Section One: Restoring Faith in our Political System
If we are serious about reform, it has to be thorough. We don’t need another facelift. Only a new perspective can honestly address the unnecessary bureaucracy and inefficiency at the roots of our institutions. A fresh start requires a system that works for us.
The essence of democracy is that decisions are made as close as possible to those that they affect. A TD should be concerned with national issues, international relations and representing his or her constituents’ needs in this context. The culture of clientelism in Irish political life means that TDs spend more time making personal representations on behalf of their constituents to local authorities, hospitals and other public institutions. As taxpaying citizens we are entitled to all of these services and should not need our TDs to mediate. Local authorities are often ineffective, powerless and confused. If we want TDs to focus on governing the country, we need to start by making local authorities more democratic and accessible for the citizen.
Clientelism is the inevitable consequence of an ineffective system.
There are many faults with our current political and public institutions, but there are also many steps we can take to begin to solve these problems. At the most fundamental level, a change of culture needs to occur. The current culture within our public institutions and subsequently the behaviour that stems from this culture is long overdue an overhaul. Those working within these systems are restricted and both they, and the people they serve, lose out. Creative thinking within the institutions should be actively encouraged and supported, which requires a change of attitude at senior levels. A willingness on the part of all concerned to create a better system will develop as the merits of initial reforms become visible.
At the moment there are a number of barriers blocking any reform, the most significant of which is how sluggish the interaction with the State and unions has been and the ineffective compromises on both sides that have come from social partnership. In the wake of the Public Service Pay Agreement we have seen the counter-productive consequences for taxpayers and public service workers arising from a lack of flexibility between both unions and State negotiators, union refusal to accept the changes required in the public service and an absence of willingness to allow the process of negotiation to be a transparent one. We must honestly assess the role of social partnership in the best interest of the country and keep in sight the valuable work done by public servants, while remembering for whom our institutions were built to serve.
At the moment there is an ‘us and them’ battle which serves only to disenfranchise citizens even further. We all deserve more say, more access, and more respect. That includes our local teacher, jobseeker or hospital patient. The divide and conquer mentality and the idea of pitting the public sector against the private leaves us all worse-off.
Public institutions must return to their basic function of facilitating the citizen. This relationship and function seems to have been lost in both translation and bureaucracy. A well-run project requires a clear direction and outcome to be understood by every member of the team. Delivery on these outcomes is assessed by regular reviews of progress. A well-run country is no different.
The objective for the public services should be to best facilitate the citizen. This involves ending the idea of public servants working in isolation. There needs to be a symbiotic approach to communication, a form of practical joined up thinking at the most basic level.
Endless anomalies exist in our society in many different areas that simple common-sense would remedy; for example, it’s suggested that we should strengthen the Dáil and abolish the Seanad, when abolishing the Seanad would weaken the Dáil. We see reports on three government departments renting three different sections of a building when it would be far cheaper to rent the whole thing. The reality that often the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing causes frustration for both public servants and citizens, and causes a waste of resources.
Successive Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Green Party, Labour Party and Progressive Democrat governments have never addressed this endemic problem.
“Intensive centralisation since the 1920s has been a ghastly failure, with central government sinking into a sludge of detailed business that clogs channels of decision, swamps strategic issues, frustrates initiatives and bureaucratises the whole”.
-T.J.Barrington, Institute of Public Administration, 1990
A change of culture needs to begin at the base level of our public service and be driven through to the top.
Added to suspicion from those outside of our institutions is the perception of waste; over-staffing, under-utilising staff and non-transparent expense accounts. These are all perceptions that create conflict between citizens and public service workers. But if the mechanics of our institutions were easier to understand, easier to access and more transparent, these perceptions and suspicions would begin to wane, as long as it could be seen from both sides that the tax payer was getting value for money for an efficient service doing its best for the citizen.
When those not working in the public sector do interact with such services, often their perceptions of it being inefficient are compounded by the reality of the layers and layers of bureaucracy that seem to impede even the most simple of tasks. Bureaucracy is the result of a system being allowed to function inefficiently for so long that it becomes tangled in miscommunication, a lack of common sense and presents barriers to initiative. Regulations should not supersede common sense and ‘no’ should never be the first response.
These problems are as present in local authorities as they are in other institutions of the public service. Local authorities need to become more democratic by seeking a greater input from local communities as well as implementing the same cultural shift that I have outlined as necessary for the public service. In the past, change has been presented as something that can occur from top down reports that are rarely implemented, or empty rhetoric. It’s not about top down, it’s about changing things from the bottom up. An audit of the efficiency of our institutions and local authorities along with real political will to get the best of our services and the people working in them is the only way to ensure a fresh start.
Initiatives following election:
1. Introduce monthly constituency forum to include you in the democratic process beyond your vote.
I will hold a monthly constituency forum in Dublin South East. This will be a priority over one to one clinics and will be started immediately following my election. The forum will be open to constituents and I welcome the involvement of the three other TDs and elected representatives in the area.
A monthly constituency forum would have several consequences; seeing democracy in action by bringing people in the community together to talk about constituency issues, allowing TDs to hear these issues in a public way, not in private, encouraging citizens to have an input into national issues under a TD’s remit. Instead of one to one clinics where problems are heard in isolation let’s get our community talking to each other and working out problems together in all of our interests.
2. Propose a complete redefinition of the Seanad with new powers.
The message from the political parties is that the Seanad must be destroyed or reformed. I believe that before institutions are destroyed, we should ask why they were allowed to fail and put measures in place to save them. I believe there is a role for Seanad Eireann.
The Seanad was created in order to be a useful instrument in Ireland’s democratic process, and should be returned to fulfil that role. The institution is there for a reason, but it’s not serving its intended purpose. Let’s make it effective. Abolishing institutions simply because they’re not performing is the lazy option – like ditching your car because it has run out of petrol. The strongest institutions are ones that adapt to fit to new purposes and rise to new challenges. If Ireland is going to recover, its institutions need to support the burdens of change. And the Seanad needs to look like Ireland.
The Seanad has attracted a reputation as a home for political cronies and electoral failures and this undermines the important work undertaken by Ireland’s senators. The people of Ireland have a legitimate desire to understand how their parliamentarians are appointed. I believe in a transparent democratic process for choosing members of both houses of the Oireachtas.
The original purpose of the Seanad was to give a voice to union members, employers, community groups, academics, environmental groups and minority groups. That voice must be heard once again. I believe that the Seanad should be a forum for real social partnership and become a mirror for Irish society, thus making it more democratic.
Abolishing the Seanad is a shortsighted approach. Who would benefit from that? Only TDs whose legislation would no longer be accountable to it.
I believe in streamlining and democratising the way in which senators are appointed by their constituents. Political cronies and electoral failures have no place in Ireland’s parliament. At the same time, abolishing the Seanad would also slow down the legislative process, as its duties of processing legislation would be referred back to the Dáil. The people who will benefit from a purposeful Seanad with clear duties are the people of Ireland.
International obligations place ever greater pressures on Ireland to conform to regulations and standards set at a global level. The Seanad is well-placed to take the responsibility for helping Ireland fulfill those duties by being the primary legislative body for enacting European and global regulation into Irish law. It should also be the body responsible for ensuring that the decisions of government adhere to the highest standards in promoting freedom, equality and peace.
3. Set out an achievable plan for public service reform.
When public money is in short supply, it’s more important than ever that it is used to its best effect. During the boom, the politicians and the government plastered over cracks in our institutions with money, rather than rebuilding them properly. That option isn’t open to us now, and the debate needs to become smarter. We need to use the assets of the State properly, and everyone who receives public money does so with our trust.
Many at the top level of the public service are very well paid and there must be an expectation placed on them that they will work hardest for our money. We need to end the scandal of top-level public servants supplementing their income with private consultancy.
The mutual resentment between the public and private sectors is a negative distraction from the real issues that need to be addressed in the public service. We need to revisit the Croke Park Agreement to come up with a more realistic plan for lasting partnership amongst the stakeholders, and which – once and for all – addresses problems with efficiency in public institutions. The government has commissioned, overseen and publish endless reports on these issues, but rarely are the recommendations that stem from these reports implemented, and in many ways they act as a get out clause for real reform and real action, which is what we need.
That debate – a new public service debate – needs to happen in public rather than behind cloased doors in Croke Park. Both public servants and private citizens should be able to see the way in which their money, their jobs and their taxes are being used as negotiating tools. Croke Park has failed because the grassroot members of the unions didn’t have an imput into the document they’re expected to agree to. Bring the debate into the public. I believe that all future public sector debates should be undertaken in the Chamber of Seanad Eireann.
4. Set a standard for transparency in public office.
The way I run my campaign will be how I run my office. I want to set a standard for transparency in my actions, in my finances, in my beliefs. Electronic forms of communication mean there’s no excuse for me to work in darkness, hiding my dealings from the public. I want you to see what I’m doing and why.
This website will not just last for the election. When I’m elected, it will become my office, and you, as constituents, will always be welcome.
If I’m willing to do that, then others will follow my example. If I’m open and transparent and they aren’t, then what are they hiding?
Irish politics and politicians have become completely non-transparent. If we want to build a better society, it has to be an honest one. What is best for the people of this country should inform our political decisions. Under this government decisions were made in the dead of night behind our backs that would determine so much about our future without any consultation with the people who would actually feel the greatest impact – us. I value open and honest discussions in decision-making processes.
5. Reduce costs of Freedom of Information requests.
I fundamentally believe that public information should be freely accessible, not only obeying the letter of the law, but as a guiding principle for our institutions. Recognising that preparing often weighty documents for public access can be resource-draining, I believe that the cost of a Freedom of Information request should cover those resources, and not become a discouragement to journalists or the public.
I want an overhaul of the appeals process, so that the burden lies with the State to show why the citizen may not access the documents. In all other cases, the public should be free to interrogate the data as they see fit.
6. Recommend the implementation of new expense procedures in the Dáil to encourage transparency and accountability.
Most of us are familiar with one type of expenses claim process – you submit your receipts for expenses which were incurred as part of your job, and after being scrutinised and checked to ensure they’re valid, you are reimbursed by your employer. Very few people understand why politicians are unwilling to follow this model.
I want to introduce a new expenses procedure, in line with the best practice in the private sector, so that only vouched, genuine expenses can be claimed by politicians. Anything less than this is a scandal. I want the other candidates in this constituency to match this policy.
7. Prepare local authorities for financial autonomy.
Since the abolition of household rates in 1978, the funding of local authorities has come from central funds, developer levies and commercial rates. This flaw in local government finance has hindered a lot of proper reform of Ireland’s system of policy-making because local authorities have been reliant on promoting construction activity and asking for support from central government.
The government has proposed the introduction of an annual tax on property, and this money will be ring-fenced for local government. The latest announced the imminent introduction of water charge. In advance of this, we need to make sure that Dublin’s public institutions are ready to use these new revenue streams in the best interests of the city.
Dublin has a creaking public infrastructure. This winter’s bad weather showed how much more investment in our drinking water infrastructure is needed. We cannot risk wasting this new revenue stream, which will be paid by every householder in our city. We need to sweat this new asset, and prepare for its arrival by properly auditing the way in which Dublin City Council and its agencies and departments spend their funds and audit their accounts.
Used properly, the annual property tax will let our city flourish, but like drinking water from old pipes, it has the potential to soak into the ground and vanish.
8. Restore debate to Irish parliamentary life.
Lost in the debate about abolishing the Seanad is the failing of the Dáil as our country’s national debating chamber. Many of us realise that Dáil debates are a stitch-up, agreed in private by the whips of the political parties. Very few debates are meaningful and very few votes crucial. At the moment, such is the power of the whip that any debate can be guillotined at the will of the government. That’s not democracy. This practice should be ended so that real debate takes place in the gaze of the public in the gallery and watching on television.
As an independent Deputy, I will work to break the monopoly of the government in parliament, and bring the debate back to Irish parliamentary life by allying with other independents. I want to return to the fundamental purpose of a parliament – that every member can propose legislation and reform, and for the country to debate its merits. Allowing the Dáil chamber to become nothing but a venue for poorly delivered and meaningless speeches undermines the reason why our State was founded.
I propose that the committee system be strengthened so that even the Taoiseach can be summoned to give evidence. I want to strengthen their role in the policy-making process. Committees have expertise and must be allowed to amend draft legislation. I want to empower the committees to do their task – scrutinise policy, question ministers and officials and be at the heart of making good law.
Section Two: Putting Society First
Ireland is a society first and an economy second. We must establish our priorities and values before we can solve our problems. The new generation have the biggest investment in the future and are essential to any decisions about what that future will be.
The 1916 Proclamation of our republic sought to prioritise equal rights, equal opportunities and the pursuit of happiness as the cornerstones of our State. This sentiment was also explicit in the Democratic Programme of the first Dáil in 1919. In 1937, the constitution was written under Éamon DeValera with significant input from the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid. The draft constitution was even informally referred to the Vatican prior to debate in Dáil Éireann, something that jars with the increasing religious diversity and indeed secularism in our country. There are important values intrinsic to the social spirit of the constitution; prudence, justice, charity, dignity and freedom of the individual were all presented as attributes that should inform the very basis of the document. It’s time to reflect on these values, reinforce those that are appropriate to us nearly three quarters of a century after our constitution came into force, and at the same time, identify new values that can guide us for centuries to come.
Kept busy with the day-to-day practicalities and nature of our lives, we don’t often have the time to reflect on the core values of our society. Our current pivotal crisis has forced us into a period of reflection, and that’s a good thing, because now we can really begin to think about who we are, what we want, and how to get it. For the most part in Ireland, decisions made on important social issues often stem from crises in those areas, or from external pressure. Prison conditions aren’t addressed until there’s a riot, abortion isn’t properly discussed until there’s decision made in a European court, and instead of debating drug policy we legislate against head shops. Playing catch up with issues and getting sidetracked by specifics within those issues creates an unhelpful reactionary approach to policy making, and in turn creates rushed and flawed legislation. We should be discussing these social issues anyway, not in reaction to so-called hot topics, but as a means of creating the fairest, most inclusive society possible.
As well as the positive attributes of our constitution I mentioned earlier, there are other values that are imperative to me and that will be crucial in the reimagining of our society. I value fairness, kindness, charity, personal and collective responsibility, unity, equality and opportunity. Society begins with the individual. We need to examine our own behaviour and see how we can harness our own personal positives to create and exist in a society that we are proud of. We need to compound our international reputation of being a nation with a tremendous generosity of spirit and reassert ourselves with pride. But before we can exhibit that pride, we need something to be proud of. In sourcing this, even in this current period of turmoil, I believe we’ll discover that it’s closer to the surface than we think.
While previous generations have been led by both the Church and the State, this is no longer the case for the most part my generation. A lack of leadership can be a daunting prospect but it also forces us to define our own guiding principles and make our own decisions. In time this will result in a generation of strong leaders who have learned by doing. It is worth noting that the average age of TDs in the first Dáil was 30 while currently 70% of TDs are over the age of 50. The younger generation’s involvement is crucial to creating a strong, fair, equal and aspiring society. Over the next decade, crucial decisions are going to be taken that will define our future. Young people have the most at stake and will be living with the consequences the longest. For that reason, we deserve a seat at the table when those decisions are being made.
Initiatives following election:
1. Work with Educate Together to develop a primary and secondary school blueprint for the 21st century.
Educate Together is an example of an independent organisation acting as an agent for change by developing a blueprint that has been successfully replicated across the country. I have already discussed these issues with Educate Together, and will continue to encourage and support existing and new innovative projects like this in all areas.
“The UNESCO International Commission for the 21st Century suggested that the curriculum should be restructured around four pillars of learning: ‘learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be’ (Delors 1996).”
– ‘Taking the Next Step: A Blueprint for Educate Together Second-level Schools’, 2009.
At the moment, 2,899 of the 3,282 primary schools in the State are under the control of the Catholic Church. The current practice of educating the vast majority of the children in this country with one religious ethos presents several obstacles to equality and diversity. It also presents problems in terms of excluding the children of parents who are not Catholic and in most cases, does so without giving them an alternative to educate their children elsewhere. Even senior leaders in the Catholic Church realise that this culture has to change. The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin said that the continuing control the Catholic church exerts over State schools is a “historical hangover that doesn’t reflect the realities of the time.” He also called the Catholic church’s responsibility for the functioning of over 90% of our primary schools “unrealistic” and suggested that a nationwide forum take place to discuss new inclusive approaches to public education. This forum needs to happen as a matter of urgency.
The Department of Education and Science should be leading the development of multi-denominational schools. There are 58 Educate Together Schools nationally, with 25 in the greater Dublin area. Its approach should be two-pronged; simultaneously encouraging the roll out of Educate Together schools and also identifying schools that were previously under the control of religious orders but are now only so in name.
2. Support free third level education, recognising it as fundamental to a functioning democratic society.
Education is a right. It’s a right that is bestowed on all of our citizens and a right that the ordinary people of this country have fought for. If we’re serious about education, and about providing a proper future for our next generation, there can be no barriers to accessing education for everyone in our society.
Since third level fees were abolished, they’ve been steadily returning year upon year through the back door of the ‘registration fee’, which was rebranded by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government as a ‘Student Contribution’. Labelling this cost – currently standing at €2,000 per year – as a ‘registration fee’ was dishonest, and calling it a ‘student contribution’ is a semantic device that merely puts a different word on ‘fees’. We have to be honest about this –free third level education in Ireland does not exist, and that has to change. The current fees have increased 14 times in as many years, a massive 953% increase. The last increase was the largest so far, a 25% hike from €1,500 to €2,000.
Fine Gael propose a graduate tax on students harvested through an increased PRSI contribution that would begin with immediate effect of employment in the State no matter what their income is. In the years ahead, young people will spend their lifetimes paying for the recklessness of the generation that went before them through increased tax rates and other levies. This proposed graduate tax adds insult to that financial injury. It’s also resolutely unrealistic considering our new reality where many of our graduates will in fact be paying tax in countries other than Ireland due to a high rate of emigration. In fact, taxing our graduates would actually become an incentive for them to emigrate.
Despite the Labour Party, and primarily former Minister for Education Niamh Breathnach’s, formerly progressive record on addressing the inequality that third level fees creates, they currently have no published policy addressing the issue. Unlike the Labour Party, this is not something that I’m prepared to sweep under the rug.
I believe that the only way to foster an equal third level education system is through universal free education, that means removing the prohibitive fees and replacing them with a real registration fee that solely coverers the annual registration costs. This fee should only represent the actual cost of registering a student and no more.
The alternatives proposed by other parties and other candidates – from existing fees, expensive means testing systems, student loan schemes and graduate tax – all throw up the same problems: they stifle equality in education and prohibit universal access to third level education.
3. Reassert Civil Marriage legislation as a priority in the new Dáil term.
A properly functioning society has to embrace all its members. The absence of marriage rights for same sex couples excludes many Irish citizens from being afforded equal rights, responsibility and recognition.
Ireland makes a positive step this year as the first Civil Partnerships take place, but Civil Partnership does not go far enough to guarantee equality for all citizens. Civil Partnership excludes the most vulnerable members of society – children. There are many Irish families with same sex parents.
There are several gaps in rights between what Civil Partnership offers and what Civil Marriage should offer. Civil Partnership denies same-sex couples access to the vocabulary of marriage. Civil Partnership fails to protect the children of same-sex couples by alienating the ‘second’ parent.
In the Act, children are written out of sections relating to inheritance, maintenance and it does not specify how children should be provided for if the Partnership dissolves. Essentially, the Act says that the children of two same-sex parents legally only have one parent. Civil Partnership does not invent families with same sex parents. There are many such families living in the State and by ignoring their rights the State is denying them the rights that for other every other family are automatic.
We need to stop offering diluted forms of ‘equality’ to certain citizens for no good reason other than a legacy of discrimination.
I believe in real equality, and I know that full Civil Marriage rights for gay and lesbian people is part of creating the most equal society possible.
4. End discrimination in employment legislation.
Section 37 (1) of the Employment Equality Act (1998, 2004) allows institutions, primarily schools, run by religious orders to discriminate against those who they perceive to “undermine the religious ethos” of that institution. The group of people this has the biggest impact on is gay and lesbian teachers. Many gay and lesbian teachers are forced to hide their private lives from their colleagues, principals and boards of management, and exist in a climate of fear that this legislation could be used against them. It is unacceptable that a section of equality legislation contains a clause for discrimination.
I will lobby for this section of the legislation to be deleted. There is widespread support amongst teachers for this to happen. The Irish National Teacher’s Organisation consulted with the Department of Justice on the matter in 2007 reporting that “it is the INTO’s view that Section 37 (1) is unnecessary and inappropriate and we are aware that it is perceived as threatening by many of our members.”
In an equal society we must never allow one group to assert power of discrimination over another. Schools are where our children become open to new ideas, form their identities, learn, and develop as individuals. The values of those schools should in turn reflect the values we want to instil in our children of which tolerance, diversity and equality are paramount.
Section Three: Reinvigorating the City
When the country entered recession, we were told that we would to have to take a drop in our standard of living. But we can still make a better quality of life. We can still have an inspiring city. Let’s look at the resources that we have and use them. Sometimes all that a new project needs to grow is space, so let’s fill our empty buildings with new ideas and support our existing businesses by keeping them open, even if that means temporary rate reductions. Let’s give those considering emigration a reason to stay in Ireland, and our recent emigrants something to come home to.
1.7 million people live in the Greater Dublin Area. The demands on Dublin are greater than any other city in Ireland and it should be serviced proportionally. While Dublin is a focal point for commercial and cultural exchange, it is also the gateway to Ireland for tourists and investors. We need a capital city that facilitates the aspirations of a new Ireland. Dublin should represent the talent, cultural life and hospitality we are famous for.
In order to do that we must ensure that everyone realises that they have a stake in how the city works. Local government and other institutions should not just act as city management agencies, but forward-thinking support structures for innovation, creativity and an entrepreneurial culture. We have no shortage of talent, but we need to make Dublin an attractive city to work and live in, one that nurtures talent and by doing so keeps it in Ireland. By creating the right conditions local and national government can allow people to roll up their sleeves and get on with it.
Dublin South East is the one of the most culturally active constituencies in Ireland, just take a look at the success of Culture Night and the number of organisations that take part every year. There’s also the hugely diverse range of festivals from the St. Patrick’s Festival in March to the Dublin Theatre Festival in October, to Darklight digital arts festival, the Fringe Festival, Offset contemporary design festival and even Hard Working Class Heroes, where 100 new Irish bands play in 7 venues across the city. Outside the city there’s more community focused events like the Ranelagh Arts Festival, now entering its 7th year. As well as making our city an exciting place to live in, these events also attract increasing numbers of international visitors. This boosts tourism in the short-term, but it is also a showcase of Irish creative talent, which builds our brand as an attractive country to invest in for the long-term.
Initiatives following election:
1. Establish Creative Investment Fund to support new products and services from creative entrepreneurs, by donating ¼ of my annual TD salary.
At a local level this fund will support Creative Partnerships in research and development between arts, culture, education and enterprise organizations that focus on innovation and creativity.
I will establish the Creative Investment Fund by donating one quarter of my yearly TD salary. This will provide a competitive ‘creative challenge’ to support new products and services from creative entrepreneurs. The fund will be tailored to the specific needs of the creative and cultural sector and adopt a sustainable seeding and venture capital model.
More funding can be sought by forging connections with the Corporate Social Responsibility funds of the many large corporations based in the constituency. There are also many large international corporations who are currently taking advantage of our extremely competitive corporate tax rates along with the skills of our highly educated constituents as their staff. I envisage that this Creative Investment Fund would be an attractive prospect for them to direct increasing CSR funds.
2. Address outdated zoning so that we can open up vacant spaces for new cultural, business and non-profit projects.
So many of Dublin’s commercial, industrial and office spaces are standing empty. Despite this, businesses are closing every day because of high rents. Dublin’s commercial heart should have a social dividend. Landlords and owners of buildings should help small start-up companies, micro-enterprises and co-working initiatives. This could be encouraged by offering a rates-free period to landlords who give use of their property to non-profit and cultural initiatives. It also means the buildings are kept in good repair, and most importantly our city is reinvigorated.
For this to happen there needs to be flexibility in the prescribed use of property in the Local Area Development plan and planning regulations. By inserting a clause that allows cultural and non-profit projects to use buildings with retail or industrial planning permission and properties in commercial and industrial zones, we empower citizens to define the city according to our needs.
3. Use what we have: audit and mapping of State buildings and resources for use by projects that benefit the community.
A smart and simple way to get the best out of our city is establishing a structure where groups can apply to use nominated units of dead space in the city for creative and socially positive initiatives; be they a community crèche, an artist’s studio, a temporary gallery space, a workshop, or a youth cafe. I propose establishing a database of vacant State owned property, which will be a valuable resource in this process. Often the availability of a space is enough to inspire a good idea. The first step to using what we have, is knowing what we have.
After mapping the potential of an area, the data can be used to inspire ideas, and broker new collaborations between the private, public and community sectors. These new collaborations can implement plans for turning ideas into resilient employment and improving our quality of life. It enables local people to engage in a process of developing an area’s potential while building on and bringing together the work of existing sectors, supporting active citizenship, and realising new economic opportunities.
4. Improve efficiency in local authorities through resource pooling and the reduction of bureaucracy.
Local Authorities should be given a much clearer role in local enterprise development. One immediate task should be to remove the bureaucratic barriers that hinder enterprise, creativity and new start-ups – it’s not just about grants. A simple way to do this is by establishing inter-department working groups to liaise with those most affected by the bureaucracy. By having this discussion problem areas can easily be identified and resolved.
Ireland is known for its culture and artistic output. We need to make sure that in times of economic strain, creative thinking is encouraged through both local government schemes and at a national level.
Section Four: Restructuring for a Reliable Economy
It was only when the crash happened that we realised how much we citizens had been excluded from economic decision-making in Ireland. Ireland faces many very severe economic problems, but central to them is the legacy of fraud and secrecy. Nobody has yet been jailed for the fraudulent ways in which our money was wasted, or the way they turned our banks into casinos, and lost. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work, and those in work have seen their finances decimated as our money has been diverted from building the future to repairing the past.
Many people in Dublin South East find themselves in negative equity and they fear interest rate increases. Many more fear for their jobs and react with horror at an ever larger chunk of their pay being taken away from them, to replace the money lost by the fraudsters in our financial institutions.
Economics is a complicated subject, wrapped in mysterious language, but it can be stripped of its mystery if those who engage in economic activity were to embrace a spirit of openness. Ireland’s bailout from the IMF and the EU was negotiated in secret, and we do not yet know the real cost of that agreement. We are being excluded from this process.
We need calm heads to prevail through this economic storm, and we all know that informed decision-making is better decision-making. We must regulate better, and we must regulate in the open. In my manifesto, I propose reform of the Freedom of Information Act to let daylight into our policy-making and law-making process. I want the same scrutiny of our economic policy-making process.
I want our bankers, and economists, and the officials from Ireland and overseas to engage honestly and in the open about Ireland’s economic health.
Many people in Dublin South East work for multi-national companies which have decided to locate here. Dublin is a major hub for international investment, and if we are to recover economically, we need more investment. Those investors are looking for a period of stability and confidence in Ireland’s economic future – the same thing the people of Ireland are looking for. We cannot hide our debts or engage in creative accountancy to make our economy look healthier. It’s too late for crafty deals or sleight-of-hand. Ireland is in financial trouble, and like anyone with debts, we should own up to them, seek help where it’s needed, and open our accounts to the scrutiny of all.
If necessary, Ireland’s banks must be split, so that they can take the risks necessary to earn a return on their investments, but without placing the wealth of Ireland’s citizens on the gambling table.
Initiatives following election:
1. Transparency in our financial system.
We must regulate our financial system better, and it must be regulated in the open. Those who work in the financial markets should be encouraged to work in the interests of the nation whatever that timeframe might be, not in response to day-to-day political interests. Elsewhere in this policy document, I propose reform of the Freedom of Information Act to bring the citizen into the heart of our policy-making and law-making process. I want the same scrutiny of our economic policy-making process. Those who operate our financial system do so with our trust. Just as we trust the doctor with our health and the teacher with our education, we must trust those who work in the financial system, and we must hold them to the same levels of professional scrutiny. When they deal with public money, the financiers and bankers must operate in the open. The finances of our nation and our assets must be subject to a national audit. Never again must we divert money from our future to repay the debts of the past. There is no place for secrecy and corruption when our public money is at stake.
2. Reconnect the citizen and the bank.
Too many people are relying on the good will and stretched resources of charities and agencies through this recession, while the banks turn away from their customers, and replace branches with websites, and bank managers with helpdesks.
I want worried citizens to be able to deal with a bank manager, not be subject to the actions of an unseen committee in head office. People should not be afraid of their debts, or hide them from an unresponsive bank. I want the banks to remember they are accountable to their customers, just as their customers owe their debts to the bank, even if that understanding hurts their profit margins. I want citizens to be able to talk – in private, in safety and with level heads prevailing – when they come to their bank with their problems. I want to see our banks re-integrate themselves into their communities and bring decision-making back down to the level of the branch.
3. Revisit our international obligations.
We all have the right to talk to our creditors and see if we can manage our finances better. As a nation, Ireland is beholden to international financial markets, and that is not going to change in the foreseeable future. But, no family, company or country can repay debts it cannot afford, and from time to time, we need to admit this. Nobody gains if Ireland falls. I will support a new government in an honest appraisal of our obligations to the IMF and the European banks.
Why my campaign is different:
1. Transparency: Weekly income and expenditure accounts published on this website.
2. Ideas: No empty promises. Instead I am presenting ideas and commitment to work.
3. Action: My first action will be to establish a monthly constituency forum where you will have a say on issues of national and local importance.
4. Commitment: Once elected, I will donate one quarter of my annual salary to establishing a local Creative Investment Fund.
5. Honesty: I won’t fix your drains, but I’ll tell you what services you’re already entitled to and who is responsible for them.
IT STARTS HERE