Friday, April 24, 2009

Construction Delayed for At Least Three Years on Thornton Hall Prison Development

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern, has admitted that construction will not commence for at least three years on the highly controversial Thornton Hall Prison Development in North Dublin County.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said “We in Sinn Féin strongly opposed this development in the first place. The controversy and murky dealings which surrounded the original purchase of the site at a cost to the tax-payer that was many times over its actual value has never been resolved, and as for the way planning permission was granted – it defies belief. Under new measures introduced by the Dáil last year, local authorities and An Bord Pleanála were by-passed and the Oireachtas acted as the planning authority in its place. The Department of Justice used Section 26 of the Prisons Act 2007 for the first time ever, which allows for the normal procedures in relation to planning to be circumvented to push through the provision of this super prison. The feelings of concerned local residents were largely ignored, although the Irish Prison Service is claiming that it will aim to be a “Good Neighbour”.

“The following question was put to the Dáil on Wednesday 23rd April by my Sinn Féin colleague, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin:

To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the superprison project at Thornton Hall.

“The Dáil answer was as follows:

The Thornton Hall Prison development is not a superprison. It is a complex Public Private Partnership project which involves the construction of more than 30 buildings, including 8 prison facilities on the site, a major internal road network, extensive perimeter security and a vast array of security systems over a range of security and regime operational models. I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that negotiations with the preferred bidder are currently at an advanced stage. These negotiations are focused on progressing financial, technical and legal aspects of the project. They encapsulate the continuation of the design development and negotiations to enable the Irish Prison Service to contract with the PPP Company and commence construction of the prison facilities. While, as stated, negotiations on the contract are at an advanced stage they have not, however, reached the point that the Project Agreement can be signed. Construction will commence after contract award and should take no more than 3 years. This timeframe is subject, of course, to the successful completion of the contract negotiations. I can say, however, that if the current contract negotiations are not successfully concluded there are other options which can still be considered. Pressures on the international financial markets have the potential to impact on all major capital projects, including the Thornton Hall PPP project. It is the responsibility of the commercial consortium, under the PPP process, to arrange the funding and other resources to deliver the project. The Irish Prison Service is being advised by the National Development Finance Agency in relation to trends and developments in this area. The cost of the acquisition of the site for the prison development was 29.9 million. The cost of the site was largely offset by the sale of the prison lands at Shanganagh, County Dublin. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired to provide a dedicated access road to the main prison site. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the effect of increased traffic generated by the prison development. The cost of the additional land was 1.3 million. A total of 10.3 million has been expended to end March 2009 on professional fees and preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security, site preparation and maintenance of the property. As is the case in all major infrastructural projects comprehensive geological, engineering and archaeological surveys were conducted at the site.

“Here we see that the Project Agreement hasn’t even yet been signed, and negotiations are still ongoing. How much more money is going to have to be injected into this? Will it even go ahead at all? Of course we in Sinn Féin never wanted it to go ahead in the first place, and local residents certainly didn’t. Concern was expressed about the project by residents, Fingal County Councillors, expert criminologists, prison chaplains, environmentalists….the list goes on and on. However, the Government, in its infinite wisdom, chose to ignore all of these voices. The area was originally agriculturally zoned with totally inadequate infrastructure to support this project. So much money has been spent on it so far, which could have been put to better use – it’s a proverbial “money-pit”, which is a disgrace in these times. The decision to purchase the particular lands for the prison seems to have been about real estate. Nobody disputes that Mountjoy Jail needs serious modernization and renovation, but we don’t need a prison on the scale of Thornton. Alternatives to prison such as community service orders and probation have been proven by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report and other reports to be more cost effective and they are also more effective in terms of reducing re-offending especially when tied to rehabilitation, education and family support services.

"I would urge the Minister to consider extending the use of alternatives to prison especially for those convicted for non-violent crimes. This is cost-effective but also better for society and the money saved could then be put back into the justice budget to be spent on measures to catch serious criminals such as extra resources for the Gardaí."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mary Lou McDonald “Stands Up For Jobs” in Balbriggan

Mary Lou McDonald “Stands Up For Jobs” in Balbriggan

Dublin Sinn Féin MEP and European candidate for 2009, Mary Lou McDonald, visited Balbriggan on Monday 20th April on a two-fold mission - to canvass support for Sinn Féin local and town council election candidate Fergus Byrne, and to speak at a public meeting regarding job creation arranged by Balbriggan Sinn Féin. The theme of the meeting was “Stand Up for Jobs in Fingal” and its aim was to discuss the out-of-control unemployment crisis, and to share Sinn Féin’s solutions regarding how the situation could be alleviated.

Prior to the public meeting, Ms McDonald, Mr Byrne and their teams canvassed the New Haven estate, where the canvassing team received a warm welcome. Local residents welcomed the opportunity to talk to Ms McDonald and Mr Byrne, and share their fears regarding issues such as crime, drug dealing in nearby areas, and not least the calamitous economic situation. Problems also mentioned included graffiti, anti-social behaviour, unfinished green areas, and the failure of Fingal County Council to take over the estate.

The public meeting commenced at 8pm and was chaired by Fergus Byrne. The two speakers were Mary Lou McDonald and Matt McCormack, Trade Union Activist and former employee of SR Technics. After the speeches, there was a question and answer session.

First to speak was Mr McCormack, who gave a very interesting and insightful account of the events surrounding the significant job losses in SR Technics. He explained clearly and in detail how the situation could have been prevented, and the far-reaching effects of the redundancies on himself, his fellow employees, those training for a career in aviation, and North Dublin in general.

Mary Lou McDonald was the second speaker, and talked about the disastrous financial crisis in Ireland. She described how the situation will actually be made worse by the “cut and slash” Budget, and set out Sinn Féin’s policies on attempting to rectify it.

“Ireland cannot simply cut or tax its way out of recession. The fall out from the emergency budget will be serious and long term. Families will continue to see their household incomes slashed. Workers will continue to loose their jobs. It is a recipe for the creation of a black economy rather than a real economy. And for what – to pay for a massive slush fund which will ensure their friends in the golden circle, particularly those who invested in the banks, will be saved. What this economy needs is sustenance not further punishment. It needs policies which will seek to maintain the existing employment where possible and prepare the ground for new employment.”

“Sinn Féin is the only political party that has set out substantial detailed proposals - 80 of them - to get Dublin and the rest of the country back to work. Protecting jobs and creating new employment is the absolute priority for us. A comprehensive skills and education strategy can prepare workers to create and take up new employment - getting early school leavers back to education, investing in Community Employment and allowing unemployed workers to keep benefits while attending college can all help.”

“At risk jobs can be saved by establishing a state fund to subsidise viable jobs and by sending in expert groups to assist companies that are in trouble. If what we have is good, or needs guidance, then better hold on to it than put workers on the dole. Construction workers can get back to work building schools, insulating homes and delivering much needed broad band infrastructure. Dublin city and county has its fair share of school buildings which desperately need upgrading. The Minister for Education may not know how many but it is a disgrace that we are paying out hundreds of million Euros per year on prefabricated buildings when we could provide gainful employment building schools of the future.”

“All the evidence shows that societies which are more equal prosper more in the long term. We need to get away from the politics of unsustainable development; of an economy run for the golden circle rather than those who create it. The Sinn Féin proposals are aimed to build an economy which is sustainable and which will reward those who contribute to it.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rush - Kenure lap - you must be joking!

Here is a copy of the e-mail sent by Fergus Byrne to all councillors in Fingal County Council concerning the Rush - Kenure LAP.

Dear Councillors,

My name is Fergus Byrne and I am the Sinn Féin candidate for Balbriggan in the upcoming local elections and I am writing to you in connection with the upcoming Fingal County Council vote on the Kenure Local Area Plan.

During my local canvassing for the elections, and my attendance at a Public meeting hosted by the Rush Development Committee, it has been made very clear to me that the people of Rush oppose the proposals outlined in the Kenure LAP. It is clearly the case that the infrastructure is not in place at this time to allow the proposal for 1,000 extra housing units to go ahead. I strongly feel that before any such LAP is approved the existing issues of roads, amenities, sewage etc must be addressed.

I wish to congratulate the people of Rush in sending over 180 objections to this proposal and I call on all councillors to respect the wishes of the local residents. Below is the final paragraph of the submission from the Rush Development Committee regarding the Kenure LAP. In light of the opposition of the Rush Development Committee, the number of objections and the seriousness of the infrastructural problems in Rush, I would ask all councillors to reject the Kenure LAP in its entirety and insist that Fingal Council reviews these plans and undertakes full and meaningful consultation with the people of Rush.

Finally we wish to put on record our complete disgust at the lack of consultation between Fingal County Council and Rush Development Committee when this Draft Local Area Plan was being drawn up. We made a submission to the Council in advance of this draft LAP and requested ongoing consultation throughout the process. As with many other things sought by this Committee, this did not happen. (Extract from Letter sent by Rush Development Council opposing the Kenure LAP)


Fergus Byrne

Click the link below to see Fergus Byrne giving his reasons for opposing the Kenure LAP


Balbriggan Sinn Féin have organised a meeting on

"Stand Up For Jobs In Fingal"







Balbriggan Sinn Féin are calling this meeting on jobs to put forward our own proposals for dealing with the current crisis in unemployment. At present there are 372,800 people unemployed in this state. Retraining measures announced in the last budget wouldn’t even help all those who lost their jobs in January or February never mind the hundreds of thousands who are unemployed. The government has failed to address this crisis. There was no innovative thinking. No job creation strategy. No proper proposals. The €100 million enterprise fund will by-pass the vast majority of Irish small and medium business as it only focuses on firms already exporting. Thousands of small businesses are on their knees and the government did nothing for them in the last budget.

The failure in relation to job creation is staggering. The government are cutting €200 million from the environment budget, principally social housing and water infrastructure. They are cutting €54 million from the school build programme. They are cutting €13 million from Sustainable Energy and Energy research programmes. They are cutting €300 million from public transport. If the government is serious about addressing the unemployment crisis and improving competitiveness they should be doing the exact opposite of what was announced in the budget. They talk about the smart economy and competitiveness but the reality is that it will be harder for business to engage in R& D and in innovation which are meant to be key elements of the government’s strategy.

However, we are fully aware that on our own we cannot force this government to change its current DISASTEROUS policies and therefore we wish to hear what other individuals or groups have to say.

It is our hope that at the end of this meeting people will feel that they are in a position to come together around some core principles. If this is the case and people can unite around the issue of jobs, then our voice will be stronger and our chances of putting employment at the top of the political agenda will be greatly increased.

So, come along on Monday 20th April to the Milestone and get involved in fighting for positive policies that put jobs first on the government agenda.

Below is a copy of the letter sent out to community groups, councillors and local businesses inviting them to attend.


Mary-Lou McDonald MEP and Fergus Byrne, Sinn Féin candidate for the Balbriggan ward, would like to invite you to a public meeting on the subject of Sinn Féin’s proposals for dealing with the current economic situation in Ireland.

The chief focus of this meeting will be on how we can best address the current dramatic increase in unemployment in terms of promoting positive policies in the areas of job retention, job creation and retraining. In addition issues relating to the current public finance deficit will also be addressed.

Clearly, the present situation with regard to unemployment is one in which people need to come together in order to push a positive agenda for jobs in Balbriggan and Fingal. In order to help promote and develop this positive agenda we would like as many different people and groups as possible to attend this meeting and express their views.

As a result of these discussions it would be interesting to see if various groups and individuals feel they are in a position to come together around certain core principles. We in Sinn Féin are completely aware that our simply putting out policy documents will not solve all the problems we face. However, we are also aware that if individuals and groups can come together around certain ideas then all our voices will be stronger and the chances of us creating a positive agenda for jobs will increase.

Once again I would urge you to attend and to express your opinions on the Sinn Féin proposals at the meeting on Monday 20th April, in the Milestone, Drogheda Street, Balbriggan at 8 P.M.

If you would like to read our policy document on tackling unemployment then please visit our website.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Savage Budget Hits Most Vulnerable

Children, hospital patients, low and middle income earners, the unemployed and small businesses are just some of those who will acutely feel the "sting" of the Budget announced on Tuesday 7th April. It has been called "The Budget From Hell" by some, and been branded as "anti-family", with married couples with children on one income apparently shouldering most of the tax burden. Few people seem to have seen any evidence of the "fairness" which the Government said it attempted to demonstrate in this Budget.

Sinn Féin local election candidate Fergus Byrne has described the Budget as "an assault on the vulnerable, and a recipe for worsening recession and deeper depression". He said that it contained no jobs strategy, cruelly cut social welfare and would lead to more small businesses collapsing. He said that as a result of cuts the public health services are now facing disaster, and that the repercussions of the Budget would be painfully felt in Balbriggan and all North County Fingal towns and villages.

Byrne said: "It is difficult to know where to start when trying to analyse it, such is its severity and reach. The Government of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have imposed a savage Budget that attacks low and middle income earners, the unemployed and others dependent on social welfare. This Budget should have been about job retention and job creation. Instead we have no jobs strategy and an assault on young unemployed people, which will be disastrous for the local community. As for local businesses, it takes the last Euros from the pockets of their customers and condemns them to struggle or close down completely."

"The ending of the Christmas social welfare bonus is tantamount to cancelling Santa Claus for the children of the poorest families in our society, forcing some parents into the hands of money-lenders in order to give their children some semblance of Christmas cheer. The stupidity of the Government’s decision in this regard is evident when one considers that the Christmas social welfare bonus also serves to stimulate the struggling retail industry. To top that, the Early Childcare Supplement is being halved, and then abolished next year. The Government is promising a free Early Childcare & Education year for pre-school children, but we’ll believe it when we see it. Sinn Féin has long argued for direct State provision of childcare and investment in childcare infrastructure."

"On the subject of children, the cut in the school building programme is pure folly in terms of education, public spending and employment. Our local children will continue to be taught in overcrowded and sub-standard classrooms. The Government should be increasing and front-loading the Schools Building Programme as part of a job creation strategy, as proposed by Sinn Féin in our comprehensive employment retention and creation document ‘Getting Ireland Back to Work’."

"As for our public health services, one word springs to mind - catastrophe. The Government has placed an embargo on the filling of almost all posts in the public health service. The Irish Nurses Organisation and SIPTU have already indicated to the HSE that it will not be possible to run the public health service in the context of the recruitment embargo as announced by Government – where does that leave the people in our community when they need medical care?"

"This Government is going to all but destroy our local economy and families with low and middle income, thus exacerbating all of the social problems which accompany poverty. We’ll be driven back to the dreary and dreadful days of the 1970s and 1980s. Minister Lenihan, sickeningly, even blamed the people of Ireland for contributing to the recession by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty – something which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the economic crisis! To add insult to injury, Minister Lenihan said in a radio phone-in that people who have travelled to the North to do their shopping have left the Government with no option but to increase tax! That doesn’t even deserve to be dignified with a reply, except to say that perhaps if the border wasn’t there in the first place we wouldn’t be in quite such a dire economic mess with the money which could be saved from not having the administrative duplications which constantly happen as a result of having two jurisdictions on the one island."

"This Government hopelessly mismanaged the country’s finances during the boom years. For instance, we in Sinn Féin warned that the housing market was unsustainable. Between 1998 and 2003 the price of a new house in this State rose on average by 177% so that even people on above average incomes could not afford a home, and if they could it was usually far away from the towns they grew up in and would like to have remained. Many bought in Balbriggan and surrounding areas at the height of the property boom and now find themselves in negative equity, AND with their mortgage interest relief being taken away after 7 years! Also being slashed is the rent supplement for those dependent on private rented accommodation but with no corresponding increase in social housing provision – the opposite in fact, as the budget for social housing is being cut as well."

"I have little doubt that Fianna Fáil and the Greens are reserving the worst of their social welfare cuts for the December budget, after they have faced the people in the local and EU Parliament elections. But the people in our community are not easily fooled. They know what’s coming, including an assault on Child Benefit."

"Sinn Féin’s pre-budget submission identified over €3 billion in money raised and saved. These proposals show that there were other options but these options were not taken as they would mean that those earning the most would pay their fair share. If the government chose our options, we would build twice as many schools, protect investment in roads and social housing, increase spending on broadband and create a €300 million job retention fund to keep workers in work and away from the dole queues. Sinn Féin were among those who proposed alternative, fairer ways, to create wealth and to share wealth. It’s time for new ideas and real leadership. Let those in the Government see what it’s like to be unemployed for a change!"


Loss of SR Technics jobs a devastating blow to North Dublin - Byrne

Responding to the news that over 1,100 more jobs are to go at the SR Technics Plant at Dublin Airport, Fergus Byrne, Sinn Féin candidate for the Balbriggan Ward said the news will be a major blow to North Dublin where many of the workers affected come from.

Mr Byrne called on the government to develop a job creation and retention policy to benefit low and middle income families and to rebuild the Irish economy.
Byrne said:
"Today's news will come as a devastating blow to North Dublin where many of the workers affected come from. The most deplorable aspect of this situation is that the job losses at SR Technics, formerly known as team Aer Lingus, were highly predictable. Sinn Féin predicted that this would be a natural development emanating from the privatisation of Aer Lingus and, unfortunately, we have been proved correct.

"It was clear that an economic downturn would hit the aviation industry hard and if the Irish Government had had the competence and foresight to frame a job creation and retention policy at the beginning of its term these jobs could have either been saved, or at the very least these workers would have prospects of redeployment.

"The Government's lack of policy to create sustainable jobs in this country has now committed a further 1,135 people to unemployment. With unemployment levels standing at 9.2% and with the dole queues getting longer by the day the need for a coherent job creation strategy has never been more apparent.

"This government has steered the country straight into recession over the past ten years with their doomed economic policies. It seems as though the only job retention policy held by the government concerns the banking executives; its time for the government to face up and deal with the real issues of concern for ordinary people."


MARCH 2009

Unemployment Rises Again in January

The recession continues to bite, and indeed worsens, as the Central Statistics Offices figures indicate that the Live Register figures rose higher again for January 2009. In the Dublin area, the figure was up by almost 8,000 from December 2008, an increase of over 32,000 from last year. This situation will be compounded by the fact that SR Technics propose to make over 1,100 staff redundant as they are ceasing operations in Dublin. People in the Fingal area are being hit hard, and it is not helped by the fact that the Balbriggan Social Welfare Office has temporarily closed and residents now have to travel to Coolock to collect their money.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said: "The Government must ensure that, as the unemployment situation worsens, there are adequate measures put in place to ensure that people do not have to travel unreasonable distances to collect their social welfare allowances. There is enough pressure on people without having to pay extra money out for bus fares. The unemployment figures are rising all the time and it’s very worrying for everyone. Very few people now feel secure in their jobs."

It is feared that the economic crisis will lead to severe worsening of social problems. Said Byrne: "Balbriggan and other towns experienced expansion but not enough facilities were introduced to cope with the vast increase in houses built. Everyone is on top of one another and in these extremely hard times one wonders to what extent the social problems and crime will worsen. We in Sinn Féin are committed to working with the marginalized people who are victims of poor planning and poor economic planning by the Government."


Unemployment in Balbriggan rises by 65% in 12 months

Local Sinn Féin candidate Fergus Byrne has called on the Government to target job creation in Balbriggan after figures published showed that the numbers of people signing on the dole office in Balbriggan has increased from 1,435 in October 2007 to 2,345 in October 2008. Byrne slammed the Government for its complete failure to include any job creation proposals in budget 09.

He said, "This Government ignored all the warning signs that the economy was heading for a slowdown and failed to prepare for the recession even though all the economic indicators pointed to such an inevitability. The result of all of this can clearly be seen in the latest report from the CSO which shows that unemployment has significantly increased across the state.
"The government cannot continue to sit on their hands in the face of rising unemployment. The budget spectacularly failed to include any measures to create employment and even now as the figures continue to rise there is no evidence of any action or plan from the government to tackle unemployment.

"My own constituency of Balbriggan is clearly suffering the effects of Government inaction on employment. CSO figures show that in the last twelve months the live register nationally rose from 157,449 to 251,951, an increase of 60%. While the average for Dublin was 50.8%, in Balbriggan it increased by a massive 63.4%.

"Clearly the Government must start targeting job creation to unemployment black-spots and in towns and villages which are hemorrhaging jobs at a high or disproportionate rate. As these figures show Balbriggan certainly fall into this category.

"It is essential that the state introduces a specific back to education scheme for construction sector workers under the age of 25 without Leaving Certificates. The Taoiseach's Department estimates that under 25s represent 50.3% of the total construction unemployment figure in 2007 & 2008 and that a large majority does not have a Leaving Certificate. It is also essential that training and upskilling courses for alternative industries to construction are provided."


Outrage Over Proposed Cuts in Allowance for Carers

The proposed cuts mooted by the Minister for Family and Social Affairs, Mary Hanafin, TD, have been greeted with outrage and grave concern by carers, their families, and public representatives. The Carers Association has been inundated with calls from people across the country who are extremely worried over Minister Hanafin’s comments.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said: "Carers devote many hours each week to the social economy, saving the State many millions of Euros annually – money which would otherwise have to be spent on nursing home or hospital beds for the patients concerned. Because of this ill-advised proposal, many carers may have no choice but to pass on the burden of care back to the State, due to the fact that it may soon be impossible for them to remain as full-time carers. Cutting these essential allowances would be an absolute disgrace".

Mr Byrne went on to say: "It is typical of the current Government’s attitude towards the vulnerable in our community. Carers did not cause this economic mess. Many of them live close to the poverty line as it is, and yet they may now be made to suffer further because of the Government’s ineptitude with regard to finances".


Scandal of Empty Accommodation Despite Lengthening Housing Lists

The list of people requiring housing by Fingal County Council and across Ireland is increasing rapidly, and until relatively recently, it would have been easy for the general public and the media to assume that this was because there was a shortage of empty accommodation. However alarming statistics have shown that this is not the case. Figures from the 2006 Census revealed that in Fingal, there were 7,878 vacant dwellings including houses, flats and holiday homes. Since the release of these figures there were quite a number of new house builds, and the recession has resulted in a large increase in the number of properties currently unoccupied.

It is estimated the Fingal has 400 unsold units which were designated for affordable housing. Many of these units can cost the County Council up to €1,000 per month in loan repayments. Newly built Local Authority homes in 2007 (figures for 2008 are not yet available) numbered only 200 in Fingal, plus a paltry 12 voluntary sector houses. The current housing waiting list for Fingal is approximately 5,500, an estimation which has caused much anger amongst the public and their representatives.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said: "Housing is a right, not a privilege. Both central and local government have a responsibility to ensure that those who cannot afford to secure adequate housing in the market place are provided with housing that meets their needs. The government met their targets of 2007 and 2008 of building 9,000 social housing units across the country per year, but this is nowhere near adequate to even make a noticeable dent in the local housing lists. I believe that we need new policies to deal with this crisis, for example unsold affordable housing units, of which there are many in Fingal, should be secured by the County Council for social use."

"Sinn Féin has policies which, if implemented, would greatly alleviate the problems faced by so many middle-income and lower earners who cannot afford to buy private homes." Said Byrne: "We are campaigning for increased resources from the Government to enable local authorities such as Fingal County Council to increase their housing output. By combining Government capital grants and the Rental Accommodation Scheme, Fingal County Council could seek loans or investment capital to acquire unsold units from the private market, provided they were of the appropriate standard, in suitable locations, value for money for the taxpayer, and involved a low level of financial risk to the Council. Dublin City Council are already examining a similar concept."



Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald visited Rush recently to canvass support for Sinn Féin local county council election candidate Fergus Byrne.

The election team canvassed in Woodland Park and Brookford where they received a very positive response. The issue of planning in the area was raised quite frequently by residents concerned that the local area plan did not provide for enough infrastructure to support the high density units proposed.

Many residents felt it was incredible that Fingal Council were proposing the development of over 1000 new homes in Rush, before dealing with the long term problems of roads, sewerage, traffic and the provision of adequate recreation and leisure facilities. One resident pointed out that Rush Athletic F.C are running over 20 teams on only two 11 a side pitches. He said, "We have been promised that development in the town would lead to extra pitches for the club, but where are they? I give my time to help provide something for the local kids, all I ask is that the council support us." Other residents mentioned the public service levy, childcare costs, anti-social behaviour on Rush beach and lack of a full-time Garda station.

Mary Lou and Fergus Byrne were also made aware of the problem with school overcrowding in the area. Mary Lou stated she was particularly aware of this issue given that her own children are being educated in a school in Cabra that has been housed in pre-fabs for over 11 years! Fergus said, "If one thing is for certain, it is that investment in education must not be cut if we are to get the Irish economy moving. Our children are this country’s future and to compete economically on the world stage we require a highly qualified and skilled workforce. Our schools need to be proof of the value that we as a society place on education. Therefore children should not be housed in inappropriate pre-fabricated classrooms for years on end. We must invest in our children an we must do it now."

Mary-Lou and Fergus also outlined their total support for the Gaelscoil Ros-Eo and pledged that Sinn Féin councillors will do everything possible to assist them in acquiring a permanent site for the school. Mary Lou said, "Once again the GAA, and Scouting Ireland, should be congratulated in coming forward and providing Gaelscoil Ros-Eo with a home until they find a permanent location." Fergus Byrne agreed with these comments and added, " St Maur’s and before them the Rush Scouts have done a great job in helping to establish a gaelscoil in the area, and thus give local parents a choice about their children’s education. However, where was the local council in the search for accommodation? Why could they not have provided land or support for the school? Why was it left to the kindness and support of the GAA and the Rush Scouts? Both these groups have put themselves out greatly to facilitate this school, why hasn’t Fingal Council done the same?"

At the end of her visit Mary Lou McDonald said: "Rush is a lovely area and I’m heartened by the warm welcome I’ve received, along with my local colleague Fergus Byrne. We have spoken to many people today who are really feeling the effects of this recession. We need a change of government, and soon. Sinn Féin is dedicated to bringing about change both nationally and in local communities. I ask that people vote for Fergus Byrne in the June elections, as he is the person best placed to work for the local community. He is a working, family man with two young children, knows well the issues affecting people here, and cares about making a difference".
If you wish to view a clip of Fergus and Mary Lou in Rush then you can see it on youtube at


Fine Gael graduate tax is simply third level fees in disguise - Byrne

Speaking as Fine Gael launched its proposal for a graduate tax local Sinn Féin Balbriggan candidate Fergus Byrne said the proposal highlights that party’s hypocritical approach to the campaign against the reintroduction of third level fees.

He said: "While preaching to third level students that he is totally against the reintroduction of fees and will be fighting along with them, in reality it is quite clear that Deputy Hayes is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue. What Deputy Hayes and his Fine Gael Party have proposed is simply third level fees in disguise."

"The graduate tax, or as it is called in Australia ‘the Higher Education Contribution Scheme’, is a scheme whereby students have their fees paid for upfront by the government and then pay back the amount owed through extra taxation. The Australian system has grown so complex that it needs approximately AUS $5 billion to overhaul and comes as a response to a 272 page review of the system. The Higher Education Contribution Scheme as a system is broken and flawed. Originally created to increase access, it has the opposing affect. Students finish university steeped in debt and many students will never earn enough to repay their loan."
"Should a graduate tax system be implemented it would be upwards of a decade before any cost would be recouped by the state, so the argument that this system would be able to fund the sector is completely flawed.

Sinn Féin is very clear on its position. We will not accept fees through the back door by increasing the registration fee, we will not accept fees through the front door by full-on tuition fees, and we will not accept fees through the side door by way of this fundamentally flawed graduate tax.

"Higher education benefits the entire society and should not be subject to these disgraceful attacks from the government and the Fine Gael party. It should be paid for through a fair and progressive taxation system."

December 2008

"Reverse Education Cuts Now!" demands Byrne

Speaking in support of the more than 12,000 teachers and parents who turned out yesterday evening to demonstrate against the devastating education cuts arising out of this months Budget, Balbriggan Ward Sinn Féin Candidate Fergus Byrne has called for "… these savage cuts to be reversed immediately." Fergus then accused "The Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government of completely abandoning its own Programme for Government which had committed them to reduce class sizes to 24 by 2010. All we have got from this short-sighted, uncaring government are lies, more lies and damned lies."

"Increasing class sizes will mean that up to 1,200 primary school teachers will be let go and more overcrowded classrooms will result. This Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government has also slashed funds for the school building programme which will have serious consequences for more than 1,400 schools currently waiting for new buildings and repairs to existing buildings. Indeed, many of these schools had been promised funding in the run up to the last General Election."

"Budget 2008 is tsunami that has wreaked havoc on our two most important social services – Health and Education. Budget 2008 targets working families, school children, the low paid and pensioners. Over the years the so-called Celtic Tiger bypassed many of these people and it is they who are now expected to pay the price for the Government’s frivolous mismanagement of the economy. Let not those who have sacrificed most by enduring chronic social services be the victims of Budget 2008! Budget 2008 is an act of infamy that will be long remembered by the Irish electorate."

"The government does not have public support for their budget. Public anger around the government’s class size measures is palpable and warranted. The campaign to reverse the government's totally unjust budget cuts is gathering momentum and if there is sufficient public pressure education services can be protected. This week it is protests but in January schools will have no option but to send children home unless these cuts are reversed. REVERSE EDUCATION CUTS NOW!!"

BALBRIGGAN - Sinn Féin Community Survey Results

Sinn Féin Community Survey Results

Last month, Sinn Féin members and supporters carried out a door-to-door survey in Balbriggan West around the issue of Safer Communities. One hundred houses were surveyed and Sinn Féin Local election candidate Fergus Byrne described the results as an eye opener for local residents, and a huge task for An Garda Síochána regarding community confidence, anti-social behaviour and drug related problems

The survey consisted of seven questions, the first being "Do you feel safer or less safe now in your local area compared to a year ago"?

The results were as follows.
More Safe: 18%
Less Safe: 34%
Other: 32%

Question 2 was "Are there any spaces in your local area that you are reluctant to use because of antisocial behaviour or drugs"?

The results were as follows.
Castlemill Shopping Centre 40%
Back lanes (Castlemills) 16%
Playground (Barons Hall) 8%
Other Places 36%

Question 3 was "What types of behaviour is a serious problem in the above places"?

The results were as follows.
Threatening or behaviour 11%
People using drugs 14%
People dealing drugs 19%
Discarded needles or syringes 1%
People being drunk or rowdy 18%
Verbal abuse 20%
Other (please specify) 17%

Question 4 was "Are there any particular times, days or periods when you feel it most occurs"?
The results were as follows.

Daytime 2%
Night-Time 52%
Weekend 40%
Other 6%

Question 5 was "Have you contacted the Gardaí in relation to anti-social behaviour"?

The results were as follows.
Yes 38%
No 62%

Question 6 was "How would you describe the Gardaí response"?

The results were as follows.
Satisfactory 61%
Unsatisfactory 39%

Question 7A was "Do you think there are enough leisure, recreation and educational opportunities for young people in the local area"?

The results were as follows.
Yes 4%
No 96%

Question 7B was "What facilities should be made available to them"?
The results were as follows.

Youth Club 38%
Swimming Pool 19%
Supervised Play Area 19%
Sport Field 6%
Gym 4%
Other 14%

From the information we have gathered, a very clear picture is painted of the area regarding anti-social behaviour, youth, An Garda Síochána, and lack of facilities in the area.

In general, 34% of people in Balbriggan West feel less safe in their homes compared to last year. This figure is quite concerning as most families in this area would only be living in the area for 2-3 years, and it really highlights the urgency of the situation these families find themselves in.
The area most affected by anti-social behaviour and drugs seems to be the Castlemill Shopping Centre (40%), with most of the behaviour happening at night (52%), and weekend (40%). The behaviour involved verbal abuse (20%), drug dealing (19%) and drunken behavior (18%). I think this highlights the need for more community Gardaí and for looking into the possibility of An Garda Síochána having a permanent presence in the area - i.e., a small station or at least more security cameras linked to the Balbriggan Garda Station. I will discuss this with An Garda Síochána in the coming weeks.

We can also see from the Survey that only 38% of victims of this behaviour contacted An Garda Síochána. Interestingly, of those who contacted the Guards, 61% were satisfied with the response they got. Given these results I would encourage people to report all of this type of behaviour to An Garda Síochána. I would also call on the Government to review the resources An Garda Síochána have available to them.

The last two questions of this survey expose the bad planning of the Balbriggan West area. You only have to ask yourself where the Youth Centres, Cinemas, Swimming Pools, Parks, Playing fields, Gyms etc. are. ENDS

Fergus Byrne
Local Sinn Féin Candidate – Balbriggan Ward

BALBRIGGAN - Cardy Rock Estate – “An Accident Waiting to Happen”

Cardy Rock Estate – “An Accident Waiting to Happen”

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne has called for traffic lights to be situated as a matter of urgency at the entrance of the Cardy Rock Estate in Balbriggan. Residents are very concerned about the situation as there are a number of children who cross at the junction of Cardy Rock Estate and Drogheda Street. There have been a number of near-misses and residents feel that it is only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs.

Byrne said: "The entrance to this estate has become a serious problem, both from a safety point of view and from a traffic flow aspect. The most worrying is the safety aspect, as by all accounts this is an accident waiting to happen. I have seen for myself how busy the entrance to the estate is and residents tell me that it is nothing short of a miracle that no child has been seriously injured or killed. I call upon Fingal County Council to urgently attend to this matter before an accident or tragedy occurs.”

“With regard to traffic flow, cars often have to wait several minutes at busy times while attempting to exit from the Cardy Rock Estate out onto Drogheda Street, and can have the same problems going back into the estate. Drogheda Street has a high volume of traffic at most times of the day and there has been an increase in the traffic flow due to the number of new houses built in the area. This has led to a large increase in traffic especially in the rush hours of early morning or evening. At these times it is near impossible to get out of the junction.

At my request, my Sinn Féin colleague, Councillor Paul Donnelly has put the following notion to Fingal County Council: “To ask the Manager to ensure that the Council provide a traffic management system at the junction of Cardy Rock Estate and Drogheda Street as a matter of urgency”

LUSK - Statements from Fergus Byrne, Local election candidate, on issues impacting on Lusk

LUSK - some of the statements issued by Fergus Byrne, Sinn Féin candidate for the upcoming local elections, concerning Lusk.

On a recent visit to Lusk I was approached by a number of residents in Minister’s Estate regarding the mature trees on Train Hill, which are to the rear of Minister’s Park. Residents relayed to me their fears that if these lands were to be sold then the trees, which provide great privacy, could be lost.

I then contacted my colleague Sinn Féin Cllr. Paul Donnelly to request his assistance with Fingal County Council in this matter. With Paul’s help the following motion was put to Fingal Council:
"To ask the Manager to ensure that the Council in any future proposed development of lands at Train Hill, Lusk, at the rear of Minister’s Park, and on which the greenhouses now stand, that the existing mature trees thereon be preserved?"

The following reply was received from the County Manager:

` "The preservation of the existing mature trees will be considered as part of the assessment of any planning application made in relation to the above lands.

I am delighted to report that this motion (item 23), was passed unanimously by Fingal County Councillors at their monthly meeting on Monday 10th of November, 2008. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague Sinn Féin Cllr. Paul Donnelly for his assistance and advice with this matter.

While there is not any planning application currently in progress, I do believe that this pro-active eco-friendly measure will prevent the destruction of these mature trees, thus continuing to provide privacy for residents. I shall of course keep residents informed of future developments, if any. If in the meantime you have any issue I maybe able to assist with, or wish to have raised with Fingal County Council please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mise le meas ort
Fergus Byrne – Sinn Féin Candidate for Fingal County Council

"Byrne secures protection for mature trees in Lusk"

While on a recent visit to Lusk, local representative Fergus Byrne (SF) was approached by a number of residents in Minister’s Estate regarding the mature trees on Train Hill, which are to the rear of Minister’s Park. Residents relayed to Fergus their fears that if these lands were to be sold then the trees, which provide great privacy, could be lost. He then contacted Cllr. Paul Donnelly (SF) to request his assistance with Fingal County Council in this matter. With Paul’s help the following motion was to put to Fingal Council:

"To ask the Manager to ensure that the Council in any future proposed development of lands at Train Hill, Lusk, at the rear of Minister’s Park, and on which the greenhouses now stand, that the existing mature trees thereon be preserved?"

The following reply was received from the County Manager:

` "The preservation of the existing mature trees will be considered as part of the assessment of any planning application made in relation to the above lands.

Fergus said: "I am delighted to report that this motion (item 23), was passed unanimously by Fingal County Councillors at their monthly meeting on Monday 10th of November, 2008. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague Sinn Féin Cllr. Paul Donnelly for his assistance and advice with this matter. While there is not any planning application currently in progress, I do believe that this pro-active eco-friendly measure will prevent the destruction of these mature trees, thus continuing to provide privacy for residents. I shall of course keep residents informed of future developments, if any."

Developers Leave Lusk Playing Fields in Disgraceful Condition

Residents of Lusk have expressed grave concern over the condition of land near Lusk Village Estate. Developers McGarrell Reilly have left a large amount of rubbish and building materials on the site and there are worries that the overall appearance and reputation of Lusk Village Estates have been badly affected. It is alleged that developers often leave sites unfinished as a tactic to attempt to gain further planning permission from councils and residents fear that is what has happened in this case.

Local Sinn Féin election candidate Fergus Byrne said: "This situation is utterly disgraceful and cannot be tolerated. The developers obviously have no concern for the people of Lusk, and they should be forced by Fingal County Council to remove their rubbish or face the consequences. No further planning permission should be granted to them until they finish off the projects which were supposed to have been completed. They must show concern for the Lusk area and its residents. Visually and from a health and safety aspect, it is urgent that this is dealt with as soon as possible."

Concern was also expressed by residents that McGarrell Reilly have not fulfilled all of the conditions under planning permission was previously granted. Said Byrne: "Roads have not been completed, for example, nor have crèches been provided. The developers must be held accountable both to the people of Lusk and to Fingal County Council. The people of Lusk deserve better treatment than this."

Bus Shelters in Lusk

Further to our campaign to have lighted bus shelters provided for Lusk, the letter below was sent to Dublin Bus and to Fingal County Council. I shall of course keep residents informed of progress. If in the meantime you have any issue I maybe able to assist with, or wish to have raised with Fingal County Council please do not hesitate to contact me.

A Chara

Following representations received, I am writing to request immediate action from Dublin Bus and from Fingal County Council on the urgent issue of lighted bus shelters for Lusk. On a recent visit to the village, I was appalled to discover that there was only one lighted bus shelter in Lusk.
I am sure you would agree with me that a respectful policy towards those who take the eco-friendly public transport option should be shown. In this day and age lighted bus shelters are a necessity for bus users. Why should our elderly people and our young children be exposed to extreme cold and unsafe conditions, for prolonged periods of time? Indeed, as far by back as June 2000 the Scott Wilson Report stated that bus shelters should be provided: "… where the site is exposed to inclement weather or where service frequency is low." I do believe that there is an onus on Dublin Bus and on Fingal County Council to provide lighted bus shelters for the people of Lusk.

It’s simply not right that elderly people and bus users are potentially being put at health risk from exposure to inclement weather. Suitable bus shelters should be provided as a standard part of the service. At the very least I believe that a lighted bus shelter should be provided on Station Road outside Supervalu. I call upon Dublin Bus and Fingal County Council to act on this pressing issue now.

Simply put, I would like to know when Dublin Bus intends to provide lighted bus shelters for the residents of Lusk.

I look forward to your reply,

Is mise le meas ort

Fergus Byrne
Balbriggan Ward Sinn Fein Candidate


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