Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stop Climate Chaos

It rained on the Parade organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition but that didn't stop us stalwarts togging out in our rain gear and fighting the high winds with our banners. It was good to see a healthy turnout of Labour Youth members. Joanna Tuffy TD, Labour's Environment Spokesperson and myself appear to have been the only Opposition TDs to tog out.

At the Custom House there were speeches. I said I wasn't impressed by Al Gore coming to Dublin to address a rich elite (for a fee of 100,000 dollars it was reported!)while banning the media from hearing his speech. The response from the crowd and from individuals made it clear to me that many other people were annoyed at the insistence by Al Gore of a " pay per view" policy.

Tackling Climate Change is a people's issue if ever there was one and elitism just gets in the way. Nor, I imagine was it what the Nobel Prize people had in mind. Thankfully the UN IPCC have a different approach. The recent open - and free - meeting organised by the EPA and starring Dr. Martin Manning of the IPCC was filled to capacity.

I'm not convinced that the government were listening to the message when Brian Cowen published his Budget. A bit of VRT and a tweaking of motor tax will not have any impact on reaching the seriously challenging target set by the government of 3% reduction per year of carbon emissions.

Maybe that's why the turnout of the Greens at the Parade was so unimpressive. Or maybe they just wilted in the rain...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Back to Uni....

FINALLY I'm out of Health and into Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. It's a steep learning curve for me, a bit like going back to University but I'm learning fast. Its real cutting edge stuff particularly meeting the challenge of global warming. To make a difference means bringing about a dramatic change to our energy usage.

There is a personal challenge fro me in getting to grips with the Communications brief. Technology is moving so rapidly that everyone in this area seems to be straining to keep up. There is a pioneering aspect to both the Energy and Communications brief that make them exciting even though sometimes also impenetrable.

The Green Party chose this Ministry for obvious reasons and I'm happy to support Eamon Ryan when he does the right thing, but so far I've been disappointed that he attempted to bamboozle the public about the collapse of the Greener Homes Scheme and the introduction of a new emasculated and unfunded scheme.

I'm even less impressed that the Greens U turn on the Civil Unions Bill for same sex couples. This is a fine example of when the Greens could have asserted themselves in government but instead, yet again, Fianna Fail rolled all over them.

Labour is very persistent on this issue. We don't intend to let it go.

I'm always interested to hear views on climate change, next generation networks, civil unions, food versus bio fuels, whatever...so get in touch...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Feedback from Canvassers

AS we head into the final days of this campaign, I thought I'd ask for some contributions from canvassers who have been knocking on doors the last few weeks. Here's a taster:


The experience has been a positive one, with good reactions on the doorsteps. The people of Bray have been mostly very polite - even those who clearly don't intend to vote Labour. Liz is obviously very well known and respected for the work she's done locally and nationally. In some estates you can skip from house to house with people just taking the leaflet and giving a 'thumbs-up' or a 'don't worry - Labour's got my vote this time'.

For future reference, I would suggest that 8.30 is probably late enough on a week night. We had experience of a few parents looking murderously at us or sprinting through the house to ask us not to ring the bell, as the new baby had just been put to bed. Henry and I also met a Rottweiler and a Great Dane on the same evening, but we lived to tell the tale.

For me, it's been a learning experience for a number of reasons:
- I've been able to observe the experienced 'pros' at work (Liz, John, Henry, Ann ) and learned a lot about local issues by listening to their conversations with the voters;
- I've learned that a big smile and an assertive friendly greeting disarms even the most defensive householder;
- It's been a great way for a blow-in like me to get to know the geography of the town, not to mention get ideas for landscaping my front garden!


People are sick of the to do over Bertie's money - well we knew that. Not too interested in 'issues' unless Liz is with you. If they do express an opinion it is generally favourable towards Liz and/or vicious towards FF. Other than that.......could we have the sun back please?

And, as ever, how much more rewarding it is doing the local authority estates than the posh areas - with the 'gated communities' there always seems a subtext that they don't need politics.


We canvassed the north ward of Bray and overall got a very good response. We even made one lonely old lady who has just moved to Ireland very happy – just to get a visitor! However, we were asked about same sex marriage, we answered and we were then called…murderers and the door was slammed in our faces.


1 Overall a very positive response, there is a mood for change.
2 Liz is highly respected.
3 On going water situation Rocky Valley Drive / Glencormac / Ballybawn. People very frustrated and annoyed.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Why are all those posters of dead people everywhere?"!

ONE of the things in this campaign is the great interest shown by children for the Election posters. One child was quoted recently asking his mammy, "Why are all those posters of dead people everywhere?"! The children that I'm meeting at the doorsteps are very excited to be meeting someone (a live person!) from the posters. This must be something to do with the power of TV that has trained young eyes towards visual images. Or maybe its the celebrity culture that gets them excited. When it comes to the adults, who have a vote, posters have minimal effect.

Yesterday I launched Labour's A&E plan. 2,300 beds needed and we're determined to implement them. If Noel Browne in the hungry 40s could provide 2,000 beds in three years it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to do it now.

I notice that as days pass Brian Cowen is getting more shrill. He seems to think people like bombast, aggression and aggressive tactics. I'm not convinced. In fact what is interesting about this campaign is how thoughtful the discussions on the doorsteps are. People's thoughts on childcare, health, transport are being expressed. And the constant refrain is that it's time for a change of Government - which is a reflection of Labour's slogan to make a change and that "Ireland can do better with Labour."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Campaign Team on Hospitals and Roads

As a member of Liz's campaign team I am unfortunately immobile at the moment but will still be occasionally contributing to the blog.

Last week was my first time ever to be admitted to hospital. I understand how hospitals can be a daunting experience for Margaret (see video below) and others.

Last week I had an accident and was waiting on the side of a public road to be assisted. The ambulance drove past us despite being flagged down and we had to rephone the emergency services.

On admittance to the ambulance and hospital, I have to say the standard of care was excellent. I did however find that the doctors and nurses were so busy that their time had to be largely dispersed. Obviously they couldn’t help this as emergencies will always happen. This does mean that the doctors/nurses just in a lot of cases do not have time to do the job. I was waiting to be discharged for at least half an hour – this is a simple thing that requires someone saying to me – you can go now. It would also have meant a freed up cubicle quicker.

Three days later I returned to the same A and E department for a wound check. Patients were being told – “there are no beds in the hospital” – the corridors of the A and E were full of patients on trolleys.

This country clearly needs Labour in Government to deliver the clear commitment of 2300 more beds in cleaner hospitals.

While I was in hospital other patients were admitted after another major crash on the N11. As Liz has pointed out many times that this section of the road is dangerous and needs to be upgraded urgently.


(on behalf of campaign team)

Friday, May 04, 2007

On the campaign trail

THE biggest battle so far for me in this campaign is fighting off sunburn. The sun is as relentless as the mood for change is.

People want change. Even FF people want change. Some of theme are going so far as to tell me that they want the Fianna Fail Party to be in Opposition for a while.

Labour's core commitments on health, childcare, carers, crime and first time house buyers are reflected in the conversations on the doorsteps. There is growing public confidence that an alternative government will be a better government. It's an exciting contest and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Countdown to Change

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Under starters orders....

We're off! It was an unusually secretive start from our Taoiseach last Sunday morning but it is great to finally start the real campaign. Posters are up, canvassers have been out and the pounding of the streets has begun. Between myself and some volunteers we hope this blog will provide a small overview of the campaign here in Co. Wicklow.

I'll be back in touch soon...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow..

YOU know there's an Election imminent when you see that all the candidates have new haircuts. Even Dick Roche's head of hair is shorn lik a freshly cut lawn.

We're all ready for the off with walking shoes, posters, suncream, leaflets and instant dinners in the freezer. So why can't the man name the day? Has he the jitters?

I wouldn't blame him if he has.

The gap between the falling FF/PD and rising Lab/FG support is widening all the time.

The people should be given the opportunity to express their preference.

Labour is ready. In Wicklow we're ready to pull off a double. McManus and Kelly.

So bring it on, Bertie.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

First Post from Wicklow Campaign Team

In the next few weeks campaign team members will be contributing to this blog.

Here are my own personal experiences of the last 3 years of membership of the Labour Party and reasons why I strongly support Liz McManus.

Around the time I entered college and during my time in student politics I first became really aware of the Labour party. I grew up in a house where support fluctuated between FF and FG but never really Labour.

I became strongly involved in many campaigns where Labour was the party to the forefront; Free 3rd Level Fees, Anti Racism, Womens Rights. I eventually decided that the Labour Party was the one which best met both my political beliefs and convictions.

The party believes in Social Justice, Workers Rights, Equality, Social Liberalism, Civil Liberties; Examples would include; setting up the Combat Poverty Agency, Introducing Equality Legislation; pioneering Divorce and Contraception and Decriminalising Homosexuality.

For these and many other reasons I joined the Labour party 3 years ago.

I am strongly supporting the re-election of Liz McManus in this general election because;
She has an excellent track record in delivering for her constituents
She has consistently and strongly advocated for those on the margins of Irish society e.g. female domestic violence victims, travellers and people with poor mental health.
She has shown determined resistance and opposition to a privatised, for profit health service
The Labour Party has demonstrated in the past that it is the only party which strongly pushes for social justice and social liberalisation. Other parties have followed the Labour lead.
Labour believes in providing fair opportunities for all in Irish society as opposed to a free market neo liberal ideology which allows the strongest and the wealthiest to triumph over all others

The launch of Liz’s campaign last week was a great success. There was strong support from across the county for Liz McManus and indeed Nicky Kelly. It confirmed in my mind and many others that there is a mood for change among the electorate. A challenge has been set for us to drive that change and to win 2 Labour seats in Wicklow. We can achieve that.


(on behalf of the campaign team)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nurses Dispute Set to Escalate

The nurses dispute is set to escalate. Although it's the last thing the health service needs, the depth of disillusion and the low morale is so serious that nurses are voting with their feet-or their bleep in some cases. It is vital that every effort is made to resolve the knotty issues that have led to this dispute. The lethargy of the government is striking. Nurses, doctors, dentists, chiropodists have all tried to negotiate with the Health Service Executive without success but the nursing crisis must take top priority.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions proposed the establishment of a Forum on Health but it's only recently that the Minister for Health decided to get going to set it up. Pity she was so slow. The Forum could have prevented the mess that the health service is experiencing now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Wicklow Moving

Nicky Kelly, Brendan Howlin TD and I launched a Transport Plan for Co. Wicklow. Twin track electrified rail system to Wexford, rural buses, improved roads are key elements in it. 37% of journeys to Dublin are by public transport. In Wicklow the figure is approx 6%-so a dramatic shift from private car to public transport is needed. On the way back from the press conference in Arklow I came across the chilling sight of a huge lorry overturned in a ditch at the notoriously dangerous stretch of the N11 between the Tap and the Beehive pubs.

24 hours later there are incredible scenes along Naas dual carriage. 18 people injured and hundreds stuck for hours in traffic jams. Nothing could reinforce our message on transport as effectively!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dying Days of a Government

Now in its dying days the government has gone made galloping through legislation at a breakneck speed. The passing of legislation should be a slow, ponderous, line by line exercise where every aspect of its possible impact is ruminated upon without haste.

Instead we are seeing major legislation like the new Criminal Justice Bill rampaging through the Oireachtas by the Minister for Justice who is careering out of control. Seven day detention? Electronic tagging? Let it all happen is Minister McDowell's approach but without any of the safeguards that parliament should provide in an open and accountable way as prescribed under our Constitution.

The Minister for Health is trotting after him as fast as she can. The Health Bill, the Medical Practitioners Bill, the Pharmacy Bill etc etc...all guillotined pitilessly by a government that is not interested in doing things well just in doing things. Roll on the Election so we can get some good
governance back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Government fails on class sizes

Attended the INTO/National Parents Council meeting recently in the Glenview hotel in Co. Wicklow. I had to fight my way in because the turn out was massive. Parents and teachers are turning out all over the country to highlight the Government betrayal of its own promise to reduce class sizes to the EU norm (of 20). There was an air of steady determination at the meeting which probably explains the shortage of Fianna Fail election candidates. Labour supports this campaign and our record in Government is very good.

Governments are like children. You don't reward bad behaviour and fibs whether told by children or government ministers deserve to be challenged. Parent power can be an important factor in delivering a new - and better - Government.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Civil Unions Bill 2007

Last Tuesday (20/02/07)and Wednesday (21/02/07) the Civil Unions Bill 2007 was debated in the Dáil. This was a Labour Party Bill, and I was proud to support it. I have been campaigning with the LGBT community for a long, long time now and I think that this Bill was an important step towards full equality.

Labour’s civil unions bill a major step towards full equality

Picture taken at the launch of the Labour Party Bill on Civil Unions which was launched in the Dail today (December 14, 2006). The following link will lead you to a statement issued by Deputy Brendan Howlin on why the Bill represents a very significant step towards the provision of full equality for gay and lesbian citizens and particular for those in same sex relationships.

I spoke and voted in favour of the Bill on Wednesday. I've attached the transcript and reprinted it here.

Sadly,frustratingly it was voted down by this government by 72 votes to 60.

Transcript from Wednesday, 21st Feb:

Shortly after I was elected to this House, the then Minister for Justice, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, introduced a Bill decriminalising homosexuality. I remember at the time being enormously impressed by her practical outlook and also by her bravery. She was one of the very few women in this House. She stepped outside the traditional mindset of her party to do something important for many of our people and also for our society. It was refreshing to see. It is dispiriting to listen to the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has stepped back into that murkiness of a traditional mindset. People are quite shocked and dismayed to find that he cannot do even the simple things that would be required of him in this day and age.

I congratulate Deputy Howlin on introducing this Bill. I, like other Deputies, am proud to be a member of the Labour Party tonight, but regrettably this Bill should be a matter of pride for all parties in this House. Everybody should be celebrating the passing of this Bill to ensure that people attain rights to which they are entitled. It is unbelievable that something so simple, obvious and important is being blocked in a way that is demeaning to people outside this House and people in the Gallery who are waiting to see what will happen to this Bill.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide same-sex couples with the same basic rights and duties that are available to married couples. In our society we celebrate marriage. We celebrate the idea of a stable, loving relationship that a couple set out to have in married union. Why can we not celebrate a stable, loving relationship engaged in by a same-sex couple? Is that not valid and important — two people looking after each other, two people ensuring that there is love in that relationship and that there is official recognition for that love? I know of a case where a person ended up in a psychiatric hospital and the person’s long-standing partner was not treated as a married person would have been treated. The partner was excluded from providing the normal support a couple expect from each other. This also applies where a partner of a same-sex couple is dying in hospital; God knows there is enough indignity without heaping it on.

The approach in the Bill is practical and compassionate but it is also rigorous in terms of respect. Single sex couples have an entitlement to respect. When I heard the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, speak last night it struck me forcefully that a pygmy is in charge of the Progressive Democrats. If the previous leader of the Progressive Democrats was still in her old position, I do not believe she would have let this go. Others have asked the party to stand up and stand by the Republic. I do not believe they have any conviction left in terms of their belief of what the Republic stands for and what republican values are all about. I regret that because this could have been a fine moment.

It could have been a good moment in Irish political history, as was the moment when the then Minister, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, came into this House and introduced the legislation to which I referred. She had to do that in much more difficult circumstances but she did it, and I paid tribute her for doing it at the time. We now have a Bill presented by Deputy Howlin which is robust and stands up to the tests that legal minds have applied to it. All that is failing is the political leadership that is so lacking among people who do not have the will or the commitment to support what this Republic stands for. I regret that greatly.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SDLP canvass

Lisburn in the rain is not a cheery place although the SDLP canvass was an upbeat affair. Mark Durkan and Carmel Hannan came out onto the streets in a bid to retain Patricia Lewseley's assembly seat for Marrietta Farrell. Reaction in the market ranged from friendly to surly but the talk was about the recent confrontation at the fish stall between Ian Paisley and Bob McCarney. For once Paisley had nothing to say to McCartney's question " When did Never, Never, Never become Yes, Yes, Yes?"

By comparison, Southern politics is positively cosy. When we meet our opponents on a canvass we tend to fall on each others necks. The only exception to that rule when the candidates are both standing in the same constitunecy for Fianna Fail. Then they don't talk to each other. They snarl.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Youtube video from Labour Party Conference

You can watch my speech on the health services on youtube here

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

But, are you happy?

WELL, I am certainly happy about the response from the Labour Party one day conference last week. It was obviously the last opportunity to gather all the party together for a serious rallying of the troops! There was a great atmosphere in around the Helix in DCU where it was held, with a very varied crowd, young and old, from all around the country. Check out the pictures on Flickr.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Addressing the conference on health reform

Ireland can do better with Labour
Welcoming Gerry 'Ginger' McLaughlin to the Labour team after enjoying footage of his famous try

Yesterday we launched the "But, are you happy ?" campaign and are really trying to modernise the way we're getting our message across. Of course the policy documents and press releases are all still available on the website but maybe they don't excite everyone in the same way!

To see how high tech we've become watch this clip !

and see the campaign website here

On the eve of the conference itself, Labour TDs and new candidates met in the Helix for a talk on climate change by Duncan Stewart. Eamon Gilmore also spoke of Labour's environment polices. Since last September, Labour has been working on a Blueprint for Action on Climate Change. What in practical terms do we need to do, as a country, as a community, and as individuals to significantly reduce carbon emissions? We intend to publish that Blueprint in the near future and to use it as the basis for action on climate by Labour in Government after the General Election.
  • We will commit ourselves to new, National targets, as follows
  • To meet our existing Kyoto target of 13% + by the due date in 2012.
  • To reduce Greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level by 2016
  • To bring greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below the 1990 level by 2020 and
To make Ireland a carbon neutral economy by 2030.
Targets alone are meaningless, unless we understand what they mean, and are acted upon. I think many people now realise that scale of the climate change problem but there are not enough yet who fully grasp the enormous scale of the response which is required.

Ireland can do better with Labour
Duncan Stewart, myself and Pat chatting before the Friday night opening of the conference

As Eamon explained, to get to the 2020 target (and this is likely to be a mandatory EU target), Ireland will need to cut its Carbon Emissions by 25 million tonnes. But what is 25 million tonnes of Carbon? Take all of the emissions from transport i.e. every car, truck, bus and train in the country - that comes to 12.5 million tonnes - so even if in the morning we could stop every emission from every mode of transport - we would still be only half way to the target!!

To reduce our carbon emissions to the levels which are necessary will require enormous courage, leadership and new thinking from the next Government. It will require the understanding, and the cooperation of individuals, and especially of those who are active in the economy.

Friday, February 02, 2007


FIRST blog update of the year! A bit slow off the mark, I think that new years swim may have been a shock to my system after all. January was busy, despite the long Dail break, with a major policy document launch last week. Raising medical card threshold from the current 28% of population to 40% of the population. And a Universal Health Insurance scheme for all under 16s - with a view to extending... It's available to read on the policy section of the website - I'd really like your feedback.

The Party Leader, Pat Rabbitte, will be visiting County Wicklow later in February. He will be touring the County with myself and meeting up with Nicky Kelly in Arklow. It's generally acknowledged Labour are in a good position to win two seats. Certainly we are looking forward to the fight.

I've been conducting a Health Survey around Wicklow but now have an online version which can be accessed and filled in at this link http://www.surveymonkey.com/Users/91885626/Surveys/974332397208/9709AA0D-A427-4DFF-8DC4-6F8CD76BBE60.asp?U=974332397208&

You can also get more information on the Labour website homepage http://www.labour.ie/blog/archive/2007/01/30/reform-and-investment-in-the-health-service/

Thanks for taking the time to fill in and/or letting me know your thoughts.

Oh and a belated Happy New Year!