Manifesto

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As a solicitor, I’m acutely aware of how important rules and regulations are, be they in a tenant’s agreement or a contract for Irish water. The need for capable and informed decision making requires critical and independent thinking.

Why didn’t the Harbour development terms not adequately cater for a market downturn? What guarantees will we secure for the elderly and disabled with regard to bus passes and access if local bus routes are privatised? Similarly, we must ensure that our service frequency will not lapse, nor will our fares increase.

Coming from a family with special needs and having recently highlighted the patterns of neglect of the young, elderly and disabled, I pledge to do all I can as a councillor to resolve the injustice of reduced resource hours and excessive waiting lists.

Having experienced unemployment I am aware of the ever changing labour market. Education is the first step in building our children’s future. The lack of school places in Greystones and failure to plan for the recent population surge now compromises that future. This needs to be urgently addressed.

In five years time we as a community will look back at who helped and who hindered, who stood up and who stayed silent. I would encourage you to lend me your vote for change on the council for the benefit of no-one else but our community.

Education and Special Needs:

I have spent the last few months knocking on doors in the community, in an effort to learn of people’s greatest concerns. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns of all is that of education and the inadequate learning resources available to children in the area.Greystones has experienced a baby boom in recent years. In Kilcoole, Charlesland, and Delgany, parents are being confronted with unreasonably long waiting lists for Junior Infants starting school in September.

The addition of the Gaelscoil at Templecarrig and the opening up if a third junior infants stream in Kilcoole Primary School has temporarily eased the pressure. For parents with children due to start this September (29 children on the current waiting list) why is it that with only a few months to go they still do not know if a third teacher can be secured to commence their kids’ education?

Why is it that the parents of Eden Gate and Eden Wood have to deal with a failure to cater for their children under the old catchment area address system when the most obvious solution is to build another adequately sized primary school. The number of people rearing young families in Charlesland, Kilcole and Eden Gate is as clear an indicator of demand as one can find. In my view local representatives have a duty to represent that need; they need to make the argument and commit to a campaign for having an extra teacher for the additional classroom in Kilcoole. I pledge to do all I can, once elected, to realise this solution as an immediate priority.

The other thing our elected representatives will need to do is make the case for a more sustainable and strategic solution. As someone with experience of planning in the professional field of commercial law it truly shocks me that the supposedly smart people behind local planning decisions and department of education resourcing could have so entirely bypassed basis census details such as population growth forecasts and commuter feedback facts.

We need a proper primary school south if Greystones to cater for the children of Kilcole, Charlesland and Eden Gate/Delgany which is easily accessible to parents trying desperately to rear a family and earn a living, many commuting to work in the direction of the city centre. A local school would make life easier for these children and their hardworking parents. Not only that but our other schools in the area would come under less pressure and class sizes – already amongst the highest in the country – might reduce. Our children’s quality of education would improve, the stresses and concerns of their parents perhaps recede. As your councillor I will work ceaselessly to address these failures and correct these injustices.

At secondary level, it is clear that the manner in which the Temple Carrig Admissions Policy has been handled leaves a lot to be desired. I am firmly of the view that the terms on which the school was granted to our community should be complied with by the board of management now that the school will shortly be up and running. As your councillor I will work constructively with all interested parties in ensuring that all children living in the area are prioritised and that when it comes to the allocation of teachers, facilities or new schools what we get reflects the needs of the broader community and how those resources are managed is carried out in an honourable and transparent manner.

The lack of secondary-school level places also concerns me. Parents I have been speaking with make the point that once they secure a place in junior infants they are posed with another unknown: Will my child be guaranteed a place in a secondary school within the locality? Notwithstanding the anticipated opening of the new secondary school at Temple Carrig, the number of children currently in [first, second and third] class greatly exceeds the number of combined spaces available in our secondary schools. The message is simple: demand exists for an additional secondary school. If elected to Wicklow County Council, I will do my utmost to ensure that a thought-out, long-term strategy is put in place to rid parents’ fears and alleviate some of the pressure they are currently enduring.

One of the core reasons behind deciding to launch my campaign was, and is, the needs for greater awareness of, and investment in services for, special needs educations. According to the most recent census figures 66,437 Irish children have disabilities – that represents 5.8% of the total child population in Ireland (Central Statistics Office, 2011). Are these children getting the care and support from state services that they need? With 781 Wicklow children stranded on waiting lists for their initial assessment I believe the answer is ‘no’. Many of these children are waiting for periods of up to 18 months. This is unacceptable. If elected, I will make special needs a priority and do all I can to access greater resources for all children in the Greystones area. I will work closely with special needs assistance groups, and creative parents with ideas of their own, to make their lives as normal as possible.

A theme running through all aspects of education is the need for consultation. Parents, teachers, and care staff, all of whom are on the ‘front line’ of education, are left in the dark while key decisions are made – for example, the government’s failure to adequately consult parents and teachers on the proposed changes to the Junior Certificate cycle. I look forward to the challenge of effecting change for the benefit of our community by working closely with those on the front line in a sensible and sustainable manner.

In the meantime, I would welcome any further thoughts, suggestions, or concerns from the community on this matter. I fully recognise that I should be the one whose dinner is interrupted; not the other way around. I should be the one working until this job is done. I should be the one enduring the pressure. I am standing up to do this. I’m not here to waste anyone’s time. I am here to get this job done.

Housing, the disabled and mobility:

One of the taboo subjects of recent years is ‘housing’. While some quarters welcome the recent increases in house prices in and around the capital, I am cautious. More than that, I’m worried. Why are prices increasing? Why are they being allowed to increase? Are we embarking on another bubble?

These are questions I wish to pose to the government – a government who maintains that we are on the road to economic recovery. Well, aside from a reckless level of borrowing and some crippling debt levied on the public, I don’t see how we could be on the road. In fact, I don’t even see a road. My own party governed in an era where “regulation” and “taxation” became a dirty and inconvenient word – there’s no denying that; there’s no defending that either. The current Government replaced them with promises of “reform” and “fairness” – they too have failed to step up to the mark. Drops in the Live Register mask continued emigration of our brightest and best; Job announcements and inward investment announcements divert attention from struggling small businesses (with ECB dictated stress testing of their loan books) and lack of encouragement for creative entrepreneurs to realise their potential, pioneer industries and create sustainable employment. Being part of the European Union and throwing in our lot with the single currency are former glories for which only recently we have experienced the flipside of. I’m not criticising the Government for an economic and political evolution that we, as a nation, have largely subscribed to since 1972. What I am saying is that we any further treaties – as with local marina development or bus privatisation contracts – require foresight and broad stakeholder consultation rather than the populism that cost us so dearly in the past and now, under this Government, risks damaging our future quality of life once again.

Meanwhile, at local level, house prices – and rental prices – are on the rise due to a lack of adequate accommodation. Take social housing for example. Development of social housing has not taken place in Wicklow for many years. The waiting list is ridiculously long. Some of the people I have listened to in recent months have been waiting for 8 and 10 years. In fact, the list is so long that a second list has been created, and house-seekers on this second list won’t be considered until those on the first list have been accommodated.

Looking at the rental market, a clear trend is visible: with an increase in the cost of living and, in particular, a rise in private market rental rates, the maximum rent thresholds for people in receipt of rent supplement is being exceeded. Because of market forces outside of their control (but within the control of Government) they are being faced with a situation where they will lose their rent supplement if they remain in their homes.

I have encountered decent hard working people burdened with this pressure all throughout Greystones, Kilcoole and Newcastle. I have spoken with the Mid-Leinster Rents Unit (Department of Social Protection) about the prospect of revising the threshold levels for areas experiencing purchase and rental price inflation, and, accordingly, I have called on Jan O’Sullivan, the Housing Minister, to pritoritise the genuine concerns of Wicklow residents.

These measures can only bring temporary relief however. For sustainable accommodation solutions, we need to look at the existing need and anticipated population growth, and address how and when building (and appropriate infrastructure development) can get started. It is essential that Kilcoole, Delgany, Greystones, and Newcastle has a strong and capable voice on Wicklow County Council for the next five years to safeguard our community interests and provide for our housing needs.

Small & Medium Enterprise and Job Creation:

Unemployment is an area close to my heart. Or close to the bone, might be more accurate. In the last four years, I have been unemployed twice – a direct consequence of our current economic state. To make ends meet, I worked in several part-time positions before I bit the bullet and made the difficult decision to find work abroad. I succeeded in my aim and became part of what many people are calling, ‘Generation Skype.’ I empathise with other job hunters who have had to emigrate to earn a livelihood. I understand what they are going through. Is it too lofty or unrealistic an ambition to live in and contribute to the country many young Irish men and women call home? This in fact, is the main reason I’m here: I turned down further employment in London and returned to Ireland with the explicit aim of running for election – to tackle this problem. Jobs must be created in Ireland, in Wicklow, in Greystones.

Too many of my generation (Leaving Certificate: 2001, Business & Law Graduate: 2005, Qualified solicitor: 2009) entered the workforce at a time of economic crisis. We anticipated, rightly or wrongly, that jobs in our chosen fields would be readily available. They were not. We then found ourselves working abroad, unsuccessfully chasing jobs, claiming job seekers’ payments, or retraining. A resourceful generation wanting to work in a time of few resources.

Economic cycles come and go – as they say, the only constant in life is change. I accept that. However, what happened in Ireland was too extreme. The structures and practices responsible for the collapse remain largely intact as they were without any meaningful reform. I cannot accept that. We must learn from our mistakes and not repeat them, and ensure the correct people, with memory, backbone and capability, are in place to make better decisions in the future. The ‘bubble’ must never happen again, and we must be ready for any signs of it happening again.

We must do all we can to build an economy which has a diversity of sectors – one that can withstand a bubble bursting elsewhere. Going back to basics, small business is where we can start. For instance, too much has been made of multinationals. Yes, we can create headlines and incentivise these global giants with grants and tax-breaks, and yes they can come and to our shores and, in the immediate short term, creates hundreds or even thousands of jobs. But, in an even shorter term, these giants can eradicate those same jobs, leaving a trail of destruction behind and some even bigger headlines: ‘A hundred jobs gone in Galway’ or ‘Five hundred jobs gone in Cork.’ The problem with multinationals is that they have no real ties to Ireland, other than the promise of money from some incumbent government. But, all across the globe, there are other governments promising these giants even more money and grants. If we continue on this path of depending exclusively on multinationals, then we will forever be looking over our shoulders at other countries – wondering are they going to make ‘our’ multinationals an ‘offer they can’t refuse.’

The answer? Ireland must create its own homegrown multinational companies – and this is done by starting at the small business level. Ireland must choose areas which it can excel in – such as the pharmaceutical industry or the IT sector, where a highly-educated and skilled workforce is readily available. If the same money, the same grants, were afforded to our local businesses, there is no reason why Ireland cannot become a world leader in these areas; not a follower. But the money must be available to these companies. We must nurture our own enterprise and not abandon it, or write it off as nothing more than ‘second rate.’ Ireland is ‘first rate’ and nothing less.

In return, these businesses will grow and thrive in Ireland, and give young people hope – hope that they can live and work in Ireland, and recognise that, should they have a good idea for business, that idea will be supported and not dismissed. Rather than growing up and leaving our shores to be part of this so-called ‘Generation Skype,’ let our youth create their very own version of Skype in Ireland, for Ireland, and make Ireland an attractive proposition to other skilled and able workers, instead of those at the top level of the multinational companies, who will never set foot in Ireland…aside, perhaps, from signing on the dotted line in some politician’s office.

The question should not be, ‘Why start a business in Ireland?’ Instead, the question must be: ‘Why not start a business in Ireland?’ and, at local level, ‘Why not start a business in Greystones?’

We should have pride in our abilities and a sense of community spirit. And it is there – I was fortunate to experience it first hand at the recent St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Greystones, and the surrounding hinterland, has so much ability and potential to offer. If the County Council and its enterprise partners can support small businesses – as well as the young and jobless – to make this happen, who knows how many jobs can be created and which sectors or cottage industries will grow and develop in the future.

To date, I have made the case for greater integration between [Fas], small businesses and third level institutions to explore where existing skill-sets can realise their best potential. I have also – and regretfully – felt compelled to question the Government on their ‘Action Plan For Jobs’ strategy. It is short on detail and, disappointingly, slants true emigration figures.

Like many people out of work in the last few years, I have recalibrated my skill-set and acquired new abilities where the target job requires it. I don’t want to leave Ireland again but, more importantly, I don’t want others to leave Ireland. As your councillor, I assure you that I will work diligently – frankly, I’ll do whatever it takes – to change how the council works for you in these modern, challenging and progressive times in which we live.

Infrastructure, Commuter and Road Services:

Most residents appreciate the benefits of living in the Greystones area. A balance between city centre access and rural and seaside beauty. The attraction of Greystones lies in the idea of ‘having it both ways’. How easily and seamlessly we can commute to work, schools and other daily excursions is critical to this balance.

Having used bus and rail services both as a student and more recently as a working adult I believe firmly in the need for greater investment in and use of public transport options. For people who cannot afford to run a car or who quite simply would prefer to avail of integrated and adequate rail and bus options the standard of our existing services needs to be retained at a minimum and improved if at all possible.

Step One – maintain the existing standard of service. Since December I have worked hard to represent bus passengers concerns about plans to privatise the 184 bus route. As a solicitor I am acutely aware that the minimum service requirements binding any new operator need to be coperfastened now before the tender process opens later this year. Crucial to the interests of residents of Greystones, along the Mill Road, in Charlesland and Delgany is that service frequencies do not reduce and fares do not rise. The business case has to be made of course, however so does the public interest. I will continue to press the NTA for details and, if elected, will be better placed to use what skills I have to secure top class public transport services for the community.

Step Two – Fares. In the same way as private operators and public investment has to be justified so does consumer value. The DART fares from Greystones station are disproportionately high when compared with the fare paid with passengers in Bray or further inbound. As you representative I will continue to pressure the NTA into acting on their commitment (written letter to me) to review DART pricing in their upcoming national rail network review. For residents of Kilcoole I will continue to lobby for the opening up of DART or additional commuter rail services for this growing population area.

Step Three – Integration: The LEAP card is a welcome development. However the infrastructure beneath it needs greater integration. Why do 184 and 84 bus leaving Greystones Dart station not always sync with Dart arrival times? I will work with my council colleagues, the transport authority and individual operators to implement an integrated service that increases customer satisfaction and commuter options.

Roads: For those who remain reliant upon private road transport I have lobbied hard for maintenance to existing roads both in estates in Gresytones and Kilcoole and for connection routes in Delgany and Killincarrig. If as a councillor my efforts are met with the argument that funding is not available I will enquire and work with those around me to address the reality that a public liability claim arising from such failure to maintain will prove much more costly to council resources. Bad planning decisions on the road layout at Eden Gate and within Charlesland [Grove] do not sit easily with me. There is no excuse for public waste when people are being paid to do a job. I will bring that mentality to any decisions in which I am involved on your behalf. We need real and well thought out solutions. Quick fixes will not warrant a ‘pat on the back’ if I am elected.

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