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.