Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Looney appeals to Archbishop - defer plans to merge Greenhills schools to consult parents, staff and community

Cllr Dermot Looney, Mayor of South Dublin County Council and the only public representative based in the Greenhills area, has called on the Archbishop of Dublin to defer plans to merge three local primary schools, and to take more time to consult with parents, staff and the wider community.

Principals in St Peter’s Boys NS, St Paul’s Junior Girls NS and St Paul’s Senior Girls NS were informed by phone last Friday that the Archdiocese would be closing all three schools and reopening two new schools on the site of St Paul’s this coming September. Parents were informed of this on Monday and there has been considerable anxiety with regard to the speed of the proposed changes and the lack of consultation.

Cllr Looney, a past pupil of St Peter’s, in which he also trained to be a teacher, stated that he and his family have a long involvement in the schools. “My three brothers and two sisters also attended St Peter’s and St Paul’s, while my mother served on both Boards of Management and Parents’ Associations in the schools. I chair the Board of Management of Greenhills College, to where many of the boys from St Peter’s move. As a teacher myself, as well as a local resident, I am deeply familiar with the issues faced by the schools in terms of demographic shifts, changes in parental choice and relationships with other schools locally.”

“No-one who is aware of the history and current status of primary education in the Greenhills area will be particularly surprised with proposals to merge the schools. I am a supporter of co-education and would welcome the long-term security given to children and their parents in Greenhills from a combined approach.”

“However, having spoken with staff and parents from all three schools, I am deeply concerned with the nature of the announcement and with the intention to proceed with a merger in a few months time.”

“I have been informed that parents and staff have had no say in the nature of the amalgamation and were informed by phone call last Friday that the Archdiocese intends pressing ahead with the new schools this September. This runs counter to the inclusive approach which is championed in all three schools and has resulted in significant anger locally. People in Greenhills and nearby areas have a long and proud history with these three schools and such a rushed approach would be disrespectful to the community as a whole.”

“There are a variety of crucial issues on which parents and staff – and in some cases the community at large - should have their say; whether the new school/s are vertical or split into junior and senior, issues of accommodation such as classrooms and toilets, the future of the St Peter’s site, the names of the new school/s, the formation of Boards of Management, etc.”

“In the circumstances, I believe it would be prudent to delay the proposed changes until the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year, giving the relevant Boards of Management and the Archdiocese itself the time and space to engage in genuine, binding consultation and planning with parents, staff and the wider community.”

Cllr Looney has written to the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, to the Director of the Diocesan Education Secretariat, Anne McDonagh, and to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn to call for the deferral of the amalgamation plans.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Statement from Cllr Dermot Looney

I am announcing today my decision to leave the Labour Party with immediate effect.

On a personal level, this has been a difficult decision. I have been an active member of the party for most of my adult life and given more than ten years service as an activist, officer and, most recently, public representative. In that time I recruited and worked closely with a large number of new members, some of whom have left the party, and others of whom I will leave behind. I have worked in a progressive Labour group on South Dublin County Council and have enjoyed campaigning with many decent activists and representatives over the years.

However, on a political level, it has been clear to me for some time that the Labour Party is no longer for me, nor am I for the Labour Party. Over the last ten years I have done my best to advocate for policies and ideas rooted in the values of the left which brought me into politics. Over the last three, I have been dismayed at the failure of Labour in Government to advance these values and ideas, and am equally concerned at the long-term outlook for these politics in the party.

There is no one individual policy on which I am making a stand; there have been dozens over the lifetime of the Government with which I fundamentally disagree. Labour has kowtowed to Fine Gael’s economic agenda, presided over cuts across the public sector which worst affect those who are vulnerable, and implemented a series of demonstrably regressive budgets.

I have spoken with many local people who voted for me in 2009, or for Labour in the general election, who feel utterly sickened by Labour’s implementation of the austerity agenda. Their views match my own.  I stand diametrically opposed to government policy – and by extension that of the Labour Party – in areas as diverse as healthcare, local democracy, housing, state assets and taxation.

I believe that Labour has abandoned even the most basic of social democratic concerns in Government, and my decision to leave is based as much on the direction in which the party is headed as on its record in Government.

While I and others have argued for a change in direction, it is clear these arguments – even when made successfully via structures such as party conference – have had little effect. In my experience, Labour is controlled in effect by a democratic centralism which ensures power in the party is concentrated in the hands of a small few.

One can only rail against the inevitable for so long; in my own case, I have no distance left to run in the Party. Instead, I will be looking to continue a track record as a principled and hard-working Councillor by seeking election in May as an independent candidate in the “Templeogue-Terenure” Local Electoral Area. I will not be joining any other parties or groupings but hope in the future to play a constructive role in working with others on the left at local and national level.