliamentary question.

“I am asking Councillors here in South Dublin to help set in place an historic review of the legislation governing derelict sites in this county and across Ireland,” said Looney. “Between the McHugh’s and Burmah Garage sites there is almost 20 years of dereliction and neglect impacting on local communities in Dublin 12 and 6 West. Although our Council are reluctant to define sites as derelict under the narrow legislation currently in place, there are dozens of other neglected sites elsewhere in Tallaght Central, with the likelihood of many more to follow across the grey swathes of NAMA-land.”

“Having campaigned in particular on the McHugh’s site for some years, I know how limited the current laws governing derelict sites are. The balance is tipped in favour of developers and against local communities who have to endure these eyesores. The existing legislation and practice have failed, and failed miserably, to protect the communities we represent. Now it’s time for Minister Gormley to change the laws to make it easier for local authorities to punish rogue developers and, where appropriate, take over the sites.”

“Minister Gormley’s response to my colleague Joanna Tuffy does not inspire me with confidence. He refers specifically to ‘ghost estates,’ which while important, are not the only types of derelict sites in our community. Now the message is going out loud from Greenhills, Templeogue, Tallaght and South Dublin – it’s time for a change in the law,” said Looney.


Editor’s Note:

Cllr Looney’s motion to South Dublin County Council (May meeting, deferred from April):

“That this Council, in light of existing derelict sites in the county, including the McHugh's Site in Greenhills, and the likelihood of further sites in the coming months and years, notes that existing legislation, including the 1990 Derelict Sites Act, fails to empower local authorities and communities in appropriately resolving the dereliction and neglect caused by these eyesores. This Council calls on the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government to conduct a review of the relevant legislation and practice in the area and, on the basis of such a review, to introduce changes to redress the balance between the interest of developers and those of local communities.”

Joanna Tuffy TD’s Parliamentary Question 17045/10 – April 27th, 2010

“Question 332: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review the existing legislation, including the 1990 Derelict Sites Act to empower local authorities and communities to resolve the dereliction problem and the neglect caused by these eyesores in view of the large number of existing derelict sites around the country.”

Answer from Minister John Gormley: “Under the Derelict Sites Act 1990, local authorities are required to take all reasonable steps, including the exercise of appropriate statutory powers, to ensure that any land within their functional area does not become or continue to be a derelict site. To this end, they have been given substantial powers under the Act in relation to any such sites, including powers to require specified measures to be taken in relation to a derelict site, to impose a levy on derelict sites, or to compulsorily acquire any derelict site. I expect local authorities to use their statutory powers as they consider appropriate. While I have no plans to amend the Derelict Sites Act at this time, as I indicated in reply to Priority Question No. 4 on 22 April 2010, I will keep the need for further legislative reforms to assist local authorities in addressing the issue of unfinished or unoccupied estates under review.”

Monday, 3 May 2010

Press Release: Looney Slams Local Dental Cutbacks

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Councillor for Tallaght Central, has criticised a circular sent by the HSE to local dentists which withdraws “all but emergency treatment” for those on the medical card. The cut in services, which has been described by the Irish Dental Association as “unsafe, unworkable and unethical,” comes in the wake of other health scandals, both local and national.

“Here in Tallaght, we have had a disastrous few months in local healthcare, including the x-ray debacle and Far East letter outsourcing at Tallaght Hospital, revelations as to the lack of GP cover for areas such as Fettercairn and the ongoing absence of cover in the primary care centre beside Tallaght Library,” said Cllr Looney. “Nationally, Mary Harney and the unaccountable HSE continue to preside over a failing health service, continuing to impose a moratorium on recruitment and expend time and effort on an ideological model of healthcare in which the rich will always get the best treatment.”

“Now, the crisis in our finances caused by the toxic triangle of Fianna Fáil, the banks and developers yet again targets working people, the unemployed, the elderly and the vulnerable. Thousands of local people whose circumstances mean they require a medical card will now be denied a range of routine treatments, including fillings, extractions and dentures, as well as treatment for gum disease,” noted Cllr Looney.

“As a result of this circular, preventative work such as scaling and filling will be abandoned, which means that serious dental problems, rather than being tackled, will simply be stored up for the future. What are these same patients to do if they need dentures at some stage in the future?”

“The Irish people gave their verdict on the PD vision for healthcare by getting rid of the party at the last general election. The people of Tallaght Central gave their verdict on the FF apologists at the last local election by voting for Labour in unprecedented numbers. This latest attack on working people, the elderly and the vulnerable, show that even after the death of the PD’s, this Fianna Fáil government continue to promote a two-tier healthcare system, where the best care is for the rich, and the rest are left to suffer,” concluded Cllr Looney.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Press Release: Looney Welcomes Support for IT Tallaght Bus Shelter

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Councillor for Tallaght Central, has welcomed the huge support from staff and students in IT Tallaght for a campaign to install a bus shelter at the main stop outside the college. The “Shelter from the Storm” campaign, which Cllr Looney is running with the newly-created IT Tallaght Labour Branch, has already achieved more than 150 signatures from students, staff and local residents who use the stop, as well as support from more than 200 Facebook users.

The bus stop on the Old Blessington Road serves the 54a, 65, 65b, 77 and 77a routes and caters for hundreds of passengers each day. The “Shelter from the Storm” campaign asks Dublin Bus to install a shelter at the site to protect passengers from inclement weather.

“This campaign is noteworthy for two reasons,” said Cllr Looney. “Firstly, the lack of shelter at this site is ridiculous when you consider the huge numbers of passengers using the stop on a daily basis. The only reason offered against providing a stop – cost – can be easily argued against.

Dublin Bus receive significant advertising revenue for these shelters and the provision of a large shelter will encourage more potential passengers to stay at the stop. I have been promoting the idea of a shelter at this site since I was selected as a candidate last year but the only real impetus has come about with the work of students in the college.”

“Secondly, this marks a welcome development in student activism at IT Tallaght. The Labour Branch have run this campaign with enthusiasm and professionalism, and I’ve no doubt that the activists there will play a hugely positive role in student politics and the local Labour Party in the years to come. There are plenty of bus shelters in UCD, Trinity and DIT – Tallaght deserves better, and with the work of these students in setting the agenda I am confident that Dublin Bus will respond positively.”

Adam Fulham, Vice-Chair and Campaigns Officer of IT Tallaght Labour, said, “the campaign is going really well so far and we have got great feedback from both students in the college and local people. The bus stop is a really busy one so it’s a wonder there isn’t a shelter yet.”

“On our first day of petitioning in ITT, we got over 100 signatures. The Students’ Union have shown a real interest in our idea and supported our campaign. I hope the campaign is successful because there is a real appetite for a shelter, especially with Irish weather!”

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Reflections on Labour Conference 2010

As someone who identifies with the left in the Labour Party, last week's Party Conference in NUI Galway was one of the more positive I have attended. It certainly ranked above soul-less "TV Conferences" held in DCU and the RDS, and Leader's speeches in the Mullingar Accord-era where you'd wince at the fops to FG and tax promises. The 2010 Conference was still worrying, but more for the lack of significant debate than for a 'shift to the right,' as some on the left outside of Labour would allege.

The coverage of the Conference focussed, as you'd expect, on the Leader's speech and PLP, but the lack of mention of some more significant motions in any of the press outlets was curious.
I was the only person to speak against a Motion on the Friday evening session. There were two contrasting motions on Seanad Éireann - the first, a composite from the Clondalkin Branch in Dublin Mid-West and the UCC Branch in Cork South-Central, which called for Seanad reform, and a motion from the Duleek Gate Branch in Louth calling for Seanad abolition (you can see all three motions here.)
I had intended to speak in favour of abolition but, as it happened, there was no-one present to move the motion from the Duleek Gate Branch - as happened with far too many motions over the weekend. I therefore spoke against the UCC/Clondalkin composite - opposing old friends in the process. I rose to speak after a number of well-received speeches in support of reforming, not abolishing, the Seanad. It seemed as if I was entering an atmosphere unfriendly to my stance. Hardly Daniel in the lions' den stuff, but I was somewhat nervous. My speech is below - I was happy with its reception and felt I swung the debate in part at least.

The ensuing procedural farce stymied the chance for the delegates present to decide for themselves. Pat Rabbitte TD spoke after the motions in an attempt to 'wrap up.' Deputising for Brendan Howlin as the relevant spokesperson, Pat was clearly awkward, praising my own speech but not going so far as to call for outright abolition. Instead, he urged a referral back to the party's Executive, a common procedural tool to avoid the 'hard' questions. This was not accepted by the motion's proposers, and so the Chair, Brian O'Shea TD, moved to take a vote on the motion.

The standard show-of-hands showed a significant split in the Conference Hall - it looked to me as if the motion to reform was defeated, and my opposition was successful, but the Chair, who was aiming towards a card count, then claimed that we needed a vote on the motion to refer back - which itself passed, meaning no straight vote for the members. A pity, but by no means a defeat for those on the left who advocate, as I did, the abolition of the Seanad on democratic grounds.

There was no coverage of this somewhat-important motion in the papers or on TV.

Nor was there of the internal party elections - not that you'd expect much, although the Times previously covered these - but again there was a strong showing for the broad left. Gary Honer's magnificent campaign for Party Chairperson secured 40% of the vote - a stunning achievement for a 24 year old grassroots candidate with little or no backing in the PLP or upper echelons. Essentially, the union bloc vote went with the incumbent Brian O'Shea TD, so it would seem that Gary tied or even won the vote of branch, section and constituency delegates. Myself and Gary enjoyed a few smiles afterward, as he rightly celebrated his excellent showing.

The poll-topping performance of Rory Geraghty in the male panel of the new Executive Board shows the ability of Gary's successor as LY Chair to build a broad base of support, again amongst grassroots members.

Nor did we hear or read mention of my own branch's motion on running a candidate in the Presidential election. As I refer to in my speech below, the debate about running a candidate has now been agreed on - and with no small thanks to an outgoing member of the Executive and friend of this blog, Paul Dillon. So I used the chance to speak to Conference to highlight the kind of candidacy and candidate I believe will best represent Labour and our values. It'll be no surprise, then, that I promoted Michael D Higgins as the candidate in my speech.

Another composite motion, proposed by Emmet Stagg TD of the Kildare North Constituency Council and Cllr Patrick Nulty of the Mulhuddart Branch in Dublin West, advocated outright opposition to water charges and Labour to abolish any charges introduced when next in Government. It's no secret that there are those in the party who are are either ambivalent on water tax, or downright supportive. I believe they're in a small minority but, given that we're often told that there are environmentalist and even progressive reasons for water charges, it would have been an opportunity for them to speak out. None did and the motion was passed unanimously.

But, again, there was no coverage.

Strange then, when John Gormley made another announcement last Monday about introducing water charges, we had two distinctly different press releases from the party. The first, from our relevant spokesperson, Joanna Tuffy TD, argued that "The Labour Party remains opposed to the reintroduction of domestic water charges and believes that the cost of providing an EU standard of water to every home in the state should be funded through a reformed tax system." But the second, issued in the name of Dublin City Cllr Aodhán Ó Riordáin, made no such reference.

I'm not sure if either got much coverage, although I just saw Joanna Tuffy, who I believe is very solid on the issue, on The Week in Politics making the Labour case against water charges. But I do know that a letter (see below) from 24 Labour Councillors in all four provinces, including myself, was sent to all national papers but, to my knowledge, was published in none. The signatories were sourced by email in a couple of hours, so I would take the cross-section, rather than the numbers, as an indication of support.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of political spin would worry about the lack of coverage for any of these matters. The media consensus seems to be rallying behind water charges, so I've no doubt that it would hardly be in the interests of Madam or others to publish our stance, but bizarre that there does not seem to have been any paper to publish the letter. Let me know if you've seen it off the beaten track!
As Labour Party Councilors, we wish to state our opposition to Minister John Gormley's plan to introduce water charges.

Labour reaffirmed our opposition to water charges at our Party Conference in Galway last weekend. We believe in the provision of water as a fundamental human right and that the cost of providing an EU standard of water to every home in the state should be funded through a reformed and progressive tax system.

Labour also confirmed at our Conference that we are committed to abolishing these regressive water charges if in Government. In the meantime, we as Councilors will continue to lead the opposition to water charges and privatisation in our communities and in Council Chambers across the country in the months ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr. Gearóid Buckley, (Bandon Town Council) Cllr. Kevin Byrne, (Kildare County Council) Cllr. Shaun Cunniffe, (Tuam Town Council) Cllr. Marie Corr, (South Dublin County Council) Cllr. Peter Coyle, (Fingal County Council) Cllr. Donie Daly, (Youghal Town Council) Cllr Paula Desmond, (Cork County Council) Cllr Ger Dunne, (Naas Town Council) Cllr. Leonard Hatrick, (Ardee Town Council) Cllr. Dermot Looney, (South Dublin County Council) Cllr. John Lyons, (Dublin City Council) Cllr. Eamonn Maloney, (South Dublin County Council) Cllr. Marie Moloney (Kerry County Council) Cllr. Frank McBrearty Jnr, (Donegal County Council) Cllr. John McGinley, (Kildare County Council) Cllr. Patrick Nulty, (Fingal County Council) Cllr. Sean O' Brien, (Tullamore Town Council) Cllr. Tomas O’Brien, (Kinsale Town Council) Cllr. Cian O’Callaghan, (Fingal County Council) Cllr. Michael O’Donovan, (Fingal County Council) Cllr Paul O'Shea (Ennis Town Council) Cllr. Seamus Ryan, (Waterford City Council) Cllr. Eamon Tuffy, (South Dublin County Council) Cllr. Mark Wall, (Kildare County Council)
By now you'll probably have seen Eamon Gilmore's well-received Leader's speech and Michael D Higgins' articulation of a republican ideal of citizenship. And I don't think I was the only one to appreciate the irony of the centrally-produced Gilmore for Taoiseach placards given the history of that particular idea. But the real story of Conference 2010 was at the grassroots - typical, then, that it seems to have been buried.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Press Release - Looney Raises “Serious Concerns” With Religious Segregation in VEC Primary Schools

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on County Dublin Vocational Education Committee (VEC), has raised “serious concerns” with the system of religious education in the primary schools run by the VEC. Cllr Looney, who is also a primary school teacher, has asked that, in light of this week’s Prime Time report on the segregation of children for religious reasons at the two schools in question, the VEC Committee debate the issue at their upcoming April meeting.

County Dublin VEC, which is responsible for a variety of educational institutes, centres and schools in South Dublin County, Fingal and part of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, currently runs two national schools, Scoil Choilm and Scoil Ghráinne, both of which are in Dublin 15. The schools are part of a Government plan to roll out a state-run community school model, separate to the predominant model of Catholic patronage.

“Like many parents, teachers and members of the public – and indeed figures in the Church hierarchy – I believe the predominance of Catholic schools is a historical hangover from which Ireland needs to recover,” said Cllr Looney. “Having seen at first hand the success of the VEC model of community education at second level, I was very positive about the role the VEC could play in rolling out the new model of community primary education.”

“However, the revelations in the Prime Time report that children are segregated for religious education into groups of Catholics, Other Christians, Muslims and Others are very worrying indeed. The report’s suggestions of Church involvement, either official or unofficial, in the drawing up of a religious curriculum for these schools further dashes hopes of a new dawn in community education. It is no coincidence that the author of the most commonly-used religion programme in Catholic schools, Alive-O!, has created the new religious curriculum for the VEC schools.”

“Faith transmission is already the norm in the vast majority of schools. I believe that the new VEC model, which is due to be rolled out in hundreds more schools in the decades ahead, need to move away from this approach,” said Cllr Looney.

“The teaching of religion itself should not be a problem. Educate Together schools, which are multi-denominational but do not segregate children, operate an Ethical Education curriculum under which all religions are taught along with issues of democracy, justice and environmental sustainability, while facilitating religious education, including preparation for sacraments, after school. Following the recent revelations, a similar programme should, I believe, be adopted by the VEC for the two schools already in operation, and those to come in the future,” concluded Cllr Looney.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

APRIL FOOLS! Press Release: Labour Cllr Looney to Defect to Fianna Fáil

Cllr Dermot Looney, who represents Tallaght Central on South Dublin County Council, has announced that he is to leave the Labour Party and join Fianna Fáil with immediate effect.

Looney’s defection to the ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ comes two days after the announcement of a €32 billion bail out of Irish banks.

“Dublin South-West deserves the very best,” said Cllr Looney, “and that means, of course, the party of De Valera, Lemass, Haughey and Ahern.”

“Over the last few years, I have been increasingly impressed with Brian Cowen’s leadership, in particular his management of the economy,” said Cllr Looney.

“Fianna Fáil, as a Republican party, represent the true inheritance of the 1916 Rising and the legacy of Connolly and Tone. Never have such true republican values been more evident than this week in the Dáil. Now, more than ever, Fianna Fáil have truly shown that they are beholden to no vested interest,” Cllr Looney continued.

“I look forward to working with my new constituency colleagues Charlie O’Connor TD and Minister Conor Lenihan in winning a third FF seat in Dublin South-West in the next election.”

“I am sure both TD’s will join with me in wishing everyone a Happy April 1st,” Cllr Looney concluded.


Edit - April 4th - Yep, an April Fool's - Shockingly, I'm staying with Labour! Thanks for the interest though :)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Press Release - Looney to ask Council to Back Green Isle Workers

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council (SDCC) for the Tallaght Central area, has confirmed that he is to table an emergency motion at next Monday’s Council meeting in support of workers in dispute with Green Isle Foods in neighbouring Kildare. Looney, who attended last Saturday’s demonstration in Naas in solidarity with two workers on hunger strike, will submit a motion calling for the implementation of Labour Court recommendations in the case. The motion comes on the back of a similar call from Dublin City Council passed unanimously on March 1st in support of the workers, and similar proposals on Fingal County Council and Cork City Council.

Looney’s motion criticises Northern Foods, the British conglomerate who run the Green Isle plant, for their intransigence and refusal to engage in a meaningful way with the TEEU union representing the workers in the dispute. The motion further calls on the company to immediately reinstate the three workers involved as per the recommendation of the Labour Court Recommendation.

The workers have been on the picket line for over six months protesting at the unfair dismissal of three colleagues and the refusal of the company to allow them union representation. The Labour Court recommended the full reinstatement of the dismissed men and said they should be paid €180,000 compensation if the company does not reinstate them.

“It is incredibly sad that workers have had to resort to desperate tactics in this dispute,” noted Looney, “and all because of an intransigent company which refuses to engage with workers or recognise their right to collective representation through their union.”

“Given the immediacy of the situation caused by the hunger strikes of Jim Wyse and John Guinan, the company should move quickly to implement the recommendations of the Labour Court immediately and apologise to the workers for the appalling way in which they have been treated.”

“Green Isle employ a number of workers living in the catchment area of South Dublin County Council and supply foods to retail outlets across the county. It is entirely appropriate that the representatives of the quarter of a million residents in South Dublin take a stand in defence of workers’ rights in this instance, as we have done previously in other disputes, and as other Councils have done elsewhere.”

Looney’s motion, which is seconded by fellow Labour Councillor Eamon Maloney (Tallaght South), will be brought before the Council meeting on Monday if the dispute has not been settled by that stage.

EMERGENCY MOTION (text may be subject to change depending on developments):

Proposed: Councillor D. Looney

That this Council expresses its full support for the workers at the Green Isle Foods Plant in Naas, Co. Kildare, who have been on strike for six months in protest at the firing of three of their colleagues. This Council criticises the parent company involved, Northern Foods PLC, for their intransigence in the dispute, and for refusing to implement the recommendations of the Labour Court, or to permit the intervention of the Labour Relations Commission or National Implementation Body.

This Council, being deeply concerned at the extreme hardship imposed on the 13 men still on strike on foot of the dispute and the distress caused, particularly to hunger strikers Jim Wyse and John Guinan, calls on Northern Foods PLC to accept Labour Court Recommendation LCR 19698. This recommendation, which has been accepted by the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union representing the workers in question, will allow for the resolution of the dispute either through the immediate re-instatement of the three workers involved, or the payment of €180,000 in compensation.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Press Release - “Bring Gay Pride to Tallaght,” says Cllr

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council (SDCC) for the Tallaght Central area, has called on the Council to work with event organisers in order to bring the annual Pride festival to Tallaght and other parts of South Dublin County. The Dublin LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) Pride Festival, first run in 1983, is a celebration of LGBTQ identity as well as a focal point for activism on issues of equality.

Last year’s Pride Festival, which was launched by Labour Lord Mayor Emer Costello and Labour Leader Eamonn Gilmore TD, attracted thousands to the centre of Dublin for a variety of events, including 12,500 attendees at the Pride Parade. The 2010 Event will take place this summer. Cllr Looney has now asked SDCC to contact the organisers of Pride with a plan to organise events in South Dublin.

In a motion to February’s Council meeting, Cllr Looney asks that the “Council congratulates the success of Dublin Pride in raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Dublin for more than 25 years and offers its support for the 2010 event,” and calls on the Council to “contact Dublin LGBTQ Pride Limited to offer support and assistance, with a view to holding events in the South Dublin area in this and future Pride festivals.”

“Promoting equality at all levels is the ultimate agenda of the Labour Party,” Cllr Looney noted. “Labour’s record on LGBT rights speaks for itself – from decriminalising homosexuality in 1993 to campaigning for the right of same-sex couples to marry in the present day. Now, we have a chance to promote LGBT rights locally by hosting events in our county town of Tallaght and elsewhere in South Dublin.”

“Homophobic attitudes and discrimination towards LGBT people remain a huge blight on our society. Gay Pride Festivals have done much to challenge these prejudices in a celebratory and positive way. I am delighted that the Council’s positive response to my motion and organisation of recent events for LGBT History Month in our libraries show that we are moving forward in South Dublin aswell.”

Cllr Looney’s motion will be debated at the Council’s February meeting next Monday.


Motion and Response from County Manager below;


MOTION: Councillor D. Looney

This Council congratulates the success of Dublin Pride in raising awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Dublin for more than 25 years and offers its support for the 2010 event. This Council will contact Dublin LGBTQ Pride Limited to offer support and assistance, with a view to holding events in the South Dublin area in this and future Pride festivals.


February 2010 is LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) History Month. South Dublin County Library Services have organised three events as follows and an exhibition from the Irish Queer Archive to mark the month:

1. Movie Night at Tallaght Library- Screening “Milk” directed by Gus Van Sant
2. Irish Gay History: A Talk with Senator David Norris and Brian Lacey
3. Literary Evening with Jamie O’Neill, Jarlath Gregory and Denis Kehoe

In addition the Council’s Social Inclusion Officer has made contact with the Chair of the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival and discussions are on going in this regard. The Social Inclusion Unit is also exploring the possibility of holding an event as part of the Annual Social Inclusion Week promoting positive attitudes towards the LGBTQ Community in South Dublin County.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

McHughs - Recent Updates

A number of local residents have been in touch asking for updates on the McHugh's site, now entering its seventh year of dereliction. While I welcome the limited shopping facilities on offer in the new Traders Off-Licence, facts are that our neighbourhood centre remains a derelict eyesore. McHugh's has been my number one priority on the Council and I have been working with a wide group of people to ensure appropriate development at the site to provide the community facilities we need - as well as safeguarding the future of the site with a new Specific Local Objective in the County Plan.

Below are my most recent updates on McHugh's from my December, November and September local newsletters.


December 09 Update...

I have been unrelenting in promoting our campaign to reclaim the derelict McHugh’s site for our local community. It is almost seven years now since the old shopping arcade was destroyed by fire and local people remain rightly furious over the lack of appropriate development at the site and the increasingly-bad eyesore left behind. The graffiti around the site has become worse in recent months and the site was a huge fire hazard over Hallowe’en, when I liaised with the Gardaí to ensure that the opening of the site would not lead to a potentially dangerous bonfire. Following my queries at Council level I have established that there are now plans by McHugh to scale down the current planning permission for the site, which was granted in April 2007 and will last until April 2012. My understanding is that the revised plans, which are still being drawn up, will include fewer apartments along with offices, a restaurant and a couple of retail units along with a mini-supermarket. While I would welcome any serious plan to provide decent services on the site, I will not support any unrealistic proposals or ones which are not likely to get built.

The good news is that, through my own motion for the County Development Plan which was agreed by the Council, any future plans for the site will only be permitted to include community facilities and appropriate commercial services for local residents – the scare stories promoted by those with questionable agendas as to what might go into the site should be nipped in the bud. Both myself and Pat Rabbitte TD will continue to promote what Labour believes is the best option – a Council-led Compulsory Purchase of the site, and subsequent community-led development – in the months ahead.


November '09 Update

Cllr Dermot Looney continues to lead the fight to restore the old McHugh’s site which should be providing an important neighbourhood centre for local people. The lack of progress from the developer and the ongoing dereliction continues to cause grave concern across Greenhills. Dermot has secured the community nature of the site in the long term with a Specific Local Objective now in place in the County Development Plan that the site can only be used for appropriate community and local services, and no other purposes.

Cllr Dermot Looney adds:

“In response to the pressure put on by our community, the Council Management finally placed a fine on McHugh of €60,000 a year under the Derelict Sites Act. However the owner has still not paid the levy and now the Council’s Law Department is pursuing the matter through the courts. Against the background of the government’s €54 Billion NAMA bailout of the banks and developers, the cost of acquiring our derelict neighbourhood centre site is modest indeed – and I will fight to ensure the money collected from McHugh is used for our community services.”

September '09 Update

6 years on, and the derelict former site of the McHugh’s Shopping Centre on St James’ Road continues to be the major issue for residents of Greenhills and Limekiln. After a campaign launched by Dermot Looney last year, the site was
eventually entered onto the Derelict Sites Register by the Council and the developer,
Sean McHugh, was fined for breaches of planning enforcement regulations. The Council are now pursuing the developer through the courts following his refusal to pay a levy issued for the dereliction.

“I have embarked on a number of measures in recent weeks to attempt to recover this site for the Greenhills community,” said Cllr Looney. “In the short term, I have made an enforcement complaint as to the use of the site for storing building material and vehicles. I have also sought to have the appropriate development of the site included as a ‘Specific Local Objective’ of the County’s Development Plan and have asked Council officials to prepare a report on a Compulsory Purchase Order or other mechanisms to take over the site. Winning won’t come easy in this campaign - but with the togetherness of local residents, we will succeed,” noted Cllr Looney.


You'll also find a number of posts on this blog related to McHugh's by going to http://thelooneyleft.blogspot.com/search/label/mchughs

Monday, 18 January 2010

Press Release: Local Cllr and Teacher Slams Further Special Needs Cuts

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council and primary schoolteacher, has said that reports of Government plans to axe hundreds of Special Needs Assistant posts are worrying in the extreme. Looney, a fifth class teacher in St Dominic’s School in Tallaght, has said that reports of direct cuts revealed in last week’s Irish Independent come on top of a review of SNA places which is reported to seek cuts of 1200 posts out of 17000 part- and full-time positions nationwide.

The review, announced in March, was followed by proposals from ‘An Bord Snip Nua,’ the cuts body chaired by right-wing economist Colm McCarthy, which proposed cutting 2000 full-time SNA’s.

“Special Needs Assistants are as crucial to modern Irish education as teachers or other staff,” noted Cllr Looney. “I have worked in schools across Tallaght and the wider area and know the amazing work carried out with special needs children by these committed and professional staff. Parents, children, teachers and all the other stakeholders in our education system are now distraught with news that SNA’s across Ireland are under threat, compounded by the ensuing disruption to pupils caused by lost places in the middle of the academic year.”

“Low-paid SNA’s were hit with huge cuts in take-home pay under Budget 2010. Now the threat of thousands of jobs being lost means the myth of public sector job security, often the jeer of conservative commentators, is blown apart.”

“The impact on special needs children and their classmates will be similarly vicious. Cuts in special needs classes, teachers, resources and now SNA’s point to a government stuck back in time with notions of huge classes and no staff beyond the classroom teacher. The hedge-school mentality of Batt O’Keeffe and the Government has no place in an Ireland where special needs children have an absolute right to support from teachers, SNA’s and other staff and resources.”

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Press Release: Looney: Burst Pipes Should Not Be Stalking Horse For Water Charges & Privatisation

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has said that the recent disruption to water supplies should not be used as an excuse to introduce water charges or the privatisation of water services. Looney was commenting as local residents entered their second week of disrupted supplies, with residents Dublin 12, 6w and 24 suffering lengthy disruptions due to burst pipes on top of reduced pressure and the turning off of water during off-peak times.

Looney is leading the campaign on the Council against the implementation of domestic water charges which he says will be a double tax on working people. His motion to the Council in November, opposing water charges and favouring conservation measures, won support from all parties on the Council with the exception of Fianna Fáil. Now the Tallaght Central Councillor has said that arguments for water charges being advanced during the current water crisis are “opportunistic and cynical.”

“The problems sustained across the Dublin region as a result of burst water pipes and the ensuing problems with pressure and difficulty sustaining reservoir levels have led to considerable difficulties for local people,” said Looney.

“As a result I have had an unprecedented amount of calls, emails and other contacts from residents in my local electoral area – particularly the communities of Fernhill (Manor Estate), Cherryfield (Walkinstown) and Greenhills in Dublin 12, and parts of Dublin 6w. Local people were particularly concerned with the lack of information provided and the failure of the Council to deal with direct phone calls to the main switchboard in Tallaght or the emergency number in Deansrath in the early part of last week. Therefore, throughout last week I endeavoured to keep people informed of the updated status of water supplies and burst pipes through Facebook and Twitter, as well as more conventional methods – with an excellent response.”

“Having spoken to senior engineers I am aware that it may be a matter of weeks if not months before water supplies are restored to normal levels. Local people are entitled in the short-term to more accurate information on pressure reduction and pipe repairs, as well as to solutions in the medium- and long-term. Although South Dublin has a better record of water retention than other local authorities, we still lose a fifth of our water supply through leaking pipes and are badly affected by neighbouring counties with whom we share the water network who lose more. If we are serious about water conservation, the Government should enable a major scheme of pipe and network repair across the country, giving a boost to jobs as well as ultimately saving money.”

“But we should beware of those who seek to exploit the current water problems as a means to introduce a regressive water tax which would hit working people, the unemployed and those at the margins of society the hardest. Fianna Fáil and the Greens have already made it clear that they want to hit people who already pay for water through general taxation with an additional water charge. Such a departure will be viewed as a tasty opportunity for profit by large multinationals who will lick their lips at the drip-drip to water privatisation. The experience both in Ireland, in terms of waste charges, and abroad in general, is of taxes first, followed by privatisation, followed by worsening services and asset-stripping.”

"In spite of support for water charges from conservative parties, commentators and interest groups, I will continue to lead the opposition to water charges and privatisation in our communities and in the Council Chamber in the months ahead.”

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Press Release - Looney Calls for Decency on Delayed Bin Collections

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has called on the Council to respond fairly to those with extra waste from the Christmas and New Year period due to delayed bin collections and icy conditions. The Tallaght Central Councillor made the call as some households faced a third week without bin collections due to Christmas scheduling and the cancellation of routes due to bad weather.

“I have been contacted by a number of local people whose waste no longer fits in their grey bins due to these cancellations,” noted Looney. “I have also received reports that bin crews, who are doing an otherwise admirable service during these icy conditions, have informed householders that they will not take any bags or other waste outside the grey bin, and are advising local people to go to the Ballymount Civic Amenity where it costs an extra €15.”

“With roads so treacherous all week, this course of action is not possible for many residents. The pile-up of rubbish for so long is a potential health hazard and a great inconvenience to the householders concerned. On foot of my representations, the Council have informed me that they are prioritising uncollected routes for sanding on Friday January 8th to ensure collections. Furthermore, I have asked the Environmental Services Department to advise bin crews to consider taking extra waste on routes which have been previously cancelled. This one-off solution is an appropriate measure in the circumstances."