Greens select O’Brien as General Election candidate in Dublin North

The Green Party in Dublin North has been first out the blocks in Dublin with the selection of Joe O’Brien as their candidate for the next General Election. O’Brien narrowly missed out on a Council seat in local elections in May dropping out of the seated positions on the last and 18th count in the Balbriggan Ward. O’Brien works with the social support agency Crosscare and works with Irish emigrants and people with difficulties accessing the social welfare system and homeless services.

He made the following statement after his selection in Swords on Thursday:

It’s a huge honour to be selected as the Green Party General Election candidate for Dublin North. I have been engaging with Fingal County Council for some time now on behalf of the people of Dublin North and in my day job I campaign at a national level for the most disadvantaged in society. I believe that my experience and effectiveness at making change happen along with my commitment to serve the people of Dublin North in an honest and constructive way puts me in a strong position to do a good job as a TD.

Trust in politicians is at an all-time low and I believe people are largely right to be so sceptical particularly considering some of things that politicians in both government and opposition have been involved in this year alone. Politics should be a noble profession but it’s certainly not perceived as such at the moment with some justification. Politics should be attracting our best, brightest and hardest working but most importantly it needs people of integrity and honesty. Politicians are pulled in many directions and we need people who can stay honest in these contexts. I also often wish there was less spin and double talk and that we were just getting the messages in a direct and honest way without deliberate exaggeration or understatement.

The next Dáil needs people who are capable of rebuilding the public’s trust in politics and I think transparency in a key ingredient in this respect. With this in mind I again urge Fingal County Council to publish the financial, shares, directorships and property interests of all Councillors. At the moment the only way to view this information is by calling in person to County Hall and in the internet age this is not acceptable particularly when Dublin City Council can publish this information on its website.

If elected I will push for a comprehensive overhaul of the ethics framework for TDs. There are various sets of disconnected guidelines and legislation governing the behaviour of TDs and its time this was reviewed in a comprehensive way. As part of this process the standards expected of TDs need to be raised considerably. I think such an overhaul could play a key part in rebuilding public trust in politics.

Joe O'Brien Green Party General Election candidate in Dublin North

Joe O’Brien Green Party General Election candidate in Dublin North

I am very excited about the next General Election not just from a personal point of view but because I think we can see a fundamental change in Irish politics that has been for too long dominated by two remarkably similar populist parties. We could have the most diverse Dáil in the history of the State and that is a good thing in my view. I think though in order to get things done we will need politicians who can see value in different political views and approaches and politicians who can build agreements and constructive ways forward with people of differing voices. We now need a progressive politics that is really focussed on making the country a better place to live and that can bring people of different views together

I welcome the water protests of recent months – it shows there is energy there and signs that people are really open to realigning their beliefs and their very way of engaging with the political system. There has been a vibrancy and diversity about it that has been encouraging. I think the big challenge now is to keep this level of engagement up, keep it in a positive place and harness this renewed interest to help improve the society we live in and not wait for others to do it for us, as that will not happen.

I look forward to meeting the people of Dublin North between now and the next General Election and I vow to do my very best to represent them and to offer an honest and hopeful vision for the future.

Commenting on the selection of Mr. O’Brien former Green TD for Dublin North Trevor Sargent stated that:

‘Joe O’Brien has a record for courageously tackling powerful vested interests on behalf of the community, and helping everyone in need, especially the most marginalised. Joe, a Fingal family man, sees the big picture as a Green where thinking globally while acting locally is the only way we will all create a viable, equitable and just society for this and future generations’.

O’Brien wants power given to the people. €100,000 for Skerries Library

Local Green Party Representative Joe O’Brien has announced an initiative that he hopes can radically change how public money is spent at local level by harnessing the €100,000 that has been allocated by Fingal County Council for improvements in Skerries Library. 

This is a huge opportunity for the community in Skerries and Fingal County Council to come together and do something genuinely different, radical and democratic by piloting what is known as Participatory Budgeting. This is a process whereby Local Authorities hand over the decision making of part of budget to the people of a community. It works for all the world like a TV talent show which engages its audiences by giving them a direct say in who wins, or in the case of Participatory Budgeting, how money is spent. The big benefits of using such a model in local government is that it enhances democracy by handing real power back to the people it also gets people participating in local communities who would otherwise never get involved, particularly young people.

Joe O'Brien at Skerries Library

Joe O’Brien at Skerries Library

For many years there has been talk about improving and reforming local government, its time to actually do something about it. Earlier this year I held a public meeting in Skerries about Participatory Budgeting (PB). PB has been practiced extensively in other countries including the UK. In 2015 Fingal County Council plan to spend €100,000 on Skerries Library. No specifics have been drawn up yet as to how this money will be spent. I have written to the Fingal County Manager to ask him to open a public consultation process on how this €100,000 of our money will be spent on our library and also to consider allocating a proportion of the allocated money to a PB process for the people of Skerries.

Joe O'Brien promoting PB at public meeting in Skerries

Joe O’Brien promoting PB at public meeting in Skerries

 

There are more good ideas in Skerries on how this money would be best used than any group of officials or indeed Councillors can think of – it needs to be put to the public. For example there is unused public land at the back of the library that could be used for badly needed extra space for people using the library. A public consultation would elicit more ideas on how the community could engage with the library space and how it could become an even better, more useful and accessible social and educational space for the community. A PB process would enhance community ownership and involvement in our library. I am asking the people of Skerries to contact the County Manager (He can be e-mailed at chiefexecutive@fingal.ie ) to ask him to open a public consultation on the allocated funds for Skerries library and/or a Participatory Budgeting process for a proportion of the funds.

For more information on how PB works see www.pbnetwork.org.uk

Contact Joe O’Brien at 087-9608540 or joefingalgreen@gmail.com

O’Brien says Climate Change is behind coastal pollution

Unfortunately with climate change we can expect more such extreme weather events as we experienced recently with uncharacteristically persistent and heavy rain. I am not sure how many wake up calls government needs before it realises the damage that is being done to local communities. More such instances of polluted bathing water will have serious impacts for local communities and businesses. Such pollution does serious practical and reputational damage to our seaside villages and towns all along the Fingal coast. Imagine on some of the big summer weekends over the past two years if the beaches along the Fingal coast had to be closed due to pollution. There would be a huge loss to local business and if such incidents were repeated our national reputation would suffer too.

Joe at Skerries coast after February 2014 storm

Joe at Skerries coast after February 2014 storm

A situation where rainwater drainage merges with sewage pipes is totally unacceptable. The Council have touted the planned monster sewage plant as the answer but it’s really moving the problem from one place to another rather than dealing with the root causes and our bathing water will still be at risk.

It’s worrying that these incidents are happening in summer. Our transport, drainage and sewage infrastructure was designed for a different climate and it is simply not fit for purpose anymore – and it does not bode well for the pressure it will come under during the traditionally wetter months.

I will be keeping a close eye on this issue and will be urging the Council to take measures to ensure that our beaches and bathing waters are kept safe.

O’Brien vows to run in next election

Following his agonisingly close election defeat at the weekend after a marathon 18 counts local Green Party election candidate issued the following statement:

This election has been a big success in the rebuilding of the Green Party in Fingal. My colleagues David Healy and Chairman of the Green Party Roderic O’Gorman were elected to Fingal County Council and I came agonisingly close myself. I draw some comfort from the fact that of all the Skerries based candidates I drew most first preferences but in the end the transfers didn’t go my way. The Green voice in Fingal has been reactivated and is growing.

I would like to thank all my team of volunteers and those who supported me in various ways during the election campaign and on election day. I would like to congratulate all the newly elected Councillors, particularly fellow Skerries man J.P. Browne.

I can confirm that I will continue to work at the local level and in co-operation with my two Green colleagues in Fingal County Council. I hope to be back in the next electoral race whenever that may be. Any decision about who runs in future elections is of course down to our local party members but after such a good vote I will certainly be throwing my hat in the ring again.

Please see links below for Local media coverage of the election , plus an animation representing the count itself.

Local media coverage

http://clairebyrne.ie/counts/animation.php?count=fingal_balbriggan

 

 

 

 

My first task as Councillor will be to bring greater transparency to politics

Last year I wrote to Fingal County Council to ask them to publish the various financial, business, property and directorships of the sitting Councillors. This is information that is held on file by the Council but not published even though it is the public’s right to see this information.  At the time the official who responded to me recognised that the proposal ‘had merit’ but that the Councillors needed to be consulted. Needless to say these statements of interest have not been published. I will make it one of my first jobs as a Councillor to ensure that these declarations of interests are published on Fingal County Council’s website, in the same way that Dublin City Council do. The people have a right to know this information about their elected representatives. In fact I believe that this is information the people should know about all candidates for local election not just sitting Councillors. With this in mind I have published my own interests at this link.

Joe O’Brien – Declaration of Interests April 2014

What is more after a motion of mine all Green Party local election candidates must make their declarations of interest available to the public from one month prior to election

O’Brien reports Tesco’s for misleading labelling of imports

Joe O'Brien at Tesco Rush with the offending packs

Joe O’Brien at Tesco Rush with the offending packs

I have sent a complaint about Tesco Ireland to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland as it is clear to me that they have misleading labelling on some of their products. What is most frustrating about Tesco’s practice is that they are selling imported produce that many of our local producers here in Fingal are producing, but giving the impression that it is Irish produce. I was in Tesco’s in Rush recently and picked up several different bags of mixed salad with the label ‘Prepared in Drogheda’ accompanied by an Irish flag. Anyone giving a cursory glance at this label would have thought that they were supporting Irish producers, but this is not the case. On enquiring with Tesco’s about such bags of mixed salad leaves I was told that the leaves were sourced from Italy and Spain. What is more there is no mention of Italy or Spain on the package. This is grossly misleading labelling and I have asked the Food Safety Authority, which has responsibility for food labelling legislation to conduct a full review of Tesco labelling of fresh produce that links itself to Ireland.

Misleading Tesco packaging

Misleading Tesco packaging

This is just one example of a food system that is very dysfunctional. We have growers across Fingal that are being undercut by below cost vegetables from other countries and are forced to let food rot in Irish fields while the same vegetables are imported from another country. The fact that some multiples are using misleading advertising and labelling as part of this is infuriating and must be dealt with decisively.

Our food system is one that has not traditionally got much attention from our policy makers but that is something I hope to change if elected to Fingal County Council in May. I would like to initiate a Food Policy Council in Fingal whereby various stakeholders in the production and consumption of food can come together to develop a food system that benefits all in our local economy and is sustainable in the long term. A Food Policy Council can also help to develop the artisan food industry which has huge untapped potential in Fingal and it can also look at ways to encourage and facilitate healthier eating habits and tackle food poverty. With the childhood obesity crisis I think schools in particular could have an important role to play in the development of a Food Policy Council.

The first Food Policy Council in Ireland was launched on St. Patrick’s weekend. More information on Cork Food Policy Council is at this link: http://corkfoodpolicycouncil.com/