Wednesday, December 20, 2006


FINALLY we had the announcement of Labour's second candidate Nicky Kelly in Arklow. Pat Rabbitte came to do the honours. There was a great turnout. There were a few people unhappy with the decision but the overwhelming view was that two candidates offer Labour the best chance of two seats in Wicklow. This is a vital achievement and could determine the make up of the next Government. I certainly intend to work with Nicky Kelly to win the two seats. It would be good to see Arklow get a seat - the first time in its history.

I was sorry to see Mildred Fox announce her retirement from politics. We have so few women in Dáil Eireann that one less is a major loss. But I understand her decision and wish her all the best.

I hope everyone has a happy Christmas and a happy new year. 2007 will be an exciting year with the General Election getting close and a change of government....who knows what 2007 will bring but I'm looking forward to it...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Book launch

DELIGHTED to have attended Michael D's book launch last week. How does the man do it? Full of energy, full of prose! Congratulations to Michael D.

Another book launch this week was the Nikki Kelly's aptly named "When justice slept".

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


TRYING to unscramble my brain after travelling to Calcutta with the Hope Foundation on their Hope Himalayan Walk 2006. It's well named. The marginalisation of thousands of people and the sight of such poverty was ameliorated by sparks of hope in the classrooms, and clinics and co-ops that the Hope Foundation supports. Coming back to the usual business in the Dail was a bit of a culture shock.

But it was all systems go wit the Nursing Homes scandal blowing up again. And the decision of the High Court on frozen embryos case provides an opportunity for legislation on Assisted Human Reproduction. In both cases legislation is long overdue. I want to facilitate the progress of this legislation but so far the government haven't produced the goods.

Friday, November 03, 2006


LAST year I was very pleased to open the newly refurbished Oxfam shop in Bray which continues go from strenght to strenght. Even the baby steps of buying fairtrade coffee and tea, fairtrade chocolate or random gifts (they have really lovely jewellery and bags) helps to support ethical shopping. But now I notice there's an online shop and I wanted to do a blog plug for it - . Also, I wanted to let people know about The Cake Sale - The Cake Sale is a band featuring a loose and expansive collective of musicians and writers who have combined to create a 9-song CD of the same name on Oxfam Records. All profits will go to support Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign and our overseas programme work. Songs on the album have been written by Dave Geraghty, Emm Gryner, Paul Noonan, Glen Hansard, Ollie Cole, Damien Rice, Conor Deasy and Matt Lunson.

Lead vocalists for the project include Lisa Hannigan, Nina Persson, Gary Lightbody, Gemma Hayes, Glen Hansard, Josh Ritter, Conor Deasy and Neil Hannon.

See more about The Cake Sale at:

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Following today's announcement of the new Beacon Hospital in Sandyford today I thought I'd attach a speech I gave in the Dail last night on motion I tabled on the private hospitals issue... As many things like this unfortunately don't get coverage in the papers I thought I'd put it up here, just in case would like to read it in full. I'd welcome your comments...

Labour Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Health,
During Dail Debate on Privatisation of Healthcare
Tuesday, 24th October 2006


I want to thank my Labour colleagues for agreeing to table this motion. It is important that we talk here, in this, our national parliament, about what we want as a people from our health service. Ask anyone in the street what they want when they get sick and the answer is unequivocal. It is what anyone of us here in this Chamber would want for ourselves and for those we love.

To be able to get medical care when we need it because we need it not because we can afford it; to access a hospital bed when necessary without delay and with dignity; to receive top-class attention in a hospital that is clean, efficient and health–promoting; to come home when we are able, or able enough to do so with supports close at hand and when our time comes, to be able to die in conditions that respect our vulnerability at the end of our life.

That is what people want from our health service. The public desire is clear. It is diametrically opposed to what private developers and business interests who operate in healthcare want. They want to make money and to make the biggest profit possible.

There is no shame in that. It is what they do. There is no glory in it either although there are those on the government side who glorify the market to a ludicrous degree. The leopard does not change its spots because of any glossy, soft-focus marketing of private healthcare. The objective is to make money. Pure and simple.

On occasion the making of money can coincide with the public interest but it does not always do so and when it comes to healthcare it does so rarely. We in the Labour Party recognize that there is a role for the private sector but the over-reliance on the private sector espoused by this Government is not good for patients.

The experience generally is that the impact of large-scale privatization of health is socially regressive and very costly. Yet we have a Government so wedded to the market that it makes the choice to go the private route even when all the best advice is to do otherwise.

Let us be clear this is a choice being made by Fianna Fail and the PDs. They choose a quick fix solution by the funding of for-profit hospitals out of the public purse with a poor return for the tax payer and a deepening divide between the public and the private systems of healthcare. Their hope is that it will divert attention away from their inability to make progressive change and real improvements in health.

The Minister for Health is at least consistent. She carries, after all, a lot of ideological baggage. Her leader has argued the case that inequality is good for society, her party stands by the principle that greed is good. And her policy of featherbedding private healthcare business reflects her world view.

We in Labour fundamentally disagree with the PD agenda. We are opposed to privatization of our health service and we will, if returned to government, bring this wasteful and ill thought scheme to an end. We will strengthen and expand the public and not-for-profit hospital sector and we will bridge the gap between public and private patients.

The Minister has prepared no proper analysis for her scheme nor will she because any analysis won’t stand up her case. In fact the only argument in favour of such a plan would be if the government were unable to find the capital to invest in healthcare but we know that isn’t an issue for us. If the Minister wants to convince us she should publish the results of cost benefit analysis being carried out on her scheme.

There seems to be no difficulty in stalling health projects due to sanctions by the department of Finance while blithely proceeding with this scheme which has an estimated first year cost of €2 billion.

The Minister’s proposal is made for ideological rather than logical reasons because she has an almost foolish attachment to Boston over Berlin. Logic would warn us to keep as far as we can away as possible from US healthcare yet she is trying to bring us closer to it. Healthcare in the US is extremely expensive and it is deeply unfair. 40 million Americans who don’t have health cover are locked out of an unequal health system in an unequal society.

In Ireland we spend €1,950 per person per annum on health which Minister Harney seems to think is excessive. Does she even know that healthcare largely provided by for profit interest in the US costs €5,535 per person? Because the US is such an unequal society health outcomes are relatively poor in life expectancy and infant mortality terms.

Minister McDowell should be told that, far from inequality being good for us as he claims, a fair society is actually a healthier society. The US shows the link between inequality and low health outcomes which the massive investment in health fails to tackle. Almost 16% of GDP in the US is spent on healthcare because of the private nature of the health service. In fact almost 50% of health spend in the world is spent in the US.

Yet the Government persists with its private solutions to disguise their failure to deliver a decent – let alone a world-class – health service. Minister Harney will, no doubt, argue as she has done before that handing over scarce public lands to private interests along with enormous tax breaks is not privatization. It looks, sounds and acts like privatization but the Minister doesn’t see it that way. She maintains that all she is doing is freeing up private beds in public hospitals to provide more capacity.

But that is simply not true. She is creating more private beds on top of what is in our public hospitals. Private patients will still be entitled to access beds in public hospitals and they will continue to do so. After all 68% of all patients come through A&E and that includes public and private patients. It is untrue to claim that private patients will not longer take up in public hospitals.

Speaking at a Private Healthcare Conference Minister Harney stated, “It is not privatization to cease the practice whereby 20% of new public beds built with public capital are reserved for private use.” But she never told us how she intends to stop patients from exercising their rights.

There is in fact no evidence that the addition of private beds will liberate beds for public patients on a like by like basis. We simply don’t know and the Government hasn’t bothered to find out. All we do know is that the taxpayer will pay for a net increase in private beds. The likelihood is that we will end up with an over-doctored class of private patient enjoying additional privilege and paying higher insurance premia while the public patients will still wait in line. There is an Irish phrase roughly translated it means “to grease the bum of the overfed pig”. That, it seems, is the goal of this government.

It’s worth reminding ourselves that we are citizens of a republic. This year is the 90th anniversary of the 1916 rising and we spent a lot of time debating many aspects of our history. But we need to debate what being a citizen in this republic means and what rights in confers on us as individuals.

The right to education, to healthcare, to a roof over ones’ head. Must we accept that rights do not matter and that it is all about bling, bling nowadays and a gold credit card being the passport to good healthcare?

We in the Labour Party will not be drawn down that path. If returned to government we will end this crazy misuse of public resources and we will bridge the divide between public and private patient that exists instead of exacerbating it.

This overdependence on the private sector will lead to the cherry-picking of patients. For-profit hospitals go for the procedures and services that make money rather than those that meet greatest need. Placing them close to public hospitals will facilitate this trend further. Private hospitals rarely have A&E departments and usually lack services and equipment for many severely ill or injured patients. Their close location will enable the private operator to rely on tax-supported services for costly aspects of patient care.

As the recent report produced by ICTU points out: “The public hospital is the safety net that protects a community with a private hospital. If a private hospital performs badly or closes, the community will look to the State to come to their aid. The experience of Leas Cross private nursing home confirms that where there are private facilities the investors are not the only ones bearing a risk.” It is small wonder that stockbrokerage firms have advised investors that private hospital developments are good investment prospects in Ireland.

In fact when the scheme was announced it was met with whoops of jubilation by investors. “It is the answer to our prayers. We couldn’t have written it better ourselves”, is how one private healthcare promoter responded. And why wouldn’t they celebrate? For every €100 million invested the Irish people will contribute €40 million, a gift from a government that cannot deliver to low income families the 200,000 medical cards it promised but has no difficulty subsidizing the fat cats.

“The reality is that if you look at it, the cost to the taxpayer is quite enormous.” These are not the words of a red clawed socialist although they could be. They are the words of the man whom the Minister has appointed to the most senior post in the Health Service Executive.

Time and again Professor Drumm has expressed his opposition to the government scheme as clearly as the man can do in his circumstances. In October 2005 he warned that “The pendulum will leave the public health service…and that for me would be disastrous. I really believe healthcare should be provided in as many facets as possible through the publicly funded system.” He has sketched out the dangers on the government proposals. “We need to be extremely careful that we do not drive to the front gates of our hospitals and find the road left to the nice flowered structure with a fountain in front where those that can afford it go to that structure and someone goes sheepishly in the other direction towards the HSE hospital.”

But in reality that is exactly what will result if this scheme proceeds. That is the point of a private hospital; the more marked the divide the more attractive the private option and the worse the effect on the public hospital system will be.

The attractions are not all based on hard medical evidence. In fact there is mounting proof that the outcomes for treatments in for-profit hospitals compares unfavourably with those of not-for-profit ones. But patients will still be beguiled by the flowers and the fountain.

Currently we need to employ more hospital consultants in certain specialities in our public hospitals. Since 2003, for example, only one additional A&E consultant has been appointed. Private hospitals will become attractive options for those specialists who are frustrated with the problems and restrictions in the public system. Not only financial return but better conditions will siphon away doctors who currently work within the public sector. Meanwhile public hospitals will lose vital funding they receive for catering for insured patients as they do at present. And a downward spiral will ensue.

It isn’t just in the hospital system that the Minister is imposing her will to privatize. One of the hallmarks of the government record is that since 1997 has been a shrinking of public provision in the care for the elderly and in community services. Since 1997 the number of community nursing beds has been reduced by hundreds of beds.

As the Government struggles to make up the shortfall we are witnessing an increased reliance of private nursing homes to fill the gap. There are many excellent private nursing homes which fill an important need but surely even this government has to learn from experience. There is an urgent need to ensure high standards and quality control of private nursing homes. There is still after all these years not satisfactory regulatory system of private and public nursing homes.

We on this side of the House have grown weary raising this issue with the Government and yet there is still no sign of a full, effective statutory authority that will protect elderly and frail people in residential care. The current inspection system does not inspire confidence .

The HSE ask us to trust them and their minimalist reports up on the web. Well I think most people would have more confidence in the opinion of Martin Hynes’ conclusion of the current system of inspection as being “fragmented, disjointed, with no evidence of joined-up thinking.“ Mr Hynes is the first person who blew the whistle on Leas Cross yet his critique is still ignored. Eighteen months ago the Taoiseach promised an inspectorate independent of the HSE and we are still waiting

When a crisis occurs as it did in the Leas Cross nursing homes exposure by the media the public rightly expect a response. Promises were rightly made by the government but then wrongly they were broken.

Last May the HSE received the Professor O’Neill report into Leas Cross. Last May, the Minister for Health could and should have published it. he has failed to do so to this day. It is her greatest failing in my view. On the one hand she is so over reliant on the private sector and yet on the other she is so lethargic in her approach to regulation and proper oversight on the very facilities that she is enriching.

All this is having a demoralizing effect of those working within the health service. There is a seepage out the health service of public provision that is often almost invisible except to those who experience it directly. Public health doctors disappear up into a layer of bureaucracy and aren’t replaced.

The anecdotal evidence is legion - a dentist in my own county of Wicklow left and wasn’t replaced and it was only when parents discovered their children weren’t being treated was the loss revealed because accountability has been stripped out of the system with the establishment of the HSE. There are vacancies in a range of health professional posts that aren’t being filled. I was contacted by a general practitioner recently working in the North East. He is clearly a good family doctor and wanted someone to hear what was going on on the ground.

His medical practice provides blood tests for patients that need them and the samples have, up until recently, been tested in the laboratory at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda. Now the lab is unable to keep up with demand and has sought one extra staff member and some equipment from the HSE.

But instead of meeting that need the HSE has decided to pay – at heaven knows what expense – for testing of blood samples to be transferred to a private clinic in Kildare and another one in Britain. According the doctor it is not as good or as speedy a service as the public one.

The HSE seem infected by the privatization bug being spread by the Minister to a point where rather than developing further a tried and tested service in Our Lady of Lourdes hospital the HSE made the choice to export blood samples to Britain. The family doctor is frustrated in what he sees is enormously wasteful solution to a simple problem.

I have promised to table a parliamentary question on the cost of this change but, knowing the Minister and the HSE as I do, I reckon it will take until Christmas to get the reply and probably much longer – if ever - to get the information I want.

The silliness of replies to PQs never fails to amaze. Recently I asked if the minutes of the HSE management meetings for July and September 2006 have been signed off yet. In a functional world the answer would be a simple yes or no. But in the dysfunctional world of the Minister of Health the answer read:

“Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Services Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, the matter of minutes from health Services Executive management meetings is solely for them. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.”

Earlier this year we saw another example of the Minister’s determination to promote the private over the public. The government has instituted homecare packages to help elderly patients to stay in their homes – a very worthy objective.

But even in this area the Minister is intent on favouring the private over the public. She launched the American Comfort Keepers franchise in Ireland and spoke glowingly of the role of private companies in homecare.

Since then there have been complaints emerging in some instances and again, there is no proper regulatory system to protect patients at home. A senior Trade Union official described this trend as part of a parallel private home help system which would fit into the Minister’s wider privatization plans.

By far the most significant of those plans is the scheme to develop private hospitals on public lands. These will be partial hospitals creaming off profitable work and leaving the costly long-term care to the taxpayer.

The two tier system will be further institutionalized and locked into the system. There will be no incentive to engage in continuity of care nor to develop an integrated service where the money follows the patient regardless of their income.

It is pure PD ideology in action and what is noteworthy is that Fianna Fail members in this House are so willing to fall in like sheep behind a policy that fails to deal with the important challenges in order to meet the public desire for fairness and efficiency in our health service. We have great doctors and nurses and other staff who care for patients on a daily basis. Surely they deserve better.


NOW that we're back to normal mode again, health as an issue is coming to the fore. There has been a lot of interest in the joint policy document on A&E that I launched with FG recently. Winter is not yet here so we'll have to wait and see if what kind of pressure will be on the A&E departments this year. In my opinion there haven't been any improvements to the extent that we've seen an end to elderly patients on trolleys.

This is the time of year to get the flu jab, and I'd strongly recommend that anyone at risk get it, it's well worth it. Hopefully we won't have the flu epidemic this year - putting extra pressure on our A&E departments.

The culture of secrecy still exists in our health service. We're still waiting for the Leas Cross report to be published - despite the fact that the HSE has had it since May this year. Also, the Minister does have the power to publish this report but has so far not done so.. Parliamentary questions to the HSE take months to get a response - if at all! 10% of question this year have gone unanswered so far...

I believe very strongly that we need a health service people can trust. So, I'll continue asking the questions....

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Getting good feedback on the recently launched mental health policy document with Fine Gael (Reaching Recovery). I believe that it is an important statement of intent and I 'm glad we could get agreement to make it a priority.


Rain and wind failed to keep them away last Saturday as Labour was the first political party to hold a consultative forum on the arts in Co. Wicklow. The surroundings of the Equestrian Centre at the Devils Glen were tranquil. The attendance of arts practitioners was high and the discussion was wide-ranging and serious. I found it revealing that so many of the artists said that they didn't meet each other enough and that a forum like ours offered a great opportunity to exchange ideas. The isolation that an artist needs can be hard at times..

Monday, October 02, 2006


I was in Donegal last weekend chairing the Labour selection convention that chose Seamus Rodgers as its candidate for the next election. It was a great opportunity for me to have a tour of Donegal, meeting local organisations and local health organistations - in particular, Letterkenny hospital.

I also met the Clubman workers (I've attached a photo) and they expressed their concerns to me that the Labour Court recommendations have not been accepted by the management in the factory. I will be bringing this up in the Dail.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


SO after the summer break things have nicely hotted up already. We, Labour and Fine Gael, returned to Mullingar to review work in progress on policy development and Fianna Fail got all hot and bothered. They cant have it both ways. They complain we have no policies and they complain when we have policies!

I was really glad we published our Mental Health policy as the first chapter of the Labour/FG Health Plan. Mental Health usually comes last yet one in four of us suffer mental illness during our lifetimes. So for once the last shall be the first.

I had a great break ziplining in Mexico and walking in the Glens of Antrim. People are already getting engaged with the battle ahead.

It will be an exciting election, not least for those of us fighting it out on the hustings in 2007!

Friday, July 21, 2006


Now that the Dail is off on its infamous summer break, I've been around my Constituency more and more. Of course people I run into keep telling me on I'm on holidays!! Well, it's certainly been busy so far.

One of the main issues in Wicklow in recent days, which has reached the national airwaves, has been the fact that residents in Enniskerry and Rocky Valley have been without water for four days. With the weather being so hot it's particularly uncomfortable and is dangerous. These residents have been treated disgracefully by the County Council in my view.

I was in Arklow this morning showing my support to a local disability Group who are campaigning for disabled access to the Post Office on the Main Street. The group have been there for 2 days and have collected a very impressive 1500 signatures.

On Tuesday night I was in Blessington, West Wicklow at a West Wicklow Labour Party branch meeting. They have launched a recruitment drive for Labour in the area and I was delighted to lend my support to that also.

I've also been visiting people around Bray town and I have been getting a very warm response I'm pleased to say. Of course, it makes me glad I'm not in Fianna Fail!

On a very sad note, the wife of Philip Duffy, my special advisor during my time as Minister of State for Urban Housing and Renewal, Patricia Duffy has died. Patricia was a very warm person who was a good friend to all who knew her and will be sadly missed. I just want to extend my sincere sympathies to Philip, and their boys and to her extended family and friends. Ar dheis De go raibh a h-anam.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I'VE been impressed by the work done by Newstalk recently on exposing rogue or bogus crisis pregnancy agencies. (I will be on the panel to discuss this on Thursday morning.) It is disappointing that the Minister for Health Mary Harney has said that she will not be taking any action on this. This is particularly worrying as these fake crisis pregnancy agencies are targeting young vulnerable women in difficult circumstances and manipulating them for their own agenda.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


The cheque from the Liberty Hunger March for 12,000 euro was handed over successsfully last night. Congratulations to all involved.

On an entirely different note ! (excuse the pun) I went to a gig in Whelans last Saturday. It was a gig by Afel Bocoum and his band Alkibar from Mali - amazing stuff. I am related to Afel, the man himself, by marriage so it was great to see him in Dublin. The reaction to him from the packed out audience was brilliant too. Next time he's here, you should try to come along...


One of the recent events for the Liberty Project (which I’ve been mentioning here over the last number of weeks) was the Bray Hunger March. This march re-enacted the 1937 Bray Hunger March to raise money for projects in Africa…and I’m delighted to say that over 11, 400 Euro has been collected to date. As you can see from the pictures the large crowd braved the bad weather marching up Bray’s Main Street at 9.30 on a Saturday morning and finishing up in Rathdrum at about 7.30pm.

It was a great experience, made greater by the enthusiasm and participation of the walkers from Wicklow.

I should remind you of what exactly the Bray Hunger March was…. In 1937 60 men walked the route from Bray to Rathdrum, walking though the night, to protest at the low rate of welfare. The re-enactment as part of the Liberty March wanted to show support and solidarity for the poor of the developing world so it is hugely satisfying that so much money was raised. Thanks to all who participated and contributed to this very worthwhile project. There were some weary legs and damp clothes but it was worth every minute of it!!

The cheque of almost 12,000 Euro will be presented at the Grand Hotel Bray this Wednesday, 21st June at 9pm…all are welcome especially the walkers – proving that those who walk the walk can also talk the talk!! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


LAST night, as part of the Liberty Project I hosted an evening of readings remembering 1916 in Bewley's Cafe Theatre. I've mentioned it on the blog so I hope some fellow bloggers were in the audience! It was a hugely enjoyable evening that surpassed even my high expectations. Unfortunately the venue, which is a beautiful space overlooking Grafton Street in Dublin, have been forced to limit audience numbers to 50 which meant we couldn't fit all those who hoped to attend in. Although it was a unusual feeling turning crowds away from a Labour Party event! I could get used to it!! The line up included Fintan O'Toole, Anne Enright, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan, Glenn Patterson and Roddy Doyle and it doesn't get much better than that. Thanks to all who attended, and apologies to all those we had to turn away - but the fire regulations must be obeyed!

For further, future successful Liberty Project events go to this link . !


Roddy Doyle read from A Star Called Henry

Fintan O'Toole was MC for the night

Ruairi Quinn TD enjoying the evening

Jimmy Kelly and Pat entertain!

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Friday, March 31, 2006

31st March 2006

IT'S been fairly hectic all week, preparing for the Labour Party Conference - it takes place tomorrow in the Helix in Dublin City University. I'll be giving presenting at a work conference - a bit of a pre-view of Labour's health policy documents that will be launched shortly... I'll let you know shortly.

By the way, the programme of events for the Liberty Project - that I've discussed here before - is up on the Labour Party website..under the Current Campaigns section.

There are a few events around the country as well as various events in Dublin and surrouding areas. It promises to be very interesting as the programme is quite diverse. The Liberty Project for those of you who aren't sure and are interested is a joint SIPTU/LABOUR project to commmemorate the role of the Labour movement in Irish history - with particular reference to the events surrounding 1916...One of the event's I'll be looking forward to in particular will be the arts event - a serious of readings from Fintan O'Toole, Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle, Paula Meehan, Theo Dorgan and Glenn Patterson. There'll be a few songs by Jimmy Kelly too!

Oh and a Greystones update...I recently expressed concern at the revelations contained in a submission by the Minister of the Marine to An Bord Pleanala in relation to the proposed Harbour and North Beach development at Greystones.

This submission from the Minister for the Marine raises very serious flaws in the proposal. For example it recommends that the scheme will have to be redesigned to ensure that only acceptable wave heights are achieved at the Marina. This recommendation must raise fundamental doubts about the entire scheme.

On a number of points it describes the Environmental Impact Study as either contradictory or lacking clarity, and also raises concerns about the impact of dredging and on fish life.

Another disturbing finding is that the issue of coastal protection is not properly addressed. There are serious doubts raised about the modelling with regard to impacts of the development on the North Beach.

This submission must set alarms bells ringing. The original purpose of this entire proposal was to restore the harbour and prevent coastal erosion.

Concerns already have been raised about the scale of this development, the traffic implications and the pressure on the local infrastructure.

Now this new evidence from an expert Government source must be taken seriously. Coastal protection must take precedence over private profit.

There is still time to go back to the drawing board and I am urging that a re-think now takes place at Wicklow County Council level to provide a well-designed smaller scale restoration project for Greystones Harbour and the North Beach.

Friday, March 24, 2006

24th March 2006

GREAT to see all the coverage that the blog has been getting. As some of you may know there was a great piece on blogs and politics in the Irish Times this week..

On Tuesday of this week, I joined about 70 people, mostly parents, outside the Dail to support the call for funding for the St Catherine's Barnacoyle Preschool for Autistic Children. Of course, I will continue to support them - even after the announcement of some funding from the Department of Education. The fact that parents have to campaign for basic rights for their children is extremely ridiculous, but the parents and the Irish Autism Alliance have done so well to get this far. I will be pursuing the Minister for more answers after her announcements so this is not over yet! (Labour Cllr Tom Fortune was at the protest also - in the picture on the right)

As an add on to the PES petition against trafficking of women during the World Cup, my Parliamentary Asssistant was in Brussels for the launch of Stop the Traffik campaign. It was launced by Simon Coveney MEP, and is a global coalition for those who are concerned about the issues of people trafficking. Stop the Traffik's goal is to use the opportunity of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in 2007 to create a global commitment to significantly reduce human trafficking and to uphold the human rights of those vulnerable to, as well as those who find themselves victims of, trafficking. Once the website has been set up - I'll post the details here so that you can get information on the practical ways that you can get involved - even if it's simply to sign the Stop the Traffik declaration.

Finally, for those who didn't see Brendan Gleeson's passionate diatribe against the current state of the health services - in particular the A&E crisis - I would recommend you view it on RTE's website. It was a moving and justifiably enraged account of his personal experiences of A&E....more on this again..

Monday, March 06, 2006

Campaign Against Trafficking Of Women During World Cup

I'd like to draw people's attention to a new online petition calling for the prevention of mass trafficking of women and girls into Germany for prostitution during this summer's World Cup. It can be found at

This initiative has been undertaken by the Party of European Socialists, to which the Labour Party is affiliated.

The World Cup is a global celebration of football, which remains the most popular sport in the world. However, the influx of tourists and football supporters to Germany carries with it a dark underbelly. Thousands of women and girls will be illegally trafficked into Germany over the course of the next few months to be exploited as prostitutes. This is a reality that must be confronted in the build-up to the tournament in order to save as many women as possible from this form of sexual slavery.

The online petition created by the PES calls on the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to take a specific initiative with Member States to prevent women being brought into Germany for prostitution.

I urge as many people as possible to visit the site and add their support for this campaign. The petition will be open for signatures until 08 March, which is International Women’s Day.

Only through concerted pressure will we be able to save women from this brutal form of exploitation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

1916 Commemoration Should Honour all Combatants

As the State commemorations of 1916 approaches, some may have heard my comments on the need to commemorate all sides - and so I've attached a piece I wrote for the that the full argument can be read. I hope it's of interest, and I would welcome comments. I would like to mention also that 5 000 people took part in a march in January of this year in Derry at the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march. Almost 4000 candles were lit in memory of ALL those who were killed in acts of violence linked to the Troubles in the North. It struck me that if this can be done 34 years after Bloody Sunday, then surely we are mature enough to do the same?

1916 Commemoration Should Honour all Combatants – no Matter what Uniform they Wore

Liz McManus TD
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
Member of the Government All-Party Commemoration Committee

The interpretation of history can be simply politics conducted by other means. What we commemorate, whom we commemorate and how we commemorate are essentially political decisions made to promote contemporary results and resonance.

All mere ‘commemorators’ of the 1916 Rising, such as the President in her keynote speech at a recent seminar in UCC, face the challenge of how to reconcile the gap between a small uprising without a democratic mandate and a modern inclusive democracy. For the President to dispose of a charge of ‘sectarianism’ against the Rising is just too simplistic. The charge of religious sectarianism is not one that has been seriously levelled at the Rising – even by unionists – and could hardly be sustained against any enterprise that included James Connolly among its leadership.

The more serious and consistent charge made against the Rising is that it had no democratic mandate and gave renewed (and unneeded) vigour to the physical force tradition over the constitutional tradition in Irish nationalism. The issue of the absence of a democratic mandate is not so easily dismissed, since it was often invoked as the main philosophical basis for the Provisional terror campaign in the North.

The Rising, of course, reflected the attitudes of its time. It was a significant event in which Labour played a proud part but it was followed by a rapid evolution to democratic politics through the 1918 General Election, followed by the first Dáil Éireann early in 1919 and on to the establishment and consolidation of a parliamentary democracy in the Irish Free State.

A somewhat similar evolution may be traced in the events of the past thirty-five or so years in the North – the lesson being that, eventually, constitutional politics prevails and is the people’s preferred option over physical force. This is a lesson that Sinn Féin, above all the parties seeking to commemorate 1916, must take on board. Many of us remain to be convinced that their commitment to constitutional politics is not just a thin veneer overlaid on a grim reality of continuing criminality and gangsterism – north and south.

For democrats, the challenge is not just to commemorate 1916 but to apply some of its ideals in a way that is relevant in contemporary politics. Under this approach, the key phrase is ‘cherishing all the children of the nation equally’ - in the proper sense of its use in the Proclamation. In modern politics that equates with ‘parity of esteem’ for all the traditions or identities on this island.

The commemoration has already stimulated earnest debate around questions of Irish identity. Endlessly rehashed discussions about who died on the Somme or in Kilmainham in the summer of 1916 – and whether they should have or not – may be of interest to a small number of committed people or academics. Such discussions are of no relevance to a new generation of post-Celtic Tiger ‘thirty-somethings’.

In recent years, in pursuit of encouraging respect for the different identities on this island, official Ireland has shown a greater willingness to honour the men who fought and died in British uniform in the Great War. There is to be an official government commemoration this year of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, in which the Ulster Division played such a prominent part. Some years ago, the President, together with Queen Elizabeth of Britain, participated in the official opening of an all Ireland Peace Park, at Messines, in Belgium.

These are important steps in the process of reconciliation. However, I believe the time is now right to take one further step to make our reconciliation fully genuine and inclusive. This year’s official commemorative ceremonies – and all future ceremonies - should honour all combatants involved in the Rising no matter what uniform they wore. Not just the Volunteers or the Citizen Army, but those who fought in British uniform, as well as the socialist, feminist and pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington murdered in Richmond Barracks by the deranged Captain Bowen-Colthurst, the civilians murdered in North Richmond Street by the same officer and the many other civilians – thirty five of them never identified – killed by both sides in the Rising.

Clarke, Pearse, MacDermott, MacDonagh, Colbert, Connolly – these are all names familiar to us from 1916. However, these same surnames occur in the lists of men decorated, wounded or killed in British uniform during Easter Week 1916 in Dublin. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers were among the regiments called upon to put down the Rising and Irishmen served in many of the other units involved. It is, I suggest, relatively easy for the Irish state to honour those who died far away in Flanders or Gallipoli. Are we tolerant enough now, ninety years on, to officially respect those troops of the same army who fell on the then Sackville Street or at Mount Street Bridge?

Eamonn Ceannt was a signatory of the Proclamation and was executed in Kilmainham on the 8th of May 1916. Yet his older brother, William, was a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Exactly a year after the Rising, on the 24th of April 1917, he lost his life during the offensive at Arras, in France, at the age of forty-six. The night before Eamonn Ceannt’s execution the 1916 leader wrote: ‘I bear no ill-will towards those against whom I have fought. I have found the common soldiers and the higher officers human and companionable, even the English who were actually in the fight against us.’

Asked if he had any message for the members of his firing squad, James Connolly replied: ‘I respect any man who does his duty according to his lights’. Connolly’s response should not surprise us unduly, for although he ended his honourable life in the uniform of a Commandant-General of the Citizen Army, as a young man he wore the uniform of a Scottish regiment while stationed in Ireland. Surely, if these signatories of the Proclamation could extend the hand of reconciliation even to the British soldiers who executed them, it seems churlish that we today could not do the same?

A separate, if equal, official commemoration of those who died on the Somme is no longer enough. That simply perpetuates a form of commemorative apartheid. What we need now is that the language of our official commemoration on Easter Sunday, of our speeches and our publications, should be truly inclusive and reconciliatory and thus extend to all the combatants of 1916, as well as to the innocent civilians.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday, 17th February 2006

I was delighted to see that 5,500 submissions in relation to the Greystones harbour were received by An Bord Plenala As readers of this blog will know, I've been active in my opposition to the size and scale of this development. Along with the local residents who oppose this scheme, we've been calling for a rethink of the development in its current guise. It's great to see such people power being demonstrated - we need to keep this pressure on. Let's continue in our efforts to bring about the changes to this plan that will ensure it will be in keeping with the environment and the surrounding area. Well done to all who have contributed to this campaign so far. And I hope to see more join the campaign!

Last week some parents of young children at St. Catherine's school at Barnacoyle came into to Dail to hear me speak about their concerns at the future of this school. St. Catherine's is an Applied Behavioural Analysis facility and has been told by the Minister for Education that funding for nine children at the school will no longer be available - from March 31st. I will continue to urge that the Minister reconsiders. It is hard to believe that when the country is awash with money that the most vulnerable in our society are yet again left aside.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006


I was asked to contribute to a new blog that will collect political articles and posts in the run up to the General Election. It can be found here if anyone would like a look...

Friday, February 10, 2006


So I'm back again about the Greystones Harbour! Last week 400 or so people turned up at a public meeting about this development - which was really heartening. I was aware of the concern among large numbers of residents and others but this kind of turn out on a Tuesday evening in January was great to see. I was the only TD that turned up - and was joined Labour Cllr Tom Fortune.

While its acknowledged that an upgrade of the areas is welcome, this development in its present guise goes too far. Its going to cause years of trucks ploughing down to the harbour every 2 mintues which will be unbearable for the local residents/community.

There is such a strong feeling among Labour representatives, Greystones residents and others that this development really needs a rethink and to be reduced in scale.

And finally - just a quick note on first few days back in the Dail, 2006. It definetly seems like Groundhog day there at times. Bloggers may well be aware of the revelations couple of weeks back of the 56 million euro that the Department of Health thought hadn't spent, but in fact had spent on capital spending...buildings etc. I just wonder sometimes if our Minister for Health ever looks at her bank statments, as the no one seems to know where this money has gone??

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wednesday, 18th January 2006

JUST WHEN you think things couldn't get worse they get worse. The figures presented by the INO (Irish Nurses Organisation) of 422 patients on trolleys in A&E Departments around the country are truly shocking. It seems incredible that a year after promising to solve the A&E Crisis by April 2005 and we're still seeing this type of situation.

In a non health service related topic, we're beginning the preparations for this year's 1916 celebration. I'm Chair of the Liberty Project that has as it's aim to celebrate the role of the Labour movement in Irish history - in particular the events surrounding 1916 while exploring the significance in today's world of the struggle for equality and freedom.

We're planning the month of April for events - I'll post more details as soon as I have should be interesting....

Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all you bloggers out there! This is my first post of 2006 and I hope it'll be first of many and regular postings...

New Years Day began with a kick-start - the traditional New Years Day charity swim in Bray, as I do every year. This has to be the greatest hangover cure of all time-blowing away all cobwebs from the previous night's festivities. The water was absolutely freezing, as expected, but it was great to see such an impressive turn out.

THIS year will no doubt be an exciting one in politics with a general election looming. The recent holidays were needed to recharge the batteries. Despite the fact that the Dail is not yet back the Christmas holidays already seem like a distant memory!

2006 began with the announcement of the Exchequer returns for 2005. Those who work in the health services and those who have had to endure long waiting lists and long waits on trolleys in our A&E units must be shocked that around E136m went unspent last year. While money is far from the only answer in relation to the health services, but I'm sure all will agree that there are areas that targeted spending is desperately needed.

I'm currently working on finalising our Primary Health Care document, which I hope to launch in the next few weeks, so it's definitely back to work time...