Thursday, 28 October 2010
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.
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
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
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.