Monday, November 30, 2009

Article on Murphy's Commission for Metro Eireann

Article on Murphy's Commission for Metro Eireann - December 2009

I write a weekly article for the Newspaper Metro Eireann. I am posting this one because of the depth of feeling in relation to the Murphy Commission Report.

I was born and raised as an Irish Catholic. Some of my earliest memories are of priests visiting our house and spending time with our family. I spent many childhood years, seven in all, as an altar boy in Malahide and dealt with many priests and indeed sisters of the Carmelite Order. Growing up in that tradition, which was replicated all around me in almost every household that I knew, there was deference to men of the cloth as conduits of Christ’s word on Earth. They were reverently referred to as ‘Father’ or as ‘Brother’ and we were always on our best behaviour when they were around us.

We used to deliver parish envelopes to selected doors in our housing estates. My family members were ministers of the Eucharist and collected the baskets at mass every Sunday. We as a family knelt together daily every month of May and prayed the May Devotions and also stood, again as a family, together to say the Angelus. We were so proud of my aunt Maura who entered religious life and who has spent a life administering to some of the poorest of the world’s poor. I remember writing in my confirmation scrapbook as a twelve year old in sixth class that I was still considering whether to enter the priesthood or not. The Catholic Church, in essence, was important in the childhood of my generation.

Unknown to me at that time was that the Catholic Church was entering every major political debate at the time as Irish society was attempting to stir into a new direction. The Catholic Church, and I am resisting the temptation to call them simply ‘the Church’, was backed by the faithful masses as they outlined sternly the moral evils of divorce, abortion, contraception and homosexuality. It was clear that the Catholic hierarchy had a suspicious view of the intentions of the political classes and considered themselves to have the greater mandate of the gospels and of the most high.

This was in keeping with previous interjections of the Catholic Church into the mainstream of political debate where they were used to having more than a sympathetic ear. The former Fine Gael Taoiseach John A Costello once stated at the height of the Church-State row known as the ‘Mother and Child Scheme’ that he was ‘I am an Irish man second: I am a Catholic first and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the Hierarchy and the Church to which I belong.’ During the actual Dáil debate he said, ‘I, as a Catholic, obey my Church authorities and will continue to do so.’ This was not an exclusively Fine Gael disposition, in fact it is a central part of all election-cycles to be seen to be good to your local church, to be a good mass-attendee and above all else to be seen to be shaking hands at the church gate.

I am now a primary school principal of a Catholic school where we teach the sacraments of Communion, Confession and Confirmation as part of the school curriculum and religion classes are also taught daily. The local parish priest is the automatic choice as the chairperson of the Board of Management and indeed my appointment as principal was sanctioned by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. The church still has a daily influence in the lives of the young, an influence which until very recently the Catholic Church resisted in releasing absolute control over. The Equality Act which prohibits any form of discrimination in the workplace, does not apply to Church-run institutions, therefore a homosexual teacher or an unmarried mother who is also a teacher, can technically be dismissed on the grounds of living a lifestyle contrary to the ethos of the Roman Catholic Church.

I am also next month due to be married in a Catholic Church and all my friends and family will gather together to watch me and my intended exchange vows under the watchful eye of a priest who will formally accept our vows and sanction our marriage.

I say all these things to give a mere indication of how much the Catholic Church has influenced and continues to influence the lives of many Irish people, whatever their personal spiritual beliefs. It is clear how it has played a large part in my own life, from my childhood, to my professional career and to my personal life. Yet it is a church that I am ashamed to be a member of, and embarrassed to have been born into. The Ryan report and now the Murphy Commission have eliminated any mandate or authority that the Catholic Church claimed to have had in promoting any good in Irish society.

The findings of the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese have been well documented by this stage: the deliberate protection of Paedophile priests; the blatant disregard for the rights of children or their childhoods; the interference with Garda investigations; the repositioning of priests from one parish to another as an answer to complaints rather than expelling them from the priesthood altogether; maximising the emotional authority they held over agents of the state so that they could protect themselves, and most importantly in their eyes, their assets.

If any other organisation was involved in such deception, such lies, such abuse and such deliberate protection of paedophiles, they would have no future. If the institution was a sporting one for example that was guilty of these practices, they would lose all support from the public, all sponsorship and would most likely demand wholesale resignations in a vain effort to regain respectability. The Catholic Church still paradoxically, disgracefully and arrogantly feels differently. Yes they will apologise, but when asked to cooperate with both the Ryan and Murphy inquests, they acted with less than good grace, and certainly not like an institution that feels it needs to change.

But Ireland has changed. My attitude to the Catholic Church has hardened to such a degree that I’m unsure whether I can ever enter a Church building again with the same reverence that I had as a child, or with the same dignity that my parents continue to have. I have deep sympathy for those, like my parents generation, whose faith is undimmed but who have been absolutely betrayed. Maybe I should learn from them, and try to build a new Republic where we never hand authority over to unelected agencies ever again. But then I wake up and return to work, and I know in my gut that nothing has changed. Maybe not yet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Template for Legion Hall Objection

Feel free to use this template if objecting to planning application for Legion Hall site in Killester.

Executive Manager
Planning Department
Dublin City Council
Civic Offices, Wood Quay,
Dublin 8

16 November 2009

Dear Sir or Madam

Please find below my observations in respect of:

Planning Application No 4182/09

1. The proposed development is not in keeping with the current zoning. The amenity value of this site has been its green open space that has been available for use since the Legion Hall was built over eighty years ago. Up to a few years ago the hall was available for use by a wide variety of community and sporting groups.
2. The site is located in the centre of a residential conservation area, Z2. The size and scale of the proposed development would not be in keeping with the existing character of the area. The site is right in the centre of the Z2 area was an integral part of the original design layout for the garden village. To build on this site, and reducing the scale of the open space would forever remove the context of the ‘village green’ aspect of this site, which fits into the overall garden village residential design.
3. Right of Way - there has existed a right of way over this site since the Legion Hall was built. The proposed development will remove this established right of way.
4. The development is not a community facility - the plan is to build a large commercial crèche; Killester is over supplied with good quality commercial childcare facilities.
5. Water pressure – water pressure in the area is inadequate, and Dublin City Council inspections have proved that it is half the legal norm, adding a commercial crèche will cause the water pressure to drop even further.
6. Traffic - this development will greatly increase the volume of traffic to the area. A recent Dublin City Council survey revealed that the road through the area had become a rat-run during peak hours.
7. Protected Structure Status – report still pending to Dublin North Central Area Committee of Dublin City Council regarding the proposed Protected Status of the Legion Hall and therefore no planning permission should be granted in respect of the hall while decision is pending.

Please also find enclosed payment of €20.00 in respect of this planning observation.


­­­Insert name and address here

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cllr Ó Ríordáin Welcomes Rejection of Croke Park Parking Plan

Cllr Ó Ríordáin Welcomes Rejection of Croke Park Parking Plan - November 2nd City Council Meeting

I welcome the rejection of the City Manager's proposed event-day parking plan for the Croke Park area at tonight's City Council Meeting. The proposed bye-laws included a 'residents only' parking-cordon which would extend as far north as Grace Park Road, Collins Avenue and the Howth Road.

I was glad to see the plan voted down as I have many reservations about the report as proposed.
-The cordon would be completely unenforceable and unpoliceable
-The cost of the introduction would be €284,000 and €84,000 every year from now on
-The cordon would merely move the problem from one community to another
The experience from the Croke Park Community Liason Committee, which I was a founder member, is that the parking problem is a behavioural issue with one code which isn't as prevalent in other codes. In my view, better provision of public transport is the key:

-Use of QBCs and better Bus services on Match day Sundays
-Scheme to allow ticket holders free travel on match days in the city centre
-Introduction of a 'All-Star Walk' to encourage pedestrian passage to the stadium
-Extensive use of park-and-ride facilities in educational facilities and sports clubs

It is time now to accept the City Manager's proposal for a newly formed committee to be established with the City Manager, Senior Garda Management, the GAA President and Elected members. That proposal made at tonight's City Council Meeting by the Manager, coupled with suggestions made above, are the way forward in relation to match day parking problems.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Dublin Port Economic Study Doesn’t Justify Dublin Bay Reclamation - 28 October

Dublin Port Economic Study Doesn’t Justify Dublin Bay Reclamation - 28 October

Speaking at a public information meeting hosted by the Labour Party – “Dublin Bay: What Next” in the Clontarf Castle Hotel on Wednesday 28 October, Labour Party representatives, Cllr. Aodháin Ó Ríordáin and Bronwen Maher said the Labour Party is steadfastly opposed to the unnecessary reclamation of 21 hectares at the top of the Tolka Estuary, and that the recent Government’s Dublin Port Economic Study does not justify Dublin Bay reclamation. Also speaking at the meeting was Cllr. Dermot Lacey, newly elected chair of the Dublin Bay Task Force.

Cllr. Ó Ríordáin stated: “The Government commissioned two major bodies of work on Dublin Bay and Dublin Port. One, commissioned by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he set up the Dublin Bay Task Force to draw up a Master plan for Dublin Bay, and this work has yet to be completed.

The second report, The Dublin Port National Development Plan Study by Indecon Consultants, has been completed and was published by Transport Minister Dempsey last August. This report makes a number of recommendations on the future of Dublin Port based on economic assessments. The three main scenarios outlined in the report include 1) options to relocate all or part of Dublin Port’s activities, 2) continue with the existing activities at Dublin Port with opportunities for expansion in line with demand; and 3) continuation of port activities at current levels with no scope for expansion.

The report concludes “the closure of Dublin Port is not justified on economic grounds as the benefits of alternative land use is less than envisaged and…would not justify the costs involved. However the Labour Party believe that the Transport Minister’s report also clearly does not justify proposals to reclaim 21 hectares of Dublin Bay.”

Bronwen Maher said: “The Labour Party’s preferred option for the future of Dublin Port is the retention of a vibrant, dynamic city port, removing large heavy port activity to an alternative site and without the unnecessary infilling or expanding into Dublin Bay”.

“However looking at the economic argument is only part of the challenge. What is strange about Minister Noel Dempsey’s port study is that it fails to address Climate Change issues or makes no mention of the fact that the port is located in an important EU recognised wild bird habitat, and any breach of this legislation will result in heavy fines for the State.

The Labour Party also believe that to proceed with any major development in Dublin Bay prior to the completion of the Dublin Bay Task Force’s work would be premature, and not in the interest of proper planning and development.
“The Dublin Bay Task Force should be allowed to complete its work drawing up the Master Plan for Dublin Bay, and the Labour Party calls on the Government and the Minister for the Environment John Gormley TD to intervene and ask Dublin Port to withdraw their application in the interests of proper planning and the sustainable development of the Bay”.

Earlier this year Labour Party Spokesperson on Transport, Tommy Broughan TD, made a strong submission to An Bord Pleanála opposing the 21 hectares reclamation plan on environmental, amenity and quality of life grounds and the inherent planning deficiencies of the proposal. The Labour Party submission called for the most efficient use of the existing 532 acres (215.431 hectares) of Dublin Port lands to provide for capacity out to 2030 and beyond and the abandonment of the reclamation plan.