Monday, April 11, 2016
As an Independent Councillor I invite my colleagues to consider the following: Fine Gael and Labour – with no mandate – eviscerated local government in Ireland during their time in office. Minister Hogan stomped all over our tried and trusted system and with malice aforethought sought to sate the publics need for reform by offering up the sacrificial lamb of local government.
Furthermore it is my opinion that Fine Gael has designs on cutting local government even more through the introduction of regional assemblies. Even Fine Gael Councillors would want to have amnesia or no self-respect to support FG candidates for the Seanad. Turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind.
I know it’s not popular to champion local government and in particular local councillors. But I also know that local councillors are extremely busy, extremely dedicated, extremely knowledgeable local activists working in an underfunded, underappreciated sector that is used as political cover by Leinster House.
All political parties do is pay lip service at Seanad election time and then promptly get back to ignoring Councillors once elected.
We, as Independent Councillors have the opportunity to achieve something really historic in this election. We will, I hope, grasp this opportunity to make a meaningful change to how the parties have hijacked and abused the Seanad (after trying to abolish it lest we forget) and I would invite any thinking party colleagues to join us.
HISTORY IS IN OUR HANDS.
Councillor Mary Roche
Candidate ADMIN Panel
Seanad Election 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Seanad Eireann 2016 candidate, Administration Panel.
* Mary has been a Councillor representing Waterford City since 1999 when she was the only woman elected that term, after a period where no women had been elected for 8 years. Initially she stood and was elected as an FF member, genuinely believing that being in a large party would facilitate having influence "up the line". It was always a fraught relationship, as Mary found her views often conflicted with the party and there was no process for feeding views into the party structure. In 2003 she left. It was the non-delivery of a 2002 General Election promise by Fianna Fail to deliver public radiotherapy to Waterford and the South East, that finally brought Mary to the decision to leave the party and go it alone as an independent. She has successfully been re-elected 3 times as an independent and has served the people of Waterford for 17 years. Mary has recently joined forces with 5 other County Councillors to challenge the inequality of the obligation on Councillors to pay PRSI but receive no benefits.
* Mary was Mayor of Waterford City (only the second ever woman to hold the office) from 2010 to 2011. She also sat on the Governing Body of WIT from 1999 until last year.
* Mary remains involved in health issues and is part of the (voluntary) committee South East Hospitals Support Group, who are campaigning for 24/7 cardiac care for the South East and other improvements at University Hospital Waterford. She was also very active in the debate to prevent (unsuccessfully) the break-up of the South East Hospitals Group.
* She started political life at 18 when she was elected student union Vice President, at the then WRTC (now WIT). She studied both Legal Studies and Public Relations with the Public Relations Institute of Ireland in Dublin. She worked for 6 years with WLR fm (Waterfords Local Radio Station) finishing as marketing manager when she left to start her own business, Flagship Communications, which she ran for 6 years until she had her second child. After that, between her husband working at sea (he is a Tall Ships' Captain), two young children and being an elected representative, she chose to let the business side of her life go. When she worked in WLR fm she was elected to the Waterford Chamber of Commerce board of directors, a position she held for two years (one of just two women). She was also a founder member of Red Kettle Theatre Company with whom she worked as an actress back at the very beginning of their history in the late eighties.
*Mary is currently Chairperson of Waterford Area Partnership, a development company tasked with working to eliminate disadvantage in Waterford. She has been a board member since 1999 and Chair for the past 11 years. She also Chairs the newly formed Waterford & Wexford Youth Committee, having chaired the Waterford Youth Committee since 1999.
* She is also a member of the board of Waterford City Enterprise Centre, Waterford Museum of Treasures, St. Patricks Gateway Centre, Mount Sion International Heritage Centre, Waterford Youth Arts and Squashy Couch (teenage health project) and Waterford/Wexford ETB.
* She is married with three children aged from 8 to 22 and has a 4 year old grand-daughter. If she were to be elected to the Seanad her husband has agreed to come home from working on the ship in order to look after the children.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Cllr Mary Roche, Independent Candidate, Admin Panel, Seanad 16
Back in 2013 the government proposed to abolish Seanad Eireann in what they claimed was a reforming move. I and many others fought strongly against this at that time, seeing it as more of a power grab by the Dail to eliminate even the smallest amount of scrutiny or challenge from the Upper House and allowing them even further scope to rail road through their particular ideology. Large majorities lead to power abuses in my view and the last government was a perfect example of that. Not only did they seek to abolish the Seanad but they also - successfully - neutered the Dail and effectively through that, silenced the voices of the people of Ireland who have a right to be heard through their elected TD's in our parliamentary democracy.
Now, post election, the result of that bullishness is clear to be seen. The electorate are pretty nuanced when you really think about it. What are they telling the politicians to do? They're telling them to work together and find consensus in my view. This is pretty scary if you're a member of political party. They have never worked like this. Yes they get to take part in a few debates at the ould Ard Fheis but by and large the decisions, particularly if they are in government, are all made without them, by party aparchicks and advisers. All they are required to do is turn up and press the right voting button. Oh and maybe hurl a bit of abuse around our National Chamber in support of whatever leader or Minister might be up avoiding answering questions on any particular day.
But those days are coming to a close in my view. People are tired. Tired of struggling through such a negative and draining decade (almost) where the bills have been piling up, the poor haven't been protected and those in debt have been asked to bail out free market bankers while bearing the full brunt of their own negative equity or job losses. And they want these and all the other issues that have been building up to be dealt with, seriously, by those they elect.
So they elect a Dail which gives no one a clear majority. Which forces political parties more used to using their term in office to bombard through their own particular ideology aimed more at their own voters than the national interest, to think - for a change - about that self same national interest. This - if the parties actually act on that mandate - is a good thing. Potentially a very good thing indeed!
And so to (eventually lol) my running for the Seanad. It is an outside chance, no doubt about it. No Independent Councillor has ever been elected to the Dail on the vocational panels, from my memory but it sure does need independent voices. It sure does need to act as a chamber with the powers that it has, in the national interest. The electorate in this instance is the body of Councillors all over Ireland as well as current Seanad and new Dail members.
Traditionally, candidates travel the length and breadth of the country meeting as many of the electorate as they possibly can. And as you can imagine Fine Gaelers vote for Fine Gaelers, Fianna Failers vote for Fianna Failers and so on. As Liam (my other half) works away at sea - and is away at the moment and as my children are still quite young, I will be very limited in the amount of travelling I can do so I will be at a massive disadvantage for sure.
But this is probably the first time in history that Independents have enough votes - if they so use them - to elect independent candidates. I hope they will understand my circumstances and not hold me to that hand shake. We have important business to be doing and independent voices have a huge part to play in moving us as a nation forward. We have bigger things to be worrying about than whether someone drove 300 miles to shake our hands. (Which I haven't the money for either to be honest!)
For too long the party candidates have hoovered up independent Councillors votes - only to deny that mandate in the face of party politics once elected. Independents need to stick together not just in our own interest but in the national interest. In the interest of getting thinking, listening, doing people elected into the Seanad rather than just voting fodder, or rubber-stampers for the political parties.
So I threw my hat in the ring. I also believe that it is very important for women to actually put themselves forward for election. There is no gender quota system for the parties or for anyone else in the Seanad election. So we must put ourselves forward - and so I have done. We shall know the results of that before the end of April. Actually getting elected is, in some senses out of my hands. I will either succeed or fail based on those you have elected to Council Chambers across the country.
If, like me, you believe in proactive, strategic and just plain old good government without the charade of the usual seesaw politics then perhaps you might give your local Councillors a call - or your local TD - and ask them to consider giving me a vote. Especially if they are Independent!!
Thanks all, Mary x
Sunday, January 17, 2016
SUBMISSION TO THE WATERFORD BOUNDARY REVIEW COMMISSION ON BEHALF OF WATERFORD INDEPENDENT COUNCILLORS MARY ROCHE, LAURENCE ‘CHA’ O’NEILL & DAVID DANIELS
The proposed extension of the Waterford boundary into Kilkenny which the committee is tasked with examining is undoubtedly the correct decision for the people currently living in that area and indeed for all the people of the wider region. A single authority, driving social, cultural and economic development with no boundary artificially limiting that focus and growth would deliver the best outcome across any matrix you care to examine in the South East Region.
We are aware that detailed demographics & financial details etc. will be contained in the submission by Waterford City & County Council. However we wish to make some general points to be considered by the commission.
In a nutshell the extension of the boundary would merely regularise an anomaly which has arisen whereby much of the population of Waterford CITY who live on the northern side of the city happen to live in a part which has expanded into South County Kilkenny. This means that the people of that area are on the extreme edges of the administrative area of Kilkenny county council when, if they were to be administered by Waterford City & County Council they would immediately be right at the centre of that administration. This would have huge benefits in terms of convenience, efficiency and visibility for the area under review.
Any cursory look at the area being examined would determine that in no way can it be said to be an example of effective or efficient local government. There has been virtually no investment by the local authority in the area over decades and indeed with its’ proximity to the city it could be argued that the suburb should have naturally developed to a far greater extent than it currently has. Kilkenny County Council, for example, has not built one social house in the area – ever. This, despite Ferrybank being the second largest urban area in the then Kilkenny County Council area after Callan. All Local Authority tenants in Ferrybank are tenants of Waterford Council, despite the fact that the Council cannot even sweep the streets in ‘their’ estates.
Placing the area into Waterford would ensure that any bias towards it as a result of being on the periphery would in time be addressed by local service delivery, increased centrality and increased political representation. Despite some (lately given) commitment from Kilkenny (to locate a playground in Ferrybank for example) it is obvious that Ferrybank and environs have been neglected for many years.
The Waterford Division of An Garda Siochana already covers the exact area being examined by the committee. A boundary extension would regularise the Garda/Local Authority boundary and it makes common sense to have the entire area out as far as the by-pass also covered by Waterford Council. The Department of Social Protection offices on the Cork Road in Waterford City also serve that area of South Kilkenny.
It would also, in time regularise the delivery of a myriad of services to that area by many organisations which run into difficulty with the current boundary alignment. Indeed there has been considerable complication for many Waterford organisations who work in the greater Ferrybank area if they happen to be physically located outside the current boundary. It is a ludicrous situation and pertains for example to two projects based just outside the current Waterford boundary run by Waterford Area Partnership and historically funded via FAS in Waterford. Both projects were initiated and continue to be managed by Waterford Area Partnership but are now funded via Kilkenny/Carlow Education Training Board because the rented space for the projects just happens to be outside the city boundary. This creates difficulties with sourcing funding, reporting lines, duplication, evaluation and accountability, for instance.
This in turn highlights another untenable situation whereby disadvantaged people and communities are supposed to access and source help from organisations other than the local authority, based an hour away in Kilkenny city rather than from their ‘local’ city centre, which is on their doorstep in Waterford. This is surely a factor in hindering communities, especially already disadvantaged and excluded communities, from accessing adequate or fair assistance.
When the then Waterford City sought a boundary extension back in 2005 the rate base in the relevant area of South Kilkenny was circa €1.5 million. The rate base currently stands at circa €1.8 million from our information. If the distribution of funds in South Kilkenny was fairly allocated, all of this would be spent on the area, plus a portion of the local government fund as well as any separate grant funding. I don’t think anyone would, or could, claim that this is the case – meaning that South Kilkenny is severely disadvantaged in terms of getting its fair share within the county. Interestingly, even those who advocate against the boundary extension will admit that Ferrybank and environs do not get a fair share of the Kilkenny financial cake or economic development pie.
The Port of Waterford with its economic potential also rests within the area. Interesting in terms of maximising the economic potential of the port, to note that not one cent of their own money was invested in the access road to the port by Kilkenny County Council - a situation which is telling in its own right. That necessitated the National Roads Authority having to build the road – the shortest primary route in the country – even with its own number, the N29. We have no doubt that the Port of Waterford at Bellview which historically was the City’s port and is the very reason for the City’s existence and the adjoining economic zone would be much greater priorities for Waterford City & County Council – which already has a major water treatment plant for the city located there. Kilkenny County Council has always and no doubt continues to focus the majority of its development on Kilkenny city where it is headquartered.
Kilkenny County Council persisted for decades in refusing to upgrade or improve the main Dublin Waterford Road or at least the portion from Kilkenny City to Waterford which was commonly acknowledged as the worst inter-city route in the Country. (The part which is north of Kilkenny City was heavily invested in by comparison.) Indeed it could easily be argued that it was as a result of this type of action that the delivery of national inter-city routes had to be taken from the remit of Local Authorities and placed with an independent body where local rivalries would no longer be a decider in persisting with not developing national primary routes merely to disadvantage ones’ neighbours!
Another prime and much more recent example of the antipathy of Kilkenny County Council towards Waterford is the white elephant of the Ferrybank Shopping Centre. A monstrosity built (inexplicably) directly adjacent to one of the busiest commuter routes in the country. The fact that the centre came to be located where it is, stands as an example of the worst practices in both strategic planning and planning that persisted in any County or beyond. A centre which is demonstrably far too large for a location with approximately 5,000-6,000 people can only have been conceived and implemented by a Council with not just no interest in what damage it might do to the retail product of the immediately adjacent Waterford City Centre but indeed little care for what consequences it might have for the local community – which lost viable neighbourhood centres as a result of its implementation. It now stands, practically empty, as a monument to the madness of some planning decisions which were badly (or maliciously?) conceived and implemented.
That the anchor tenant would persist in fighting an expensive legal action rather than open there is informative. It is probable that without the then Minister at the Department of the Environment providing the money to the local authority for the opening and staffing of a local area office in the shopping centre it would remain entirely empty to this day (while a national staffing embargo was in place for all Councils!) .
We relate these anecdotes to indicate the damage which has been done and/or attempted to be done to Waterford City to hamper its growth and potential in recent decades and to indicate that despite any claimed conversion to co-operation, we do not expect any change in the culture, as demonstrated by the policies, whether stated or not, of recent decades. Any words to the contrary lately echo very hollow when judged in the light of those actions.
We would also respectfully suggest that, despite the rhetoric, there remains a very significant and sizable - though perhaps subdued in light of the tone of some of the debate - cohort of residents who would favour a boundary extension (or who are indifferent). Perhaps their view should be established in a verifiable manner.
We have no doubt whatsoever that the area under review in South Kilkenny would be better served, better planned and more coherently developed if it was administered by Waterford City & County Council. We also have no doubt that Waterford would deliver much more if it were not curtailed by out dated boundaries which have caused unbalanced development whereby it has almost reached the maximum extent of development to the south of the River Suir while north of the river remains under-developed.
Finally we are convinced that this arrangement would be a far more efficient and cost effective method for delivering local government in the area. While it would not cost any less, especially in light of historic under investment.
The people of South Kilkenny could certainly expect a warm welcome from the people of Waterford as well as a far better delivery of services with vastly improved ease of access. There is far more that unites us than divides us and I am sure that arrangements could be made by other bodies (sporting or otherwise) to facilitate people’s preferred loyalties!