Local Issues

Fingal’s new Wildflower Meadow and Growing Places Policy has gone down like a lead balloon in communities across the north county as a result of cutbacks in the grass cutting program.

The policy was supposed to involve moving away from simply cutting all of the large grassed areas, to introducing more of a meadow environment with planting of different varieties of flowers and trees to aid biodiversity and develop an interesting and colourful landscape! Nothing wrong with that for parkland areas and roundabouts, but on greens in estates which are the main play areas of young children, it is an entirely different matter.

While greens in the estates were in the main not intended for the Wildflower Meadow pilot scheme, the appalling lack of information from the Council meant that everyone thought that they were when they witnessed their greens growing high, with only the rims, and a kick-about area being cut as a result of cutbacks in grass cutting.

A public outcry has forced a partial U-turn with the frequency of grass cutting being upped from monthly to once in 18 days. This will have to be monitored and the pressure kept on.

The reality is that this scheme is partly motivated by a crucifying burden on the Parks Department as a result of the government embargo on public sector recruitment.

Many staff retired in the section in the past year, and could not be replaced – meanwhile, over 1000 extra acres of open space were taken in charge.

They simply cannot cover all the work that is necessary. This is a direct consequence of government cutbacks and yet a government TD had the neck to issue a leaflet telling residents that he would liaise with the Council on residents’ behalf!!

This is not good enough. I demand, together with my Socialist Party colleagues, proper public services. The recruitment embargo must be lifted and the urgently needed jobs provided to improve standards in our communities.

Local Issues

Residents around Fingal, and indeed nationally, who have found defects in their homes, are finding that it is more than their houses that are defective!

The system in place to deal with these problems is monumentally defective, with every organisation which is supposed to be there to sort the issues out, running for cover. The Socialist Party believes that we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb on this question.

The scale and extent of these problems are only beginning to emerge, as tens of thousands of properties that were thrown up during the boom, begin to reveal totally shoddy workmanship. In a number of estates in Balbriggan, Swords, Lusk and Malahide, serious problems have arisen ranging from pyrite in the foundations, in some areas, to major damp, and inadequate fire-proofing, along with other structural faults and cracks.

Individual houses were bought under contract and in most cases, a Homebond guarantee. It is Homebond’s responsibility to arrange to find out the extent of the problem and ensure that the repairs are carried out in order to make the dwelling structurally sound and habitable.

However, it seems that they are doing everything in their power to stall and not deal with the issues. Meanwhile, the builders who were responsible in the first instance, the Council who oversee compliance with building standards, and the engineers and architects who certified the work, are all protecting their own interests.

It is absolutely criminal that the government has failed to address this issue. Those responsible must be held to account and a more transparent and effective system put in place to ensure that residents get a structurally safe and sound home which is their entitlement.

Local Issues

Lusk Residents from the Tooman/Nevitt area have pledged their ongoing commitment to carry on the battle against the imposition of a major super-dump for the Greater Dublin Area on their doorstep. This follows the announcement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to grant the Council a licence to run the operation, with over 250 conditions attached.

Each new condition brings new issues and costs to the project. Having already spent over €30 million of taxpayers’ money on it, the viability must seriously be questioned before this goes any further-not only financially, but environmentally. Much of the taxpayers’ money expended went on land purchase costs to facilitate the super-dump.

It is truly scandalous that a significant portion of this money went on land which was the location of two illegal landfill sites. Not only has the owner been rewarded with top dollar for the land, but the massive costs which he would have borne for the clean-up, will now be paid by the Council. With many community projects and necessary work not being undertaken because of lack of funds, this is an absolute disgrace.
Not only that, but you will read in the Council’s summer publication, about the need to conserve water. Yet this dump-site is located near one of the most important aquifers and potential groundwater supplies! Already the EU is investigating why Fingal has failed to document a whole number of private wells operating in the area.

It is sadly ironic that until recently, we had a Green Party Minister representing this constituency, who couldn’t even deliver on this crucial environmental issue on his doorstep. If the Greens had a fraction of the resolve and commitment of the residents, then this issue super-dump would have been dumped years ago.

Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Economy

FIANNA FAIL and the Green Party are pressing ahead with their plans for a domestic water tax. Environment Minister, John Gormely, has stated that he hopes to raise €1 billion in revenue – from the 1.1 million households in the country. This would average out at €1000 per household!

The Green Party, attempting to justify hitting working people with more taxes, have claimed that installing meters and giving people a “free allocation” of water is a progressive measure. This is a lie. There is nothing to stop future governments from lowering the amount of “free allocation” and thereby increasing the bills for people. The abolishment of the bin tax waiver and the massive increased cost of bin charges illustrates that once these charges are established the burden on people increases. Instead of wasting €500 million plus installing water meters, these monies should be used instead to start a campaign to fix the leaking pipe and bring them up to European standard given that UK studies show that meters/charging do not reduce water usage in the long term.

Because of the determination of this government to make us pay for the economic crisis, there is now the real possibility that instead of waiting for water meters to be installed, the government may push ahead with a flat charge from December’s budget.

I believe water charges should be resisted whether they are based on metering or as a flat charge. Bin charges which have led to an ever-increasing financial burden on households and to privatisation of the sector show that the proposed water tax is not in the interests of ordinary people.

A mass campaign based in the communities is necessary to force the government to back down and I am committed to helping build the new Anti Water Tax Campaign and prepare the ground for a mass non-payment campaign.