O’Brien invokes 1916 spirit in urging voters to register before deadline

Bridget and James Harte - Grandparents of Joe O'Brien

With the deadline approaching for registering on the Register of Electors Green Party General Election candidate Joe O’Brien has urged the electorate to come out in force for the general election in 2016, as a mark of respect to those who sacrificed so much in 1916 and in the following war of independence and civil war. Mr. O’Brien’s Grandfather (James Harte pictured about with his wife Bridget) served as a Commandant in the Irish Volunteers in Cork in 1916. Mr. O’Brien stated that:

2016 is a very big year for Ireland. There will be a very important General Election in 2016. For that reason but also as a mark of respect to all the sacrifices made by people in 1916 and in all the conflicts of the time that were in one way or another tied to cause of sovereignty, I hope people come out in force to cast their ballot. I have certainly been inspired by the fact that my Grandfather was prepared to take serious risks and make sacrifices to do what he felt his country needed.

 I think next year will be a year of looking back but we will not do justice to 1916 unless we also try to look forward. The rising was about trying to secure a long time future for Ireland and unfortunately I don’t think there is enough of that approach in Irish politics at the moment.

 As an economy Ireland’s long term vulnerabilities have not only been not tackled but in some case exacerbated in the last 4 years – our reliance on multi-nationals, our dependence on exports and our energy system’s huge and unnecessary orientation towards fossil fuels are contributing to a very uncertain future for Ireland that government does not want to talk about.

 Crucially for me as someone who has worked in the area of social justice all my life I am very uncomfortable with the fact that the State has failed the spirit of the proclamation which committed to cherishing all the children of the State equally. We are a very unequal society and my decision to get involved in politics was driven my desire to tackle that inequality in a positive and constructive way but also with passion and commitment.

 Ireland’s approach to tackling climate change must also be front and centre of debates on Ireland’s future in 2016. I would like to invoke a sense of patriotism not just towards Ireland of the past but Ireland of the present and the challenges that we face as a local communities, a nation and the global community in the face of a challenge that government is running away from.

 I think Election 2016 is also an opportunity for people to cast their first ever ballot. I am not just talking about people who are turning 18 but also those who have been disenfranchised by the political system and have decided not to vote. This is not an issue we adequately engage with in Ireland – the fact that a significant minority of people don’t see the point in using their vote. What a great year to cast your first ever vote, but only if you are registered!

 The deadline for registration is fast approaching with little more than a week away to November 25th. The electoral register and voter registration forms can be found at www.checktheregister.ie and completed forms should be returned to Franchise Section, Fingal County Council, Main St., Swords.

Portmarnock, Malahide and Skerries need supported housing for older people

I wish to highlight  the need for supported housing for older people across Fingal. 

Over recent months i have received a number of representations from older people and their relatives in towns across Fingal in relation to the need for more supported housing tailor made for older people. In particular people from Skerries, Malahide and Portmarnock have raised this issue. This is no surprise as these three towns have the highest percentage of over 60s and over 70s in Fingal. It’s clear there is a gap in provision between the cohort of people who need a level of support to stay in their own homes and those whose needs can only currently be met in a nursing home environment. There are really excellent community based models in the European context that we simply have not learned from in Ireland. So many people could be accommodated in tailor made supported housing if we had it but they end up going into the nursing home system.  Supported housing for older people is much better able to keep people in their own communities for all their lives, it also enhances a person’s social network and helps keeps isolation and poorer mental and physical health at bay.

The Age Friendly Initiative in Fingal is certainly an excellent programme and I understand that at the moment the Age Friendly Housing Sub-Committee in Fingal is assessing the housing needs of older people. I have written to the Chair of the Sub-Committee to ask that the Committee seriously considers supported housing for older people as one of the options to address the housing needs of older people in Fingal. Obviously people will ideally want to stay in their own home for as long as they can and I welcome the pilot OPRAH (Older People Remaining at Home) Initiative in this regard. When remaining at home is no longer the best option we need to be offering our older people much more attractive options that what is currently available. It could be one of the saddest events of a person’s life if they not only have to move out of their home but also their community – supported housing needs to be in the mix as an option.

I don’t think we can truly call ourselves an Age-Friendly County until all our senior citizens are satisfied that there are housing options that will allow them to the rest of their lives in the communities that they are a part of. This particularly needs to be considered in the context of the number of housing units that are expected to be built in Fingal in the coming years. One of the lessons of the housing crisis should be that a 3-bed semi-d only works for one group of people who are at a particular stage in their lives. We need more variety in our housing stock and our stock pf supported housing for older people needs to be bumped up significantly in the communities where it is and will be needed.


O’Brien lauds positive ‘people power’ with 500k library allocation

I would like  to take the opportunity to praise the community effort in Skerries after the allocation for works in Skerries library was expanded dramatically from €100,000 in June 2014 to €530,000 euros. 

Last November I ran a comprehensive campaign in Skerries asking people to contact the county manager to urge him to open a public consultation process on the money allocated for works on Skerries library. This was following on from a public meeting I held earlier that year on Participatory Budgeting – an innovative form of community development, democracy and fund allocation that is practised widely in the UK.  I was delighted when the Council decided to run a public consultation on what people wanted to see in their library earlier this year.  I further promoted this consultation process.

The people of Skerries have responded in force to this public consultation and have sent a clear message to Fingal County Council. I am delighted to say that Fingal County Council received 247 inputs into the public consultation on Skerries library. But of course this is not the big news. The Fingal County Council capital plan that has been recently published has shown a huge increase in the money allocated to Skerries library up to a figure of €530,000. This is a real tangible example of positive ‘people power’. I hope now the Council will now seriously consider running a full Participatory Budgeting process. It is clear from the response to this public consultation that people are keen to have a say in how their money is used by the Council. Hats off to the people of Skerries and to the Council for reciprocating the community commitment!

I will now work to ensure that this allocation is follow through on over the coming the years and that we have a library that will do justice to our town. I am delighted to say that the allocation allows for expansion of the current building and refurbishment of the interior which combined should significantly increase the capacity of the library and make it an even busier hive of community activity.

The following is the relevant excerpt from the recently published Capital Plan 2016-18:

Refurbishment of Skerries Library

A provision of €530,000 has been made and this expenditure will be funded from revenue provision.  Skerries Library is a Carnegie building which first opened in 1911. It is a two story structure with a cut stone front façade. The Library has undergone very little refurbishment or enhancement over the years. The fabric of the building is in good shape with many original features still intact. The upper floor is currently not suitable for use by the public. The Library currently serves a population of 9,671 and it is well used by residents of the town and surrounding areas. A recent survey on the proposed refurbishment of the Library attracted 247 responses. 74% of those who responded said they would like to have a more comfortable leisure reading area in the refurbished library and 48% said they would like to have more study desks. The refurbishment is likely to be carried out in two phases. The first phase will involve the internal remodelling of the ground level and the renovation of the upper floor. The second phase will be a small extension in the garden area at the back of the building.

O’Brien calls for Policing Forum to be restarted urgently

Towards the end of 2013 I campaigned for the local Policing Forums in Swords and Balbriggan to be maintained and I organised local people in Balbriggan to write to the Minister for Health at the time James Reilly to continue to fund the forums. (This leaflet can be downloaded by clicking on the following link Leaflet re Policing Forum). The forums were a vital way to keep the Gardaí and the Council accountable to often neglected communities and estates. Unfortunately these calls fell on deaf ears and Minister Reilly decided to cut the funding and negatively impact these neglected communities.

Joe O'Brien at the Balbriggan Community Policing Forum

Joe O’Brien at the Balbriggan Community Policing Forum

I have received a number of representations in recent weeks from people in estates in North West Balbriggan who are gravely concerned for their personal safety and the safety of their family members and their property. There was of course a serious assault in the area recently that has frightened a lot of people. The communities there feel neglected and forgotten about but nevertheless they are now organising and trying to get their voice heard. Community leaders have asked me not to name particular estates as while they are concerned at the rise in serious anti-social behaviour they are proud of where they live and want to develop their communities further. They need to be helped to do so.

There is a glaring lack of belief and confidence among a lot of people in Balbriggan and indeed in other towns in north Dublin like Rush and Swords that the Gardaí are losing touch with the realities on the ground because they are stretched so thinly. The big need is more Gardaí and I have written to the Minister for Justice to ask her to ensure that north county Dublin is prioritised for the next set of new recruits. As communities though we don’t need to wait for central government to act we can act locally aswell. I have also written to the County Manager and Superintendent Noel Carolan to ask them to put their heads and resources together so that local policing forums are re-established in Swords and Balbriggan.

Such forums can help ensure that the Gardai and the Council are more responsive to community needs in estates that often get neglected.

O’Brien warns of ‘monster’ airport plan

Please read below for my response to comments from Dublin MEP Brian Hayes on the proposed expansion of Dublin Airport. Mr. Hayes stated last week that following the IAG takeover of Aer Lingus that Dublin Airport could expand to provide a ‘third runway for Heathrow’

Mr. Hayes has barely been a year in Europe and it’s already clear that he has lost touch with his constituency and is confused about the geography of Ireland. The people of Portmarnock and St. Margaret’s in particular will not be happy to hear of plans for an extra runway at Dublin Airport. You have to live in these communities to truly understand the negative impact that the current level of airport traffic already has. Potentially doubling this would be very bad for these communities.

In addition, what Mr. Hayes is proposing would be of very limited economic value to the region. We would effectively be serving as a pit stop for transatlantic flights. I think we need to weigh up strategically what can be gained from such a move in the context of the real damage it does to communities and indeed our environment. Dublin Airport already handles in the region of 600 flights a day which is more than enough for any community to endure – do we really want a monster airport like Heathrow whose two runways handle over 1,300 flights a day?

The sell-out of Aer Lingus was not a good move for Ireland. Now we are seeing some of the potential consequences of this decision, where large multi-national corporate interests could steamroll over the interests over local communities. This government will rue the day it decided to sell off Aer Lingus.

While there is planning permission in place for this runway up to 2017 I predict some serious opposition from local communities if action is taken to turn Dublin Airport into the next Heathrow.

O’Brien warns of more coastal pollution and collapse of Irish Water

I believe  that the bathing water pollution long suffered by the people of Rush could become a feature for all coastal towns in north Dublin. Below is a a statement i made, before the public protest in Rush for the much delayed sewage treatment connection to Portrane treatment plant :

It is heartening to see people getting out marching for their environment and their community, which has been neglected for far too long. All those involved in organising this protest  should be acknowledged and I hope it leads to sustained pressure on Fingal County Council that will help ensure that there are no further delays in connecting Rush with the waste water treatment plant in Portrane.

Joe at a public protest in Rush for the  delayed sewage treatment connection to Portrane treatment plant

Joe at a public protest in Rush for the delayed sewage treatment connection to Portrane treatment plant.

It’s important to point out that there are also broader issues at play here that are relevant to other coastal communities in north Dublin and indeed for the whole country. It might surprise people to learn that already this month there were four days when pollution incidents in Donabate, Portrane, Loughshinny, Skerries, Balbriggan and Portmarnock made the bathing waters there unsafe to use. It’s unacceptable that in the month of July – perhaps the most popular month for swimming – all our bathing waters along the coast have been unusable for a considerable period of time. So even where the Council has deemed wastewater treatment as adequate our bathing waters are still getting seriously polluted. Our wastewater treatment systems do not have the capacity to deal with the heavy falls of rain that are becoming increasingly frequent. The result is that they are being flooded and sewage is entering the sea all along the coast. So it’s now very evident that all along the Fingal coast our wastewater treatment systems need further upgrading if they are going to cope with the twin challenge of increasing populations and heavier rainfall. The planned giant sewage plant at Clonsaugh is not the answer and is far from risk free. Our Blue Flags are also at increasing risk and I think the people of my hometown of Skerries were shocked and disappointed that we lost our Blue Flag this year.

The other big issue that this protest highlights is the sick monster that is Irish Water. There must be serious concerns now about its financial viability given the low level of people paying their water and waste water treatment bills. We in the Green Party have proposed that the investment in our water and wastewater infrastructure which is urgently needed across the country should now be funded by a combination of central government and EU funds. People should only be charged for water after they have used a much more generous and reasonable daily allowance.

Irish Water needs serious reform and has been an example of how not to do things. However, if it collapsed now I would be concerned that all the money invested would be lost and communities all along the coast and indeed all over the country would have to tolerate polluted waters and unsafe drinking water on an increasingly frequent basis.  The current system of charges is the worst in every regard in that it is neither fair nor does it encourage people to conserve our precious resource.

I would also like to draw your  attention to the fact that Fingal County Council are accepting submission until July 28th on potential new bathing waters in the county:

If you wish to propose your favourite beach/river etc as a new bathing water site or comment on an existing site please contact Fingal County Council by email at bathingwaters@fingal.ie or by post.

For more information contact Joe at 087-9608540 or joefingalgreen@gmail.com

Carbon neutral towns – My Submission to the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023

I have made my own submission to The Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 in which i have placed an emphasis on carbon neutral development. Please see the following article below which sets out the reasoning behind my proposals.


My Submission can be read in the attached document below, along with example of the Low Carbon City Plan for the city of Freemantle in Australia

Joe O’Brien – Fingal Development Plan

Carbon Neutral Freemantle