Monday, December 17, 2007

County GAA Website of the year goes Deenside

Well done to the lads and lassies in Erin's Own GAA club, Castlecomer, who recently scooped the award for the best club GAA website in Kilkenny. The site is a nice, easy and attractive one to navigate. I particularly like the bilingual rollover buttons on the site. Bheadh sé deas nios mó Ghaeilge a fheiceáil ar na leathanaigh áfach. The match reports are comprehensive, and there's a great news section. The photo gallery is good too, although more pics of recent games would be great. Well done to all involved in what is a very progressive GAA club. Go neiri libh as seo amach.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Common Sense in 'Joysey'-Death Penalty goes in Springsteen Land

The news tonight that New Jersey has become the first US State in over thirty years to vote to outlaw the use of the death penalty, including Amnesty International, is a little bit of good news for all those who have struggled against this inhumane and pointless form of human punishment. The arguments have been well rehearsed for years: the racist element of the death penalty leading to disproportionate killing of black working class males in the US, its total failure to cause a drop in crime rates anywhere it exists-in other words it is simply not effective as a deterrent, and most convincingly in an Irish context, the fact that innocent people are executed for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted. Well done to the brave people of Jersey for acting decisively, and may they inspire those in the remaining states who retain this archaic law to follow their lead. Won't the 'Boss', their greatest musical ambassador and clearest voice of the old-fashioned democratic, centre-left values be a proud Jersey man tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Disgraceful Double dealing and insulting decent people

I promised last night that I would come here today and give the reasons I was angry then. I hoped that my fury would have decreased by now but instead it's got ten times worse.

The front page of our local paper the Kilkenny People carries the story today, and the national papers will follow suit tomorrow with the fact that kilkenny Borough Council, my council and that of the 20,000 people of the city of Kilkenny, have failed to award the Freedom of Kilkenny to Séamus Pattison, the longest-serving parliamentarian in Europe, who retired in June of this year after forty six years continuous membership of Dáil Éireann. He also served for decades on our council and Kilkenny County Council, serving as mayor of Kilkenny and Chairperson of Kilkenny County Council.

His record as a public representative is utterly without blemish, and Séamus was famous for the service he gave to the ordinary people of this city, regardless of political persuasion, colour, class or creed. Even the most begrudging of opponents would admit this. How then could this most noble of honours this city can convey be refused him?

Put simply, the decision to bestow the freedom of the city is taken by the unanaimous vote of all twelve members of the council in secret ballot, after the Mayor of the day has been assured that such a vote will be unanimous. So it was this Monday that our Mayor was assured privately by all members that this would be the case. Between then and the vote a matter of hours later, a number of councillors broke their word!

The upshot is the public humiliation of the Mayor, my colleague Cllr. Joe Cody who proposed the motion in the first place, and of couse Séamus himself. I may be accused of bias because all of the above are my party colleagues, but I find it hard to work out which of these fine people deserves the humiliation least.

What it does mean however is the cheapening of the political process, and all for what? To score a cheap political point while hiding behind the denial and the cover of the secrecy of the ballot? One thing is for sure, those of us who believe in honesty and decency in how we deal with people will not take this one lying down. We will fight to have this process changed so that decent people like these can never again be humitiated in this fashion.

For me, my conscience is clear. My 'Tá' or Yes vote was seen by another councillor, and I would not have dreamed of doing anything else, either for Séamus, of for somebody in any other party whose service to Kilkenny came even close to his. Let my colleagues consciences be equally clear, or those responsible at least have the decency to be ashamed!!

Really angry but seeing the best in one who's passed on.

Tonight I am raving with anger about something really shitty that has happened to a number of decent people in this city, and about which I'll blog tomorrow when the news becomes public. It's at moments like this when you can lose faith in the most basic honesty and decency in people around you. But more anon....

My good friend 'An Fear Rua' however always has a way of making things better, and he sent me this magic Youtube video of the great Christie Hennessy from Tralee who passed on this morning. All of us from the Kingdom are really proud of what a so-called uneducated man from Tralee, forced to take the emigrant ship to London like most of his compatriots in the fifties and sixties, has achieved in writing some of the greatest songs of recent decades and having become 'A Star' so late in life. More than anything else that magical simplicity of Christy's 'Up de rock and down de square' Tralee attitude to life, and his pure niceness and gentleness should bring out the best in us.

This video sums it all up, and I'm off tomorrow to buy the album. For those who I'll write about tomorrow, they should look at Christie as the example of how life should be lived. Suaimhneas siorai agat Christie-rest in peace forever, and may the music shine on!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Baile is fearr-We are the greatest

Kilkenny is the greatest town in Britain and Ireland and it's official. On Friday last the 19th. of November, the Academy of Urbanism, an international organisation of planners, architects and academics involved in planning cities and towns gave us the huge honour of naming us as the Great town of these four countries. In the process we beat St. Andrew's of Scotland, and Winchester of England to claim the title for the first time that an Irish town has claimed this prestigious title. For those that are jumping up and down at the thought of us being called a mere 'town', Winchester were also happy to be nominated for this award despite also being a city, and indeed a former capital city of England. We accepted the award in London's Dorchester Hotel, the one you know from the Bond movies, and celebrated long into the night. Hopefully the peole of Kilkenny will appreciate the importance of this award, and we will celebrate in style in the coming weeks.
We put a huge amount of work into wining this award, and the judges who visited us in August again commented on Friday about the huge effort put in by us as Councillors and our officials to show Kilkenny in its best light. For now though, we're just as proud as punch, and know that Kilkenny and its great people more than deserve this prize.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Droch-Lá-Susie leaves us

This is a sad way to return to blogging after another break, but yesterday we got the news that Ireland's bravest woman, Susie Long had lost her battle with bowel cancer. I knew Susie from about town over the past couple of years, and first met her at a gig in Ó Riada's pub about three years ago. Susie was a great music fan, and my abiding memory of her will be the night I shared my colleague Malcolm Noonan's back seat with Suzie on the way back from Bruce Springsteen's magical Seeger Sessions concert in the Point Depot last Novemember. Like the rest of us, Susie indulged in a bag of chips in Inchicore, although she knew that with her illness it would cause her pain the next day. It was the fact that she, like my 15 year old son Fionn, Malcolm, Kairon and myself, were on the ultimate musical high after a truly uplifting gig that will stand in the memory.

Of course it was as Rosie on the Joe Duffy show on RTÉ Radio One that Susie became a national person of influence. Her honest and painful retelling of the story of her delayed treatment as a result of her lack of private health insurance struck a note with everybody who heard it or read the transcript afterwards. Suzie was not looking for personal sympathy, but through her anger at what she knew was her imminent passing, was fighting to ensure that an unfair and appalling health system would not claim others. If you haven't heard the original clip, here is the transcript, or here is the podcast.

In the months since Susie has borne her illness with great dignity, and was delighted to be in attendance in St.Luke's hospital to see the plans for the long-awaited day services unit which will be dedicated to her memory, and indeed her fighting spirit.

Susie was a life-long political fighter and gave so much to her adopted Kilkenny. I was privileged to have known her, although not as deeply as I would have liked. To Conor Macliam, her husband, and to Fergus and Aine, her beloved kids, my sympathies. As she annouced to the nation in an icredible interview with the Sunday Tribune recently. Even more enlightening was the short interview she gave to Miriam O' Callaghan on Primetime, which you can access here.Susie's body will be cremated today Monday, and a memorial service will be held in her memory on Friday.I believe we must honour Susie's memory in a concrete way. One is to continue the fight for decent cancer services for all. Another is to work for a proper hospice in Kilkenny. For now we just miss you Susie, and hope that your battle inspires us all to keep on fighting.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A good choice made and time to chose the best Deputy Leader-Why I'm backing Jan

Today is a historic day for the Labour Party as we select our tenth leader. At what I consider is a relatively young age, I'm now looking forward to meeting my fourth party leader in person when he attends the members hustings for the South East in Kilkenny on Tuesday week, the 18th. of September. For what it's worth I believe that Pat Rabbitte stepped down too early, a view I have related directly to him. This is the second such occasion, with Ruairi Quinn having left too early also in my view. That said, both men had very good reasons for doing so, and it's now up to us to get on with the task of rebuilding our party back to where we were in 1992, and to our ultimate aim which is to become the main opposition party in Ireland. In that context I think we have chosen the best leader available to us, and I now believe we should chose Jan O' Sullivan as the best positioned person to carry out the Deputy Leader's job.

I warmly welcome the election of Deputy Eamon Gilmore as the tenth leader of the Labour Party. I have been a long-time friend of Eamon, who like myself, is a former national student leader. His work as a Junior Minister in the last Government in which we were involved was hugely admired, but it has been as our spokesperson on local Government and the Environment that he has made a huge impact, articulating a vision for the development of local Government and arguing for core Labour values like the necessity for building badly needed social housing for the 100,000 plus people in need of a roof over their heads.

Eamon’s ambition for the party has already been clearly outlined, and I welcome his commitment to win at least thirty seats in the next General election. I believe that regaining a Labour seat in Carlow/Kilkenny must be a key target in this strategy, and I intend to work strongly with our new leader to ensure this happens.

My decision to support Jan O’ Sullivan, and to call on party members in the constituency to support her is based on a strong belief that we need to have a balanced representation in the party leadership. It is crucial that the party continues to be seen as one for all the people of Ireland, urban and rural.

Jan comes from the proud Kemmy tradition of Limerick socialism, and has been an ardent defender of the values of equality, fairness and opportunity for all which summed Kemmy up. She has been a superb party spokesperson on education, my own professional field, and has formulated a forward-looking position on education, committing Labour to a substantial investment in education at all levels, particularly in reducing class sizes in our primary schools, a position the Government has singularly failed to introduce.

While I have great regard for Joan Burton TD, who has been a superb spokesperson on finance, and a hard-working TD, I believe Jan has the necessary conviction and commitment to be the best available support to Eamon as our new leader.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pat throws down the gauntlet-thinking time begins.

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte has launched the first part of the party's serious election review tonight with a keynote speech at the Labour Party'sT om Johnson summer school in Galway.I was due to be there but my enforced silence ruled it out.

I have put Pat's speech in full here, as it's not on the Labour site yet. They say that recognising a problem is the first part of solving it. If that's the case then Pat's presentation tonight might represent 'Tús maith, leath na h-oibre'.

Colleagues and Friends

It is a pleasure once again to give the annual Lecture in honour of Jim Kemmy. It is fitting that we pay tribute in this way to a giant of the Left, who was a man of both action and ideas.

The theme of my lecture will hopefully fit with that of your summer school – 'Where next for Labour?' It is essential that, in the aftermath of the election, the Party now takes a long look at itself, and examine its place in Irish politics and Irish society. In a very changed Ireland it is imperative anyway that Labour continues to examine its political positioning and organisational effectiveness.

The debate which we must have is really about the future direction of the Labour Party. I believe we must embark on a root and branch examination of the role and function of the Labour Party in modern Ireland. Some of you will have attended the meeting in Dublin on June 16th of candidates and directors of election, when a good start was made.

However, not to put the cart before the horse, we cannot avoid – nor should we attempt to avoid – an analysis of the campaign, the electoral strategy and where Labour is now positioned.

The results of the election are disappointing. We set out to win more seats for Labour and to change the Government. We offered the people a clear alternative – Fianna Fáil and the PDs on one hand, and Labour and Fine Gael on the other, with the possibility of Green involvement if required. For much of the campaign, it looked as though we might succeed. Fianna Fáil were at or below 38% in a series of polls, and the PDs were clearly facing extinction. Fine Gael were polling at or above 26%-27%, and we had a number of polls which put us in the region of 12%-13%. It was always going to be tight. In the event, we narrowly missed out. In our multi-seat system of P.R., the margin between success and failure can be wafer thin.

There was a shift in the last week back to Fianna Fáil, at our expense, but not only at our expense. Why did this shift occur? Conventional wisdom has it that, in the end, fear about a weakening economy overcame the desire for positive change. Fianna Fáil and the PDs were certainly pumping out the message that the Alternative Government would wreck the economy. Did the tag of 'slump coalition', particularly when applied to a possible three-party line-up including the Greens have an impact? Probably. Up to the last week people wanted change in order to get improvement in public services and quality of life issues but in the end they didn't want to risk change. It is ironical that Fianna Fail's partner in government should be the Green Party, given how liberally Fianna Fail and the PDs used the possible inclusion of the Greens in a Fine Gael/Labour government to scare off people from voting for the Alliance for Change.

Perhaps the easiest explanation to fall back on is that the electoral strategy was wrong. The fact that Fine Gael bounced back almost to its traditional position is taken as giving credence to this argument.

Electoral strategy, although only tactical, is always important and the strategy adopted for Election 2007 should be fully discussed and analysed.

Taking a long term view, however, it is not at all clear that Labour's difficulty in breaking out of its traditional niche (Election 1992 excepted) has much to do with electoral strategy at all.

Different electoral strategies were pursued in 2002 and 2007 with amazingly similar outcomes. In 2002 we won 20 seats with an independent strategy and in 2007 we won 20 seats in an Alliance for Change with Fine Gael. It is argued, and perhaps correctly, that Fine Gael benefited from the strategy pursued in 2007. Yet when Fine Gael lost 22 seats in 2002 and Labour pursued a different strategy we did not harvest any of the fallen Fine Gael seats. And is it clear that Fine Gael's revival in 2007 is due in part or whole to the Mullingar Accord? There was no Mullingar Accord in 2004 when Fine Gael for the first time in its history came within 5 seats of Fianna Fail on local authorities and won 5 seats in the European Parliament to 4 for Fianna Fail. There was no voting pact between Fine Gael and Labour for the 2004 Elections.

Would breakfast roll man have supported Labour if the Party had a different electoral strategy? Maybe s/he would – but there is no evidence for such a conclusion.

If fighting Election 2007 on an independent strategy was the secret for success, it must be asked why then did the Greens not make the expected breakthrough? They could not have entered the contest in more favourable circumstances. After the Northern Ireland settlement, the same can be said about Sinn Finn. And the Socialist Party was unrestrained by any alliance with "an establishment Party". Similarly, those independents who espoused fashionable so-called left-wing causes were virtually wiped out. In a country pre-occupied with the state of the health services, Hospital candidates fell like ninepins.

Did the Leaders' Debate influence the outcome of the Election? Did the Late Late Show Benefit for Bertie contribute to the outcome? Did Fianna Fail's campaign to denigrate the capacity of the Fine Gael Leader for the office of Taoiseach succeed in putting off would-be Labour voters? The answer to all 3 questions is probably yes. I also believe that a lot of the damage was done as long ago as last October. Bertiegate cost us in the polls. One explanation eloquently summed up by Eoghan Harris on the Late Late on the Friday before polling, was that it was a class thing. The working class and those who have made good, were disinterested in revelations about Mr. Ahern's unusual banking arrangements and were not impressed by the assault on a man who presents himself as a working class boy made good. Whatever the truth of that argument, it is evident that Mr. Ahern did not suffer electorally from the controversy.

As I say, those are all factors. So too is the financial resources available to the other parties, most notably Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who blanketed the country with outdoor advertising before the campaign began. It was not without impact that Fine Gael were able to poster the country, sometimes with Labour policies.
Equally, one has to question a Constituency Commission that draws up a set of constituencies that can translate 42% of the vote into 47% of the seats. Traditionally Labour has struggled to overcome relative scarcity of financial resources through organizational effort on the ground. In modern conditions it is proving ever more difficult to match the financial firepower of the two conservative parties.

Important though those factors are, they cannot distract us from the main issue, which is us. All of those concerns, including electoral strategy, lead us to look at others, rather than at ourselves, and it is with ourselves that the problem most definitely lies. With ourselves, and how we are seen by modern Irish society.

In marketing parlance, there is a problem with the Labour 'brand'. In using that term, I am not referring to something superficial, such as the way that we package the party.

I am referring to the spontaneous associations and reactions that voters have when they see the words 'Labour Party'. The way we are seen in modern Ireland

What does that mean – that there is a problem with the brand? It means that the Labour Party does not conjure up in people's minds, much less inspire, a definite sense of what the party stands for and how it relates to their day to day lives.

As a party, we tend to think of ourselves as having a core working class vote. According to the RTE exit poll, more people in the ABC1 category vote for us than do the C2Des. Its not that we are loosing our traditional base – its that our traditional base is being eroded and has changed. Affluence has changed the way people think about themselves. If we ever did, we do not reflect the aspirations of most of the new middle class – people in working class occupations trying to live middle class lives. People whose parents in some cases voted Labour, but who themselves do not vote Labour.

We have not persuaded them that we will improve their lives, and certainly we have not persuaded them that we are worth the risk, as they see it, of changing horses mid-stream.

Labour preformed well among young people, and among first-time voters, getting 16% of first preferences from the latter.

There is, however, no escaping our own flatlining.
The word Labour should summon up a positive association in people's minds of a party that 'gets' them, and their lives, that has economic competence, and that has a positive message to sell.

But of course, we must be more than that. Much more. Labour is a party founded on the timeless values of liberty, equality and fraternity. On the idea that the common good is best served by common action. That working together, we can bridge the gap between where we find ourselves, and what is within all of us to become.

As a party, we have plenty of policies. Our election manifesto was a fine document, which, if implemented, would radically transform and improve the lives of our citizens, and our life as a country. But a party needs more than policies – it needs a project. The people need to know that Labour exists, not just to seek public office and a place in Government, but to change the face of Irish society.

Every generation on the Left must confront this task – the task as Crosland described it, of taking the values of the left and applying them to the context in which we live; of communicating those values anew in a language that people will understand, and of doing all of this in a way which will inspire others to be part of the project.

There are those who would seek to persuade us that we are now living in the best of times, in the best of all possible words.

In 2004, a study of the lives of children living in one part of my own constituency, West Tallaght, found one in three households headed up by a lone parent. One in three children were bullied at school. 90% of children were living in fear of anti-social behaviour perpetrated by organised gangs of young thugs. Almost 60% of households were living in rented local authority housing, compared with a national average of 10%. A quarter of all these families living with damp and heating problems, and every second child living in a home in need of improvement.

Almost half, or 10,431 people in the estates surveyed, had ceased education – of that number 27% had completed primary education only, 34% had completed lower secondary education and only 11% had any form of third level education.

And all too many of the children are condemned to repeat the vicious cycle of disadvantage in their own lives. One in seven in chronically poor health, more than half of them suffering some form of deprivation, from the relatively mild to the extremely serious.

One child in every six has special educational needs – which are not being met. The majority of the children surveyed live with parents who were early school leavers, and all too many of them have no incentive to stay in school themselves.

Figures like these would be shocking, I suggest, if they were confined to one small and disadvantaged area of Dublin. I know, as I think we all know, other areas of Dublin, and of Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and many of our smaller towns, where similar studies would throw up directly comparable results. We know, for example, that there are schools in this country where one in three has a reading difficulty. The target set by this Government, for 2016, is to reduce that to one in six. So much for cherishing all the children of the nation equally.

Yes, of course, the rising tide has lifted a lot of boats. It would be unimaginable that it would have done otherwise. For my part, I have never sought to deny that the boom has improved the living standards of many people living in disadvantaged communities. But the idea, that Ireland has somehow achieved a social and economic nirvana is nonsense, and it reflects poorly on the ESRI that they would engage in that spin in a recent publication.

The reality is that Ireland entered the Celtic Tiger era as one of the most unequal countries in the developed world, and today Ireland remains a very unequal society. Yes, there are more opportunities for more people, but it remains true that the life chances of children born in Ireland this year, vary enormously, depending on the social position of their parents.
That is why one of my commitments for Government was to provide universal free pre-school education. A simple idea, but one which would have profound egalitarian implications. You will find no mention of that idea in the FF/Green programme for Government.

That is but one example. I do not have time here to go into the many other areas where there is an urgency to bring about change. Labour's historic mission remains unfulfilled, and for as long as it does, there is not just a role for Labour, but an imperative on Labour.

There is an opportunity for everyone in this room to be part of the movement which will bring about social change, but, more than that, there is a duty. A duty to hard and disciplined work in the cause of Labour.

We have much to build on. We have 20 seats in Dail Eireann. We should have no less than five and we have the potential to have seven Labour members of Seanad Eireann when university senators are included. Taken together with three new deputies that is a significant injection of new blood into the Parliamentary Party.

The Green Party did not make the breakthrough that the conventional wisdom believed it would, the Socialist Party has been removed from the Dail and Sinn Fein's march has been firmly arrested. Labour dominates the Left space in Irish politics

BUT. If Labour is to win, the people must know that Labour has a project. A project to build an Ireland founded on those values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which are as relevant to the new Ireland as they ever were.

Sean O Casey said of Jim Larkin that he was a man as committed to putting a rose in a vase, as bread on the table. O'Casey could have been writing about Jim Kemmy, who believed that material improvements in peoples' lives were not in themselves sufficient. The Labour vision too is bigger than an economy. We have established in the past our capacity to run a prosperous enterprising economy and we need not be defensive about it. Of course, people will naturally vote to protect their livelihoods. But most people also want a successful society where citizenship matters and a society that cherishes a public realm.

Until the last week of the campaign it seemed that a considerable majority of people were going to assert their entitlement to better delivery of quality services – to equality of opportunity in education, to affordable childcare, to improved public transport, to better policing, to affordable housing and to a flourishing public realm. To persuade them that we can have a strong economy and successful society remains the challenge for Labour.

It is a challenge that requires us to inspire in our fellow citizens a new hope and new expectations. As a country, we must expect more from Government, and more from our democracy, than the society in which we now find ourselves. The generation that is now coming of age does not look back to the 1980s and thank God for small mercies. They look to the future and ask: what's next? Our answer must inspire and it must persuade.

There is work to be done. Be a part of it.

Long enough away-back to the blogosphere.

Feeling down in the dumps today. I had an operation on my vocal chords yesterday and I'm unable to speak! I know that will come as a deep disappointment to those close to me, and the other half is celebrating my inability to answer her back at last.

Sitting here having watched the Premier county having upset all the experts by taking Cork's scalp in the qualifiers. The big question is how good are Cork this year anyway, The experts in Kilkenny were still more worried about Cork than the Déise, until tonight at least. Now the poor Waterford lads have to face the Rebels again. One thing's for sure, Tipp will be in the semi-final, unless John Meyler can perform a Lazarus act in Wexford. Interesting times ahead!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reflection Time-Where did it all go wrong??

This is the twilight zone for any political activist. Unfortunately, those of us who have committed so many wakingb and sleepless moments to the entity that is the Irish Labour Party, a proud party which will be 100 years old at the next election, are getting used to this questioning and know we have some fundamental questions to answer. Let's have your opinions here to kickstart the debate, both in terms of our failure to win a seat locally and our failure to achieve a breakthrough nationally.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Now it's up to you-Get out and Make the change

Like most political activists in the country I'm wrecked. The demands of holding down a day job, rushing to the canvass most evenings from school and doing the other bits and pieces that being an election agent and part-time campaign press officer bring has taken its toll. There are some benefits however. Ths suit jacket that was embarrassingly tight two months ago fits today, and reasonably well. There's also the suntanned face but not much else of the body! And of course the genuine joy of meeting the people of the city who elected me, and of course those who didn't but might the next time.

The downside is the overload of cholesterol in the sysyem from the snack-boxes and burgers which have fuelled the campaign, and the full file of representations picked up on the doorstep which will take weeks of future work between the initial letter, the follow-up phone calls, and the final yeah or nay to the constituent.

Mostly it's been fun though. Now it's time for decisions-and that's up to you. The last five days, since the Leaders debate have been frustrating. I know I'm biased but I'm fed up of RTÉ presenters allowing the two Aherns, and finally Cowen to shout everybody into submission. How I long for the return of Olivia O' Leary, who would have told all the aforementioned to shut up while the other person was speaking, although not in those words.

I still believe that there's a mood for change out there. The thought of leaving this bumbling bunch of arrogant, aggressive ineffective and most importantly heartless leadership in place for another five years is unthinkable. If you feel the same get out and vote, and persuade everybody you can to get rid of this shower.

In Kilkenny please get out and give Michael O' Brien your Number One. Of all the people I have known in twenty years of politics, Michael is one of the straightest, most honest, most decent people I have encountered. He deserves your vote, and I ask you to get out and give it to him. Give your number two to Jim Townsend, and your 3,4 and 5 to Hogan, Phelan and Browne in order of your choice-they will play their part in getting Bertie out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Personal Milestones and Pesky Cameramen!!

Twenty years later, and I finally got to complete a 10k. road run. Thanks largely to a night on the canvass, when I met Irene Hennebry, whose husband Peter runs the fine Evergreen Football club blog, I volunteered for the Kilkenny City Harriers Road race series. This started with a two mile run, which yours truly had missed on that very night, and continued with a four mile and then last week, a five mile run. These leave the Smithsland retail centre near the Woodies shop on the Kilkenny Ring Road, and continue out the Waterford road and up into the country roads of Grovine and Wallslough, before coming back down to home. The road is beautiful, and it's great to see fields of rape-seed showing that farmers are finally catching on to this biofuel.

Anyway, onto Monday afternoon, and a loose mid-life crisis to myself a few months ago that I would try the 10k distance for the Carer's Association, whose National headquarters is here in Kilkenny. The pressure was on, and I was delighted to make my longest distance since 1987. That year I had trained with friends for the Dublin City Marathon, only to get injured a week before the race.

So when I made it over the line in 52.25 on Monday (no sniggering you real runners out there), I was very happy indeed. Unfortunately, tonight means another six miles, and then three next week. Then, who knows. I'll keep going I hope,, and maybe try a half marathon next-any suggestions out there??

The final humility was to see the gregarious Limerick photgrapher, Dónal Foley of the Kilkenny Voice newspaper pointing his big wide angle lens-which was needed in my case- at me as I struggled to the line. I'll post his handiwork here later to give you all a good laugh, and to remind myself to leave the t-shirt on the next time-I did promise didn't I!! Meanwhile, tonight and a 58 minute 6 miles brought the half-marathon ambitions back to earth. The Radox eased the pain though-who knows?! Watch this space......

Monday, April 30, 2007

The next video-Aoife and a year's free pre-school education

Here's our next Youtube video, which needs equally little elaboration

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This is Margaret-Reasons to change the Government Part 1

This video tells its own story- Commit yourself to voting for Michael O' Brien in Kilkenny, Jim Townsend in Carlow, or your Labour Party candidate anywhere in Ireland. It surely is time for a change!

ICE- Put it in your phone now

A recent visit to my school by the local Fire Service to educate children on the dangers of fire in their homes brought up a mention of a really simple campaign. The idea is to put a number in your phone called 'ICE' which stands for 'In Case of Emergency'. Here you place the number of the person who should be contacted by the Gardai, the fire service or medical staff should you be in an accident or emergency situation. This saves the emergency personnel the hassle of going through your phone book to find the right person. Go on-do it tiday. The lads in the local fire brigade tell me they're already using it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ar ais aris-Back at last-Are you with us?

I'm finally back to the Blogosphere after too long a break. It's that mad election time, and being in the backroom as well as on the doorstepsleaves precious little time for getting to the machine. Tonight I'd like to draw your attention to the latest chapter of the Labour Party's 'Make a Change' campaign. Here's Pat Rabbitte's latest video contribution from Youtube

The famous 'But, are you happy?' ad which had the Irish Times 'Eats, shoots and leaves' brigade getting their knickers in a twist about where the comma was placed, was followed by 'It's Time for a change-are you with us?' It seems almost quaint now to ask people to join a political party or to roll their sleeves up and get stuck into campaigning. The 85% of people who voted in France yesterday however should buck us up. There's no point whinging about what's wrtong with society if you're not going to try and change it. For some people, that will be as simple as getting out to vote on election day-that's the basic minimum you must do to affect change. The best way to use your vote is to vote Labour, a party with a real alternative vision. A vote for us will result in changing this rotten Government, whereas others who pretend to be on the left are hedging their bets about getting rid of Fianna Fáil and co.

You can go further and go out and actively work for your local Labour candidate. Here in Kilkenny we'll welcome anybody who wants to type responses to voters, put leaflets in through doors, or actually canvass, which is better craic than you might think. Have a look at what a straight talking Pat Rabbitte is outlining here and if you like what you see, sign on for the battle.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bongos and Boogie-Fair Trade Tunes

It was a great kick-off to Fair Trade Fortnight in Kilkenny last Thursday night as the irrepressible Sophia Westwick organised a novel Drummers V. D.J's night in Cleere's Pub. Cleere's was one of the first pubs in Kilkenny to start to stock Fair Trade tea and coffee, and helped put the whole campaign on the road. We returned therefore to the best little theatre in the country for a gathering featuring world music by D.J's Andy Harte and Yuvi and drummers led by Colm Byrne.
Some us needed some encouragement to get out and boogie but the reggae sounds of Bob Marley soon got even the most senior stalwarts into action. All in all it was a good night, raising a few euro in the process, and reawakening the spirits on the committee.

Next up is Wednesday night's fashion show in Langton's. Fair Trade clothing is a new area, with people like Ali Hewson, wife of God (sorry I mean Bono) one of the highest profile designers in the marketplace, with her Edun range. People Tree is another company selling really good fashion online, with a cool animated ad to promote their products. One of my favourite multiples, if that's not a contradiction, Marks and Spencer's (they actually make clothes that fit people like me!) have also launched a Fair Trade range. On Wednesday night we join Burnchurch National School in a fund-raising fashion show, with mens and womens fashion items which are exclusively Fair Trade products. The committee have thankfully avoided being drafted as models, so we'll just be there to cheer on the volunteers. Well done to new member Niamh Mulvey who has put so much work into this and see you all in Langton's at 8.00 pm on Wednesday.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Gobshite of the month

No need to say much about this pic except that the future of so-called dissident republicanism is in safe hands- by the way this was snapped at the demo against the Croke Park battle against the 'ould enemy'. Tiocfaidh ár intleacht lá éigin luath.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Laethanta Draoichta i bPáirc an Chrócaigh

Is fada óna rabhas ag blogáil anseo i nGaoluinn, ach le Seachtain na Gaeilge agus sin uile ag druidim linn, tá sé in am dom. An chúis go bhfuilim ag scriobh an tseachtain seo ná an dá lá iontacha a chaitheas i gcomhlúadar cháirde agus clann i bPáirc an Chrócaigh le déanai. Bhios mar cheann de bhaill Chumann Lúthcleas Gael a chuir i gcoinne an dá riail seafóideacha a bhi inár dTreoir Oifigiúil (Leabhar rialacha an chumainn). Thosaios an troid i gCiarrai mar bhall de chlub an Choireáin, i gcoinne Riail 21 a chuir cosc ar bhaill na bpóilini sa tuaisceart nó sa Bhreatain a bheith mar bhaill an chumainn.

Is ait gur riailigh Seán Kelly, Cathaoirleach Bhord Chiarrai CLG ár rún as ord. Chun a bheith féareáilte leis, gan Kelly, mar Uachtarán CLG go dti anuraidh, gach seans nach mbeinn i bPáirc an Chrócaigh in aon chor le cúpla seachtaine anuas ag tacú le foireann rugbai na hÉireann gan é.

Cé go raibh an chluiche i gcoinne na Fraince an-stairiúil, is úafásach an toradh a bhi air, agus thóg an dá nóimead deireanach sin ó dhraiocht an lae. Cá fios anois conas a n-eireódh linn le Stringer agus an Drisceoladh!! Ar aon nós nach mbeadh sé deas dioltas a fháil i Stade de France i gcraobh an domhain!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Deireadh Seachtain den scoth-An almost ideal weekend

What a weekend gone by. My three passions in life(apart from the one who'll get the roses today), all rolled into three days, and with fabulous results, except for one two minutes.

It started on Friday night with probably my favourite music group of all time, the wonderful Moving Hearts. The line-up of Dónal Lunny, probably Ireland's most talented musician/producer/composer/director, Keith Donald, who can make a sax sing sweetly, Davy Spillane, master piper and whistler, the ever-smiling Eoghan O' Neill on the bass, and the super-percussive Noel Eccles on percussion and Brian Calnan on drums were joined on the night by Graham Henderson on keyboards and Anto Drennan on guitar. This was the music of my youth, therband I remember seeing at least forty times from the first occasion at Siamsa Kilkenny in Nowlan Park in 1981 I think.
One of my own personal stories relating to the Hearts occurred on my wedding day in Jenkinstown church, all of 17 years ago. The tune we had picked as a reflection piece after communion was a piece from 'The Storm', the instrumental album which the lads were celebrating on Friday. It was called 'Tribute to Peadar O' Donnell, written to celebrate the life of one of Ireland's inspirational Republican Socialists. Unfortunately, the parish priest of the time took exception to 'any tributes to communists in my church', and instructed that it not be played. A tune of another name, but bearing remarkable similarity to the arranged tune was played on the day. When I looked up at the concert in Vicar Street on Friday, who did I see except the Clara!!!! Piper, Billy Carrigan, who had played the tune on the day. Smiles all round:-)!

One of the dozens of faces I recognised was former Students Union leader, Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha, who was President of USI in 1985/86. Gizz, as we called him, is now one of the country's leading barristers, and still a charming rogue. The womens' heads still turn when he appears I noticed, although he has also kept his radical credentials alive. He even professes to occasionally reading this blog. He was also, mind you, the only USI President to send pics of himself out to every college, although he always claimed somebody else did. I remember there was a ferocious row about which union activist got to keep it! Anyway great to see you again Gizz, and it's time the USI lads organised a decent reunion again.

Back to the music, it was a fantastic gig, rolling back all the years with all of us slightly greyer, slightly fatter, slightly slower fans still lapping it up. As Eoghan quipped after a rocking version of 'McBrides', "Can we have two respirators and an ambulance please?" Here's to the Hearts taking to the road again, and maybe one or two of the former vocalists will join in. If ye can do Planxty lads, this shouldn't be too difficult!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Breakthrough at last-Policing for Slow Learners

So on Sunday, Sinn Féin finally joined the rest of Northern Ireland community and acceted the legitimacy of the newly created Police Service of Northern Ireland (I couldn't resist this funny photoshop Adams family pic which came from a friend by the way!!)

Now hopefully the process of moving on with real life in Northern Ireland can come closer. It seems astonishing that it is almost ten years since we voted so overwhelmingly for the Good Friday Agreement. The party I support in Northern Ireland, the SDLP,got it right, as usual, on policing from the start, signing up to the local police authorities across the North, and encouraging nationalists and republicans to join the force.

Now the so-called Republican leadership have at last followed suit. It's now up to the DUP to deliver. There is little doubt that the words of Gerry Adams yesterday in unequivocally advising communities to go to the police in the event of horrific crimes being carried out in their communities are historic. They didn't include a call to ship the killers of Robert McCartney, whose proud and battling sisters are pictured here with Labour Party Deputy Leader, Liz MacManus, however. It's time Adams and co. got off the pot in this regard, and that the Short Strand community did the right thing and deliver justice to the McCartney family.

Having met many members of the DUP in the last year and a half, while I represented the Labour Party in peace talks with the party through the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, I get the strong feeling that the DUP know the end-game has arrived. I hope that Ian Paisley will seize the chance to prove so many people wrong, and to join in leading Northern Ireland forward in democracy.

For my part, as a Connolly Republican Socialist, I will continue to strive for a United Ireland, based on tolerance, diversity, and equality, as will my party and our sister party the SDLP. That is a legitimate political ambition for all Republicans on this island, and we must reclaim that title from the 'Shinners'. For now however, I hope to see Ian Paisley as first Minister, and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, although even typing these words seems strange. Of couse I hope to see my former student leader colleague. Mark Durkan, replace McGuinness, and the SDLP rewarded by the electorate of the North for their unstinting support of peace and democracy (oh and happy 70th. birthday John Hume). Ansin beidh ár lá tioctha faoi dheireadh.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Fear ann féin-The passing of Michael Meaney

Today is a sad day for the Labour Party in Carlow/Kilkenny, with the passing of our most senior councillor in the constituency. Michael Meaney from beautiful Borris on the Carlow/Kilkenny border passed away yesterday morning. We were due to have the Graignamanagh A.G.M. of the party yesterday afternoon, always one of the highlights of the year as it is one of the strongest and liveliest branches we have. Instead, the meeting paid tribute to Michael in a very fulsome way. Michael did after all represent the other side of the river Barrow, across the bridge in Tinnahinch, and many of the older members like John Bolger and Ned Fenlon remembered him bursting onto the scene in the early 70's.

Michael was known as a phenomenally hard worker, who built up an incredibly loyal support, topping the poll on all but one of the five or six local elections he contested. He also carried the banner for the party in the 1982 General election, polling almost 2,000 votes. He was never a boring figure, well able to win the headlines with sound-bites before they became a fashionable part of politics. He also had great wit, and took no prisoners in debate. He will be sorely missed by us all, and when his coffin is draped in the blue and white 'starry plough' flag of our party, he will have done more to earn that right than many others.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fair Trade the programme that says it all

Back to the Fair Trade topic again. As I mentioned before, we succeeded in winning Fair Trade City status for Kilkenny over a year ago. Now we see more and more businesses adopting Fair Trade products. It's no longer confined to coffee and tea however, as many people think. In recent months, we've seen the yummy Ben and Jerry's ice-cream launch their Fair Trade Vanilla ice-cream which is widely available. Then in recent months, Superquinn (normally first into the breach to do the right thing) introduced Fair Trade wine onto their shelves. Like Fair Trade coffee, there's no back to the undrinkable days, however, and Los Robles red and white from Chile is decent stuff.

My reason for blogging tonight however is to bring you the news of the Worlds Apart programme from RTÉ Radio 1 over Christmas, which was a fair and hard-hitting analysis of Fair Trade, and its impact on third world producers. Anybody who has followed Rodney Rice as a presenter knows that he never accepts truisms, or popular causes without digging deep to find the truth. Have a listen to the programme here, and make up your own mind, and then hopefully get out and buy more Fair Trade products, or better again, come and join us in the Kilkenny campaign, or work to make your town or city a Fair Tade town.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Time to clean up the Breagagh

I was delighted that my motion calling for the clean-up of the River Breagagh was passed at last week's Borough Council meeting. The situation on the Breagagh has occupied me since I was elected, and I succeeded in having the Council staff do a substantial clean-up in the area near the Watergate and Blackmill Street Bridge. The Breagagh is an important feeder tributary for the River Nore and contributes fish life to the larger river. Unfortunately it is being neglected in many areas, and its wildlife is being choked. My friend and colleague Ian Coulter and his wife Daphne whose backyard almost reaches the riverbank, brought my attention to the disgraceful state of the river near their home in Rosehill Court. The ownership of the riverbank is one of the problems, and City Engineer, Kieran Fitzgerald is to examine the ownership for the residents on my behalf. He also promised me that he would ensure that the development of the area will be a central part of the roads plan of the Western Environs, which are being developed on the other side of the Breagagh. I will continue to pursue this matter and will work to defend the Breagagh for the future.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

'Rosie's' Story- A National and Local Disgrace

Although I know Joe Duffy since student politics days, I rarely get to listen to his 'Liveline' show as I'm at work most days when it airs. All that changed this week however. I'm at home with a miserable viral bug, and I am listening to anything to take my mind off things. It was with huge interest then that I listened to Wednesday's show, when a caller called 'Rosie' phoned in from Kilkenny in extreme anger at the failure of our local health services to treat her in time for bowel cancer, which she has now been infrmed is treminal.

For you to make your own judgement, you can read Rosie's letter here, or listen to the podcast here where she reads it herself to the nation.

As it happens, I know 'Rosie', which is not her real name, and I share her anger at what happened to her. I'm a very strong supporter of St. Luke's and recognise the great work they are doing with very limited resources. I listened to Ian Wilson, the hard-working and dedicated surgeon in St. Luke's doing his best to defend the indefensible this morning on KCLR, and yesterday on Liveline. Ian explained the lack of resources in the hospital very well and fairly, but I would disagree fundamentally with his defence of the two-tier health system. Ian may be right that those admitted to St. Luke's are seen in order of need on the waiting lists, but he freely admitted this morning that those of us fortunate enough to have private health insurance can opt to cross the road to Aut Even hospital where he and others have private practices and can treat patients who can afford it in much shorter times. Hopefully 'Rosie' will kick start a debate locally and nationally on this Government's agenda on the Health system, which favours private care over public.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Athbhlian faoi shéan is faoi mhaise

A very happy new year to all those who pass here. Hopefully it will be a good one for you, your family, and friends.

Back to the reason for this blog-hopefully it will be a year of change for the good. In Kilkenny that will mean persuading as many of you and others as possible to vote for Michael O' Brien to be our next Labour TD, and to give your no. 2 to Jim Townsend, and right around Ireland to vote for your local Labour Party candidate to achive a society which is not just wealthy but fair also.

Along the way may there be plenty of craic, debate and liveliness is go mbeirimid beo ar an seo aris!

GOAL Mile- Working off the turkey ar Lá an Dreoilin

When I spotted that my favourite third world charity, GOAL, run by that indomitable fellow Southy Kerryman of mine John O' Shea, were holding their annual GOAL mile in Scanlon Park, our local council-run running track on St. Stephen's Day morning, I was delighted to volunteer to take part. Having spoken to Lisa O' Shea, John's daughter and a fair successor to her Dad in organisational terms, I was delighted to be able not alone to run the mile, but also to officially start proceedings as Deputy Mayor. Along with about 50 others I completed the mile at a reasonable pace and did a bit more to get rid of the excess from the day before. It was a beautiful morning in Kilkenny, and the phrase of another Kerryman, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, whose life story was told in a wonderful RTÉ documentary on Christmas Day was ringing in my ears- 'Nach iontach an lá é a bheith beo- Isn't it a great day to be alive'.

My thoughts went out too to those for whom our over-commercialised, stressed but very fortunate lives are a world away, particularly those in Darfur, for whom John and GOAL have campaigned so strongly. Well done to Frank, the local organiser, and the staff of Scanlon Park, particularly the master of the Boro (The GAA club not the council !) Martin Gaffney who gave his free time to open up and lock up. Hopefully the GOAL mile will be an annual feature of Christmas life in Kilkenny.