Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Just wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families. Thanks for everyone support in the last year and looking forward to an exciting 2007, Michael.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A fair deal for all

Early last year when I was Chairman of the 883 member Association of County & City Councils, I led a campaign to correct an unfair denial of rights for Councillors for their contribution to public service prior to 2000. Our Association’s attempted since that year to correct an unfair anomaly continued to be thwarted by the powers that be. However, Minister Dick Roche announced last week that he has now accepted the case and decided to amend the regulation of 2000.

I’m a great believer in giving credit where credit is due and congratulate Mr. Roche, for his decision. This was a particularly complex matter, which obliged me to present many formal submissions to the Minister, his Department Officials, and even informally to the Taoiseach.

One of the more pleasant features of the issue was when I had the opportunity to address the Congress of Local & Regional Authorities, (CLRAE) in Strasbourg, on this matter to seek its influence and support in our negotiations with the Irish Government. I have many dear friends in the CLRAE, which were made during my term there representing Irish Local Government, and as CLRAE Chairman of the Socialist Group in the period 1995 to 1999.

Local councillors have since the foundation of the state being a corner stone to building our successful democracy and I take pride in leading the success of a campaign to make sure all members have finally got fair and equal recognition for their work.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime"

Over the last few weeks, we all have become too familiar with news stories about people murdered and shooting on our streets. Here in Kilkenny City, the stark reality of murder came home to us all, with the killing of Alan Cunniffe recently. Now I am not going to go off on a political rant attacking the government, for all political groups want to see crime disappear. What I am going to explain is how I think we should act, in what is a national crisis. Let me be clear, I do not use the term national crisis lightly, but that is what we face currently. To see a young man murdered at work merely for being in the wrong place shows us that no one is safe from these thugs.

It is my firm belief that we need to take a twin track approach on this crisis, to steal a sound bite from Tony Blair, we need to be “Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”. Now everybody wants criminals locked up for long jail terms and I fully agree with that. However at that stage it is too late, they have already committed the crime and there are already victims. We need to be creating a situation where young people are attracted to play a full part in their local community.

We need firstly to get tough on crime, recruiting more members of the guards is a start. The guards need to be properly resourced with increased spending on specialised units targeting these criminal gangs. If we look at the US model, where the FBI target Mafia gangs, we can see the success of this approach. Here in Ireland with militant nationalist groups like the PIRA and the dissident groups, the Special Branch and Military Intelligence have kept these groups in check. The government brought in “The Offences Against The State Act” to tackle militant groups, under which if a Superintendent states a person is a member of an illegal group this can be used as evidence to convict that person. Criminal gangs now offer the same level of threat to ordinary citizens as the terror gangs and must face the same laws and the same level of effort to put them out of business. We also need to increase resources for the Criminal Assets Bureau, to take the ill-gotten riches off these thugs. In short the government needs to put the criminal gangs out of business, if this means new laws or more money so be it.

Merely getting tough on crime is not enough, we need to spend as much time and effort removing the conditions where young people get involved in crime in the first place. We need to start in the school and in primary schools at that. As communities, schools are vital to all our lives and this is where the focus must start. We need early intervention when children start falling behind in school. Schools, particularly in under privileged areas need extra resource teachers and class room help to make sure all children get a proper education. It is not good enough that schools in poor areas have a lower rate of children attending third level, compared to schools in wealthier areas. Money should not be a factor in determining children’s chances of reaching their educational maximum. We need to invest in after school clubs to make sure that all children get properly looked after. Already in our communities we have people giving up their time and effort to help young people. Prime examples of this are the people who help run the local GAA, Soccer, Rugby clubs and varying other clubs. These citizens give to their communities by helping to run clubs for young people and we as a state do not give enough back in my view. Money spent funding underage teams and programmes for young people is money well spent. Our political system should be increasing spending on local community groups like these. We need more early intervention for young people involved in petty crime. If you stop people getting involved in petty crime, you reduce the chances of people going on to join criminal gangs. In short we need to spend as much on removing the causes of crime as on fighting crime. With this twin track approach, I believe that we all can make a real difference and stamp out this evil criminal menace that is eating away at the core of our nation.

I do not mean to have a rant on the subject, however this is something I feel very strongly about and it is something that crosses all social and political groupings. We all want to live in a peaceful and prosperous country and I personal do not intend sitting by and watching thugs take over.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I have not gone away

Just got back from holidays in the UK, where I visited my daughter Catherine, husband Aidan and twin boys Kyle and Dillon. Hence, the reason for not posting much blog infromation recently. With the weather so bad, it is hard to get a day to get out on the door steps. So we decided to take a short break and head over to the UK. Meeting up with Catherine and family is always something I look forward to, particularly spending time with their boys. Oh! my DIY interest is also used in erecting the Christmas lighting outdoors.

Some of that time includes bowling, golf, horse & mini-car racing, touring around London, eating in The Duck – or just slumming it in McDonalds or the Noodle Bar in Aylesbury. Shopping gets the ‘thumbs down’ though - unless, yes! there are exceptions to everything - unless we are in Hambleys. Hambleys is the world wide mecca for toys, based in Oxford Street in central London

Kyle is a huge Liverpool and Stephen Gerrard fan. Dillon is more interested Formula 1 and is looking around for the right replacement for Michael Schumacher for the 2007 Season.

I love going back to London and to Shepherds Bush in particular and meeting friends. At one stage in my life I was a London Transport Bus Driver. In ‘The Bush’ garage we operated the 12, 88, 105, 220 & 268 routes. Apart from the experience of going through training in the huge LT Chiswick School, the opportunity to become familiar with so much of Central London was great.
Sorry though, that the familiar Routemaster Buses are no longer around. Alas! the last one was withdrawn last year. Hope you like the picture of a Routemaster in a typical traffic scene synomonous with London and its many attractions.

A lot has happened during my holiday, the budget which I will post my thoughts on later in the week and of course the killing in Kilkenny City.

What can you say about the killing of Alan and the grief that his family must be going through. I think all of Kilkenny is shocked at his death and all our hearts go out to his family.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Does it ever stop raining

Does it ever stop raining is a question I asked myself this week. Had a good start to the week canvassing, with Tomas Breathnach in South Kilkenny. We canvassed in Piltown and Fiddown and got a great reception on the doorsteps. Fiddown is a typical ‘New Ireland’ village, once a quiet rural village; it has seen four housing developments of varying sizes built over the last few years. A new housing development is just about to start as you drive into the village as well. It is great to see new life expanding into rural villages, however the services to support the population growth needs to keep up with the speed of development.

I was delighted to see CIE have carried out upgrade work on the rail line running through the village. Fiddown used to have a station, however while the beautiful station house is still there, the train no longer stops in the village.

Later in the week I travelled to Dublin, where the Labour Party were marking Seamus Pattison’s 45 years service as a sitting T.D. A fitting tribute to Seamus who is now the longest serving T.D. in the State. Once I get the pictures of the night, I will post some of them on the Blog.

During the week, Grennan College invited me to an evening engagement, which I enjoyed greatly. This was a benefit night organised by the domestic science students to raise much-needed funds for the Carlow/ Kilkenny homecare team. A wonderful four-course meal, well done to the students and from what I hear well done on the amount you raised for this worthy cause.

Had great plans for later in the week to take a day off the canvas trail to get a round of golf in at my local golf club, Mountain View. Election campaigning is bad for the old golf game and I have not had the chance to get many rounds in this year. Anyone who has seen my golf game will tell you that I could do with as many practice rounds as possible.
With the amount of rain and high winds, these plans went out the window and so did canvassing as well. All the same got the chance to catch up on some of my day-to-day business as a local councillor.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Officially Launched

Yet another busy week on the election trail, with Pat’s visit on Monday and my work as a local Councillor, I did not get much canvassing done this week. The weather and dark nights makes it hard to get to as many doors as you can during the summer.

Anyway the main news of this week was Pat Rabbitte officially launching my blog while in Kilkenny City. The blog is turning out to be a real success and I am getting a good reaction with voters able to keep up to date with my campaign.

As for next week, keep on canvassing and look for a new pair of shoes. You would be surprised how quick you can get through shoes on the canvass trail.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A walk on High Street

Pat Rabbitte paid a constituency visit to Carlow / Kilkenny on Monday to support the election campaign of both myself and my running mate Jim Townsend. The tour took in a visit to Kilkenny City, where we started the day with Pat, Seamus Pattison TD and myself being interviewed on KCLR, the local radio station.

The next stop on the tour was a meeting with Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce. This was a very interesting meeting and was I was glad to exchange ideas on what needs to be done to support local business. This is a discussion I intend returning to again soon with the Chamber. Also on the visit Pat, Jim and myself visited the local newspapers, where Pat conducted a series on interviews on local and national issues. We paid a visit to the local SIPTU office, where Denis and his staff made us very welcome, after which we got in some canvassing in Kilkenny City centre.

The Kilkenny leg of the visit ended with lunch in The Ground Floor coffee shop, which I would recommend for good coffee and nice food.

I have seen the light

On Monday, I toured Carlow College and got to meet some of the staff and students with my election running mate Jim Townsend and Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte. Carlow College really impressed me with the facilities and range of courses it has on offer. The college itself was founded in 1782 and has a long track record of being a corner stone of education in Carlow and the surrounding areas. In the last number of years the college has widened its course choice and now offers courses ranging from humanities to social studies.

It is great to see such an old and historical building full of life and having students fill its halls ways. The library within the college stands out as an impressive feature and is a credit to the staff and students. Particularly heartening was the number of mature students attending the college and reaffirms my belief in life long learning. Well done on all the good work to the staff and students and thank you for having me as a visitor.

As James Connolly once famously said “educate to liberate”.

Time to end homelessness

It never ceases to amaze me that we still have people without homes in this Celtic Tiger economy. When the Simon community started in Ireland in the sixties, homeless people, and they were almost all men, were confined to the big cities, and mostly Dublin. I also saw my fair share of Irish people who fell on hard times in London, where I first became a Labour Party member. Indeed I should say congratulations to Emmet Stagg TD who has done so much to highlight the ongoing difficulties these people face in England, despite havcing contributed so much to our economy.

I am glad to support a new campaign on the issue called Make Room, a joint initiative of the Saint Vincent de Paul, Threshold, Simon and Focus Ireland who are demanding an end to homelessness by 2010. This will mean that homeless people in this city and county should be catered for, and that we should provide homes for those who need them. Public housing is always built when Labour are in Government, and ignored when we're not. It needs a Labour Minister in charge of this area again, before the spiralling waiting lsits for housing will finally be cleared, and biulders and developers made to liove up to their responsibilities once and for all.

Log on here to support the campaign., ending homelessness in Ireland by 2010

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Climate Change

Attended the documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, staring AL Gore during the week and I would recommend everyone to go see the film. This is truly an outstanding production and really brings home the effect we are having on the climate through our actions.

When you see the government allow the Sugar plant in Carlow be demolished, when with proper investment, the plant could have been converted to produce Bio ethanol, which can be used as a fuel source for transportation.

Using sugar beet to produce the eco friendly fuels, would have had a positive impact not only on the environment, but also on local jobs and local agriculture. The potential of this industry to create jobs locally should not be under rated. However, without the foresight to see the potential we will merely repeat the mistakes of the past.

The best example of this has to be the railways, nationally we are spending millions to replace lines we destroyed in the past. In years to come, we will have to build bio fuel plants to replace the sugar factory's we demolished in the past. Will we as a nation never learn.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Fair Pension For All

Another interesting week on the election campaign trail, so far I have been out canvassing for six months. It would look like Bertie is going to call the election for some time in May, so I am nearly half way through the campaign.

Glad to see that the papers covered my support for the pension rights for farm women. For a country awash with money, the government does not seem to be focusing on real issues. The pension right's of farm women is not just a farming issue. It goes to heart of what we should stand for, both urban and rural, it is about citizens being protected and cared for by the state. To see hard working families having to campaign for basic pension rights in a booming economy, shows up the huge weakness we still have in social infrastructure.

On a brighter note, I was delighted to be present at the formal launch of the rural walkway from Kilkenny City to Inistoge. The walkway cuts through some of the most beautiful countryside in Carlow / Kilkenny. Seeing the countryside opened up in an agreed manner is good news for all and will most certainly boost tourist numbers in the area. Hopefully, this is only the start of such projects for Carlow / Kilkenny.

John V Hillary

Took some time off the campaign trail this week to follow the election results in the USA. I was glad to see the Democrats came out the clear winners; hopefully President Bush will listen to the election results and review his national and international policies.

I was very interested to see John McCain express his intent to try and seek the Republican nomination to replace President Bush. The race to replace Bush is going to be very interesting. With Hillary Clinton making noises that she will seek the Democrat nomination, there will be fun times ahead. The most interesting race should be for the Democrat nomination and I believe Senator John Edwards will certainly strongly challenge Hillary., John Edwards site

Fun time ahead for all in politics, as the Chinese say, “may you live in interesting times”

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rural post office, worth saving

(Pat, myself and Cllr. Liam O'Brien from Carlow. Liam has done some excellent work fighting to protect post office services in Carlow)

I spent last weekend canvassing in some of my old local election area and got to meet up with a large number of my old supporters. The villages of Windgap, Kilmaganny, and Dunnamaggan formed part of my old local election area before the boundaries were redrawn in 1999. After being a local councillor for these areas for twenty years up to 1999, it was good to get back canvassing these areas. It was nice to meet up with some old friends and supporters once again.

The issues in these areas are very similar to many of the other rural areas, which I have already covered. Yet again the status of rural post offices was raised again and again on the doorsteps. The lifeblood of rural village is the local post office and sometimes, I feel the powers that be in government over look this. On the upside, it was nice to see some new housing being planned for Windgap. It is good to see new houses going into this nice village.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sign the Breast Cancer Petition

I see my colleague in Waterford, Cllr. Séamus Ryan, has started a national online petition to seek a proper national screening service to prevent Breast Cancer. As you all know, we have a crazy level of mortality from this cancer which affects a huge number of Irish women. I fully support this online petition, and I encourage you to get everybody possible to sign on to this petition which will go to the Toiseach and the Minister for Health. You can access the petition here, or through Séamus's blog at

Get online now and sign up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Looking after the farmers again

Travelled to Dublin on Monday at the request of the party's Agriculture correspondent Mary Upton TD. There we launched the party's new policy documnet on faming and rural development which is very welcome. As I said previously, I grew up as the son of a farm worker, so like most people I'm not too far removed from the land. I've also represented a rural constituency foer all my time in politics. There are some really great initiatives in this document, the best of which is the sensible proposal to give 50% rates reduction to the last surviving shops etc. in rural villages. In places like Skeoghvasteen, Coon, Glenmore, Ballon, Ballinabranna and Newtown this could keep the remaining small businesses open. You can view the full document here.

The other benefit of attending was the bit of National publicity involved. We got the Six One News on RTÉ and a great pic in the Irish Times on Tuesday. Now it's back to knocking on the doors and explaining the policy and our commitment to rural life to local people who live in these areas. Also got coverage in the Kilkenny People. It all adds up!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Welcome to the O' Brien Blog

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging. As I said in my profile, I'm entering my 23rd year as an elected councillor. Since that time much has changed about politics, but if you had talked about websites, email and particularly blogging when I was first elected, you'd have been taken off to the local psychiatric hospital, now thankfully almost closed.

I believe that politicians must always find new ways to reach out to voters and to communicate with the voters so I hope that you will follow my news and thoughts on life as your local councillor, election candidate and hopefully the next Labour Party TD for Carlow/Kilkenny. Let me know what you think, for better or worse.

Here goes now for my first pic. Here you see me, my party leader Pat Rabbitte TD, Cllr. Seán Ó hArgáin, the quiet lad from Kerry and now Councillor for Kilkenny city, and Cllr.Phil Prendergast, a Kilkenny native and our candidate for South Tipperary. We're at the recent world ploughing championships in Grange, Co. Carlow. Having been reared as the son of a worker on the now world-famous Mount Juliet estate, I have always been close to the land and rural people. You'll see in my next blog that I am playing an active part in the party's policy on rural Ireland.