Cllr Joanna Byrne to LCC – Clean Drogheda’s Filthy Streets

This month’s Municipal District meeting in Drogheda saw Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne hold officials from Louth County Council to account over their commitment to clean the streets of Drogheda.

Councillor Byrne raised her concerns regarding the “filth of our pavements, particularly on the main streets of the town centre”and was given firm plans for a Deep Cleaning Machine to facilitate aggressive surface cleaning of pavements for a one week period commencing Monday 19th June and a further period three week period before the commencement of the Fleadh on August 12th.

On Monday night Cllr Byrne slammed officials over this blasé commitment – “Firstly I want to ask what streets were actually cleaned on this initial one week period? I can’t see any improvements so either it wasn’t done or the machine isn’t an adequate solution to tackling this issue.”  She went on to say “I’m all for cleaning the town in advance of the Fleadh but I have said it before and I’ll say it again, we should be doing this regardless for our own people, residents and businesses alike who consistently utilise these areas. Now I’m asking you to extend this pathetic schedule, no time limits, just clean until the job is done, can you give that commitment?”

Senior Engineer Mark Johnson assured Cllr Byrne that the job was done over the initial planned period, the machine was used for three days with effective results, but he could not clarify where exactly it had been used. He went on to inform her of the extensive cost in using this machine, €900 per week, and an additional €300 to get it on-site and that is why there was only limited cleaning scheduled with it.

Cllr Byrne welcomed the official’s clarification that the aggressive cleaning was effective in the small area it was used on, and that this heightened her request to have the schedule for its use extended, which fell on deaf ears as she was told it would be sticking to the original schedule and would not be in use again until the weeks leading up to the Fleadh.

“This is simply not good enough for the people of Drogheda and I am enraged at the unwillingness of the officials to put some pride back into our town, if senior officials put as much effort into doing something as they do into making excuses not to do it we would all be a lot better off!” she concluded.

Cllr Joanna Byrne: ‘Greening The Fleadh’

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne tabled a motion at the June County Council meeting calling for the collection of plastics from the bring bank centres in the county to be re-introduced for the duration of the Fleadh and requested this include the wider parts of the County that will or may be facilitating visitors for the period.

Cllr Byrne has been a champion on this issue and very vocal on the axing of collections of plastic’s from the bring banks. She tabled an emergency motion at the time calling for the original decision to cease plastics collections to be reversed. The Chief Executive refused to reverse the decision despite Cllr Byrne’s motion being supported by all cross-party councillors. She promised at the time that she would not let this issue drop.

Cllr Byrne said “With licensed premises and restaurants set to distribute plastic glasses and containers in the thousands, and litter already plaguing the town, I have my reservations that our current litter collections will be able to facilitate this waste collection.”

Although Cllr Byrne’s motion was passed without any opposition, she was told that the collection of plastic’s from the bring bank facilities could not be facilitated in the way suggested as to do so would require changes in the current infrastructure and amendments to the service contract currently in place.

However, Paddy Donnelly did re-assure Cllr Byrne that a specific ‘Greening the Fleadh’ initiative had already been established. A Committee has been set up – led and chaired by LCC Environment Awareness team, including staff from Enforcement Section, the Energy Office and other stakeholders such as the Drogheda Tidy Towns Group, V&W recycling centre and Endavar, who all also have reps on the committee.

The purpose of this initiative is to manage waste collection and put an emphasis on recycling and the use of biodegradable cups and packaging on take away foods. The intention of this committee is to increase awareness and to bid in 2019 for Festival Green flag status.

Cllr Byrne welcomed this initiative saying “I am pleased to see the commitment and drive shown by Louth County Council in regards to this issue. In my opinion the axing of the collection of plastics was always a disservice to the people of this county and I had major worries as to where this plastic waste would have ended up. I warmly welcome the ‘Greening The Fleadh’ initiative and hopefully its goals come to fruition and it provides an adequate service in regards to recycling and waste management. I will be monitoring it closely throughout the period of the Fleadh and will have no hesitation calling for changes if I don’t deem it satisfactory.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Affordable Housing Schemes Needed

At May’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne had her motion successfully passed calling on the government to introduce affordable housing schemes for local authorities.

The motion read:

That this Louth County Council recognises that homes to rent and to purchase are becoming increasingly unaffordable and calls on government to;
Immediately introduce ambitious affordable rental and purchase housing schemes led by Local Authorities, and where appropriate, Approved Housing Bodies and Housing Co-operatives with clear annual targets for all local authorities;
and to design the Home Building Finance Ireland fund to prioritise loan finance to small and medium sized builders participating in Council led affordable housing schemes.

Cllr Byrne who is also the chairperson of Louth’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) said she tabled this motion because “I believe there is huge cohort of people falling through the cracks that firstly earn over the threshold to get onto the local authority social housing list and do not earn enough to qualify for a mortgage to buy any kind of substantial home.”

Speaking in the chamber on the day Cllr Byrne stated: “Under current government proposals, not one affordable home will be delivered in this state this year. Since taking office in 2011, Fine Gael have not delivered a single affordable rental or purchase home through any Government scheme and the Rebuilding Ireland Action plan for Housing and Homelessness is no different, it too contains no targets and no clear funding stream for the delivery of affordable housing.”

Cllr Byrne said “the only way to ensure that affordable homes are delivered is to immediately introduce affordable schemes, led by Local Authorities, on public land. The Minister maintains that the private sector will deliver affordable homes via the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), but we have yet to see this materialise.

“I have major concerns as to where the current failing government policies are leaving massive numbers of people in this county, and that is the merits behind me tabling this motion. In my view there is an onus on us as representatives of the people of this County to put our names to this and push for it.”

Cllr Byrne welcomed having her motion passed unopposed, notification of this will now be sent directly to the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy.

 

Joanna Byrne: Time for Action on Litter

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne told the monthly meeting of the Drogheda Municipal District that “it’s time to get real and actively start tackling the growing trend of illegal dumping.”

Cllr Byrne called for covert CCTV to be introduced in litter hotspots and informed officials from Louth County Council that dumping levels were now at an epidemic stage in Drogheda and that they could no longer hide behind the ‘excuse of budgetary allowances’.

Cllr Byrne stated that she is “blue in the face talking about this month in and month out” and acknowledged that other councillors felt the same.

Cllr Byrne said “Our town is filthy and we as a local authority are relying on volunteer groups week in week out to clean it. It has become the norm that several different community groups, all volunteers might I add, spend their free time cleaning up fly-tipping, commercial dumping, domestic dumping, you name it, it’s happening. It has become the norm that only hours after these groups clean an area, it is savaged with dumping once again. This has now apparently become socially acceptable.”

She continued, “Louth County Council has to step up and introduce covert CCTV in these hotspots. You can no longer hide behind the excuse of not having the budget to do so, just find it! Take on board the opinions of these community groups who are on the ground cleaning up for us, take on board the opinions of the members, let’s establish these hotspots and get real in tackling this growing trend instead of going around in verbal circles.”

Willie Walsh, Director of Services acknowledged that his department was aware it was an escalating problem and admitted the local authority wasn’t tackling it at a pace they should be, but assured the meeting there was cross-departmental strategizing on-going to come up with a solution for this in advance of the Fleadh.

Cllr Byrne responded, recognising the importance of the Fleadh and the implications of hosting it, but she expressed that this should be tackled for the townspeople first.

“I 100% agree that the dire state of our town will reflect badly on us when the visitors for Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann start flocking in, I also recognise the positive economic and tourism impacts the this will bring to Drogheda, but we should be tackling this problem for our people too. People who have reared their families in this town shouldn’t have to put up with this, children should be able to play on greenspaces without jumping over rubbish, and the goodwill of the volunteers in this town should not be taken advantage of.”

Cllr Byrne called for a costing on CCTV, be it covert or not to be brought back to the next meeting and some proposals from the operations department on implementing the same.

 

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Multi-Agency Approach Needed on Dumping

At this week’s meeting of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne called for a multi-agency approach to be implemented to tackle the growing issue of illegal dumping in Louth.

Cllr Byrne stated that her home town of Drogheda is facing an epidemic regarding illegal dumping, with levels hitting an all time high. She put it to the Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan and representatives of Louth County Council that if they can work on a multi-agency basis to tackle illegal parking, the same must be done to combat the littering and dumping that is escalating at a rapid pace.

Cllr Byrne said “My least favourite word has just been mentioned – ‘Dumping’. Let me tell you all here and now – Drogheda is out of control with illegal dumping, it is gone beyond even talking about. There is absolutely no dressing it up anymore. I am calling for a multi-agency approach to tackling this, be it introducing covert CCTV, linking current community CCTV locations to Drogheda Garda Station, an increased presence of An Garda Síochana and Community/Litter Warden’s around litter hot-spots or more emphasis in filtering through this rubbish and following up on prosecutions, but something has to be done and has to be done fast. This is now an epidemic and if the Local Authority and An Garda Síochana can work together so successfully on targeting traffic matters the same effort needs to be put into tackling illegal dumping.”

Joe McGuinness, Director of Services for Louth County Council told Cllr Byrne that they are conscious of the rise in illegal dumping and it is a growing concern for them but assured her that they were launching an awareness campaign around the issue of waste disposal and anti-dumping initiatives over the coming weeks. Whilst Cllr Byrne welcomed this she did however inform him that this “simply isn’t enough”.

Cllr Byrne said “Awareness campaigns are great but they are now, in my view, far too late. The dumping throughout Drogheda, and indeed further afield in Louth has somehow become socially acceptable. This is not acceptable to me as a public representative of this county, it is not acceptable for my constituents,  it is not acceptable to the volunteers and community groups left with the task of continuously cleaning up this dumping and it certainly should not be acceptable to the Local Authority or the Gardaí. The time has come for you both to invest in this together with resources and willpower, the time has come to get tough! Re-packaging old commitments and answers on this isn’t cutting it anymore, token gestures such as awareness campaigns doesn’t cut it anymore either, action is what is needed, and is long overdue.”