Thursday Voting? No Thanks.

It’s widely expected that the Taoiseach is going to call the election some time over the next two weeks. There is much speculation as to the date, and importantly the day. Over at IrishElection.com they’ve launched a petition calling for the Government to not hold the election on a Thursday, favouring either Friday with late opening polls or preferably a Saturday.

I’ve just signed the petition (#815). The Local Elections in 2004 took place on a Friday, with polls open from 7am until 9pm if (I remember correctly). I went to great effort to ensure as many people as possible made it back from College and work in Dublin to get their votes in, but this wasn’t possible in all cases. Thankfully, I got enough votes to see me elected, but I definitely felt that there was a large amount of younger voters who lost out on voting in their local elections; even a 10pm close of polls would have been an improvement.

I’m delighted to support the campaign for a weekend poll; part of me thinks a Sunday may even be a good option, as happens in many European countries.

We should know fairly soon what day the election will be called on. I hope Bertie will see sense and go for a suitable date.

Bertie’s About

An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern is in Letterkenny today as part of his tour of Donegal North East. In particular, he’s due to officially open the new short stay unit at Letterkenny General Hospital this afternoon.

I hope to make the opening of the new unit at the Hospital today, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to, due to a heavy work load. Indeed, I was unable to make the Taoiseach’s last visit to Donegal for the same reasons (I was out of the county).

A sure sign that there’s an election in the air is the fact that Bertie is attending 15 functions in Donegal North East, and then travels to Donegal South West for the campaign launches for Pat The Cope Gallagher and Mary Coughlan.

Update, March 27th 2007

I haven’t updated this blog in about 10 days. In that time, quite a bit has happened.

Clearly the biggest thing to happen was the shocking carnage on the roads in Donegal over St Patrick’s Weekend. In the past, I have not been slow to talk about issues of Road Safety. This time it’s been different. It really has taken me this long to gather my thoughts on the issue.

What happened last weekend has shown, beyond any belief, how serious the problem is in Donegal. Five people died on our roads. Most notably for me was the death, in a hit-and-run, of Laura Hegarty. I didn’t know Laura, but I know her family. What I’ve heard about the incident has really shocked me. The Hegarty family have been hit so hard; I ca’t imagine what they must be going through. Events of the last few days (a driver is understood to have come forward to admit driving the car) may have brought some closure, but the Hegarty family have been robbed of a daughter and sister and there is nothing that can change that.

There were more deaths on the roads in Donegal this weekend. Travelling back from Galway on Sunday night, I passed the scene of an accident in Co Mayo, and missed a fatal accident near Ballybofey by about twenty minutes. This is despite one of the largest Gardai presences I’ve ever seen on the road.

I don’t know the solution to all of this. Well, I do and I don’t. It all comes back to personal responsibility, making people responsibly for their (our) actions on the roads. Some accidents are destined to happen, but many are caused by behaviour that we may not consider negligent at the time (lifting the phone, shouting at the radio, reaching for something in the Glove compartment, not noticing you’ve slipped a few miles over the speed limit), but all become contributing factors in statistical reports on road deaths.

Donegal gets a lot of coverage as being the worst location in Ireland for Road Deaths. This map puts things into perspective; Donegal is terrible, but so is the rest of the Country.

I don’t know what we can do.

Casual Trading Update

Monday’s Donegal News carried an update on the continuing situation regarding Casual Trading in Letterkenny.

Some of the casual traders were mounting a legal challenge to the Bye-Laws we passed last year, on a technical point of law. They sought to have the Casual Trading Bye-Laws overturned, leaving no regulations in place for the times, locations and amount of traders on the streets in the town. Their legal challenge effectively meant that there were no regulations in place, as the Gardai were unable to enforce the Bye-Laws while the challenge proceeded.

The case was dealt with during last week’s sitting of the Court in Letterkenny. The challenge was rejected, meaning the Gardai will now be able to enforce the Bye Laws and that casual trading will now be regulated in Letterkenny for the first time.

It took a long time, a lot of consulation and substantial negotiation to get the Bye Laws agreed. When they were passed, most people involved seemed fairly happy; including the Chamber of Commerce, most casual traders, and traders on the Main Street. The legal challenge came out of the blue, and has caued real problems. I’m delighted it’s now sorted, and we can now see the law enforced in the town.

Polestar at night

Polestar at night - 5

We’ve been working to ensure the Polestar be properly illuminated since it was first erected back in August ’06. Letterkenny Town Council, the ESB and the artist, Locky Morris, have been working since then to ensure the artwork was lit properly. Rather than just pointing a few floodlights at it, there are now 12 smaller lights located around the base of the Polestar which shine upwards through the monument.

I went out last night to take some photos to put up here. I’m the first to admit that I don’t really know what I’m doing with my camera. For a start, I went out to take photos at night without a tripod. That did lead to one or two, ahem, interesting photos:

Polestar at night - first attempt

In the end, a combination of the 10 second delay on the camera, and the nearby bench seating, had to do the job. I’m very happy with how the photos came out- as I say, I don’t really know my way around a good camera yet.

I’ve put five photos in total in to my Flickr account, here’s the other three. Click on any of them to see the larger image:

Polestar at night - 3
Polestart at night - 4 Polestar at night - 2

Click here for more info on the Polestar

MRSA

There were many reports in the papers yesterday about the discovery of a potential cure for MRSA. This is particular relevant, given the recent Gerry Robinson TV show on the NHS, and the overcrowding crises we’re seeing in Irish hospitals.

One group working to raise awareness of MRSA, and to seek solutions, is MRSA and Families. The group will be hosting a major conference in the Silver Tassie in Letterkenny on March 2nd and 3rd. They have a number of speakers lined up, including Dr Kevin Kelleher, the Assistant National Director of the HSE with responsibility for Population Health Protection, and Paul Bergervoet, Infection Control Director at Debenter Hospital in Holland.

Further information on MRSA and families is available from their website at wallofsilence.ie, and more information on the conference is available from Rosemary Cassidy. To contact Rosemary, email me and I’ll send you her address.

Update: MRSA will be discussed on tonight’s Late Late Show (Jan 19). MRSA and families will be represented.

Draft Register of Electors, 2007

The next election is due in the next 6 to 10 months, most likely in June of next year, and if you aren’t registered to vote, you will not be able to take any part in the election process.

I’ve just received the draft register of electors for November 25th. For Donegal residents, this can be checked online by clicking here. A list of ways to check for other regions is available on RegisterToVote.ie.

It’s absolutely vital that voters check this list. Corrections must be submitted before November 25th at the latest. If you’re not on this list, it may be difficult to get registered before the next election.

If you’re not on the list, get in contact with me (or your local public rep, if you’re outside Donegal) and I’ll help you get on the register.