As leader of the Fine Gael Group on Dublin City Council, it is my objective that as many Fine Gael councillors are returned to the council after May’s local elections. With a strengthened mandate, Fine Gael councillors will work to advance and implements proposals under the Land Use Initiative and the Estate Renewal Plan to increase the supply of public housing in Dublin. That means ensuring the work underway in O’Devaney Gardens is completed to ensure that 700 new homes are built and that the former Department of Defence lands are used to provide further public housing in addition to what has already been granted planning permission on the O’Devaney lands.
With regards the Estate Renewal Plan, a strengthened Fine Gael team on Dublin City Council will seek to advance Part VIII planning applications to either refurbish or redevelop the existing 240 housing complexes across Dublin city, so that better and new public housing is delivered between now and 2024.
We implement the Land Use Initiative which includes an affordable-rental scheme. Dublin City Council needs to take a more urgent approach to fleshing out the objectives of this plan so that affordable-rental housing is delivered in Dublin in a way that hasn’t been to date.
Build more homes. There are already a number of redevelopment projects ongoing across the city that our Fine Gael-led Government has provided direct funding towards. I, personally, am working with residents in Constitution Hill, Matt Talbot Court and other complexes across the North Inner City to ensure that in refurbishing existing housing complexes that we also use the opportunity to further expand those complexes to provide better quality homes for existing tenants and people seeking alternative accommodation through Dublin City Council.
This, however, is only one approach that is needed. Implementing Housing First and ensuring that individuals and families stay in their homes is the most effective means of reducing homelessness. As someone who rents myself, I think there continues to be a need to better inform both tenants and landlords of their rights and responsibilities. Too many of both, that I deal with, don’t know what their entitlements are as tenants nor responsibilities as landlords. This problem, I believe is further exacerbating the situation in the privately rented sector.
I will continue to undertake the work I have been doing on this throughout the past five years. In 2017, I called upon Dublin City Council to take much more proactive approach to dealing with derelict and vacant properties. I sought to encourage the council to use its compulsory purchase powers under the Derelict Sites Act 1990 and I can report that this is happening. Properties across Stoneybatter, Phibsborough and Ballybough are now being refurbished by Dublin City Council following their compulsory acquisition and when ready, will be used to house both individuals and families who are homeless and those on the housing list.
I don’t think it’s so much what I can do individually, rather as a city council we need to ensure that MetroLink is delivered and that BusConnects is advanced. I know that both projects are contentious but our city is growing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The NTA needs to ensure that where there issues of particular concern to communities like mine in Stoneybatter and across the North Inner City that they are addressed and I am confident that will happen.
Major public transport infrastructure like Metro and BusConnects will help ensure we have the capacity to expand over the next 20 to 30 years. In the past 18 months alone, the NTA has approved the expansion of the Dublin Bus fleet to in excess of 1,100 buses. We need a plan therefore, that can enable further expansion to take place. I have heard other political parties talk about the need for a congestion charge to be introduced in Dublin, similar to that which is in place in London. I cannot support such a measure if we do not have the necessary public transport options in place. Project Ireland 2040 provides the funding basis to deliver the public transport expansion Dublin needs, so go on and do it.
If re-elected, I will seek as part of a coalition agreement that the Liffey Cycle Route is delivered during the lifetime of the next council. I have worked hard to advance the Royal Canal Greenway between Guild Street and Ashtown and I want ensure that these important cycling infrastructure projects are delivered. But in a way, these projects are much about walking infrastructure and realm enhancements as they are cycling infrastructure but must be delivered throughout the next five years.
While one individual councillor cannot change things, councillors collectively can and we must do so on a municipal level but also we need to work with government too. At a local level, for example, we must ensure that the next Dublin City Council Development Plan must have at its heart, environmentally sustainable measures that new buildings and development have to comply with.
On a national level, we need to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. That means developing and implementing an all-of-government plan that will help to decarbonise our electricity supply. Currently we are aiming for a 55 percent renewable energy target by 2030. In our climate plan we will be stepping up this ambition to 70 percent. This means that by 2030, 70 percent of our electricity will be generated from renewable sources.
Under Project Ireland 2040, €21.8 billion is committed to the objective of transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society; this means that 1 in every 5 euros in Project Ireland 2040 will go towards climate action. This is the highest amount allocated to any of the ten national strategic objectives in the plan.
When it comes to tackling illegal dumping, I have a very simple view. The most effective deterrent to combating illegal dumping and littering is to NAME AND SHAME. If Revenue can name and shame tax defaulters, then I believe local authorities like Dublin City Council should be permitted to name and shame those who illegally dumped rubbish. This would be done be erecting CCTV in areas where dumping or littering is more prevalent, using the images captured and subsequently erect posters with those images on them. Where this approach has been used to date in the city centre and in Phibsborough it has proved to be most effective.
I believe the strategy adopted in the North East Inner City recently is a template that can be utilised across the city. The Greening Strategy prepared by the Fine Gael-led Government’s NEIC Initiative with the Parks Department of Dublin City Council has prepared short-term and longer-term projects to increase the amount of public parks and green spaces in the North East Inner City.
Shorter-term measures include the greening of traffic islands along the North Circular Road, planting green walls in the North Wall or enhancing the current space surrounding the East Wall Recreation Centre on Russell Avenue. Another method of introducing green space or greenery into the city centre is traffic-calming measures. I have worked with residents and Dublin City Council to develop traffic improvements in Arbour Hill and Oxmantown Road. A key feature of both projects is the enhanced level of greenery and tree planting which provides natural traffic calming measures but also a means of enhancing the public realm also.
This question ties in with my answer to the previous one. Through the existing local area structures within Dublin City Council, local councillors should work with their Area Offices and the Parks Department to prepare short-term and longer-term proposals to enhance the number and quality of public green spaces within the residential communities of our city in particular.
Over the coming years, any major residential development in the city would be apartment based and that's why it’s so important that we provide as much green public space in the city as possible. For plans to be effective, I believe they must be local and the existing area structure within Dublin City Council can be best used to create and ultimately implement a programme of public park and public space enhancements across the city.