This week I started my week with a board meeting of the Coolock Development Council, of which I am a founding Director. I then held my regular clinics in Darndale and Donnycarney before heading in to the Dáil office to prepare for a TV interview. On Tuesday, I spoke strongly in support of the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 which will strengthen sanctions for those caught driving over the legal alcohol limit and will undoubtedly save lives. I met a delegation from PARC (Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care on our Roads), led by Ms Susan Gray and Mr Noel Clancy, who attended the debate. Later that night, I spoke in support of the Multi-Party Action Bill 2017 which would give people in Ireland access to multi-party (class) mass harm actions.
This week I spoke three times in Dáil Eireann. On Wednesday I asked the Government to urgently reform the 1942/2004 banking legislation to address the Tracker Mortgage Scandal. At Leaders Questions on Thursday I raised the issue of serious anti-social behavior in parts of Dublin Bay North and the urgent need to resource community policing teams. Later on Thursday I demanded an urgent resolution of impending strike action at Irish Rail for communities, workers and Iarnrod Eireann in a Topical Issues Debate with Shane Ross.
On Thursday this week, I got the opportunity to speak on the Water Services Bill 2017. I recalled the long and successful struggle of the Right2Water campaign in Dublin Bay North and throughout Ireland and paid tribute to the tens of thousands of citizens who peacefully and steadfastly opposed water charges and the privatisation of water supplies. I warned that Part 2 of the Bill on water allowances, thresholds amounts must not be permitted to become an excuse for the reintroduction of charges through the back door and called for amendments to this part of the Bill and to the provisions on Irish Water itself.
The Dáil officially started back for the Autumn/Winter term on Wednesday afternoon, the 20th of September. Of course, the Committees were already back last week and the Budgetary Oversight Committee, of which I am a member, is meeting twice per week throughout September as we prepare for Budget 2018. This week and last we heard again from representatives from IBEC, NERI, ESRI, ICTU and others. Next week, we will meet again with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohue.
This was a week of long Dáil days in the final week of the plenary Dáil session. On Tuesday, I spoke in a short debate on the 22nd anniversary of the horrific Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On Wednesday, I attended and spoke at the Budgetary Oversight Committee which is completing its report on Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016/2021. Later that day I attended the Ceann Comhairle’s Committee on Procedure.
Well it was the first full week of Leo Varadkar’s period in office as Taoiseach and it was predictable to say the least. He staunchly stuck to his party’s neo-liberal approach and defended the cronyism which allowed the former Attorney General to receive a new job without due process. Of course, the so-called Independents, such as Ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, facilitated this move.
Like many other citizens, I was astonished by the Sean Fitzpatrick case. I recall the establishment of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and believe that, especially since 2008/09, the organisation has been starved of the necessary skilled personnel and resources by the current and past 2 austerity governments. (I also recall the good work of the ODCE under Mr Paul Appleby in relation to housing management companies).
I had the opportunity to speak on several important issues this week. On Tuesday evening, I commented on Ireland’s Brexit negotiation guidelines and later I made a brief contribution to the Labour Party motion on AIB.
On Wednesday evening, I got an opportunity to again call for major investment in Dublin public transport including Metro North. Finally on Thursday, I questioned Minister Katherine Zappone on the grave deficiencies in aftercare services for young people and raised the urgent need to restore salaries for staff in Section 39 health and disability services organisations.
On Friday afternoon, I met the Director of the NTMA, Mr Conor O’Kelly, with his colleagues, Mr Frank O’Connor and Martin Whelan, on the refinancing of Ireland’s huge national debt in 2018/2020.
The Dáil has been on recess for the past two weeks for the Easter break and it has given me time to catch-up on pressing constituency matters such as meeting constituents on local community and planning issues around Dublin Bay North. For example, I attended the opening of the new dressing rooms at Scoil Uí Chonaill on Clontarf Rd and the AGM of Le Chéile, Donnycarney Community and Youth Centre where I hold regular information clinics. I was also delighted to meet and be briefed by Ms Aisling Hedderman and Ms Aisling Kenny of the North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Committee.
On Tuesday, I asked Minister Noonan about concerns that a quarter of Ireland’s large national debt will have to be re-financed in a very tight timeframe in 2019/2020. Later that evening I spoke in a Topical Issues Debate on the Bus Éireann dispute and strongly called on Minister Ross to get involved to reach a fair settlement for the 2,600 workers and 100,000 commuters badly affected. In a Dáil Brexit debate, I called for a direct Irish presence in the EU/UK Brexit negotiations given the vital importance of the Common Travel Area to all of Ireland and of the East/West business, social and cultural connections with Britain.