Louth’s Chief Fire Officer Eamonn Woulfe attended the most recent sitting of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) last Monday at the request of the Chairperson Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne.
Mr. Woulfe gave an informative presentation to the SPC on the recently published report reviewing Fire Safety in Ireland giving Councillors, PPN reps and Union delegates the opportunity to discuss the changes and recommendations suggested.
The report, comprised in the aftermath of Grenfell, initiated a broader review of fire safety legislation and policy, with many recommendations including a focus on high-rise buildings, multi-unit social housing blocks, Community Fire Safety, Integrated Risk Management and legislative responsibility among others.
A major area of concern highlighted by Cllr Byrne is the current issue of Recruitment and Job Retention among the retained ranks of Firefighters in Louth and the impact on the implementation of the recommendations in the Report given that the numbers, especially in Drogheda, is depleting at an alarming rate.
Cllr Byrne said “The retained crew in Drogheda is massively under-resourced, by a third in fact and deteriorating by the week. A major investment needs to be put into recruitment for this particular area and incentives made available to retain current firefighters. We cannot continue to stand idly by and watch these deeply valued public servants leave the service, in particular from the retained ranks who are a solid support to the full-time crew.”
Cllr Byrne called on the Chief Fire Officer to review a multitude of things which she believes are essential and of the upmost importance;
- a major recruitment drive supported by a Social Media campaign
- an overall review of the retained/full-time structures within the county
- work with the Director of Services for Housing to establish suitable housing structures in the vicinity of the Fire Station to accommodate retained firefighters.
Cllr Joanna Byrne said “it is no longer enough expressing our appreciation of this valuable frontline service, it’s time to support them properly and put investment where it is needed.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has said that the Pride Flag will fly over the civic offices on Fair Street from Thursday 9th – Sun 12th August covering the whole period of Drogheda’s third Pride Festival.
Cllr Byrne will, for the second year running, officially open the festivities on Friday 10th August in Millmount at 12pm. This is the official launch of the weekend’s events and the ceremony will include a raising of the Pride Flag there also.
Cllr Byrne said “This is the third year of Pride in Drogheda and each year it gets bigger and better. I am delighted to have been part of it every year as have my party colleagues and I am extremely honoured to have been asked to once again officially open this festival. To watch the LGBTQ group in Drogheda grow as much as they have over the years, in both numbers and confidence, I couldn’t be more proud. As an Irish
Cllr Joanna Byrne Opens Pride Week in 2017
Republican, equality is at the core of all that I represent. I genuinely believe that all citizens must enjoy full equality of rights and opportunities under law and indeed everyday life, regardless of their background, sexual orientation or gender. Nothing less can be tolerated in a modern, progressive and inclusive society. Drogheda leads the way in this regard giving tremendous respect and support to our local LGBTQ community and their events. Pride weekend is a fantastic fun-filled weekend of equality, diversity and tolerance as well as raising awareness of many important issues and I would encourage everyone to attend as many of the events as you can.”
The festival opens on Friday 10th August at 12 noon in Millmount followed by a family fun event in The Barbican at 2.30. Saturday will see a Pride Breakfast event in Stockwell Artisan Foods at 9am, Samba – Pride Style at St.Peter’s Church at 12pm and the main event is that evening in McHugh’s Bar at 8pm. Full details are available on all social media sites of Drogheda LQBTQ.
Speaking at Louth County Council’s July meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor and Chairperson of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) Joanna Byrne raised the issue of an increase yet again in the number of Vacant Properties in the County,
Cllr Byrne said “This month sees yet another increase in the number of vacant properties the council is in possession of, with additional houses in both un-tenanted & un-occupied requiring major and minor works in refurbishing. It must become a priority for the local authority to get these up to allocation standard, considering the housing shortage in this county. What is the delay in turning these around, is it money or manpower?”
Director of Services, Joe McGuinness, agreed with Cllr Byrne that there was an increase with the percentage of Stock Vacant going from the usual 0.27% to 2.44% and it is an issue that he and his team are currently focusing on. A surge in abandoned properties and the amount of properties acquired through the CPO process coming into fruition have contributed to the increase.
Speaking afterwards Cllr Byrne said: “No amount of vacant properties is acceptable to me, let alone 83 of them. That’s 83 families that could be taken out of emergency accommodation or off the housing waiting list and given their forever home. Louth County Council need to now focus on turning these vacant properties around and making them a priority for allocation. I will be monitoring this issue very closely and will keep pressing the officials until I see them all completed and allocated.”
Once again Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has called on Louth County Council to clarify the county’s status in regards to homelessness.
The Local Authority’s latest Housing Progress report saw a significant decrease in numbers presenting as homeless across the board in Drogheda, Dundalk and Mid-Louth forcing Cllr Joanna Byrne to seek clarification if this was “a true reflection of our homelessness situation or a massaging of the figures as a result of ‘re-categorisation.”
Cllr Byrne said “Louth County Council was instructed recently by the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, to remove a number of people from this report who were placed in local authority owned or leased housing stock as emergency accommodation.”
This recent instruction prompted Cllr Byrne to promise publicly that she would hold officials to account over what she termed the ‘sheer manipulation of the reality of homelessness in Louth.”
Speaking at this month’s Council meeting, Cllr Byrne told officials “We now have a report in front of us that is not a true reflection of the situation. It fathoms me how you expect us to assess the current state of play in regards to homelessness when you are re-categorising the reports and not including the figures you have removed. I am asking you to change the report for next month and include a new section that reflects the number of people that have been removed and placed in this type of accommodation. It is still emergency accommodation regardless of who owns the properties and until a long term tenancy through social housing or HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) is secured, they remain as homeless, no matter what way you want to dress it up!”
Joe McGuinness, Director of Service’s for Housing in Louth recognised Cllr Byrne’s concerns and assured her he would look to rectify the report for the next meeting.
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.