Make the institutional child abuse records public

Commission into Institutional Child Abuse report
The records of the Commission into institutional child abuse should be published

A dangerous and unnecessary precedent

This is how Caitriona Crowe, former head of special projects at the National Archives of Ireland greeted a new government bill, the Retention of Records Bill 2019, which will bury the records relating to the recent commission into child abuse and neglect at various religious run institutions for seventy-five years.
There are millions of records and the National Archives have advised the department that there is no need for special legislation to allow them to be archived under the 1986 National Archives Act. The department has gone ahead anyway.
And the question has to be why?
The big difference between bringing the documents into the state archives under the 1986 legislation and that of the proposed bill is in the number of years that the public must wait to view them. Without the new bill, these records can be viewed after thirty years.
We believe even thirty years is too long to wait for scrutiny of the evidence gathered by the Commission, the Redress Board and the Review Committee.
The state’s defence, as articulated by Aongus Ó hAonghusa, a senior civil servant, is that sealing the records for seventy-five years would avoid the risk of legal challenge. In response, Councillor John Lyons said:

Instead of running scared of legal action by the church, we should tell them, “bring it on”. Instead of hiding details in the shadows for seventy-five or even thirty years, we should allow the public access to these documents.
Any legal case arising from this material will only serve to highlight just how awful was the practice of these institutions.

Councillor John Lyons condemns Gillick brothers plan for Chivers site

Chivers Factor plan with person saying 'where did the sky go'
The Gillick brothers’ plan for the Chivers site is a scandal

The Gillick Brothers planning application to develop the Chivers Jam Factory site on Coolock Drive was presented to Dublin councillors at a North Central Area Committee on the 20 May 2019.

The presentation was called:

Demolition of existing buildings, construction of 495 no. Build to Rent apartments, creche, cafe, gym and associated site works. Former Chivers Factory Site, Coolock Drive, Coolock, Dublin 17.

Map of proposed Gillick brothers' development
Map of proposed development site

Immediately, Councillor John Lyons called it outrageous.

‘Myself and all other North Central area councillors rezoned the land to allow for residential development but we were promised affordable housing and sensible density: three-hundred-and-fifty affordable units at reasonable heights.

‘We rezoned it because we have a housing crisis; we rezoned it knowing that the value of the land would go through roof but we rezoned it because we need residential development. And with the state refusing to seriously intervene and directly build the housing we need, we were presented with a proposal by private developers to provide much-needed housing.

‘Now we find the developers want to lash in 495 Build-To-Rent dwellings and go as high as 19.75 metres, 27.8 metres and 30 metres above ground. Our development plan currently states that the maximum height should be no more than 16 metres.

‘The developers have completely taken the piss here, quite unsurprising but nonetheless shocking to see it actually happen.

The planning application will bypass the planning authority and go straight to An Bord Pleanala. And remember that recent appointments of the Minister for Housing’s former principal planner and assistant secretary general as the new Planning Regulator and chairman of An Bord Pleanála respectively.

‘Local representatives and local communities are being actively marginalised, and the planning process is being politicised and shaped by Fine Gael in the interests of private capital.

‘We will have to fight this insulting development and demand a more sensible and sensitive development.’

Raise the Roof Demonstration 18 May 2019

On Saturday 18 May a major ‘Raise the Roof’ demonstration took place in Dublin. There were some 15,000 – 20,000 participants on the protest, which was joined by participants wanting to challenge the government’s approach to housing and homelessness.

The housing situation in Ireland is a scandal and the strongest evidence that the Fine Gael – Finian McGrath government cares only for landlords and property owners.

When gathered outside the GPO, several speakers addressed the marchers, including Fr Peter McVerry, experienced campaigner on the issue.

Fr Peter McVerry told the crowds the situation was catastrophic, with record levels of rents and rising prices. It was so obvious that the governments housing strategy was not working that even a twelve-year-old could see it. And yet, each time the figures came out and showed a worsening situation, Ministers came out to defend the strategy.

Half a million people have a stressful housing situation (whether overcrowding, poor quality, being forced to stay at home or financial).

McVerry even cited Karl Marx in pointing to the fact that there were people paying over sixty per cent of their wages to a landlord.

Councillor John Lyons said:

This FineGael government wants us all to realise that it will never lead a massive state-led construction programme of public housing.
In order to get the public and affordable housing we so badly need, we’re gonna have to rid ourselves of this Fine Gael – Finian McGrath government.

Niamh McDonald, candidate for Donaghmede added:

We have a vision of Dublin as a “Liveable City”, a city that builds public and affordable housing (and has affordable public transport, becomes a green city, that plays a big role in reversing the affects of climate change, has public well maintained accessible spaces and green areas).

Local Government in Ireland – Fórsa calls for reform

Fórsa, the new trade union formed out of a merger between Impact, the CPSU and the PSEU has heard at its 2019 conference in Kilkenny that Ireland has one of the weakest local government roles in Europe. Research commissioned by the union shows that local government spending here is just 8% of all public spending, compared to the EU average for local government of 23%.

Seán Reid, chair of Fórsa’s Local Government and Local Services division argued that local government reform was a huge issue that had been neglected by TDs who liked to pose as a local ‘fixer’, to assist in their re-election.

Instead of strong, well funded local government with meaningful powers, county managers make what little democracy there is at local level extremely feeble and this has consequences for voter turnout and interest in local elections.

Councillor John Lyons has had five years of experience in battling for increased democracy in Dublin and he is standing in the Artane/Whitehall constituency for the May local elections. Backing Fórsa’s views, he commented:

All Local Election candidates in #LE19 must have the aim and aspiration to radically improve local government in Ireland, currently the weakest of all local governance systems anywhere. If they don’t, then they are merely slotting into the well-worn groves of an utterly dysfunctional system.

Dubliners deserve better.

A liveable city means one with equal access to all

A recent infographic from the Disability Federation shows how the large numbers of people with a disability in Dublin are being failed. In employment, housing and especially in education, the figures tell a clear and grim story, that urgent change is needed.

People in Dublin with a disability are being left behind in education, employment and housing.

Niamh McDonald, Independent Left candidate for Donaghmede LEA said:

Fifteen percent of Dublin’s population have a disability, that is over 81,000 people. Some of those disabilities can be seen others cannot. So far the city of Dublin is catered for those fully able, it needs to change. We need to create a city removes the obstacles that prevents people’s accessibility. We need to see the obstacles being the problem not the people, this should be in full consultation with those to affected by those obstacles #liveablecity

Over 3,800 children homeless is a scandal.

At the end of April the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government released its most recent homeless figures. During March 2019 there were over 3,800 children who were homeless and 2,445 adults. This represents a rise on the same period in 2018 and shows that Fine Gael’s promises (and those of their ‘independent’ allies) to make housing the test of the success of the government to have been merely shadow play.

Niamh McDonald, Independent Left candidate for Donaghmede LEA said:

The majority of those children are from one parent families, those parents are mainly women. These figures are not the entire picture, there are women and children in refuges, the hidden homeless, Direct Provision and many on the streets are not counted.
This is a generation suffering and becoming institutionalised due to no fault of their own.
This can be solved but we need to vote out those who refuse to fix the problem FG, FF & Labour.
Some seem to think if your local FF or FG Cllr gets the road fixed or gets your windows done you should vote them back in, this will not create change, everything will just stay the same.
Its up to the people to change it because the establishment currently elected won’t change as it benefits them to much.