Northern Ireland to implement smoking ban

The BBC today reports that Northern Ireland will have a smoking ban before the end of the year, following the lead of the Government here in the south.

This is great news.

Firstly, when I was studying in Magee College in Derry, the benefits of the smoking ban were starkly illustrated. You were unable to even go for a coffee or a sandwich without leaving the cafe stinking of someone else’s smoke. The health implications of working in an environment like this must then be taken into account.

Secondly, it shows that the smoking ban that was implemented here with such controversy has been a resounding success. There have been some difficulties with uptake, but overall the results have shown that people are willingly obeying the ban, and the environment in our pubs, clubs, restaraunts and other places of work have improved greatly.

Minister Michael Martin, although he has suffered some knocks since, showed real courage in pushing through this ban and deserves recognition for this contribution to Irish legislation.

Update: As this article says, Donegal Tourism chiefs are welcoming the Northern ban, saying it will help “level the playing fields”

Congratulations to Cllr Dessie Larkin

I’d like to send my congratulations to Mayor of Letterkenny, Cllr Dessie Larkin, who was today elected by the members of Donegal County Council as Chairman of the County Council in Lifford.

Cllr Larkin is an extremely hard working public representative, and well deserves this accolade. I am sure he will serve Donegal and the County Council with the same commitment and vigour that he has shown as a member, and chairman, of Letterkenny Town Council.

Cllr Larkin will serve as chairman for one year, and will be tasked with running most meetings in Lifford, as well as representing Donegal across Ireland. His term as Mayor of Letterkenny comes to an end on Thursday, June 30th 2005, when Letterkenny Town Council hold their Annual General Meeting.

Read more on this at Highland Radio’s website and at Ocean FM’s website

Letterkenny Tidy Estate’s Competition

Tonight, Mayor Larkin, Town Clerk Mr. Paddy Doherty and Jim McCormick, Chairman of Letterkenny Tidy Towns, made the presentations of the awards for the 2004 Tidy Estates Competition.

Winner of the overall award was Beinn Aoibhinn, with other awards going to a number of estates around the town. The evening was well attended, and my deepest congratulations go to all those who took part. A huge amount of work goes into the maintenance of all estates around the town, and it’s good to see this work being recognised.

The Tidy Estates competition is one of a number of initiatives undertaken by the Town Council to help residents associations and community groups in the maintenance of their estates. With this in mind, the council are now moving to change the format of the competition in order to increase the openness of the competition.

New Format
Any residents association interested should contact the council (tel: 074 919 4222) as soon as possible, as the closing date for registration is June 30th.

In previous years, estates were judged once. Under the new format, estates will be judged three times, once in mid-July, then in mid-August and finally in mid-September. Most notably, the interim results will be published in the local press. It is hoped this will foster an even stronger sense of competition among the many residents associations, and further strengthen the town in other competitions, particularly the Tidy Towns.

I whole-heartedly welcome this move, and would encourage all residents associations to get involved. There are a number of cash prizes to be presented to the winners.

Good luck to everyone involved in this year’s contest!

June Meeting- My Motions and Questions

Monday night’s meeting passed without controversy. This post has some details on my own motions and questions from the meeting.

Question 1: What progress has been made on developments at Gartan Field?
Town Clerk’s Reply: The council has been informed the contractor will be onsite next week to begin drainage works and work on footpaths.
My thoughts: These works are long overdue, and had been promised to be completed in time for the summer. I welcome this new movement, and I hope things will run smoothly from here.

Motion 1: That this council discuss our position on recycling, in light of recent events
Result: The motion was universally accepted
My thoughts: The local authorities, together with schools and other local organisations, have done some excellent work in recent years convincing local people to engage in recycling. This has resulted in a real and visible change in people’s mindsets. The facilities we had in Letterkenny previously became victims of their own success, to the stage where we no have no facility for people wishing to recycle.

Tonight, I sough a commitment from the County Manager that recycling facilities be provided in Letterkenny as soon as possible. I welcome the move to kerb-side recycling, but we must remember that that is not suitable for all people or, indeed, all recyclable materials (eg Glass bottles, which cannot be put into a mixed recyclables bin for safety reasons).

All councillors spoke favourably on the motion, and are anxious that provision be made as soon as possible. Letterkenny Town Council is fully committed to recycling.

Motion 2: In advance of any progress on permanent improvements, this council takes immediate action to secure and improve the junctions on the Neil T Blaney/Paddy Harte/Loop road on a temporary basis with improved barriers and signage
Result: The motion was universally accepted
My thoughts: While the traffic system in this part of town remains controversial, we are all agreed that the junctions remain in an unsafe condition. Tonight, I called on the Town Engineer Michael McFadden to put in place temporary measures to secure and make safe the junctions. I was asking for simple measures, such as crowd control-style barriers, and temporary signage, to be put in place in advance of next weekends Donegal International Rally, to accommodate the expected influx of drivers to the town.

This is, obviously, not a permanent solution. However it is vital that these junctions be made safe as soon as possible. The Engineer has assured me he will do his best to get some improvements made as soon as possible.

Motion 3: That this council request Donegal County Council to apply for funding to establish a skate park in Letterkenny, under the scheme recently announced by the Department of the Environment
Result: The motion was universally accepted
My thoughts: The moves by the Department of the Environment to facilitate this growing activity must be welcomed. In a time where obesity is among the biggest health risks for children, as local authorities we must work to facilitate the participation in sport by as many young people as possible. Many people fall outside the traditional sports of gaelic football and soccer, and many of these young people are getting involved in Skate boarding.

At present, there is no formal facility in the Town for skateboarding. A number of sites have begun to attract skaters, but these sites are unsafe and not suitable for this use. I received a commitment tonight from the County Manager that an application is under active preparation, and will be submitted to the department. Hopefully Letterkenny will be able to accommodate skaters in the near future.

June Council Meeting

The monthly meeting for June takes place tonight at 7pm in the Public Services Centre. As members, we get to ask 3 formal questions and put forward 3 formal motions at every meeting.

For this meeting, I have the following questions and motions on the agenda:

Question 1:
What progress has been made on developments at Gartan Field?

Motion 1:
That this council discuss our position on recycling, in light of recent events

Motion 2:
In advance of any progress on permanent improvements, this council takes immediate action to secure and improve the junctions on the Neil T Blaney/Paddy Harte/Loop road on a temporary basis with improved barriers and signage

Motion 3:
That this council request Donegal County Council to apply for funding to establish a skate park in Letterkenny, under the scheme recently announced by the Department of the Environment

This new website

Many thanks for visiting this new website.

This website will be updated frequently with as much news and information as I can put together regarding local issues around Letterkenny, and the day-to-day workings of Letterkenny Town Council.

I hope to use this website to help break down some of the barriers between politicians and constituents, and to make as much information as possible easily accesible. For example, you can search this website and its content using the search box in the top right hand corner, and you can access the archives of all the content using the navigation on the left.

If you have any questions or comments, regarding this website or anything to do with Letterkenny or the Town Council, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me.

EU officially recognises Irish language

It’s good to hear today that the EU has voted to add Irish as the 21st official working language of the EU, with effect from 2007.

This move has followed a long campaign by the Government, and is a recognition of the strength of the language in Ireland today. Hopefully this will herald future growth in the usage of our native tongue both in Europe for official purposes, and back home for more every-day reasons.

More on this story is available here.