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.