Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Postering Madness

Isn't it time we started to control this postering madness?

Do you agree with the following statement and motion that was defeated at Dublin City Council last year.

What do you think?


Lax regulations relating to candidate postering at local election time have led to practices which are procedurally unsound and environmentally questionable.

I believe that we need to tighten up procedures in this regard, and I have put down a motion to the council (see below) that I believe will address this.

The motion is aimed at controlling the level of postering undertaken by political candidates at local elections in the Dublin City Council area, and at tackling these questionable practices:

* Currently, a candidate can have posters erected before their nomination papers have been accepted by the council.
* There is no restriction on the number of posters that any candidate can erect
* The cable ties used by candidates are regularly left behind on poles and lampposts

The motion ,as outlined below, will restrict the number and size of posters that can be erected and will also proactively deal with the problem of cable-ties that adorn the city's lamp-posts.

I urge all members of council to support the motion, which will level the playing pitch for all candidates at election time.


That in relation to the postering at Local Election time the following

will be the new procedure in the Dublin City Council ‘Local Elections’:

No candidate will be permitted to erect posters without obtaining a postering

licence from the council.

Such a licence will be obtained from the City Council only upon production of

nomination papers.

A limit of posters per candidate will apply in direct proportion to the size of the

electoral area. 50 posters per seat is proposed.

Only posters stamped by the Council can be erected.

Only cable ties stamped and coded by the council may be used.

A maximum postering size of A1 will apply to all posters”.

Following discussion on this motion, it was put to a vote and declared lost

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why are Finlands's Schools Successful?

Article from Smithsonianmag.com an interesting perspective on the Finnish Education System and their effective delivery of resources:

Link here:

Why Are Finland's Schools Successful?
The country's achievements in education have other nations doing their homework

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html#ixzz1Z3TxOzQq
It was the end of term at Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, a sprawling suburb west of Helsinki, when Kari Louhivuori, a veteran teacher and the school’s principal, decided to try something extreme—by Finnish standards. One of his sixth-grade students, a Kosovo-Albanian boy, had drifted far off the learning grid, resisting his teacher’s best efforts. The school’s team of special educators—including a social worker, a nurse and a psychologist—convinced Louhivuori that laziness was not to blame. So he decided to hold the boy back a year, a measure so rare in Finland it’s practically obsolete.
Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. This 13-year-old, Besart Kabashi, received something akin to royal tutoring.
“I took Besart on that year as my private student,” Louhivuori told me in his office, which boasted a Beatles “Yellow Submarine” poster on the wall and an electric guitar in the closet. When Besart was not studying science, geography and math, he was parked next to Louhivuori’s desk at the front of his class of 9- and 10-year- olds, cracking open books from a tall stack, slowly reading one, then another, then devouring them by the dozens. By the end of the year, the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realization that he could, in fact, learn.
Years later, a 20-year-old Besart showed up at Kirkkojarvi’s Christmas party with a bottle of Cognac and a big grin. “You helped me,” he told his former teacher. Besart had opened his own car repair firm and a cleaning company. “No big fuss,” Louhivuori told me. “This is what we do every day, prepare kids for life.”
This tale of a single rescued child hints at some of the reasons for the tiny Nordic nation’s staggering record of education success, a phenomenon that has inspired, baffled and even irked many of America’s parents and educators. Finnish schooling became an unlikely hot topic after the 2010 documentary film Waiting for “Superman” contrasted it with America’s troubled public schools.
“Whatever it takes” is an attitude that drives not just Kirkkojarvi’s 30 teachers, but most of Finland’s 62,000 educators in 3,500 schools from Lapland to Turku—professionals selected from the top 10 percent of the nation’s graduates to earn a required master’s degree in education. Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student. If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. The school where Louhivuori teaches served 240 first through ninth graders last year; and in contrast with Finland’s reputation for ethnic homogeneity, more than half of its 150 elementary-level students are immigrants—from Somalia, Iraq, Russia, Bangladesh, Estonia and Ethiopia, among other nations. “Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers,” Louhivuori said, smiling. “We try to catch the weak students. It’s deep in our thinking.”
The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. Educators had little idea it was so successful until 2000, when the first results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in more than 40 global venues, revealed Finnish youth to be the best young readers in the world. Three years later, they led in math. By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores released last year, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in math among nearly half a million students worldwide. “I’m still surprised,” said Arjariita Heikkinen, principal of a Helsinki comprehensive school. “I didn’t realize we were that good.”
In the United States, which has muddled along in the middle for the past decade, government officials have attempted to introduce marketplace competition into public schools. In recent years, a group of Wall Street financiers and philanthropists such as Bill Gates have put money behind private-sector ideas, such as vouchers, data-driven curriculum and charter schools, which have doubled in number in the past decade. President Obama, too, has apparently bet on competition. His Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”
There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.
Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.
Still, there is a distinct absence of chest-thumping among the famously reticent Finns. They are eager to celebrate their recent world hockey championship, but PISA scores, not so much. “We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “We are not much interested in PISA. It’s not what we are about.”
Maija Rintola stood before her chattering class of twenty-three 7- and 8-year-olds one late April day in Kirkkojarven Koulu. A tangle of multicolored threads topped her copper hair like a painted wig. The 20-year teacher was trying out her look for Vappu, the day teachers and children come to school in riotous costumes to celebrate May Day. The morning sun poured through the slate and lemon linen shades onto containers of Easter grass growing on the wooden sills. Rintola smiled and held up her open hand at a slant—her time-tested “silent giraffe,” which signaled the kids to be quiet. Little hats, coats, shoes stowed in their cubbies, the children wiggled next to their desks in their stocking feet, waiting for a turn to tell their tale from the playground. They had just returned from their regular 15 minutes of playtime outdoors between lessons. “Play is important at this age,” Rintola would later say. “We value play.”
With their wiggles unwound, the students took from their desks little bags of buttons, beans and laminated cards numbered 1 through 20. A teacher’s aide passed around yellow strips representing units of ten. At a smart board at the front of the room, Rintola ushered the class through the principles of base ten. One girl wore cat ears on her head, for no apparent reason. Another kept a stuffed mouse on her desk to remind her of home. Rintola roamed the room helping each child grasp the concepts. Those who finished early played an advanced “nut puzzle” game. After 40 minutes it was time for a hot lunch in the cathedral-like cafeteria.
Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”
It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Student health care is free.
Even so, Rintola said her children arrived last August miles apart in reading and language levels. By April, nearly every child in the class was reading, and most were writing. Boys had been coaxed into literature with books like Kapteeni Kalsarin (“Captain Underpants”). The school’s special education teacher teamed up with Rintola to teach five children with a variety of behavioral and learning problems. The national goal for the past five years has been to mainstream all children. The only time Rintola’s children are pulled out is for Finnish as a Second Language classes, taught by a teacher with 30 years’ experience and graduate school training.
There are exceptions, though, however rare. One first-grade girl was not in Rintola’s class. The wispy 7-year-old had recently arrived from Thailand speaking not a word of Finnish. She was studying math down the hall in a special “preparing class” taught by an expert in multicultural learning. It is designed to help children keep up with their subjects while they conquer the language. Kirkkojarvi’s teachers have learned to deal with their unusually large number of immigrant students. The city of Espoo helps them out with an extra 82,000 euros a year in “positive discrimination” funds to pay for things like special resource teachers, counselors and six special needs classes.
Rintola will teach the same children next year and possibly the next five years, depending on the needs of the school. “It’s a good system. I can make strong connections with the children,” said Rintola, who was handpicked by Louhivuori 20 years ago. “I understand who they are.” Besides Finnish, math and science, the first graders take music, art, sports, religion and textile handcrafts. English begins in third grade, Swedish in fourth. By fifth grade the children have added biology, geography, history, physics and chemistry.
Not until sixth grade will kids have the option to sit for a district-wide exam, and then only if the classroom teacher agrees to participate. Most do, out of curiosity. Results are not publicized. Finnish educators have a hard time understanding the United States’ fascination with standardized tests. “Americans like all these bars and graphs and colored charts,” Louhivuori teased, as he rummaged through his closet looking for past years’ results. “Looks like we did better than average two years ago,” he said after he found the reports. “It’s nonsense. We know much more about the children than these tests can tell us.”
I had come to Kirkkojarvi to see how the Finnish approach works with students who are not stereotypically blond, blue-eyed and Lutheran. But I wondered if Kirkkojarvi’s success against the odds might be a fluke. Some of the more vocal conservative reformers in America have grown weary of the “We-Love-Finland crowd” or so-called Finnish Envy. They argue that the United States has little to learn from a country of only 5.4 million people—4 percent of them foreign born. Yet the Finns seem to be onto something. Neighboring Norway, a country of similar size, embraces education policies similar to those in the United States. It employs standardized exams and teachers without master’s degrees. And like America, Norway’s PISA scores have been stalled in the middle ranges for the better part of a decade.
To get a second sampling, I headed east from Espoo to Helsinki and a rough neighborhood called Siilitie, Finnish for “Hedgehog Road” and known for having the oldest low-income housing project in Finland. The 50-year-old boxy school building sat in a wooded area, around the corner from a subway stop flanked by gas stations and convenience stores. Half of its 200 first- through ninth-grade students have learning disabilities. All but the most severely impaired are mixed with the general education children, in keeping with Finnish policies.
A class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated “outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks. Aleksi Gustafsson, whose master’s degree is from Helsinki University, developed the exercise after attending one of the many workshops available free to teachers. “I did research on how useful this is for kids,” he said. “It’s fun for the children to work outside. They really learn with it.”
Gustafsson’s sister, Nana Germeroth, teaches a class of mostly learning-impaired children; Gustafsson’s students have no learning or behavioral issues. The two combined most of their classes this year to mix their ideas and abilities along with the children’s varying levels. “We know each other really well,” said Germeroth, who is ten years older. “I know what Aleksi is thinking.”
The school receives 47,000 euros a year in positive discrimination money to hire aides and special education teachers, who are paid slightly higher salaries than classroom teachers because of their required sixth year of university training and the demands of their jobs. There is one teacher (or assistant) in Siilitie for every seven students.
In another classroom, two special education teachers had come up with a different kind of team teaching. Last year, Kaisa Summa, a teacher with five years’ experience, was having trouble keeping a gaggle of first-grade boys under control. She had looked longingly into Paivi Kangasvieri’s quiet second-grade room next door, wondering what secrets the 25-year-veteran colleague could share. Each had students of wide-ranging abilities and special needs. Summa asked Kangasvieri if they might combine gymnastics classes in hopes good behavior might be contagious. It worked. This year, the two decided to merge for 16 hours a week. “We complement each other,” said Kangasvieri, who describes herself as a calm and firm “father” to Summa’s warm mothering. “It is cooperative teaching at its best,” she says.
Every so often, principal Arjariita Heikkinen told me, the Helsinki district tries to close the school because the surrounding area has fewer and fewer children, only to have people in the community rise up to save it. After all, nearly 100 percent of the school’s ninth graders go on to high schools. Even many of the most severely disabled will find a place in Finland’s expanded system of vocational high schools, which are attended by 43 percent of Finnish high-school students, who prepare to work in restaurants, hospitals, construction sites and offices. “We help situate them in the right high school,” said then deputy principal Anne Roselius. “We are interested in what will become of them in life.”
Finland’s schools were not always a wonder. Until the late 1960s, Finns were still emerging from the cocoon of Soviet influence. Most children left public school after six years. (The rest went to private schools, academic grammar schools or folk schools, which tended to be less rigorous.) Only the privileged or lucky got a quality education.
The landscape changed when Finland began trying to remold its bloody, fractured past into a unified future. For hundreds of years, these fiercely independent people had been wedged between two rival powers—the Swedish monarchy to the west and the Russian czar to the east. Neither Scandinavian nor Baltic, Finns were proud of their Nordic roots and a unique language only they could love (or pronounce). In 1809, Finland was ceded to Russia by the Swedes, who had ruled its people some 600 years. The czar created the Grand Duchy of Finland, a quasi-state with constitutional ties to the empire. He moved the capital from Turku, near Stockholm, to Helsinki, closer to St. Petersburg. After the czar fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917, Finland declared its independence, pitching the country into civil war. Three more wars between 1939 and 1945—two with the Soviets, one with Germany—left the country scarred by bitter divisions and a punishing debt owed to the Russians. “Still we managed to keep our freedom,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a director general in the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In 1963, the Finnish Parlia-ment made the bold decision to choose public education as its best shot at economic recovery. “I call this the Big Dream of Finnish education,” said Sahlberg, whose upcoming book, Finnish Lessons, is scheduled for release in October. “It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school. If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody. It all came out of a need to survive.”
Practically speaking—and Finns are nothing if not practical—the decision meant that goal would not be allowed to dissipate into rhetoric. Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come. Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, or peruskoulu, for ages 7 through 16. Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions. Besides Finnish and Swedish (the country’s second official language), children would learn a third language (English is a favorite) usually beginning at age 9. Resources were distributed equally. As the comprehensive schools improved, so did the upper secondary schools (grades 10 through 12). The second critical decision came in 1979, when reformers required that every teacher earn a fifth-year master’s degree in theory and practice at one of eight state universities—at state expense. From then on, teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers. Applicants began flooding teaching programs, not because the salaries were so high but because autonomy and respect made the job attractive. In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils. The national curriculum was distilled into broad guidelines. National math goals for grades one through nine, for example, were reduced to a neat ten pages. Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind. The inspectorate closed its doors in the early ’90s, turning accountability and inspection over to teachers and principals. “We have our own motivation to succeed because we love the work,” said Louhivuori. “Our incentives come from inside.”
To be sure, it was only in the past decade that Finland’s international science scores rose. In fact, the country’s earliest efforts could be called somewhat Stalinistic. The first national curriculum, developed in the early ’70s, weighed in at 700 stultifying pages. Timo Heikkinen, who began teaching in Finland’s public schools in 1980 and is now principal of Kallahti Comprehensive School in eastern Helsinki, remembers when most of his high-school teachers sat at their desks dictating to the open notebooks of compliant children.
And there are still challenges. Finland’s crippling financial collapse in the early ’90s brought fresh economic challenges to this “confident and assertive Eurostate,” as David Kirby calls it in A Concise History of Finland. At the same time, immigrants poured into the country, clustering in low-income housing projects and placing added strain on schools. A recent report by the Academy of Finland warned that some schools in the country’s large cities were becoming more skewed by race and class as affluent, white Finns choose schools with fewer poor, immigrant populations.
A few years ago, Kallahti principal Timo Heikkinen began noticing that, increasingly, affluent Finnish parents, perhaps worried about the rising number of Somali children at Kallahti, began sending their children to one of two other schools nearby. In response, Heikkinen and his teachers designed new environmental science courses that take advantage of the school’s proximity to the forest. And a new biology lab with 3-D technology allows older students to observe blood flowing inside the human body.
It has yet to catch on, Heikkinen admits. Then he added: “But we are always looking for ways to improve.”
In other words, whatever it takes.
Lynnell Hancock writes about education and teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Photographer Stuart Conway lives in East Sussex, near the south coast of England.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Raising the issue of water quality on the floor of the House

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for affording me the opportunity to discuss the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on water leakage.

I do not intend to spend much time on this. In effect, the report suggested that in regard to water leakage, Ireland appears to have twice the OECD average of unaccounted-for water. It stated that overall the average percentage of unaccounted-for water was approximately 41.48% in 2009, a marginal increase on the 2008 figure of 41.2%.

I am a great believer in the levering of local charges and believe that local authorities should have the authority so to do. I am a tax and spend kind of guy. If one believes in public services, as I do, someone has to pay for them. I have no issue with the water charge per se. However, it would be very difficult for us as Deputies working in local areas or as national politicians to convince the public that a water levy or charge or water metering can be justified when the Comptroller and Auditor General's report indicates such a level of unaccounted-for water.

Various regions have issues with their water supply. We are well aware, as will be the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, about the issues in Galway city. Deputy Michael McNamara assures me that issues relating to the water supply in Ennis are as bad as they ever were. In my constituency there have been ongoing water pressure issues in the Killester-Donnycarney area.

It is imperative for us to convince those who will be charged this levy that finances accrued from it will be put back into the water system in order that they may have confidence in it. I do not find it reasonable that anyone should expect we can front-load that investment before such a levy is in place, but we must ensure the public sees the connection between the charge and the improvement in the service. If one lives in an area where, as has happened in recent years, there have been annual major water shortages because of the poor water infrastructure in the city, or if one lives in an area where cryptosporidium dances through one's tap on a regular basis, or there is discoloration or whatever, it is very difficult for a public representative to make that connection, especially when people see figures such as these. We must convince the public that we can ring-fence these moneys for the improvement of the water service.

Ó Ríordáin welcomes Minister's positive comments on MABS for SMEs

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central, has welcomed the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation’s positive comments regarding the possible establishment of a MABS for the SME sector.

In reply to a parliamentary question submitted by Deputy Ó Ríordáin, the Minister stated that there was “merit in the general idea of a MABS for small business.” In addition, the Minister said that such a proposal would have to be “considered more fully in order to determine what interventions are needed by business and who is best equipped to provide those interventions.”

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said: “I think the indications from the Minister are that this is a very worthwhile proposal. Obviously, it needs to be assessed in more depth and it is my wish that stakeholders do meet to discuss its viability.

“We are all aware of the difficulties many SMEs are currently experiencing and I believe a mentoring service to provide these businesses with financial and budgeting advice would be invaluable and do a lot to save much needed jobs. In addition, an independent service would present a viable alternative for business owners who have been forced to seek guidance from financial institutions.

“This initiative would build on the excellent work already being carried out by the County and City Enterprise Boards who provide much needed grants to the SME sector. However, we can build on this work by providing on going advice and assistance to the SME sector throughout the country.”

Congratulation to Mickey Whelan, Dublin Selector and proud St Vincent's Man

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meeting Mr Maguire!

Congratulations to the Dublin Senior Footballers - the All-Ireland Champions!
A great year for Dublin GAA was rounded off last Sunday with that great last minute win over Kerry.
Make sure to support your local club in whatever way you can, or indeed any sports club in your area.
Up the Dubs!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ó Ríordáin calls for immediate apology from Fr. Banville

“Fr. Paddy Banville’s article published today is an attempt to divert the blame of clerical sex abuse to innocent members of Irish society and clearly demonstrates how many in the Catholic Church are beyond redemption.

“Not only are his comments insulting to victims of abuse and the families of abuse survivors, but they are just as insulting to ordinary Catholics who are bewildered by the actions of their church.

“This is an issue which must be dealt with sensitively and not in with this ‘bull in a china shop’ mentality coming from a priest who should know better.

“Fr. Banville should apologise immediately for this article. The Irish Catholic newspaper is widely circulated in every church in the country and its management should be dealing with this matter with more sensitivity.

“It is the views expressed by Fr. Banville that are doing more damage to the Church than they could ever contemplate.”

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Work by every government agency must be literacy proofed

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has called for every government agency involved in education to ensure that they literacy proof every aspect of their work. The Dublin North Central TD and former Inner-City school principal stressed that it is imperative we put literacy at the heart of our education system and not just confine it to the classroom.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin states: “It is vital that we solidify literacy at the core of our education sector and our society in general. This involves all government and state agencies having a strong literacy strategy or policy statement that they can follow when dealing with students, parents, guardians and indeed the wider community.

“Working closely with Ruairi Quinn it is clear that he is a passionate advocate for the tackling of illiteracy and the empowerment potential of the basic ability to read. This must be a national cause, and not one purely restricted to the classroom.”

“We must realise that children don’t live in their schools and that those who were once failed by the education system need to be empowered in more imaginative ways. Therefore, it is crucial that we make sure all interactions between educators, students, parents or guardians is literacy proofed. I know from my own experience that many families from disadvantaged areas have real difficulties with literacy and thus we cannot allow the learning to stop when the school home-bell rings.

“For example, there are five basic policy documents that every school must have – an adult literacy strategy not being one of them. If we were to demand that all schools implement a literacy strategy for their parent body in a respectful and empowering manner then surely we would go a long way to tackling some of the difficulties with literacy that dog far too many of our fellow citizens .”

“For example, any state training agency must build a comprehensive literacy programme for their students and participants. Literacy is a basic foundation stone for full engagement in society and must be at the core of the equality agenda of any modern Republic. The same must be said for our VEC structure, who provide essential courses for students looking to up-skill.

“By integrating a literacy strategy into these institutions, building upon the newly launched national strategy ‘Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life’, we can really strengthen our literacy levels across the board.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ó Ríordáin urges Minister to consider establishment of MABS for small businesses

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has urged the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to consider establishing a Financial and Budgeting Advice Bureau for small businesses.

This new bureau would be similar to the Money and Advice Bureau Service (MABS). However, this new initiative would primarily focus on providing much needed expertise to the many small and medium size enterprises struggling in these difficult economic times.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: “I would urge the Minister to consider this worthwhile proposal which was discussed this morning at the Jobs, Social Protection and Education Committee. We are all aware of the difficulties many SMEs are currently experiencing and I believe a mentoring service to provide these businesses with financial and budgeting advice would be invaluable and do a lot to save much needed jobs. In addition, an independent service would present a viable alternative for business owners who have been forced to seek guidance from financial institutions.

“This initiative would build on the excellent work already being carried out by the County and City Enterprise Boards who provide much needed grants to the SME sector. However, we can build on this work by providing on going advice and assistance to the SME sector throughout the country.

“I would ask the Minister and his department to seriously consider this proposal.”

Ó Ríordáin congratulates students who received Junior Cert results

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has extended his congratulations to the 57,000 students across the country who will receive their Junior Certificate results today.

“I just want to congratulate students and particularly those in my own constituency of Dublin North Central who will receive their Junior Cert results today. In addition, I wish to congratulate every single parent, teacher and school principal who work so hard throughout the year supporting our students.

“I know the stress that many students experience over the course of their exams and I know that students will rightly celebrate their results this evening.

“However, I hope all students celebrate their results with family and friends responsibly and enjoy their night.”

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Latest Planning Application for Butterly Site, Killmore Road


Area 5 - North Central (Nov 09)

Application Number


Application Type



Lidl Ireland GmbH


Unit 19 & 31, Butterly Business Park, Kilmore Road, Artane, Dublin 5


Permission for development on a site of approximately 1.19 hectares. The proposed development comprises: the demolition of (part of, measuring 2,685sqm) an existing commercial building and associated accommodation and improvement works to the retained building; the construction of a new single storey monopitch detached licensed Discount Foodstore measuring 1,921sqm with a net sales area of 1,266sqm with associated signage. The proposed development also comprises a number of consequential alterations throughout the existing business park including relaying and remarking of (part of) the existing car parking area and circulation roads including the provision of pedestrian routes, provision of 12no. cycle parking spaces and 4no. motor cycle parking spaces. The proposed development also comprises a number of improvements to the overall appearance of the existing business park including the relocation underground of a number of overhead cables; the replacement of existing business park signage with a new 'totem' type sign; and other miscellaneous and ancillary alterations including but not limited to modifications to boundary treatments.

Registration Date


SPEECH BY MICHAEL D HIGGINS - Tuesday 6th September


Labour Party Nominated Presidential Candidate

Tuesday, 6th September 2011







I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity to address you here to-day on the theme of the Programme for Government’s commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention.

I am also greatly honoured to be here before you in my capacity as President of this great democratic Party, and as the Labour Party-nominated candidate for the Office of President of Ireland. I thank you for nominating me. I can tell you that the campaign, which has already brought me to 24 of the 26 counties, is drawing a very positive public response.

Significance of the Presidential Election:

I believe, very strongly that the forthcoming Presidential Election is a great opportunity for the onwards and upwards success of the Labour Party, and the continuing and future political success of every one of us in this room. If elected President of Ireland for the next 7 years, please be assured that I will seek to represent this country with Courage, Integrity and Vision and that the style of representation, will draw on a political consciousness that is influenced by so much of what we have inherited together and what we have shared in achievements and challenges in the long history of our party, while also, of course, remembering that as President, “I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland”, or as it is put in Irish, “mo lándícheall a dhéanamh ar son leasa is fónaimh, mhuintir na hÉireann”. By having an active and energetic presidential campaign, I suggest we can leave the Party well placed to make significant inroads in the Local Elections in 2014.

This, of course, leads me to conclude that it is in the best interests of all of us in this room to become actively involved in the Campaign over the short period of some 7 weeks that remain. The critical starting point is my need to retain all of the sizeable Labour Vote from the General Election last February. Therefore, I and our Director of Elections, Deputy Joe Costello, really need your full support as we traverse the State for the second time in the coming weeks, and we need you to mobilise all the elements of the Party – Labour Women; Labour Youth; Lawyers for Labour, and LGBT Labour – to ensure a historic victory for our Party on 27 October next.

The Constitutional Convention:

Turning now to the theme of this Labour Party Away-Day – the Constitutional Convention – I believe that on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Bunreacht na hÉireann it is appropriate that Labour has taken the lead in calling for such a reflection as will produce Constitutional amendments appropriate for our times and the ethical and social challenges that face us and immediate future generations.

Regular attendees at our Party’s Annual Conferences or at the Tom Johnson Summer Schools over many years will not be surprised to learn that I believe that we have yet to engage in the task of establishing what I would describe as a real Republic. The distinguished academic, Peter Mair, whose untimely death took place recently, reinforced my own views on this when, at this year’s MacGill Summer School, he observed that; “We have never respected our State. We have never had a sense of belonging to our State. If anything we see the State as the enemy, as an oppressor.”

The distinguished writer, John McGahern, held a similar view. He believed that it was a great loss to the Irish people that they had been forced to make a crude choice between the demands of the family and the demands of the State when, in fact, they needed both. John McGahern felt that too often in Ireland the family was set up not as the basis of society but as an alternative to the social itself.

In recent decades this deteriorated further into a radical individualism that aggressively defined the worth of citizens in terms of their attributed wealth or possessions. The consequences have not only been economic and social but have contributed to an ethical vacuum which threatens social cohesion and the institutions that have already lost trust among the public. We need to achieve a Republic by showing the link between community vision and the well-springs of the self. Religion once claimed to do that, and did for many people but too often it declined into as controlling moralism. Religion should express and explore the relationship between self, society and the infinite; too often in Ireland religion was relaced by moralism, which sought to regulate not our relationship with destiny or the spirit but simply with one another. In the process power replaced authority.

I have always felt that a Republic, that was defined simply in terms of territorial integrity, betrayed the social and inherent rights content of a Republic. The fact is that, after the War of Independence, there was an almost seamless institutional continuity which ran on from many of the British institutions, with not dissimilar degrees of privilege, patriarchy, and hierarchy. In effect, many of those who fought for independence, and who were inspired by the laudable ideals of the 1916 Proclamation, had their version of a Republic stolen from them. My own father was one of those people, and his experience of incarceration and exclusion from mainstream society in the 1920s has had a profound influence on my political values and ideals to this day.

It follows that I believe that we now urgently need to work together to create the foundations of a real Republic, based on the needs, aspirations, imagination and genius of all our people in their different ways. In a real Republic, the right to shelter; food security; education; a good and sustainable environment; and freedom from fear and insecurity from childhood to old age, must be the benchmarks. Indeed, I have long advocated this concept of a "citizenship floor", a minimum set of rights which are non-negotiable and must be provided for all citizens.

My very last speech in Dáil Éireann, entitled “Renewing The Promise Of A Real Republic”, represents a comprehensive overview of my long-held views on this subject. I am pleased to say that that speech has had a huge response, an intergenerational response, and I was particularly pleased at the dialogue it created with younger people. They were interested and excited by the project of making a Real Republic. I will be unceasing in my support for them and all other community organisations working for the change we need.

Given my long-held views on this subject, you can imagine my satisfaction when, in my own city of Galway, our then Leader and now Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore T.D, made a powerful speech at the Party Conference in April 2010 calling for such change under the inspiring title of One Ireland. I would like here to quote directly from that speech:

“But we need to go further.

We need, as a people, to consider and shape how we are going to order our affairs for the next two generations or more. What political institutions we will need in this new century. How they should be elected. To what extent they should be local or national. How they should relate to the civil service and the public service, and to Europe. How we can have effective regulation and law enforcement. How our democracy can develop and endure.

It is time, in my view, for a fundamental review of our constitution. There is much about the constitution that has served us well, but it is a document written in the 1930s for the 1930s. A time when one church was considered to have a special position, and women were considered to be second class citizens. And if we are to truly learn from the experience of the last ten years, then we need to look again, in a considered way, at the fundamental rules that bind us together.

Our constitution belongs to the people, not just to political institutions. So, this must be a people's process.

What I propose is a constitutional convention. A coming together of all strands of Irish society to redraw our Constitution.

The constitutional convention would include experts and specialists, but would also include individual citizens, randomly chosen to serve in much the same way that we choose juries.

Charged with the task of keeping what is best in our constitutional tradition, and to develop a new constitution, fitted to our times and our aspirations. Let us set ourselves the target to have it ready for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising, that seminal moment when our State was conceived”.

I warmly welcomed that intervention from Eamon Gilmore then, and I continue to welcome it now. The difference, of course, is that we are now in Government and we can now advance this proposal. In that regard, I was pleased to learn recently that Minister Brendan Howlin already has the matter well in hands and that the structure and timeframe for the proposed Convention will be set out in the coming Dáil term.

Under Brendan’s timeframe, the idea would be to have the Convention up and operational by the end of the first quarter of next year, and I salute his ambition in this regard.

Eligibility Criteria for the Office of President of Ireland:

There has, understandably, been an extensive amount of media and civil society commentary in recent weeks about the eligibility criteria for the Office of President of Ireland, as laid down in Article 12.1 through to Article 12.6 of the Constitution. These, for example, provide that a candidate must have reached his/her thirty fifth year of age, and that, unless a former or retiring President, he/she must be nominated by not less than 20 members of the Houses of the Oireachtas or by not less than 4 Local Authorities.

I am happy to make my own position clear on this subject. Firstly, I am against ageism in all its forms. I frankly do not see why the age limit for the President should not correspond with the age eligibility requirement for all other national elections which, after a Referendum in 1972, was reduced from 21 to 18 years of age. For those who, understandably, would be concerned that this age is too young for such a High Office, I would have great confidence in the wisdom of the electorate to ensure that their selected candidate for the Office of President will have sufficient experience to assume that mantle.

Secondly, I fully agree that the eligibility criteria pertaining to 20 Oireachtas members or 4 Local Authorities is too restrictive and, as such, serves to undermine the democratic structures which have underpinned the health and survival of our State since its inception. I am aware that previous Oireachtas scrutiny of this provision has suggested that the signatures of 10,000 or, alternatively, 20,000 citizens should be sufficient for candidature eligibility. These suggestions have not been adopted to date, largely because of fears of personation of signatures and consequent abuse of the system.

However, the Lisbon Treaty now allows for the calling of an EU-wide referendum if the signature of 1,000,000 EU citizens can be mobilised on a particular issue. I understand that a cross-Community agreement has now been reached on a secure internet registration system which would provide safeguards against the personation of signatures. It seems to me that this is a template that can and should be transferred to Ireland.

Such a template may also be useful in addressing the complex arrangements which are sometimes instanced as difficulties in introducing voting rights for Irish citizens abroad.

I believe, therefore, that the proposed, and imminent, Constitutional Convention should examine these new EU arrangements and come up with clear recommendations on how many secure signatures will be necessary, in order to enable the widest possible participation by citizens in elections for the Office of President of Ireland thereafter.

The Programme for this Government states that, once established, the Constitutional Convention will have a brief to report within 12 months. It has the potential, therefore, to establish the Real Republic to which I aspire in time for 2016. Under that scenario, Eamon Gilmore’s ambition to “set ourselves the target to have it ready for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising, that seminal moment when our State was conceived” can and should be achieved.

The System is Broken, and it Needs to be Fixed:

I imagine that there is not only support here in this gathering for a process of transformation in our politics, in our institutions, and in our practices, but I would be certain that there is also agreement that there is a real need for this Constitutional Convention.

We know from the banking scandals; from the regulatory regime which failed to control the banks; from the political structures of non-transparency and non-accountability operated by the previous two Governments; from the breakdown in child protection arrangements at the level of the Catholic Church but also, and even more worryingly, at the level of the State, that the system is broken and, therefore, that it needs to be fixed. A certain kind of Ireland is now over, and we are well rid of it. I believe that Labour, in full partnership within Government and through this Constitutional Convention, is uniquely placed to fix that system. I believe that we can make a powerful case for a rights-based approach to the economy, to our society, and to our political system, within a comprehensive theory of citizenship which can mobilise all that is best in our society by a recognition of our interdependency with each other.

When I refer to a rights-based approach to our affairs, and the need to enshrine those rights in a new Constitution for a Real Republic, I usually give examples. I instance as example my remarks to the Merriman Summer School in Lisdoonvarna only last week in addressing only one aspect of a rights-based approach – the protection and nurturing of our 1.1 million children and young people. I posited the view that it is past time to give real meaning to that powerful phrase from the 1916 Proclamation, a phrase which resonates for many Irish people ‘to cherish all the children of the nation equally”.

Indeed, the more I reflect on these issues, Colleagues, the more I believe that we should revert to the much bolder declaration about children which is contained in the Democratic Programme, adopted in January 1919, by the first Dáil, and drafted with the assistance of our own former party Leader, Tom Johnson. That Declaration made the firm statement that “it shall be the first duty (my emphasis) of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland.”

There are many respects in which all that happened following the foundation of the State contradicted such an aim. Children were not equal in terms of freedom from hunger, housing, health, access to education, or indeed in access to institutionalized culture. The society that was inherited, and which was continued, was an unequal one. As we all know, society is still deeply unequal today.

I proffered the view at Merriman that to make such a change as would ‘cherish all of the children of the nation equally’, would require such a change in consciousness as would be deeply challenging to many of the assumptions which are central to Irish society. That is where some real work lies and where an inspirational Presidency based on the values I have mentioned can make a real difference.

In the past the primacy given to property values over the social aspirations of the 1937 Constitution created immense difficulties. These assumptions, largely linked to private property rights were invoked in the 1970s, for example to block my own efforts and the efforts of colleagues in regard to abolishing the concept of illegitimacy and the right to civil divorce, respectively. So, colleagues, we have an enormous challenge. If Constitutional changes can be achieved it must be backed up by concrete and prioritised legislation, as well as such changes in our administrative system as will facilitate the enlightened implementation of that legislation.

Presidential Nominations to the Constitutional Convention:

Having made that broad point, I think we will all here agree that it will be crucial for the success of the Constitutional Convention to ensure that it will include a wide representation of politicians, academics, lawyers and, most especially, civil society interests and individual citizens. I rely on the wisdom and canny insights of Brendan Howlin to ensure that this will be realised. However, if elected President, I would propose to maintain a close interest in the deliberations and outcome of the Convention and, indeed, I would be requesting the Government to consider accepting some nominations from me to the Convention.

In proposing this approach, I believe that it would be entirely consistent with the letter and spirit of Article 15.2 of the current Constitution which states that "The Oireachtas shall consist of the President and two Houses, viz. a House of Representatives to be called Dáil Éireann and a Senate to be called Seanad Éireann".

Presidency Seminars to Promote a Wider Discourse:

If elected President, I would also propose to hold a series of Presidential Seminars which would have the intention of promoting a wider discourse among a wider audience, and with a wider remit, than that envisaged for the Constitutional Convention.

I would hope to act as Patron of these Seminars, which would serve to stand back from the day-to-day dynamics of political and civic life and invite a wider discussion addressing such issues as our young people’s vision for Ireland, which would be the theme of the very first Seminar; the role of our diasporas in a new relationship with Ireland which would strengthen and deepen our social and cultural connections, and promote beneficial, stronger economic and business ties where appropriate, thus building on the traditional links which have served us so well. The seminars will also deal with how ethics can be restored and how trust can be re-built in to our political and economic structures.

This necessary discourse would attract a plurality of participants, inviting a wide cross-section of people into this important conversation, rather than relying on the sometimes narrow perspectives of established ‘experts’.

These seminars would, critically, encompass the views of the marginalised, the voices of migrants, perspectives from across Ireland as well as from Europe and the wider world, and would serve as an important vehicle for promoting the active citizenship, inter-generational solidarity, and re-building of trust which, I believe, are essential for Ireland’s future.

Vision for the Presidency based on Four Strands:

Very briefly, I would like here to recall for you what, precisely, my own vision for the Presidency is. That vision is based on four broad strands – a Real Republic in which Ireland can emerge from the radical individualism of the past to a radical inclusiveness, assisted by the Constitutional Convention and my own proposal for Presidency Seminars which I have just outlined; Inclusive Citizenship based on equality, respect, solidarity and participation, and promoting inter-generational and inter-community solidarity as a critical means to overcome our present difficulties; the Creative Society, in which the promotion of excellence in creativity in all aspects of Irish life, not only in the cultural area where its legacy is obvious but also in the promotion of Ireland’s Knowledge Economy and the creation of new jobs at the local, regional and national level, in such areas as film-making; audiovisual production; animation; model-making and digital effects; software and games development; and music recording.

In such area as crafts and design; the artisan food sector; grass-based agricultural production; the fusion of the arts with the sciences; and medical and other applications there are immense opportunities.

The fourth strand - Being Irish, in the World - is one in which I propose to strengthen and deepen all strands of our international reputation, be it through culture and the arts, our humanitarian work, or peacekeeping, and whereby I will be supportive of Irish business networks throughout the globe which would, over time, promote new employment projects in Ireland and provide greater access to international markets for Irish companies. I propose to commence this process by visiting the Irish in London this week.

These four strands are entirely relevant to Ireland’s circumstances at the present time. To give just one example of their relevance, I would point out that in the latest round of CAO applications, our students are showing a strong interest in courses dealing with computing, software, gaming, film, animation technology, model-making, design and digital effects.

Concluding Remarks – Promotion by Labour Parliamentarians and Councillors of Inter-Community and Intergenerational Solidarity:

Colleagues, while the important work on the Constitutional Convention is taking place, and while the essential political decisions are then being taken by our Government to place the elements of a new Constitution before the people, I believe that you, the elected members of the Parliamentary Party – together with our extensive network of Councillors whom I will be addressing separately in the Mansion House next weekend - have a pivotal role to play in the interim in devising new strategies to assist communities across Ireland in emerging from the economic and social difficulties which we are all now encountering. And I believe that the promotion, by us all, of inter-community and intergenerational solidarity will be central to this effort.

In my President’s Address to the Party Conference in Killarney in 2003, the title of my contribution was “Vision and Action will Shape Labour’s Future”. I believe that the same title is apposite to what I have to say to you in my concluding remarks here to-day. I believe that the Labour Party, through you all, can provide the Vision and the Action which will drive the changes which we now so urgently need in Irish society, at both the macro and the micro level.

To achieve that we, all of us, need to challenge conventional wisdoms and established procedures – to “look outside the box”, as it were - to see if there are better approaches and solutions that can assist Ireland in the shorter term. And believe me – there are better ways, and often quite simple ways, to improve Ireland’s fortunes.

At the macro level, I would cite the following examples:

Drawing inspiration from Joe Costello’s attempts, targeted at the Smithfield area of Dublin, we should all actively seek to identify and lobby for unused NAMA properties across the State as venues for vibrant community endeavours for the able and the disabled, and as centres of arts and cultural expression, enterprise and innovation; indeed, let us take considerable heart from the fact that, only last week, a former Ibis hotel in Dunkettle, Co. Cork, was opened as a new Gaelscoil for 240 pupils who had previously been housed in prefabs, thanks to local lobbying which led to a 10 year lease being negotiated by the Department of Education and Science;

A recent survey by Amárach Research found that only 41 per cent of people buy Irish goods and services as often as they can, and that this rises to 76 per cent when those who buy Irish “some of the time” are included; in a period of serious economic depression and high unemployment, this is simply not good enough and, as public representatives, we all of us should take every opportunity to influence public opinion to buy Irish;

The Tipperary Food producers network recently calculated that every €10 spent on local food products leads to an injection of €34 into the local economy and helps employ thousands of people around the country; we should be actively and repeatedly promoting the concept of shopping local;

In June, 70 business owners and entrepreneurs gathered in Tullamore for a day of workshops on the theme “Creating the New Midlands Economy”, as part of a bid to breathe life into job creation in the region; I salute the fact that those business people demonstrated a local pride and signalled a new energy and conviction to succeed, with an emphasis on the “new” economy for the region; we should be encouraging similar initiatives across the State;

Also in June, the Mayo Association held their annual meeting in their County; however, instead of having a once-off hooley to celebrate their origins – I hope they had that as well! - members of the Association toured the County to explore possibilities for investments in new enterprises which would create employment; we can have a role in strengthening County Associations and in ensuring linkages with branches across the globe to replicate the Mayo Association’s efforts;

The establishment of a new business support unit by the local authority, and the recent launch of a dedicated marketing initiative by “Invest Kilkenny”, is a further template deserving of active consideration elsewhere;

We should seek to promote the fusion of science and the arts which has come about by the designation of Dublin as Dublin City of Science 2012 and its hosting of the EuroScience Open Forum next July. This Forum is Europe’s largest scientific meeting, and it will attract more than 5,000 scientists, media and visitors, along with a lot more events which will take place throughout 2012; In preparation for these events, the arts and scientist communities have already come together to explore how, in equal partnership, both could contribute to make this designation one of the great successes for Ireland, and a full programme of combined attractions for the year is now being compiled; in case people think that this a marginal issue, can I point to the fact that, at the Edinburgh Festival last week, Eric Schmidt, Chief Executive of Google, stated that the UK has ceased to nurture its polymaths and expressed the strong opinion that there is an urgent need to bring arts and science together; in that lecture, he reminded us that, in the glory days of the industrial revolution, the two disciplines worked together and that "Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton – but he was also a published poet."

Drawing from the extensive experiences gained through the Northern Ireland Peace Process, there is scope to establish a World Centre for Conflict Resolution here in Ireland;

There is also significant potential, in drawing from our excellent international reputation for peace-keeping and humanitarian work, to establish a Centre of Excellence for the training of international officials for overseas missions;

Through a policy of assertive neutrality, we can devise new roles for our military which will enhance and replicate their excellent reputation in the international arena;

Finally, we need to highlight and nurture our distinctiveness as a nation on the extreme North-West of the European Continent, and there is nothing more distinctive than our beautiful and expressive language; our language is uniquely “of ourselves”; it is both a repository of national memory, connecting us with those who have passed before us, and it is a vibrant and unique resource for the imagining of future possibility and identity.

At the micro level, I believe that there is considerable scope for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and initiatives across Constituencies and Council/UDC boundary areas on issues such as:

There is enormous potential to establish a new anchor function for Shannon Airport – firstly, to develop as a global logistics centre for rapid-response humanitarian aid for victims of natural disasters, given its vast safe-storage possibilities and Ireland’s reputation for the production here of high-protein foodstuffs; secondly, to obtain US Custom Clearance facilities for the clearance of freight as well as of international passengers through the airport;thirdly, the establishment of a centre of Excellence for Aviation Education and Training; and fourthly, given the new and more convenient visa arrangements for tourists from China and India to visit Ireland, we should devise strategies to attract these visitors to the West of Ireland, via Shannon, from tourism hubs such as London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and Amsterdam, and highlighting Shannon’s sole capacity in the State to accommodate the A380 Super-Jumbo aircraft;

We should actively promote youth streams to more and more adult Arts Festivals across the country, as a fundamental input to the creation of the Creative Society; I am thinking here of the Éigse youth section of the recent Fleadh Ceoil in Cavan, the Galway Film Fleadh, and the welcome new dimension, SprÓg, for the first time this year, to add to Waterford’s annual Spraoi Festival;

A new collaboration in Limerick which has seen 40 trainees, mainly from its regeneration areas, participate in traditional boat-building workshops, with a plan to have a degree course accredited by the University of Middlesex up and running from 2010, points to further innovative possibilities;

We should encourage the concept of Fighting Words, the wonderful Centre founded by Roddy Doyle and Seán Love, which offers creative writing workshops to everyone from tiny junior infants, sixth years and non-school-going adults;

In the vital promotion of positive youth mental health , a programme being promoted by the Principal and teachers of Christ the King Girls School in South Douglas Road, Cork, could be replicated across the State; under the programme, social, personal and mental health is made part of the school curriculum and older students are trained to mentor younger students;

We should seek to improve our town and city streetscapes by replicating the Galway Space Invaders concept, comprising artists and graffiti specialists, who have turned empty shops into temporary galleries;

Cork’s English Market concept, with a sense of proportion of course, could be extended across other cities and towns so that home-grown-and-made produce and artefacts can be given maximum exposure and maximum economic return;

We should promote the concept of a garden in every school, building on the excellent Green Flag concept, to strengthen the bonds of our children with nature and improve their dietary mix and their state of health, with obvious implications for the cost of our Health Service as they grow into adulthood;

Unused rural public spaces should be identified as cycling tracks or for other community activities;

Irish-designer-collective stores, such as that recently opened in South William Street in Dublin, can be a template to maximise the economic return to our designers who have to compete with the major international retailers now dominating the Irish market;

We should lobby for the correct presentation of historic sights, with proper and attractive signage and weather-resistant information panels which will tell the story of each space attractively;

The wonderful template introduced by Sr. Bernadette Sweeney, Principal of St. Agnes’ Primary School in Crumlin, Dublin, could also be replicated across the State; she has empowered all the children in her school by providing them with musical instruments and a structured opportunity to perform in the 60-strong school orchestra and, critically, she has also involved the children’s parents in musical activities and in a Gospel Choir;

Similarly, we should press for the transfer to all third-level colleges across the State of the concept offered by theTrinity Access Programme in TCD, which continues to work with Primary Schools in disadvantaged areas under the Bookmarks initiative, whereby children are encouraged to create their own worlds by designing, writing and illustrating their own stories, but also to visit the College so that the concept of third level education is sewn in to their memories at an early age.

I will conclude if I may by quoting from the great patriot Thomas Davis, who very presciently once said that “This country of ours is no sand-bank thrown up by some caprice of earth. It is an ancient land, honoured in the archives of civilization, traceable into antiquity by its piety, its valour, and its sufferings. Every great European race has sent its stream to the river of the Irish mind”.

We should all remember these great qualities and characteristics of our country as we, together, face into the challenges of the future.