Citizens’ agenda
Local elections 2019

Denise McMorrow

 

To increase the supply of social and affordable homes, there is a simple solution and this is to build more social and affordable housing. The stark reality is that we are not building anything like the number of social houses we require for a population of our size. The reason for this is a lack of political will. I want to see quality social housing as a key priority of local and national government and I will use the platform the council gives me, if elected, to push for this, both in my own party and as a city councillor. I feel passionately about this because the right to a home should be a basic entitlement for everyone and the state does have an obligation. I am a republican and this is surely what “cherishing all the children of the nation equally means". The performance of the present government is pitiful. Right now, we are building 4,000 houses a year. This is nowhere near good enough. I don’t absolve my own party from blame as we are part of the confidence-and-supply arrangement. I will be making it bluntly clear, both through Fianna Fáil’s internal structures and as a city councillor, that a message needs to be delivered to the taoiseach that housing is at crisis levels in our city and that if it is not adequately dealt with than the government is no longer entitled to our party’s support.

 

Again, we need to increase supply in the private rented sector and we need to ensure that rents are fair and affordable. I believe that rent levels should be capped in the capital at a fair rate set by an independent arbitration panel. I also believe that people, especially young people, living and working in Dublin are at a financial disadvantage as the cost of rents and the cost of living is far, far higher in our capital city than elsewhere in the country. I will be bringing forward a motion to create a "dublin allowance", which will mean people renting (or struggling with a mortgage) in Dublin will get an allowance in their tax or in their social welfare, which ever is applicable.

 

Homelessness is a sad blight on the face of modern Ireland. Every single person on this island is entitled to a place called home and it is a failure on the part of local and national legislators that we have a homelessness crisis. The state has to take responsibility. At the moment, we need more emergency accommodation, but we also need lasting solutions. In Dublin, we have to build more social housing and we have to make renting more attractive and sustainable. I would like to see a constitutional referendum on the rights of everyone to own their own home, as this will set an obligation for all future governments. I would also like to see meaningful housing targets set by each local authority in the country, including Dublin City Council.

 

I will bring forward proposals to demand that if a site is derelict or vacant for too long that ownership is forfeited too the city council. I will also ask for a system of meaningful fines to be introduced. Too many developers and property tycoons are sitting on vacant sites as part of a speculative strategy, waiting for prices to go up. In other cases, it is just a sheer lack of civic responsibility. Derelict and vacant sites are an eyesore and can be a danger, especially to children. Such vacant sites are hogging space when we need to use all of the city’s resources to house our people and to provide proper amenities. It is in the power of the city council to stamp out derelict and vacant properties and sites and make them a thing of the past. I want to work with like-minded colleagues to address this.

 

I have brought forward a detailed policy on improving public transport by making it free in our capital city. We can ensure more people use public transport by not charging for it, as is the case in Luxembourg city and other progressive cities across the world. This will benefit the environment and people on low incomes. It will require extra investment in the Luas and suburban rail and buses, but it will alleviate traffic congestion and make the city more environmentally safe for this and future generations.

The city council has to play an active role in funding and planning for Dublin’s transport needs, irrespective of what [Transport Minister] Shane Ross says. Our capital city is bursting at the seams and gridlock is a daily issue, costing businesses and individuals time and money. Free public transport would cut congestion, benefit the environment and, most importantly, it would be a progressive, socially inclusive measure that would help low-paid workers and young people with little disposable income as a result of spiralling rents and bloated mortgages.

For those concerned that free public transport will inflict an unaffordable charge on the exchequer, it is worth noting that public transport in Dublin is already heavily subsidised. In 1999, the government introduced the Taxsaver [Commuter Ticket] Scheme, which incentivises people to use public transport to and from work, and, in some cases, results in savings of over 50 percent of the regular ticket price.

The city council should have a hands-on role in delivering free public transport for Dublin, a measure which would also make our capital more attractive to tourists. This in itself will generate more income for investment in a better and more environmentally friendly transport infrastructure. This can be done if the city council is prepared to take a stand on it and push my policy. Free public transport will mean better public transport. By going the whole way and abolishing ticket charges on public transport, we can help tackle air pollution and get Dublin moving more freely. Surely this is a worthwhile investment in our capital city’s future?

 

We need better cycling infrastructure as this dovetails with my plan for free and environmentally sustainable public transport. We need more dedicated cycleways throughout the city that are safe, especially for children to use. After an initial consultation process with the public, the city council should produce an annual report on the upkeep of cycleways and plans to expand their footprint throughout the city. An increased percentage of the local and national transport budget must be allocated to cycleways, as if cycling facilities are better, more people will use this healthy and sustainable means of getting around. I would also look at extending the the Cycle to Work Scheme, which is a tax incentive scheme that aims to encourage employees to cycle to and from work, by seeing how the city council can make an additional contribution.

 

Having a public transport system that is efficient, sustainable and that cuts the number of private car journeys would be a great help in addressing climate change. That is why I am putting free public transport for Dublin at the core of my campaign and at the heart of my political agenda. This will hugely reduce damaging emissions and keep our capital moving in a clean, green manner.

My background is in education so people will also understand that I believe learning is important. We need to ensure the importance of good environmental behaviour is an integral part of the school curriculum at primary and secondary levels. It makes no sense to me that geography, where young people learn about the damage climate change can do to our communities and to the planet, has been dropped as a core Junior Cert subject and I will be fighting to have this subject and history restored in our schools.

It was great to see so many young people take to the streets and staging a protest to express concerns about the lack of action on climate change. I share this concern and the city council needs to do more. Climate change is about the future of our city, our country and our planet. Dublin has to play a part. Therefore, I will be asking that every single full plenary meeting of Dublin City Council proposes on its agenda at least one measure to tackle climate change.

 

There is no excuse for this behaviour. I think the penalties are too soft. Illegal dumping is a deliberate attack on the community and our shared environment. I will be examining ways to ensure that those who engage in this behaviour receive custodial sentences. In regard to minor littering and dog poo, people need to take more responsibility and to be proud of the civic space in which we all live. There are already fines in place for littering and not cleaning up dog poo and rightly so as these constitute a health risk. I will ask for the fines to be increased and for offenders’ names to be published on the City Council’s website and newspapers as a further deterrent.

 

We already have many beautiful parks and green spaces throughout the city, but as Dublin grows we will need more. I want to see existing parks and green spaces properly funded and maintained to the highest standard and this will be a big part of my work as a councillor, if I am elected. I will be asking for regular reports in this regard and will share them with constituents. As the city continues to develop, I want all new housing developments to have sufficient green spaces and I will support this being an integral party of the planning process. I also want a review undertaken of the feasibility of all new apartment buildings in the city boundaries having a safe roof garden that residents can relax in.

 

Public spaces are important to the sense of community in the city and the city council should publish within 12 months of the local elections a review of the existing public spaces alongside plans to develop more public spaces that are aesthetically and socially necessary for a city that promotes sustainable living. These public spaces belong to all of us and should be held in trust for us by the city council. I will completely oppose any efforts to privatise or sell for profit any viable public space. I also believe the re-designation of any large-scale public space for alternative use should only be sanctioned by the council if it is sanctioned by a local plebiscite. This initiative, which I will sponsor, reminds planners that the city belongs to all its people and this will allow the voice of citizens to be heard.

In regard to making our city’s public spaces a nicer place to be, it is important to face up to the realities of anti-social behaviour. The community should not have to tolerate public spaces and parks being hijacked by those who engage in anti-social behaviour. There is a major drug problem in this city. The first thing we should do is stop denying this and then we should move swiftly to tackle it. The city council has a role to play in resolving this, but so too do the Gardaí. Public spaces and parks cannot become no-go areas for ordinary citizens who do not want to be intimidated by drug-taking, drug-dealing and public drunkenness. I will use my role, if elected, to ensure that the Dublin city joint policing committees make sure that all our wonderful public amenities are safe for families and that there is a discreet but active Garda presence in the area.

I also pledge to ensure that all our public spaces and facilities are accessible to people with disabilities. Fifteen percent of the population of Dublin city have at least one disability and these citizens and their families have the same entitlement to all our public amenities as everyone else. As a candidate in this election, I am strongly supporting the Disability Federation of Ireland’s campaign to make sure all local public services are open and accessible for people who have a disability. These include housing, education, transport, leisure, and health services.

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