Cllr Joanna Byrne: Windmill Road Residents Deserve Better

                         Cllr Joanna Byrne & Windmill Rd Residents

 

Last week’s Municipal District meeting of Drogheda saw a furious Joanna Byrne take the council officials to task over the delay of implementing ‘Resident’s Only’ parking on the Windmill Rd. 

Demanding answers on the delay, the Sinn Féin councillor also slammed Louth County Council for failing to engage with the residents of the area at any stage throughout the process.

Cllr Byrne said, “Following a long , hard-fought campaign by the residents of the Windmill Road area, the committee were here on 2nd September to witness the passing of the amended Bye-Laws which would see the introduction of Resident’s Only parking on the West Side of the street and an increased rate of parking fees on the rest of the street. This increase would reflect the rates of the Hospital car-park to encourage visitors to utilise that facility and therefore relieve congestion on the Windmill Road. This was given a commencement date of October 10th.

“Over a month later, no such Residents Only parking has been introduced. Ironically though, the increased parking rates have.”

Cllr Byrne was advised by a Council Engineer present at the municipal meeting, that the delay was due to the signage not arriving on time although it had been ordered, and the Residents Parking Only would be implemented in due course when it arrives.

Cllr Byrne said “Delays happen with orders, that I understand, but here we are a month later and not one level of engagement or communication has been fed down to the residents to inform them of this. We are now entering the winter season which unfortunately always leads to a busier hospital, all the residents here can see is congestion building, increased parking rates and no sign of their parking being introduced. After the hard work and perseverance they put into this campaign, frankly they deserve a lot better from Louth County Council.”

Cllr Byrne who worked closely with the residents of Windmill Road on this campaign urged the Council to follow up on the signage as a matter of urgency and to “not let this drag into another month before any work commences.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne – Victims should not be treated as Criminals

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has demanded clarification from Louth County Council (LCC) as to what provisions they have in place to assist victims of criminal attacks on their homes.

Speaking at Monday’s monthly County Council meeting, Cllr Byrne said that “while dealing with a case last week I was advised by the homeless department of LCC that in cases of the recent petrol bomb attacks on houses , the local authority are treating these as ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’ and their policy is to ask tenants to stay with family and friends until their houses are repaired, or alternatively to surrender their tenancy.”

“Let me very clear about this” she said, “An Garda Siochana and our courts system have not found anybody guilty of these attacks as of yet and Louth County Council have not established any evidence to suggest that those targeted are anything other than victims. These people need to be treated like victims of criminal attacks and not culprits of Anti-Social Behaviour.”

“To ask anyone who has narrowly escaped these attacks with their lives intact, to surrender their tenancy is outrageous. They have been through enough trauma without being forced to relinquish their rights to a house they spent many years making a home, a house they’ve reared their children in, and a house that may be just a shell right now but you can be sure it carries its weight in invaluable memories – good , bad or indifferent.”

Cllr Byrne told the meeting that “relying on family and friends to take in these people is not always feasible, particularly in some cases that may run for a period of many months until houses are repaired. I believe there is an inconsistent approach to how these situations are currently being handled, some people being awarded emergency accommodation, some people getting re-housed and some people being offered no assistance whatsoever.”

The Chief Executive of Louth Council, Joan Martin, responded to Cllr Byrne agreeing with her and that clarification was needed. M/s Martin asked to take the issue away and meet with the Director of Service for Housing and his team and will report back to the members.

 

Cllr Joanna Byrne: ‘Bring Our Merryweather Home’

This month’s council meeting of the Municipal District of Drogheda saw Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne table a motion calling for Louth County Council to source an indoor exhibition space to facilitate the return of The Merryweather Fire Engine. The fire engine is currently in storage in Dundalk and Cllr Byrne feels it would be better served here in the town as part of Drogheda’s proud history rather than allowing it to fall into a state of neglect.

Taking the floor on her motion Cllr Byrne stated that “the popular Green Machine is of historic importance to the town”. She reminded the chamber that during World War II (1941), together with an engine from Dundalk, The Merryweather from Drogheda responded to Belfast’s may-day call during the blitz.

 

Impassioned words from Cllr Byrne cited “Not only is this machine of historic importance to our town, but it is also of sentimental value to many Firefighters who served on this machine, children who watched their parents serve on this machine, and townspeople who took great pride in this machine, and still do.

 

The Merryweather before and after restoration in 2016

“The Merryweather was restored in recent years and for it to now be lying in somebody’s shed at the far end of this County is a crying shame! The Local Authority needs to source an indoor exhibition space, bring our Merryweather home, put in on proud display and let the Fire Service showcase it at events. Anything less would be dishonourable to the more recent history of Drogheda.”

 

In response to Cllr Byrne’s initial request, Louth County Council have sourced a protective breathable cover for The Merryweather whilst it remains in storage. They also replied “That this Council will commit to seeking an indoor exhibition space for The Merryweather Fire Engine in Drogheda and return it back to the town for display to the townspeople and the use of the Fire Service for events when required.” 

 

Cllr Byrne said “I will be monitoring this very closely and will not rest until The Merryweather is back where it belongs.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Millmount Walkway & Lighting to be Repaired

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has welcomed a commitment from Louth County Council that works will take place to repair the cobble walkway and the lighting leading up to the Millmount Martello Tower, or the ‘Cup and Saucer’ as it’s widely known among Drogheda locals.

 

Last month Cllr Byrne had a motion passed for these works to be done and was advised that an examination and a report would need to take place.

 

On following up on the issue Cllr Byrne said “I received a timely and welcome response that the examination had in fact taken place and the local authority had identified that works were indeed needed and were in the process of seeking quotes for the works to be carried out.”

 

Cllr Byrne sought clarification on whether these works were subject to funding and “I am delighted to say, they are not and the works will be carried out as soon as a contractor is confirmed.”

 

Cllr Byrne said: “too many of our town’s heritage jewels have been allowed fall into states of neglect and disrepair and I wasn’t willing to stand by and allow another one go the same way. The cobble walkway leading up to the tower at Millmount is our only point of access. If this collapsed where would that leave us? Not only that, but all the potholes in this walkway are resulting in leaks down into the Governor’s House which in turn poses a risk of damage to the internal archway. The commitment to carry out the necessary works is warmly welcomed and I look forward to seeing these works commence in the near future.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne: Ad-hoc approach to emergency accommodation is failing our Homeless

At this month’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne raised concerns about Louth County Council’s system to assist those seeking emergency accommodation.

Cllr Byrne, who has proved a strong advocate for the homeless in Drogheda, expressed major reservations about the process a homeless person has to go through to secure emergency accommodation.

Cllr Byrne also suggested some changes, which were dismissed on the night by the Senior Executive Officer for Housing Aoife Lawlor.

Cllr Byrne said “At present, somebody who is experiencing homelessness in Drogheda presents to the Homeless Officer, gets approved for assistance and if there are no beds available with the NGO’s who provide Homeless facilities in this town, they are then told to find a B&B and it will be paid for. This is all well and good until somebody can’t find a B&B, then where do they go, onto the streets?”

She went on to say “I have had many people present to my clinics in this distressing situation and I have spent numerous hours calling B&B’s who nine times out of ten seem to be fully booked when they hear it’s to house a homeless individual or family. There is, without a doubt, a stigma surrounding people in this unfortunate situation and there is a reluctance to take these people in. If a County Councillor cannot secure a booking for them what hope do they have themselves?”

Councillor Byrne asked if the local authority would consider establishing a link with some B&Bs, enough with a capacity to cater for the numbers presenting as homeless and requiring emergency accommodation in B&Bs, so that at any given stage the Homeless Officer would know what beds would be available to the local authority and have somewhere concrete to settle this person in until alternative solutions were made available – this suggestion was immediately dismissed with the Senior Executive Officer quoting “too many liabilities involved in such an arrangement”.

Cllr Byrne was deeply dissatisfied with this response and concluded in stating that “facing homelessness and a night on the streets is everybody’s worst nightmare, without the added pressure of ringing or calling to 10-15 B&B’s in some cases before securing a bed. This is an area the local authority is majorly lacking in, sitting back with a sporadic ad-hoc approach is failing our homeless and adding much more unnecessary pressure to an already daunting scenario. Some sort of legitimate system needs to be put in place especially as presentations of this nature are growing higher by the week.”