Monthly Archive for April, 2007

The legacy of bad education planning in Dublin 15

Roderic O’Gorman at St Patrick’s school protest outside Dail

The lack of education facilities in Dublin 15 has been the dominant issue of the week.

On Tuesday I was invited to attend a demonstration outside the gates of the Dail which was organized by parents in the Diswellstown area and Joan Burton TD. The parents are deeply concerned as St. Patrick’s NS has been capped as a 3 stream school, which means that many parents now have to send their children to St. Mochta’s in Clonsilla. This is a considerable distance away – too far for young children to walk. At a time when obesity among young people is a major concern, it is really disappointing that kids have to be packed into a car every day and driven to school.

The problem has been caused by the usual failure of planning, where the developer wouldn’t sell a site sufficiently large enough to accommodate a larger school.

Last night I attended a meeting of the Schools Action Group in the Paddocks Pub, Littlepace, called to highlight the problems at both primary and secondary level in the area.

I have an uncle who works in a school in Dun Laoghaire, part of the Minister for Education’s constituency, and he tells me that these days they can’t open an envelope in the school without Mary Hanafin coming in to officiate. Fair enough, she looks after her own constituency. Yet at the same time, she clearly has no clue as to the situation here in Dublin 15. At the meeting I called on Minister Lenihan to bring Mary Hanafin to meet parents and the Dublin 15 Community Council so she can explain the current situation, and most importantly, what she intends to do about it.

The meeting, which was attended by over 200 local residents, was addressed by all sitting TD’s and general election candidates apart from Fianna Fail’s Gerry Lynam and the PD’s Mags Murray.

One particularly striking story I heard during the evening was of one woman whose child will be 5 years and 9 months when she starts junior infants. That works out that her daughter will be 19 ½ when she does her Leaving Cert, way above the national average. Another father made the comment that if the school site at Mary Mother of Hope was a business premises, it would be shut down as a health and safety violation due to the massive overcrowding with 3 different schools sharing a small location.

In the short term, the Minister for Education must come to Littlepace and guarantee the parents that there will be a local temporary site for Phibblestown secondary school and that work will be completed on the permanent building by the start of the 2009/10 school year. She also needs find a solution for the 45 children who are currently on a waiting list for Mary Mother of Hope for next September.

However, in the medium to long term, we need major reforms to our planning system, to compel developers to provide sites or finance the construction of schools. Further, we need institutional change in the Dept of Education, with a Strategic Planning Unit to oversee the use of new and existing schools and a statutory obligation on the Dept. of Education that each time a local authority amends its development plan, the Department is legally bound to review its school building programme for the area. The Green Party is committed to implementing these vital changes if we are elected to government in a few weeks time.

Age means nothing to Vincent Browne

Those of you with a sado-masochistic streak may enjoy listening to me being mauled on the Tonight with Vincent Browne show, yesterday evening. I was on with a number of other first time candidates (Mary Fitzpatrick, FF Dublin Central, Dr Leo Varadkar, FG Dublin West, Oisin Quinn, Labour Dun Laoghaire, Joanne Spain, SF Dublin Mid-West and Kieran Cannon, PD Galway East).

Vincent Browne asked us what distinctive view we could bring to politics and when I answered and spoke about my experiences as a young person, he was highly unimpressed (to put it mildly). I stand by what I said though. How many of the current TDs depend on the bus and train to get around every day? How many of the current TDs worry about how they will afford a house?

I’d never suggest that someone should vote for me solely because I was a young candidate, but I do think that the experiences of young people in this country are not adequately represented within the Dail and that my election (or the election of other young candidates) would be to the benefit of the country. The decisions being made now on issues from stamp duty to global warming will affect our generation for the rest of our lives, so I feel we have as great an entitlement to have our voices shape these decisions as anyone else.

Thankfully, on the doors in Dublin 15, people are agreeing and telling me that it’s great to see a young person standing for election. I’ll just have to cope without Vinny Browne’s support!

Press Release – Why can’t Dublin Bus and Irish Rail integrate their timetable guides? – O’Gorman

Roderic O’Gorman with incorrect timetable at Castleknock Station

Green Party Dublin West candidate, Roderic O’Gorman has called on Dublin Bus to reprint its Local Service Guide for the Blanchardstown area, to reflect the changes that have been made to the services on the Maynooth rail line. The current Local Service Guide for the Blanchardstown Area was printed before the Docklands service was added and as such, contains a number of inaccuracies.

“I first realized that the Dublin Bus guide was out of date when I went to get an 11:26 AM train from Castleknock, only to find that the service had been replaced by earlier and later trains. I contacted Dublin Bus on this issue, and they informed me that the Local Service Guides are only published once a year in August/September as students are going back to college. However, as Irish Rail usually changes its timetable during January, this means that for large portions of the year, the train timetable printed on Dublin Bus Local Service Guides is incorrect. These booklets are still being distributed at Dublin Bus offices on O’Connell Street. What if a tourist picks one of these up, presuming that she can rely on the accuracy of the information given out by the head office of Dublin Bus?”, asks Roderic O’Gorman.

“I know that some may consider this to be a small issue, but I think it points to a wider problem of lack of consideration for commuters. Like many others, I’ve been critical on a number of occasions of the level of service that is provided to the Dublin 15 area on the Maynooth line. It seems a real pity that when Irish Rail finally increases the number of services, Dublin Bus doesn’t change its Local Service Guides to reflect this. It’s small wonder we can’t achieve integrated ticketing in this city, if we can’t even integrate the bus and train time-tables”.

“The Green Party is proposing the creation of a new Public Transport Regulator. I believe that such a position would permit for greater coordination of the various modes of public transport in Dublin, and tackle basic issues such as integrated ticketing and ensuring that all timetables distributed to the public are up to date”, concluded Roderic O’Gorman.


Congratulations to Castleknock Educate Together National School

Parade for the opening of Castleknock Educate Together National School

I just wanted to post my congratulations to the staff, teachers and students of Castleknock Educate Together National School, who this morning held a parade to celebrate the opening of their new school on Beechpark Avenue. The school, which has been in existence for almost eight years, has had two temporary locations and has been in prefabs on the current site since 2002.

I’ve been to school openings before, both as a pupil and as a guest, but I have to say I’ve never seen such a fantastic atmosphere of celebration. The parade was led around Castleknock by a group of the students on the back of a truck drumming, with each of the classes following on behind. There was a great crowd of parents there, all waving Educate Together flags.

On a somewhat more serious note, all the prefabs in which the students were being taught up to now have been removed from the site and will be relocated to house new classes at Tyrrelstown Educate Together, pending planning permission. While it’s good to see the prefabs being reused, it draws attention to yet another school which is still in temporary accommodation. Work on the Tyrrelstown estate began early this decade, but there still isn’t a permanent site for the national school, and soon second level places will be a major issue. Yet another example of the failure to plan adequately for communities. If we are in government after the next election, the Green Party will implement aspects of our Urban Development and Education Policies to ensure that school places crises become a thing of the past.

Free sweets for all under Fine Gael?

Yesterday, as I got off the train in Castleknock, Cllr Varadkar and some of his team were giving out leaflets at the exits to the station. Along with a card outlining his promises, each commuter got a free mini Lion Bar.

I know Leo keeps an eye on this site, so I’d just like to thank him for the tasty treat. Maybe I’ll start giving out Lion bars too. I hear the gimmick was a roaring success.

(sorry, couldn’t help myself)

Adamstown: Why does good planning have to be the exception rather than the norm?

Yesterday, the Taoiseach opened a new railway station at Adamstown in west Dublin to much fan fare. Adamstown was built as a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ). SDZs are designed to be built in phases. For example, after the developers have put in 500 houses, they have to supply a primary school before anything more can be built. After they have put in 1000 houses, they have to supply a secondary school and a train station, and so on. This means that the infrastructure develops at the same time as the new community, rather than lagging five or ten years after, like it does in most other developments.

We now hear various politicians holding up Adamstown as a model of how to develop an area. The question I want answered is why does good planning have to be the exception rather than the norm in Ireland? Why couldn’t such an approach be taken in places like Diswellstown, Ongar or Tyrrelstown? Residents of Dublin 15 know too well the broken promises on infrastructure that result when big developers are left to their own devices. While I know that the SDZ approach has been used in Hansfield, development is still taking place across the constituency in the traditional, haphazard fashion.

Well planned, properly designed infrastructure is a basic quality of life issue. The Green Party has consistently been to the forefront in highlighting the developer driven nature of house building in the Greater Dublin Area. We recently published our Urban Development Policy, which set out the changes to the planning system we will make to reform the planning system, including the creation of a Planning & Transportation Authority and the Strategic Planning Unit within the Department of Education.

Bad planning is a blight on Dublin 15, the Greater Dublin Area – indeed on the whole country. If I’m elected as a TD for Dublin West, reforming the planning system to put the community first will be a top priority.

My campaign launch

Myself, Trevor and the ‘battle-bus’ after my campaign launch in Myo’s, Castleknock

On Saturday afternoon I launched my campaign to become the Green Party TD for Dublin West. The launch took place upstairs in Myo’s pub in Castleknock and was attended by friends, family and members of the Dublin West Green Party and the Young Greens.

I was delighted that Trevor Sargent was able to take time out of his really onerous schedule and come over (in his bio-fuelled ‘battle-bus’) to speak at the launch. Trevor talked about how I first went out canvassing with him in 1992 before he was even a TD, when much of Mulhuddart and Blanchardstown were part of the Dublin North constituency. And yes, I was only 10 at that stage.

When we first arrived in Myo’s, we saw that Brian Lenihan was there before us. Rumours of a shock pre-election defection from FF to the Green Party abounded for a few minutes, but it soon became apparent that Brian was merely meeting some of his ‘troops’ before heading out on a canvass. I think Brian was a bit surprised that we would have a launch in the afternoon, rather than a boozy late night session a la Fianna Fail.

I’m uploading the press release from the event, so I won’t start quoting large chunks of my speech here. However, I’d just like to reiterate what an honour it is to be picked to represent the Green Party in my home area. Never have Green Party policies been more needed by our community, our country and our planet.

The reaction I have been getting on the door steps as I’ve been canvassing over the last 10 months makes me believe that the voters of Dublin West are ready to elect a Green Party TD.

Game on!

Trevor and myself at General Election Campaign Launch

Press Release – O’Gorman launches campaign to become Green Party TD for Dublin West


Roderic O’Gorman has launched his campaign to become the Green Party TD for Dublin West. The Green Party’s general election campaign in Dublin West was launched in Myo’s Pub in Castleknock by the party leader Trevor Sargent TD. The launch followed a meeting that Roderic O’Gorman and Trevor Sargent had with representatives of the Dublin 15 Community Council in which they discussed local issues like the failure to plan for schools, inadequate public transport and a lack of social facilities for young people.

In a speech focusing on key quality of life issues, Roderic O’Gorman outlined what he sees as the main problems facing Dublin 15.

“Dublin West is probably the best example in Ireland of how not to plan a community. Whether it’s the commuter who is stuck in traffic for up to 3 hours each day, to the parents who are constantly worried that there won’t be enough room in the local school for their kids, to the teenagers who get in trouble for ‘hanging around’ because no facilities have been provided to keep them off the streets – I believe bad planning is the constant that links all of these problems”.

“In Government, the Green Party will invest in public transport, whether it’s upgrading the Maynooth line to a DART style service, putting more buses on the bus lanes or guaranteeing the speedy construction of Metro West, though not at the expense of community facilities like Porterstown Park. In the education sector, we will create greater links between the Dept. of Education and the local authorities, so that school places crises, like the one we are currently experiencing in Dublin 15, will be avoided in the future. Further, we will change the law to force big developers to give greater contributions to the construction of schools and other social facilities”.

Speaking about his chances in the election campaign, Roderic O’Gorman was very clear that he considers himself a contender in the constituency.

“A number of radio programmes have done analysis of Dublin West and none have put me in contention for a seat. However, as I’ve knocked on doors over the last 10 months, as I’ve talked with people, listened to the issues they are concerned about and seen their support for the proposals the Green Party are putting forward to solve those problems, I’ve become more and more convinced that the voters of Dublin West are ready to elect a Green Party TD. People are telling me that it’s time for a new vision, time for new blood to represent the area. So I want to make it very clear that I’m not here to make up the numbers. I’m in this election to win, to gain a seat for the Green Party and give us the chance to be in government”

In his speech to the assembled party members, Green Party leader, Trevor Sargent TD, gave his full backing to Roderic, and outlined how he is the best candidate to deal with the quality of life issues faced by residents of Dublin 15.

“Through his background as a lawyer and through his position as Deputy Chair of the Green Party National Council which devises Green Party policy, Roderic has a thorough knowledge of the legal and policy solutions to the problems that we face today. At the same time, he has a real understanding of the practical issues on the ground, whether it’s through his job teaching law to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, or working with constituents or with residents groups, the community council, campaign groups, NGO’s etc. It’s this combination of knowledge and practical on-the-ground experience, that makes Roderic so well suited to being a public representative. And as one of our youngest election candidates, he will give a voice to a group that is hugely under-represented within the Dáil”.

“If the voters of Dublin West want someone who will be a tireless representative on their behalf; if the voters of Dublin West want someone who understands the need to plan for schools and public transport; if the voters of Dublin West want someone who will speak loudly on climate change, the greatest threat to our planet; if the voters of Dublin West believe, like me, that Ireland needs the Green Party in Government; then they need to give their No. 1 vote to Roderic O’Gorman on election day”, concluded Trevor Sargent.