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/

O’Brien calls for appointment of a Cycling Officer for tourism revolution in Fingal

Green Party representative for Skerries, Balbriggan, Lusk, Rush and Rural Fingal has vowed to prioritise the development of a cycleway from Sutton to Balbriggan if elected to Fingal County Council this summer. Joe O’Brien stated that:

Looking at the big picture, a cycleway from Sutton to Balbriggan has the capacity to not just revolutionise cycling in Fingal but the tourist industry in Fingal. All the way up the coast we have unparalleled tourist attractions within a short distance – Portmarnock Beach, Malahide Castle, Broadmeadow Estuary, Newbridge Demense, Rogerstown Estuary, Rush, Loughshinney, Skerries, Ardgillan Demense and Balbriggan. The Great Western Greenway in Mayo is certainly an amazing trail but I believe the Fingal Coastal Way has the potential to be a much richer and more diverse tourist package particularly with all the heritage along the way. Its proximity to Dublin city is of course its other great asset – Dublin being the location where the vast majority of our tourists arrive and we have a huge advantage in having Dublin Airport located in Fingal. Also, cyclicng tourists can access various point of the Way by rail – making it even more attractive.

Mr. O’Brien’s comments come after the announcement of the consultation process by Fingal County Council on the Broadmeadow Way which will see Malahide and Donabate connected by a pedestrian/cycle track. He stated that:

The Broadmeadow Way is one of the key pieces in the jigsaw and if the Fingal Coastal Way finally comes to fruition it will provide a very significant and sustainable economic and employment boost to all of Fingal and beyond. I will pull out all the stops to ensure that adequate funding is sourced to make the Fingal Coastal Way a reality. The next big challenge to the development of the route is the crossing of Rogerstown Estuary. The National Transport Authority have suggested a floating pontoon bridge to facilitate this and this could well be the way forward – but there are a lot of practical difficulties to overcome that I will put my mind to.

Of course the benefits for Fingal are not just in terms of tourism, there are also vital opportunities to develop commuter and school cycling not to mention the health benefits of getting more people on their bikes. Evidence from other successful councils has shown us though that we need a focal point in the Council to push cycling development – Fingal County Council need to appoint a Cycling Officer immediately in accordance with government policy, to make sure that these opportunities are maximised for all the people of Fingal in a professional and committed manner.

Details of the consultation process are at this link:

http://www.fingalcoco.ie/media/Advert%20Broadmeadow%20Estuary%20Walkway.pdf

Council has failed to show leadership on climate change

Following the recent spate of storms and damaging weather across Fingal local Green Party Rep Joe O’Brien has warned that Council budgets and funding for many local services will be badly hit if there is not sea change in political actions nationally and locally:

We will be known as the most irresponsible and short-sighted generation in history if there is not a fundamental change in political attitudes towards climate change urgently. Unfortunately most politics works in a knee jerk fashion and the gradual but accelerating nature of climate change has meant that most political leaders have chosen to ignore it. Having a Minister for the Environment who cannot bring himself to admit the need to act dramatically on climate change is akin to having a Minister for Health saying that the health service is all in order. But there is a lot of local responsibility aswell and I do believe that because local authorities nationally will be footing the bills for storm and flood damage is it at local level that leadership needs to be shown. However I think local government across Ireland and in Fingal has failed the people by adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to climate change. It is frankly the height of irresponsibility.

I am sad to say that as the years progress I am becoming increasingly worried that my hometown of Skerries will be particularly badly hit by climate change. The recent damage done to the foundations of footpaths all along the South Strand has been quite extensive and dangerous.   And this is all not long after the sea wall on the road to Balbriggan was repaired at significant cost. Not to mention of course the flood damage done to houses along the South Strand. The three main roads into Skerries have all shown themselves to be prone to serious flooding in recent years, businesses have been adversely affected and indeed Red Island which is in many ways the hub of Skerries social and leisure life is at long term risk of being disconnected from the mainland. 

 The major floods of November 2009 represented the largest insured loss ever in Ireland at €244 million at the time and the science has been telling us for some time now that we can expect more events like this. I have little doubt that the recent damage way surpasses this figure.

It was back in January 2013 that I wrote to the County Manager  suggesting that the Council should be keeping account of weather related expenses that the Council is incurring such as flood prevention works and repairs to infrastructure after storms and flooding. I was frankly baffled to be fobbed off on such a basic and sensible suggestion. I have little doubt that such expenses have been rising yet there seems to be no interest in forward planning for what will be the biggest challenge to our communities and our lifestyles in the years to come across Fingal. Dramatically reducing our carbon emissions is the only way forward.

 

Accompanying Photos:

Repair work ongoing on the sea wall on the Balbriggan Road in Skerries – October 2013

Skerries sea wall reconstruction October 2013

Recent damage at the South Strand in Skerries – Jan and February 2014

Skerries Feb 2014

Skerries Feb 2014

Skerries1 Feb 2014

Skerries1 Feb 2014