Kevin Meenan Co-opted onto Louth County Council

Kevin Meenan officially became a Cllr at this evening’s inauguration at Louth County Council offices.

Following glowing tributes and congratulations from all parties towards Ruairí Ó Murchú TD whose seat resulted in the casual vacancy, Kevin Meenan was proposed by Sinn Féin group leader Cllr Pearse McGeough who said “it’s a privilege and an honour for me to propose my friend Kevin Meenan as a councillor for the Dundalk South area.

“Kevin has a long history of community engagement and working for those who are voiceless. He has always been an outstanding advocate for his constituents and when he spoke in the chamber it was obvious that everyone listened and he was respected by all. It is great to see him rejoining our group of Councillors and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank his partner Paula and his daughter Caithlain for supporting him in this decision.”

Cllr Kevin Meenan also paid tribute to Paula and Caithlain and said  “I’ve always had a good working relationship with councillors and officials alike and look forward to getting stuck in again. I feel there is unfinished business for me to do and I am humbled and honoured to be here once again. I feel that I have grown up here, I have spent most of my working life as a councillor and now I’m back.”

Cllr Meenan also thanked those Councillors in the chamber who took time out to attend the event, especially as it was the only order of business.”

Louth addiction services under threat – Ó Murchú

Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that the Minister for Health must intervene to support community groups working with people in addiction in Louth. 

Cllr Ó Murchú, who is Chairperson of Louth Drug and Alcohol Forum and has recently been appointed as a member of the North East Regional Drugs Task Force, made his remarks this afternoon  following his attendance at a briefing in Leinster House by the North East Drugs Task Force. 

Councillor Ó Murchú said,

“The reality is that the groups who attended the Dáil today are all experiencing severe funding shortfalls. 

“Across the North East Region which encompasses Louth, Monaghan, Cavan and Meath, some groups are facing imminent closure unless the funding model is changed. 

“They have no continuity of funding and are required to bid to the HSE annually. 

“Typically, if they receive funding, it is allocated the same rate as the previous year which takes no account of the rising number of service users, rising rental and overhead costs and inflation. 

“Staff in these community organisations do amazing and life changing work, yet their rate of pay, terms and conditions do not match HSE employed staff.

“Financially these groups are running to stand still by fundraising ever greater amounts and relying on the goodwill of volunteers. 

“In Dundalk and other areas we are in an emergency regarding the level of drugs usage. This requires urgent government action.

“Louth based groups: The Red Door Project, Family Addiction Support Network, Turas and the Community Addiction Studies Course (CASC) all attended today’s meeting and I thank them for giving up their time and commend the work they are doing. 

“These groups also reported that the level of participation on the Task Force by statutory agencies such as the HSE, Gardaí and Department of Education is reducing. 

“The groups feel they are being disempowered in the decision making process. 

“This must be addressed because the state agencies need the local knowledge that only those working at the coal face can provide. 

“In follow up to today’s event a meeting with the Minister for Health and the Minister of State for Drugs will be requested and the Justice Committee will be making this issue a priority in the new year. “

Brexit threatens jobs in Louth

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has warned that “the election of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister and the increased likelihood of a no-deal Brexit threatens jobs in Louth and along the border corridor”.

Gerry Adams TD said:

“The election of Boris Johnson, his appointment of a hard-line pro-Brexit Cabinet, and the establishment of a so-called ‘War Cabinet’ has significantly ramped up the potential for a no-deal Brexit. The consequences of this for Louth, for the Good Friday Agreement and for the restoration of the political institutions in the North, are not good.

Equally damaging for jobs and investment is the impact of Brexit on border counties, and especially Louth which straddles the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor.

According to the Government’s contingency action plan update, published at the beginning of July, there are likely to be job losses in this state of between 50,000 to 55,000 in the most exposed sectors. A report published yesterday by the North’s Department for the Economy predicts that up to 40,000 jobs will be at risk from a no-deal Brexit.

In June a confidential British Government study was published by the British Parliament’s Brexit select committee. It identified 142 areas of co-operation, including in the areas of agriculture, health, the environment and transport between this state and the North, and between the island of Ireland and Britain. All of these will be seriously affected by a no-deal Brexit”.

Commenting on  An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s remarks on Unity at the MacGill Summer School last week. Teachta Adams said:

“I welcome the Taoiseach’s belated realisation that a hard Brexit on October 31st, against the wishes of people in the North, which takes away their European citizenship, and undermines the Good Friday Agreement, will increase interest in and support for Irish Unity.

Mr. Varadkar now needs to move beyond expressions of concern and begin the process of planning for Irish unity. Currently he says that producing a White Paper or establishing a Forum on Unity would fuel the accusation that the Irish government is exploiting Brexit. The reality is that it is the responsibility of governments to plan for different eventualities. Irish Unity is clearly now one of these and there is a responsibility on Mr. Varadkar to plan for it.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne slams Louth County Council for not making Homelessness a priority

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has once again slammed Louth County Council for not taking the Homelessness situation in the County seriously enough.

Cllr Byrne was speaking at this month’s Council meeting and said “I want to express my deep dissatisfaction at the reporting of Homelessness from this local authority. We are sitting here looking at a Homelessness report that has not been updated since January. It has been just copied and pasted for the last two months.”

Councillors receive a monthly report giving statistics on the county situation but the report at this month’s meeting appeared to be the same as the January report.

Cllr Byrne then listed a number of what she seen as ‘failures’ on the issue of homelessness. Cllr Byrne said “This is at a time where we have had no Rough Sleeper Count done in the South of the County in 16 months, at a time where the Homelessness section of Louth County Council’s website which provides vital contact information for those who need it has been inaccessible for a month, at a time where the executive of this Council is defying the will of the members who are calling for additional homeless facilities to cater for those suffering with addictions.”

“I don’t know if this copy and paste effort is down to incompetence, laziness or blatant manipulation of the information being conveyed to the members, but regardless of which of the three, it is it is not acceptable.”

These claims were met with cries of dismay from the top table and Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly replied stating he ‘took great exception’ to Cllr Byrne’s remarks. Cllr Byrne concluded in saying” There is no accountability here and in my opinion Homelessness needs to become more of a priority for this Local Authority and as a matter of urgency!”

These claims were met with cries of dismay from the top table and Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly replied stating he ‘took great exception’ to Cllr Byrne’s remarks.

Cllr Byrne concluded in saying” There is no accountability here and in my opinion Homelessness needs to become more of a priority for this Local Authority and as a matter of urgency!”

Cllr Joanna Byrne Warns Council of Consequences of Placement Fees

At last week’s Municipal District of Drogheda’s monthly meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne firmly queried Director of Services for Housing as to whether Louth County Council had bought into the idea of offering placement fees to estate agents.

Cllr Byrne said “It emerged this week that some Local Authorities are offering estate agents €500 + Vat in ‘placement fees’ in return for them securing private rental accommodation for homeless families. I want to know firstly, are Louth County Council participating in this? And secondly, if there has been a direction from Minister Murphy to do the same?”

Cllr Byrne who is Chairperson of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee went on to voice her concerns that this would be a very bad move for the County.

“I understand that until social and affordable housing stock is increased dramatically in Louth it may seem that there is no alternative but to engage in these desperate negotiations but by God, it is plain to see this will distort the market even further. There is already an over-reliance by this Government, and in turn this Council, on the private rental sector and if that stock, in short supply as it is, is removed to facilitate backroom deals without the implementation of subsequent measures, the consequences will in turn lead to more and more families entering homelessness than the local authority will be able to manage!”

In response to Cllr Byrne’s concerns, Paddy Donnelly in his first meeting in the district in his new role as Director for Housing,  confirmed that Louth County Council are not currently participating in this scheme. Whilst stating that this may be a ‘viable option for some’, this then sparked serious concerns to Cllr Byrne that this may a route the Local Authority would consider in the future.

Mr. Donnelly alleviated these counter concerns by committing to the meeting that there are no plans for Louth County Council to engage in this process in the future.

Cllr Byrne has welcomed this outcome and vowed to monitor this going forward.