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.”

HAP inspections must become a priority for the Local Authority

At April’s monthly meeting of Louth County Council, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne extensively questioned the Director of Services for Housing on the level of inspections currently being carried out on rented dwelling funded through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).

HAP is a social housing support that has replaced the old Rent Supplement for those with a long-term housing need who qualify for housing support.

Under the legislation, if the rental property has not been inspected in the previous 12 months prior to the commencement of the HAP contract, it has to be inspected within the following 8 months to ensure compliance with legislation and standards. With the latest figures showing that over two thousand people throughout Louth are availing of HAP, Cllr Byrne queried where the local authority are at with these inspections.

Cllr Joanna Byrne said “With 2062 people on HAP throughout this county, I want to ask the question as to where we are at with these inspections? There is a significant amount of money being spent on HAP and the question needs to be asked how many of these landlords are providing sub-standard accommodation? I have people coming to my clinic week in week out who are living in deplorable conditions – no heating, dampness, no ventilation, windows not opening, the list goes on. Some of these properties are in clear breach of Health and Safety regulations and are putting people’s health and lives at risk. This is not good enough for the people of our county and it is certainly not good enough for the children of our county!”

The national statistics for 2016 show that in that year only 7% of HAP dwellings were inspected and the government has set a target that by 2021 25% properties will be inspected, indicating that it could take up to 4 years for an inspection to take place. That length of time will no doubt increase as the amount of these dwellings increase, and Cllr Byrne who is chairperson of Louth’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee has called on Louth County Council to channel more resources into this area and make these inspections a priority.

The director told Cllr Byrne that all landlords have an obligation to comply with the Residential Tenancies Board’s accommodation standards in the first instance, however he did recognise there are many issues out there and assured Cllr Byrne that the housing department of Louth County Council do recognise the importance of these inspections and would endeavour to work through them.

Cllr Byrne concluded by saying ” With the lack of social and affordable housing , more and more people are being driven to the rental sector to meet their housing needs, if this is the case there is an onus on us as a local authority to ensure that we are not standing by and leaving families in sub-standard dwellings. I personally won’t be standing by, I will be pushing at any and every opportunity I get to ensure there is an increase on the level of inspections carried out, and following the inspections that the findings and recommendations of them are followed through.

“These inspections must become a priority, in doing so the health and safety of our constituents becomes a priority.”

Louth SF at National Homeless Protest

Louth Sinn Féin Councillors Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined a huge Sinn Féin contingent in Dublin on Saturday afternoon to support the National Homeless and Housing Coalition’s (NHHC) mass housing protest.

The national day of action, organised by the NHHC, was supported by organisations such as Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, the Simon Communites, along with a number of activist and trade union groups, actors, musicians and political parties – including Sinn Féin.

Saturday’s protest saw people come out in their thousands to demonstrate against record homelessness figures and the fact our country is facing a national housing emergency.

Speaking after the protest Cllr Joanna Byrne and Chairperson of Louth County Council’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee said:

“A mobilisation of this size has to send a clear message to the government to make housing a right, not a privilege. The latest figures show that there are nearly 10,000 people in this country that are homeless, including 3,755 children. Month by month these figures are rising, it is gone beyond frightening at this stage and these people are the reason we are here today, these are the people we are standing in solidarity with today. This needs to be recognised as a national emergency and dealt with accordingly. The government need to increase investment in homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment and provide more protection for tenants at risk of homelessness to even try and get a handle on this crisis.”

Cllr Ruairí Ó Murchú, Sinn Féin’s General Election candidate for Louth stated that “until there is a change in government policy this crisis will continue to get worse. The government’s over-reliance on the private rental sector to meet social housing needs, combined with rising rents and no rent certainty has played a major part in this crisis, this needs to change. Focus needs to be on building social and affordable homes, mixed-tenure public housing estates on public lands, funded by central government and built by local authorities.”

Joanna Byrne and Ruairí Ó Murchú joined Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald, along with the parties spokesperson on Housing Eoin O’Broin behind the banner leading the Sinn Féin section of the protest.

Elected Reps and activists from all around the country followed behind making the huge Sinn Féin presence felt and were the largest Political Party supporting the event.

 

 

Cllr Joanna Byrne Repeats Calls for Plastic Bring Banks

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne reported “Monday night’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting saw the Chief Executive of Louth County Council Joan Martin announce to the members that she is immediately suspending charging for parking in Drogheda pending the adoption of new Bye Laws, and the financial implications of this would be to the tune of a loss in €300,000 in revenue at a minimum.

“On a positive note though, the CEO assured the members that she had been able to identify a number of sources to meet the sum involved and would be bringing proposals to the full council in three weeks time to meet the shortfall,therefore avoiding any cuts to the 2018 Budget.”

Joanna Byne said “This 300,000 was identified in the short few hours between the management team receiving legal advice on the Bye Laws on Monday morning and the meeting at teatime on Monday evening.

“The question now needs to be asked, how could such a substantial sum of money be identified in such a short period of time?

Bring Banks overflowing with plastic bottles 1 week after the decision

 

“November 2017’s budget meeting nearly saw the entire Council dissolved over major dissatisfaction amongst the members with many things, cuts in services without consultation and in particular, the collection of Plastics from Bring Banks was a major bone of contention. The cut in this particular service was in my view, always a cost-cutting measure.

“Despite all councillors voting and unanimously backing my Emergency Motion back in July to restore this service, worth €136k per annum, and several lobby attempts for the same in the period since then, this has not happened.

“I have written directly to the Chief Executive of Louth County Council today, asking that if she can pluck €300,000 from the sky to cover the costs of an administrative error then she must pluck another €136,000 from the same place to restore this vital service and stop defying the will of the elected representatives, and indeed the public of this county.”