What’s next after Repealing the 8th? I’d like to help get a woman elected to Limerick Council

what's next badge A West Wing-themed badge that a Repealer gave me towards the end of the referendum campaign, which I will treasure always.

I want to write down properly my memories of the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment sometime. It was an exhausting, yet special time. I met a huge amount of wonderful people, some of whom I’m quite sure I will be friends with for life. But right now, nearly three months after our historic victory, it’s time to think about what’s next. And for me, the answer begins with politics. I’m one of those (possibly naïve!) people who believes in the power of politics. Those of us involved in the Repeal campaign who were members of political parties may have been vastly outnumbered by those who weren’t. But I believe we were involved in a fundamentally political activity: changing the minds of voters.

Less than 20% of Limerick’s councillors are women (the Dáil has a roughly similar proportion of women). Possibly related to this statistic: many of our councillors are not doing a good job at working towards an ambitious and inclusive Limerick. If I can do anything with what political experience I’ve gained through the years, I’d like to help get a woman elected to Limerick Council.

The good news is that I’ve found an amazing candidate to support for election in Limerick City: someone who is serious about the very serious task of representing voters: someone who is willing to work hard for families in our city and who wants to do their bit in bequeathing a better city to future generations. And even though I can’t say who she is at this stage because of the need for Green Party selection conventions and other procedures, I’m excited at the prospect of doing what I can to help her meet with and listen to the voters of Limerick.

Why write about this now when I can’t say who the candidate is? One reason is that I wrote pieces very early on about why I got involved in the Marriage Equality and Repeal the 8th campaigns as well as the last general election: getting my thoughts down was helpful early on before the maelstrom of the campaign took over. And the second reason: maybe you’d like to help. Political campaigns don’t always just reflect the minds of voters: as the Repeal the 8th campaign showed, sometimes they can change them. Being involved at the start of a campaign, when numbers are still small, can be a really special thing. We need more women in politics, and we need better representation in Limerick if we want a better city. If you feel the same, and you’re also wondering what’s next after Repeal, I’d love to work with you. And if maybe you’d prefer not to work with me, or you support a different political party, the good news is that most political parties will be running at least one female candidate in Limerick. I’m sure they, like us, would be very grateful for your help.

Limerick (County) 8th Amendment Referendum Tally 2018

Thanks to everyone who helped with the tally. The tally for Limerick City is also available.

Results are also available as a CSV file.

Box Yes No Yes No
Postal 159 106 60.0% 40.0%
Ballybrown N.S.1 129 102 55.8% 44.2%
Ballybrown N.S.2 153 10 93.9% 6.1%
Ballybrown N.S.3
Patrickswell N.S.1 191 114 62.6% 37.4%
Patrickswell N.S.2 146 115 55.9% 44.1%
Patrickswell N.S.3 120 83 59.1% 40.9%
Anglesborough N.S. 126 73 63.3% 36.7%
Ballylanders N.S.1 157 135 53.8% 46.2%
Ballylanders N.S.2 92 82 52.9% 47.1%
Galbally Community Centre1 138 102 57.5% 42.5%
Galbally Community Centre2 157 107 59.5% 40.5%
Ardpatrick Community Centre 140 124 53.0% 47.0%
Kilmallock Girls N.S.1 313 154 67.0% 33.0%
Kilmallock Girls N.S.2 191 140 57.7% 42.3%
Kilmallock Girls N.S.3 137 113 54.8% 45.2%
Kilmallock Girls N.S.4
Athlacca N.S. 95 85 52.8% 47.2%
Effin N.S.1 105 107 49.5% 50.5%
Effin N.S.2 215 140 60.6% 39.4%
Doon C.B.S.1 152 130 53.9% 46.1%
Doon C.B.S.2 205 130 61.2% 38.8%
Bruff N.S.1 284 202 58.4% 41.6%
Bruff N.S.2 247 153 61.8% 38.3%
Bruff N.S.3 181 142 56.0% 44.0%
Bruff N.S.4 177 102 63.4% 36.6%
Bruree N.S.1 230 201 53.4% 46.6%
Bruree N.S.2 235 169 58.2% 41.8%
Martinstown N.S.
Knocklong N.S.1 184 97 65.5% 34.5%
Knocklong N.S.2 158 97 62.0% 38.0%
Caherline N.S. 175 130 57.4% 42.6%
Cloverfield N.S. 108 89 54.8% 45.2%
Herbertstown N.S. 236 168 58.4% 41.6%
Knockadea N.S. 60 36 62.5% 37.5%
Glenroe N.S. 130 90 59.1% 40.9%
Dromin Comm. Centre 155 125 55.4% 44.6%
Glenbrohane N.S. 109 83 56.8% 43.2%
Pallasgreen Comm. Centre1 175 146 54.5% 45.5%
Pallasgreen Comm. Centre2 116 106 52.3% 47.7%
Hospital New School1 107 66 61.8% 38.2%
Hospital New School2 197 152 56.4% 43.6%
Kilbehenny N.S. 139 107 56.5% 43.5%
Kilfinane N.S. 192 39 83.1% 16.9%
Kilfinane N.S. 161 103 61.0% 39.0%
Ballyorgan N.S. 182 94 65.9% 34.1%
Kilteely N.S. 181 139 56.6% 43.4%
Knockainey N.S. 224 162 58.0% 42.0%
Oola N.S.1 171 136 55.7% 44.3%
Oola N.S.2 181 126 59.0% 41.0%
Garrydoolis N.S. 73 82 47.1% 52.9%
Meanus Community Centre 220 128 63.2% 36.8%
Adare C.B.S.1 273 158 63.3% 36.7%
Adare C.B.S.2 220 120 64.7% 35.3%
Adare C.B.S.3 224 162 58.0% 42.0%
Askeaton NS1 211 170 55.4% 44.6%
Askeaton NS2 255 182 58.4% 41.6%
Foynes NS1 120 175 40.7% 59.3%
Foynes NS2 173 141 55.1% 44.9%
Ballingarry Boys NS1 177 126 58.4% 41.6%
Ballingarry Boys NS2 155 100 60.8% 39.2%
Ballingarry NS3 117 100 53.9% 46.1%
Rathkeale Girls NS1
Rathkeale Girls NS2
Rathkeale Girls NS3 115 146 44.1% 55.9%
Coolcappa Comm. Centre1 170 102 62.5% 37.5%
Coolcappa Comm. Centre2
Caherelly NS 129 77 62.6% 37.4%
Kilfinny NS 241 152 61.3% 38.7%
Banogue NS 104 83 55.6% 44.4%
Kildimo NS1 297 148 66.7% 33.3%
Kildimo NS2
Ballysteen NS 119 89 57.2% 42.8%
Pallaskenry NS1 267 123 68.5% 31.5%
Pallaskenry NS2 230 123 65.2% 34.8%
Granagh 119 103 53.6% 46.4%
Croom NS1 165 105 61.1% 38.9%
Croom NS2 210 117 64.2% 35.8%
Croom NS3 190 151 55.7% 44.3%
Croom NS4 194 142 57.7% 42.3%
Croagh NS1 189 115 62.2% 37.8%
Croagh NS2 197 147 57.3% 42.7%
Kilcolman NS
Ballyhahill NS 219 132 62.4% 37.6%
Fedamore Community Centre1 189 111 63.0% 37.0%
Fedamore Community Centre2 149 114 56.7% 43.3%
Kilcornan NS 262 164 61.5% 38.5%
Crecora NS 295 197 60.0% 40.0%
Loghill NS 120 72 62.5% 37.5%
Cappagh (Nantinan) NS 228 180 55.9% 44.1%
Shanagolden NS1 99 78 55.9% 44.1%
Shanagolden NS2 140 119 54.1% 45.9%
Shanagolden NS3 119 87 57.8% 42.2%
Abbeyfeale NS1 234 200 53.9% 46.1%
Abbeyfeale NS2 260 157 62.4% 37.6%
Abbeyfeale NS3 163 120 57.6% 42.4%
Ardagh NS1 194 102 65.5% 34.5%
Ardagh NS2 160 88 64.5% 35.5%
Ashford NS
Raheenagh NS 101 80 55.8% 44.2%
Ballyagran NS 150 66 69.4% 30.6%
Kilmeedy NS 173 99 63.6% 36.4%
Cloncagh Library 159 159 50.0% 50.0%
Broadford NS1 140 131 51.7% 48.3%
Broadford NS2 114 117 49.4% 50.6%
Caher NS 87 95 47.8% 52.2%
Mahoonagh NS1 193 152 55.9% 44.1%
Mahoonagh NS2 141 100 58.5% 41.5%
Dromcollogher NS 217 196 52.5% 47.5%
Feenagh NS
Dromtrasna NS 61 69 46.9% 53.1%
Templeglantine Comm Hall 267 200 57.2% 42.8%
Killaghteen NS 80 78 50.6% 49.4%
Athea NS 222 187 54.3% 45.7%
Athea NS 166 155 51.7% 48.3%
Glengort NS 143 209 40.6% 59.4%
Carrigkerry NS 238 157 60.3% 39.7%
Gin Halla Ceol Corbri1 224 167 57.3% 42.7%
Gin Halla Ceol Corbri2 193 195 49.7% 50.3%
Ballygiltenan NS 99 113 46.7% 53.3%
Knockaderry Comm Hall 155 128 54.8% 45.2%
Monagay NS 235 123 65.6% 34.4%
Ballykenny Dispensary 129 133 49.2% 50.8%
Mountcollins NS 129 147 46.7% 53.3%
Courtenay Boys NS1 236 157 60.1% 39.9%
Courtenay Boys NS2 138 90 60.5% 39.5%
Courtenay Boys NS3 226 152 59.8% 40.2%
Courtenay Boys NS4 144 87 62.3% 37.7%
Scoil Iosaf NCW1 212 154 57.9% 42.1%
Scoil Iosaf NCW2 281 203 58.1% 41.9%
Scoil Iosaf NCW3 256 128 66.7% 33.3%
Knocknasna NS 92 68 57.5% 42.5%

Men of Limerick, please help to repeal the 8th

We’re just starting week 4 of the Limerick Together for Yes campaign and it’s going great. We have canvasses 5 nights a week and stalls in town at the weekend. The people of Limerick have been warm and welcoming and open to our message.

But there’s been an absence from the campaign. An absence of men.

Here’s a photo from one of our canvasses in Limerick. Only one man, and he travelled in from Clare that night (you’re a legend Ronan!). We urgently need to correct this gender imbalance. Although we’re campaigning for a woman’s right to choose, we shouldn’t just leave it to women to make the ask to change the constitution. By standing with our sisters we can show our support and solidarity, and help knock on as many doors as possible to ensure safe healthcare for women who are pregnant.

I’m running a men’s training session on Wednesday 11th April at 7pm in the Absolut Hotel with the legendary Paul Bowler from Kerry. Our goal is to ensure all men attending will feel more confident and prepared when engaging with members of the public/friends/family/partners in discussions about the campaign to repeal the 8th. To come along, just email repeallkvolunteer@gmail.com – and while you’re at it you can sign up as a volunteer on the Repeal LK website.

Women of Limerick are knocking on doors asking their fellow citizens for control over their own bodies. As men, the least we can do to help is to stand with them.

If you’re lucky, like me, then campaign for Repeal

I’d like to see the eighth amendment removed from the Irish constitution. I feel strongly enough that I’m going to be out knocking on doors and campaigning as much as I can on this referendum.

In some ways I’m completely unqualified to have an opinion on this, let alone go out campaigning on it. I’m a straight white man in his late thirties. I’ve been married for 11 years, but my wife and I can’t and won’t have children.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone less qualified to write or speak about women’s reproductive rights than me. Yet it is precisely for that reason that I want to stand with women who are campaigning for this referendum.

I am an incredibly lucky person. I am a straight, white male. I was born in a relatively rich country. I received a good education, most of it free of charge. I am a beneficiary of most of the structural inequality in this country, because I am on the winning side of it. I live in a country where women are paid less, where people who grow up in disadvantaged families are themselves more likely to suffer disadvantage as adults, etc. etc. And (bear with me!) sometimes that’s difficult. It’s not my individual fault, right? I’m doing the best I can to be a decent person, occasionally succeeding, and while I didn’t create my genetic, historical and social good luck I can’t really do anything to reverse it either. But I can empathise, and imagine. Imagine what it is like to not have the rights and privileges that I enjoy by accident. And, in particular, imagine what it might be like to have the fricking constitution inserting itself between me and my doctor on what is the best for my health, life and well-being.

It is just awful that Irish women not only have had to put up with an incredibly draconian reproductive rights regime, but that, over the next two-and-a-bit months, they have to go out to the Irish people and ask and say please. Ask and say please for rights that they would enjoy in almost every other developed country.

I think it is time for Irish men like me, with our privilege and our luck and our sorry-but-what-can-you-do demeanour to stand up. Stand beside the women who are campaigning for control over their own bodies. Stand up and say please to the Irish voters who will ultimately decide on their rights.

If you’re lucky like me, then I hope you’ll join me. I’m involved in Repeal LK, the local campaign in Limerick to repeal the 8th amendment.  There are similar campaigns starting up all around the country. I somewhat gingerly came to the first few meetings, not sure if I’d be welcome to join the fight, and worried that I might say the wrong thing. I met a group of funny smart courageous people, mostly women, who are operating with no funding, affiliated to a national campaign which is also short of people, time and money. I was welcomed, and educated, and encouraged. We have an introductory event in Limerick on Monday March 12th. Maybe you could canvass, fundraise, or even just donate. It’s going to be a tough campaign. All support will be gratefully appreciated.

I know there are many people, some of whom are my friends, who disagree with my views on abortion, and I want to do my best to respect those views. I’m sure what I’ve written here may sound tone-deaf, patronising or even insulting to women. I know I’ve a lot to learn.

With rights and privilege come a responsibility to fight for those without. Offering to help out in this referendum campaign may not atone for the rights and privilege that I have been gifted, but it feels like a start. If you’re lucky, like me, you’d be very welcome to come and put your shoulder to the wheel.

We need to stop this nonsense about teaching coding in primary school

Today there was a story in the Irish Times, headlined ‘Bruton wants lessons in coding for primary school pupils’, announcing that the Irish Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, was considering the introduction of programming into the national curriculum for primary schools.

I’m passionate about programming. I run a software company. I program in my spare time, for fun. I co-organised a hackathon in Limerick  with the sole purpose of programming for fun with other people for an entire day.  I am a host on a podcast with two other programmers where we talk about, among other things, programming. I’ve also spent some time teaching maths and science in secondary school. And I am convinced that the idea of teaching primary school children to program during the school day is nonsense.

The assertion by tech companies that they can’t find programmers is a myth

The Irish Times articles cites lobbying by some tech companies that they can’t find good people. This is a complete myth, a combination of (a) tech companies not wanting to pay programmers decent wages (b) tech companies being really bad at recruitment and (c) tech companies not being willing to take graduates on and help them develop appropriate modern programming skills. I recruited a graduate developer two years ago for my company Reg Point of Sale, and I came across countless IT graduates who still couldn’t find a job six months after graduating, because all the job adverts were looking for 2 years experience. If tech companies would spend their own money investing in people, rather than whining at the government to spend our money, they wouldn’t have a problem.

It’s also worth noting that even if the plaintive cries about a skills shortage from the tech industry were true, it’s not clear how teaching a bunch of eight year-olds how to write for loops would help.

Teaching programming would require a huge continued capital investment

Compulsory programming on the primary school curriculum would be incredibly expensive.  I’m sure some of these tech companies are salivating at the prospect of juicy hardware, software and support contracts, involving proprietary solutions that will obsolete quickly.

We will be teaching skills that will be obsolete by the time these kids graduate

Take the average ten year-old in primary school: the twelve years that will pass before this kid graduates from college is an aeon away in tech terms – especially in programming languages. The concept that a primary school kid could learn skills now that would be useful to the tech industry in twelve years time is not consistent with the rapid change associated with tech and programming.

We could actually end up with less people in tech

Consider a child who has a natural aptitude for problem solving and logical thinking that suggests they might enjoy programming. But what if the teacher doesn’t have a strong grasp of the material, or the myriad of other reasons why a young child might not have a good experience learning a difficult technical craft like programming. Suddenly this child gets it into their head that ‘programming is hard’ or ‘not for them’, even though if they had been exposed to it at a later age, they might have found some of the joy that some of us derive from programming.

We do need investment in primary education, but in things that are useful to a child’s development

If the Minister for Education has some spare cash burning a hole in his pocket, it’s not as if other priorities don’t exist – for example investing in teaching core literacy and numeracy in primary school which has only marginally improved in 35 years, or doing something to attacking the unconscionable difference in education outcomes for kids from poorer backgrounds compared to those from more comfortable backgrounds.

Programming is great and you should try it right now!

Adults have infinitely more problems that can be solved by simple computer programs than children do. So why don’t you pick up Learn Python the Hard Way, and if you get through that, start on Automate the Boring Stuff with Python. If you’re lucky you’ll experience an enormous thrill as the computer starts to do your bidding. Maybe the Minister himself might try his hand at a few if statements while considering whether to foist this stuff on our nation’s children.

I think programming is a great thing to learn. Just not for all primary school kids during the school day. I hope the Minister reconsiders his plan.


HibernoCaledoniaLike others, I’ve spent the last week in shock over the UK’s vote to leave the EU. I was born and raised in Ireland but my parents are British, my wife grew up in Britain, we both have many family and friends over the water. We were just so gutted and saddened when the Leave result was announced early in the morning. In fact the next day we drove over to South Wales to exhibit our Reg point of sale app. Staying for a few days in a part of the UK knowing that the majority of people around us wanted to Leave was just depressing.

Over the last few days, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been making brave attempts to ‘keep Scotland in the EU’ – but even if there was another independence referendum, it’s difficult to see how Scotland can Remain. Spain will always veto any attempt to admit what they would view as a ‘sub-nation’ to the EU because of concerns about Catalonia’s independence ambitions. Meanwhile over in Ireland we are worried about an uncertain future.

But for those of you in these isles who are full of despondency: don’t worry. I have a plan.

(Your post-Brexit despondency will be lifted if you sing along with the headings. Trust me.)

A country that’s part-British but without the xenophobia

What if Ireland formed a union with Northern Ireland and Scotland, which would then enjoy continued membership of the EU by inheriting Ireland’s seat? We could be one nation together, with significantly devolved powers as currently exist in the Stormont, Holyrood administrations, complemented by a new devolved administration for Dublin. We’d have to have a new federal parliament for HibernoCaledonia, probably in Belfast.

With one stroke we could solve the political status of Northern Ireland. Unionists would not be smothered by a perfidious South intent on dismantling their culture. Nationalists would see a ‘nation once again’, just with an extra bit added on.

If we joined together we’d be bigger than Bulgaria

Population of the Republic of Ireland: 4.6m
Population of Northern Ireland: 1.8m
Population of Scotland: 5.3m

Total population of HibernoCaledonia: 11.7m

HibernoCaledonia would have a GDP of over $567bn, making us the 35th largest economy in the world by that measure. We would be the headquarters of some impressive international companies such as Ryanair and Royal Bank of Scotland, and the new country would be able to challenge for significant inward investment.  We would be the pro-European powerhouse of North-Western Europe, showing the world that internationalism and tolerance is still alive and well in these isles.


I know it sounds like a joke but I’m deadly serious. Our three countries face an immense threat with the prospect of Brexit. In our own ways, we would all benefit from the more pluralistic administration that a union would bring. It would put to bed once and for all the Northern Ireland question, which otherwise will continually threaten the peaceful future of the province. The Remain side were right, we are Stronger In. Let’s join our hands and work for a shared European future.

Limerick City candidates answer my questions

I posted a list of all the candidates running in Limerick City, together with a list of questions. Only three candidates responded: James Gaffney, Jan O’Sullivan and Michael Noonan. Here are their answers.

James Gaffney, Green Party

1. How seriously should we take climate change, and what specific policy measures do you think we should take to combat climate change? I’m particularly interested in measures you think that might slow economic growth in the short term but which would have long-term positive effects for our country.

We are the first generation to feel the effects of Climate Change, and the last who can do anything meaningful about it.

The need to address long-term problems, such as climate change, is an overarching value of the Green Party. We support the enactment of national legislation to respond to climate change and transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. This will reduce our over-dependence on imported sources of fossil fuel energy. Global events related to extreme weather, such as storms and droughts, could compromise our food security and lead to increased immigration into Ireland by ‘climate refugees’.

By 2050, Ireland’s power, heat and transport systems should no longer rely on fossil fuels and our agricultural system should achieve carbon neutrality. This is technologically possible, and would result in greater employment, energy efficiency, security, an improved economy, and improved public health, in addition to contributing to a healthier climate
We need to establish ambitious but realistic binding national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for 2030 and aim for 100% decarbonisation of the power system and an 80% overall reduction in national emissions by 2050

You mention measures that might slow economic growth in the short-term, however I believe that an Irish economy that is carbon-neutral will be a stronger one. The €5.7 billion a year that we spend on fossil fuels could be kept in our economy rather than going to oil-producing nations. We will also gain a competitive advantage from moving faster than other nations on climate change.

2. Our regional towns and cities are suffering. Here in Limerick we’ve seen our city as well as the villages in our county undermined by ribbon-development and one-off housing in the countryside. How do you think we should balance people’s desires to build where they want, with the need for better planning that avoids sprawl and strengthens our villages, towns and cities?

We need a National Spatial Plan with climate change as a foundation stone.  Any plan that relies on fossil fuels as the driver of an economy will see us falling behind, as the rest of the world switches to a cleaner renewable future. Any plan that thinks Ireland can set the course of our own destiny without an appreciation of global trends is fraught with risk.

In my manifesto I talk about the need for a Regional Authority which would have responsibility for leading on a spatial plan for the Mid-West that would focus on Limerick City as a destination for families and businesses.

The only plan that can succeed is a truly long term one.

Our new national plan puts proper spatial planning at its core. Where we think ahead and plan our public infrastructure so that people from all over Ireland can live and work where there are services and communities. Where we focus on what we can do best at home – in tourism, agri-food, energy, manufacturing and new digital services; where we restore the traditional values of banking to every part of the country so we support sustainable, well paid jobs.
Ours is an investment plan for the next generation.

This election debate is about much more than the fiscal space. It is about the public space.
Whoever is in power in the next Dáil will put resources into the areas that they value. So that’s the question people need to ask of themselves and of politicians as we near polling day.

3. Do you agree with tougher sentencing for criminals, or more rehabilitation? I’m particularly interested in your position on how we should approach drug addiction within the justice system.

We need an after prison support system, with one agency coordinating fully integrated supports for accommodation, education, employment.

We should increase crime preventative measures, e.g. increasing the age limit for the application of the Garda Youth Diversion to 18-24 year olds.

On drug addiction, I feel strongly that this is a medical issue, not a criminal justice issue.

Jan O’Sullivan, Labour Party

1. How seriously should we take climate change, and what specific policy measures do you think we should take to combat climate change? I’m particularly interested in measures you think that might slow economic growth in the short term but which would have long-term positive effects for our country.

I think climate change is one of the most serious issues facing the global population today. During my time as Minister for Trade and Overseas Development Aid I saw at first hand the damage it visits on some of the poorest communities on the planet. I was also proud to work with NGOs and Departmental officials to ensure that tackling climate change had a central role in our Overseas Development Aid policy.

Of course climate change is not just an issue that effects the developing world. Long-term analysis of data demonstrates that our climate is warming with all that this entails, including rising sea levels.

I fully support the climate change legislation that was passed (with all-party support) in the Oireachtas last December. The statutory frameworks established by that legislation (including five yearly national mitigation plans and five yearly national adaptation frameworks) will provide a clear roadmap on what we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also the steps we need to take to plan for a changing climate.

The legislation will also establish the Climate Change Advisory Council on a statutory basis.
In relation to economic growth I don’t think the issue actually revolves around the rate of economic growth. I think that all activity needs to be sustainable and that smart, green solutions can ensure that economic growth and job creation can go hand-in-hand with good environmental practices.

2. Our regional towns and cities are suffering. Here in Limerick we’ve seen our city as well as the villages in our county undermined by ribbon-development and one-off housing in the countryside. How do you think we should balance people’s desires to build where they want, with the need for better planning that avoids sprawl and strengthens our villages, towns and cities?

The points you raise are very valid. Poor planning decisions can blight a community for decades, even generations.

Planning and development needs to be driven by a long-term vision for a community – not just the demands of one particular sector.

As a former Minister for Housing and Planning I think my track record shows I deliver on these principles.

I oversaw a process that dezoned land which could have accommodated more than 500,000 houses. This was done to limit urban sprawl and to ensure that future development is concentrated in our towns and villages.

Also, in my first nine months as Minister I used my powers under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act on three occasions to overturn decisions contrary to good planning. The specific issues involved zoning for development on flood plains, in areas isolated from towns and zoning that threatened wildlife habitats. In the 10 years before I took office this power was only used eight times.

I also dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to tackling the legacy of unfinished housing developments across the country, a process that has resulted in a 75% reduction in the number of these estates over the past five years.

In my opinion that Development Plan is the most powerful tool to ensure proper planning and development. New planning legislation which is in the pipeline will establish a planning regulator which I fully support. In addition to its investigative functions the regulator will have an education role which I think is vital. At local authority level and in our communities we need to have the knowledge and tools to make locally-based, informed decisions about plans that will impact on our community for decades.

3. Do you agree with tougher sentencing for criminals, or more rehabilitation? I’m particularly interested in your position on how we should approach drug addiction within the justice system.


I support judicial discretion in sentencing. While sometimes this can be frustrating I acknowledge that judges hear all the facts of a case during trial and post-conviction details and I think that they are best placed to decide on the length of sentence.

I also fully support acknowledging the medical as well as the criminal aspect of addiction and that this needs to be tackled if individuals and communities are to get relief from the tragedy that alcohol and drug addiction can inflict.

In that regard I have supported my colleague Minister Aodhan O’Riordain’s efforts to establish safe facilities for those who are addicted to drugs where they can also come in contact with services that can assist them.

Michael Noonan, Fine Gael

1. How seriously should we take climate change, and what specific policy measures do you think we should take to combat climate change? I’m particularly interested in measures you think that might slow economic growth in the short term but which would have long-term positive effects for our country.

2. Our regional towns and cities are suffering. Here in Limerick we’ve seen our city as well as the villages in our county undermined by ribbon-development and one-off housing in the countryside. How do you think we should balance people’s desires to build where they want, with the need for better planning that avoids sprawl and strengthens our villages, towns and cities?

3. Do you agree with tougher sentencing for criminals, or more rehabilitation? I’m particularly interested in your position on how we should approach drug addiction within the justice system.

I attach a copy of the Fine Gael Election Manifesto which I trust clarifies the matters you have raised in your correspondence.

Email the General Election 2016 candidates in Limerick City

There will be a general election in February 2016.

In Limerick City, there are currently 8 people looking for our vote.

If we don’t ask questions about things that are important to us, we let the media and focus groups do the asking for us.

I know politics is boring for most people but here are 3 very quick things you can do to exercise your democratic rights:

  1. Check that you’re registered to vote (and remember to vote of course!)
  2. Take the smartvote.ie quiz which attempts to match you to candidates based on your response to certain questions
  3. Email the candidates in your constituency with questions about issues that are important to you.

Here are the email addresses of all the candidates running in Limerick City (alphabetical order!), all nicely formatted so you can paste it into your email client

James Gaffney Green Party <jamescbgaffney@gmail.com>,
Sarah Jane Hennelly Social Democrats <sarahjanehennelly@gmail.com>,
Michael Noonan Fine Gael <minister@finance.gov.ie>,
Willie O’Dea Fianna Fail <willie.odea@oireachtas.ie>,
Kieran O’Donnell Fine Gael <kieran.odonnell@oireachtas.ie>,
Jan O’Sullivan Labour <jan.osullivan@oireachtas.ie>,
Cian Prendiville Anti Austerity Alliance <cian.prendiville@limerick.ie>,
Maurice Quinlivan Sinn Fein <cllrmauricequinlivan@gmail.com>

Or, here’s an email link that should open in your email client, with the To: and Subject: fields filled out for you.


Even though I’ve decided on my first preference, I still have to rank everyone else from 2 to 8. I’ve done similar emails in previous elections and the responses have really helped me to decide how to vote.

Here’s my email (I’ll update this post with any responses)

Hi there,

I’m emailing you because you’re running for election in Limerick City. In case you don’t get chance to call to our house in Farranshone, I’d like to ask you a few questions (plus, this way we both get to keep warm and dry!):

  1. Climate Change:
    How seriously should we take climate change, and what specific policy measures do you think we should take to combat climate change? I’m particularly interested in measures you think that might slow economic growth in the short term but which would have long-term positive effects for our country.
  2. Our villages, towns and cities:
    Our regional towns and cities are suffering. Here in Limerick we’ve seen our city as well as the villages in our county undermined by ribbon-development and one-off housing in the countryside. How do you think we should balance people’s desires to build where they want, with the need for better planning that avoids sprawl and strengthens our villages, towns and cities?
  3. Crime:
    Do you agree with tougher sentencing for criminals, or more rehabilitation? I’m particularly interested in your position on how we should approach drug addiction within the justice system.

Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer my questions, and wishing you the very best of luck on the campaign trail,


Why I’m Green

Politics is a minority sport in some ways. Less than 2% of Irish people are members of a political party. I’m one of those wonks, paying my membership dues to the Irish Green Party for the last 9 years.

I blame my wife for joining. It was the day after the election in 2007, and as the early tallies were coming in, it was clear that Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fail had won a spectacular electoral comeback. The Greens, who we’d voted for, had a disappointing election, retaining its representation of 6 Dáil seats. We were disgusted that populist politics had won out once again.  “Right, that’s it”, I was told as my wife stormed in the door. “We’re doing something about this.  We’re joining the Greens”.

I remember the first few meetings we went to in Dublin, before we moved to Limerick.  What struck me about my fellow members was the ways they were so different from each other: I remember solicitors discussing the intricacies of public transport routes with chefs: youth workers arguing about primary health care with software developers. Despite their differences I could see a huge amount in common: the commitment to evidence-based policies; the strong sense that every political change should decrease inequality; a desire to do the right thing in the long-term, even if it wasn’t popular in the short.

As the Greens have no staff, we run completely on the efforts of volunteers, most of whom thankfully have more ability than the slightly hapless guy pictured above…

I stated earlier that politics is a minority sport, I also think that sometimes we treat politics too much like a sport.  Far too often media covers politics in the manner of which ‘team’ is doing better than another; partisans flood social media with reasons why their side is better than the other shower; soundbites from leaders dominate the discourse.

Yet politics can and should be about something else: the ideas which will shape the future of our society; the collective priorities we want to emphasise;  the rewarding of work and the protection of those who cannot.

And the big one: climate change – the one area where I fear the Irish political system’s tendency to short-termism and populism will lead to significant hardship for future generations.

Between local and national campaigns, next month’s general election will be my fourth time knocking on doors for Green candidates, this time for the fantastic candidate we have running in Limerick City, James Gaffney.  James represents everything I joined the Green Party for: thoughtful, respectful, not afraid to campaign on unpopular issues if they represent the right long-term vision for our country. I know there are many who are pessimistic about the power of politics to change things, but I’ll be knocking on the doors of the voters in Limerick City over the next two months with the firm belief that the Green Party offers a long term vision for a sustainable future.

Paying for water is a good thing

Vartry Reservoir
Vartry Reservoir, a large public works project of the 1800s which helped combat cholera in Dublin. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

We Won’t Pay. That’s the slogan of the Right2Water movement, who are opposed to any water charges for residential households. Thousands of people marched in Dublin recently under the this banner, one of a series of protests since Ireland announced it was going to be one of the last rich countries to introduce water charges. It is clear that the introduction of water charges has made people very angry indeed.

I’ve spoken to friends of mine whose opinions I deeply respect, who plan not to pay their water charges. I’ve read the arguments of people who think water charges are wrong, and although they are wide ranging (fears about privatisation, claims that we already pay for water, accusations of waste), they can all be summarised under the effectively concise slogan: “We Won’t Pay”.

I think they’re wrong. And that is a deeply unpopular thought to have.

I don’t think there is a single person who would agree that the current system introduced is problem-free. But I find the “We Won’t Pay” mantra deeply troubling. It represents such a depressing and nihilistic view of what we can accomplish together.

Most people agree that our water infrastructure is pretty awful in this country. We were cutting off the water supply in our capital city because reserves were so low. The water supply has been undrinkable in certain parts of the country for years. There’s a phrase that pops up with depressing regularity in Irish politics: “decades of underinvestment”, which is certainly true of our water supply. I think the reason for this comes down to our attitude towards the State and its capacity to make things better for its citizens.

Rewind to 1977, when we had a General Election. The party then in opposition, Fianna Fáil, didn’t think that it had a chance of winning thanks to some creative gerrymandering of constituencies by the Fine Gael/Labour government (christened the Tullymander). Perhaps because of this, their manifesto was deeply populist and fiscally irresponsible. Included were commitments to abolish local taxation (‘rates’) and motor tax, resulting in a massive and unexpected majority for Fianna Fail. Because this resulted in a large loss of income for local authorities who were responsible for, amongst other things, water supply and sewerage, we are left now with a water system that is not fit for purpose. Of course the difference could have been made up at any time in subsequent decades by an increase in investment at a national level, successive governments ignored long-term infrastructure in favour of policies that would directly increase the cash in voters’ pockets.

It is pretty much universally acknowledged that the 1977 Fianna Fáil manifesto was a disaster for the country. But forty years later we are still holding the same attitudes, which are neatly summed up as “We Won’t Pay”: receive the most you can from government, and pay the least. This is reinforced by an attitude that government is filled with corrupt, venal individuals who must be trusted as little as possible.

“We Won’t Pay” strikes me as appallingly reductionist. It gives us no hope that we can work together as a country to improve equality in this generation, and improve opportunity for future generations. We are so focused on paying as little as possible that we give up so many opportunities to make things better.

Paying for water is a good thing. It allows us to spend more on our water infrastructure, preventing waste in the mains supply. The introduction of domestic metering has allowed us to identify waste inside our homes, as well as providing valuable employment across the country. Could we pay for water in a better way? Of course. Personally I’d like to see greater incentives for conservation, and an investigation of ways that we can make water charges less regressive to people on low incomes. But to dismiss the very concept of charging for water with the phrase “We Won’t Pay” means we’re left with a peculiarly right-wing (pay less taxes and charges, don’t trust the government) view of the world which leaves us with leaks, contamination, and the unappealing prospect of draining water from the River Shannon to meet the water needs of our capital.

The attitude of “We Won’t Pay”, means that we will get governments who prioritise the short term over the long term, who will pursue populism over justice, and who will continue to store up problems for future generations to deal with. Deeply unpopular it may be, but I believe that paying for water is a good thing.