In addition to day-to-day local work, I am also engaged in promoting a number of local and national policies as a councillor. A number of my policy viewpoints can be found below:
(Irish Times Letters September 14th 2016)
In voting to cut the rate of local property tax (LPT) by 15 per cent, I and my fellow Fine Gael councillors on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (Home News September 13th) would have deemed it appropriate to alleviate the burden of the most expensive amount of LPT payable in the country. The siphoning off of 20 per cent of LPT collected within the county to a nationally distributed equivalence fund was mentioned within the council debate associated with the motion to cut the tax rate. The rationale of this fund is to ensure that no local authority is worse off under the LPT regime when compared with previous Local Government Fund contributions. However, it would be more appropriate for every local authority to be able to obtain support to some degree from the equivalence fund, instead of the scenario whereby the largest contributors to the fund derive no benefit currently. The principle of absolute subsidization applied should be actively reviewed, with an ambition for an indirect rebate mechanism obtainable through the equivalence fund to be ultimately realised with respect to the four local authorities in Dublin particularly.
I have been particularly vocal in seeking a security deposit limit equating to one month rent being imposed in Ireland, in order to counter a recent trend of two months’ rent being sought per deposit. I have drawn attention within Fine Gael and in the Irish Independent to the fact that many states in the US impose a deposit limit of one month’s rent, which is appropriate for replication here.
(Irish Times Letters August 25th 2016)
There has been a long-standing assumption that young people will all be satisfied with the notion of raising their future families in apartments within Dublin, despite the fact that this is a considerable departure from the norm (that of living in houses) under which they themselves were reared. There has never been a serious exercise in relation to democratic input to ascertain whether young professionals, now and into the future, are actually happy with this approach. Accordingly, there ought to be more public consultation conducted officially with an ambition to compile feedback in developing a new architectural vernacular document for Dublin, similar to the London Housing Design Guide compiled in 2010. At present, the future construction design of accommodation of Dublin would be led too much by the initiation of the proposals of developers acting independently. A new agreed vernacular could incorporate uniform guidelines on design, with a view to enhancing living standards based upon actual receipt of more feedback from the people likely to reside in such new future accommodation.
(Irish Times Letters July 2016)
The fact that the 2016 Census indicates an estimated 198,000 vacant homes (“Number of vacant houses ‘scandalous’” July 15th) should be responded to actively, given the backdrop of a national housing crisis. Particularly, the advice of the Housing Agency (as detailed in the recent Oireachtas Housing and Homelessness Committee report) to provide new incentives and supports to the estimated 130,000 on local authority waiting lists nationwide should be pursued, with the compilation of a national list of vacant homes being undertaken to facilitate such an initiative. The current momentum regarding solutions to the housing crisis is too focused presently on the future construction of high-rise, high-density accommodation in the Dublin area, but such an overcentralization would be likely to impose too much of a burden on traffic, schools and other infrastructure within what is, after all, one of the smallest counties in the country in terms of size. Furthermore, the drastic change in suburban character imposed by such developments would be in the main unpopular amongst existing residents. A general rebalancing in terms of strategic housing strategy is therefore desirable, availing of existing vacant stock as the fulcrum.The cost to the State from new construction to adequately meet demand for social housing units is colossal. If in theory, for example, new units would be built at a cost of €150,000 on average for 5800 existing applicants on the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown waiting list, this would cost €870 million. It is simply impossible for that list to be fully accommodated by new construction within the county area. A vacant site levy proposal has already been put forward, but additionally the introduction of a vacant homes levy similar to THLV (Taxe d’habitation sur les lodgments vacants) in France may need to be considered. Vancouver in Canada is one other example city preparing the adoption of such a tax, where such a measure is, for example, predicted to increase the 0.6 percent rental vacancy rate to 3 per cent.
There has been much focus on the lack of a rail link from Dublin Airport to the rest of Dublin, and connectivity from the airport in terms of traffic etc. is a factor. In a post-Brexit climate, the prospect of a major new Canary Wharf-style business district within more convenient reach of Dublin Airport ought to be pursued. A satellite image review of the area surrounding the airport readily indicates the extent of green space potentially available. A DART link spur should additionally be built to link the airport and Clongriffin (or another nearby location) to incorporate for example direct rail services from Dublin Airport through to Connolly (linking to the IFSC etc.), Pearse St and Dun Laoghaire stations.
A new business district near the airport could for example be custom built to facilitate Irish competition for Euro clearing house commerce in the aftermath of Brexit, allowing direct convenient flights adjacent to a major trading hub on a similar basis to London City Airport, and would bring in jobs and investment to an extent that would benefit the whole Greater Dublin region.
Approaches should be considered with respect to reforming the current nature of the whip system and to encourage increased bipartisanship in the preparation of legislation. I would like to see the introduction of a number of national Dáil seats, whether in the form of a List System or otherwise. At the same time, the introduction of national seats should not be devised in such a manner as to basically exclude all those from running except famous and/or wealthy individuals. One approach would be to introduce randomized PR-STV constituencies, where voters and candidates are assigned a national constituency by lottery instead of by geography. This would meet the need to have national seats without making it infeasible for ordinary citizens to run as candidates. Introducing 15 such randomized seats would require only one amendment to the Constitution (to Article 16.2.3). Incidentally, it is possible to introduce randomized seats without a referendum provided that they would make up half the seats in the Dáil.
I support the principle of directly electing a mayor for Dublin, and was the speaker for the motion passed at a Fine Gael Ard Fheis that led to such a stance becoming party policy. Dublin competes internationally with cities such as London, Paris, New York etc. for jobs and investment, and so should have a mayor on the same executive basis as these cities do.
As a member of the Economic Development & Enterprise Strategic Policy Committee, I support increased support for local businesses. A priority of mine is encouraging more interaction with the EU COSME fund, in terms of providing local signposting to this funding, which I believe would ultimately benefits jobs and commerce within the area.
Through my membership of the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Community Development, Culture & Ageing Strategic Policy Committee, I am promoting the view that the council should incorporate the ‘AsIWill’ action items set out in the ‘AsYouCan’ documents from AsIAm.ie in relation to promoting autism-friendly policy within the county.
I was delighted that Adam Harris, from AsIAm (which produced the ‘AsYouCan’ proposals), upon my suggestion to the committee, gave an address highlighting concerns relating to autism awareness, including an outline of the ‘AsIWill’ proposals, and I will continue to promote this cause on the council.
I have submitted a county council motion calling for the introduction of a ‘preferendum’ model for Ireland, whereby multiple option referendum questions could be put to the Irish people instead of binary Yes or No questions. One such model would be the Borda Count method, a version of which was used by Dublin City Council to decide the naming of the Rosie Hackett Bridge. This would permit a more accurate and sophisticated polling of the opinion of Irish voters on topics such as international treaties, parliamentary reform and issues of conscience.
A referendum would be required to introduce such a model, which in my view would be a worthwhile exercise given the prospect of enhanced democratic inclusivity.
In line with many other local authorities, I think that Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown should seek out a twinning partnership, to aid cultural and business ties, with a city/county in the United States with strong Irish-American heritage.