Speaking at this week’s Municipal District of Drogheda meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne queried the local authorities’ plans in advance of this year’s annual rough sleeper count.
The previous two years have both returned a count of zero rough sleepers, something that Cllr Byrne was very shocked and vocal about on both occasions, even offering to escort Council officials to people who were sleeping rough within walking distance of the Council offices.
Cllr Byrne had requested after the 2017 count that the Council liaise with the relevant stakeholders in advance. Following up on that request this week she said “Drogheda Homeless Aid, Drogheda Cares for The Homeless and The Red Door, among others, are the NGO’s on the ground on a daily basis, these are the people the Local Authority need to take their lead from on this issue. It won’t serve any purpose for another inaccurate count of zero to be returned.”
Cllr Byrne then called on the Local Authority to “liaise with the Public Representatives in each area in advance of all rough sleeper counts so that they can be aware of the hotspots known to the members and include them on their route.”
Rough Sleepers from last year – yet the count was ZERO
Newly appointed Director of Service’s for Housing, Paddy Donnelly, concurred with Councillor Byrne’s concerns and agreed he would ensure plans be put in place before the upcoming count to engage with all the relevant stakeholders stating that “Louth County Council want to be in a position to offer those sleeping on the streets the particular help that they need at that time” and they “would work with all organisations to ensure an accurate count is returned and that help is given.”
Cllr Joanna Byrne said “an accurate count gives a true picture of the needs and help that is required enabling everyone concerned to provide adequate resources and help those who most need it.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood has vowed to continue to tackle the problem of shopping trolleys being dumped in the Boyne.
Cllr. Flood said “In June, during their last clean up, members of the Boyne Fishermen’s Rescue and Recovery Service took out over 40 shopping trolleys, bikes and other hazards from the Boyne ahead of the Irish Maritime Festival. These trolleys are a serious underwater hazard for swimmers in the river and can also destroy the propellers
on passing boats.”
It is estimated that over 1,000 trolleys have been removed from the river over the past six years.
Cllr Flood said “Ahead of that clean up I had contacted Louth County Council Litter Warden to ask that he attend so he could photograph the dumped trolleys and issue fines. I recently received confirmation from the Litter Warden that 10 Fines were issued on the back of that clean up, although over 40 trolleys were removed from the Boyne.
But the problem is continuing. Only today I saw trolleys dumped on Shop Street, The North Quay and on the Termonfeckin Road. I intend to raise this issue again at the next Borough District of Drogheda Meeting to request the council again write to supermarket operators to ensure they recover their property before it is dumped and to ensure that any fines issued match the number of trolleys recovered.”
Following Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne’s queries last month at both the Municipal District and Louth County Council meetings, she noted that nothing has changed at this month’s meeting. Cllr Byrne had drawn attention to discrepancies and conflicting information in the housing report at the June meeting and then at the July meeting this morning, she again noticed it was a copy and paste effort that had not been updated.
Cllr Byrne said “I noted to the chamber that it was not only on paper the communication was lacking. I attempted to bring to their attention an extremely sensitive and traumatic case which exposed a total lack of communication between the Director of Services (DOS) for Housing and the senior Executive Officer (SEO) for Housing. “
While Cllr Byrne tried to bring this to the Chamber, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Louth County Council, Joan Martin attempted to prevent her from speaking.
Joan Martin slammed her for bringing this up at a public meeting and advised her if she had an issue then she should go to her directly. Determined not to be silenced, Joanna Byrne stood her ground and said “My point in raising this here this morning, if you would let me finish, is because I am calling for a commitment from the DOS for Housing that there will be more transparency and communication between him and the senior officials on his Housing Team. I don’t and won’t accept people playing cat and mouse with information, especially when it has such a significant impact on people’s lives”
There was no response from the D.O.S in relation to this commitment for transparency but the SEO has since sent written confirmation of the updated data that was originally omitted from the housing report printed on the agenda.
Cllr Byrne said “The reason I am pushing for this data to be accurate every month is because it is our guide as public representatives as to where we stand on a month by month basis with regards to social housing applicant numbers, up to date information on projects under construction and so on. It is imperative that is given to us correctly so that we are passing out the right information to our constituents. This morning’s outburst from the CEO and her attempt to prevent me raising my concerns just proves the lack of accountability within the organisation.”