Sunday, 27 November 2011
“Threatened cuts of up to 2,000 Special Needs Assistants (SNA’s) would amount to a scandalous betrayal of Labour values in Government,” said Looney. “The previous administration capped the total number of SNA’s at 10,575 in last year’s budget. Now, the threatened plans to cut almost 1 in 5 SNA’s would lay waste to great advances made in special needs education and bring us back to the bad old days of ignorance and neglect.”
“Approximately 6,000 SNA’s are currently employed in a mainstream primary education system catering for about half a million pupils, in addition to approximately 2,000 each in post-primary schools and special schools. The conservative spin being put out that SNA’s are some sort of luxury belies the modern, progressive education system we need for economic and social recovery. Withdrawing SNA’s will impact not only on the children to whom they are assigned; it will negatively affect the time and attention teachers can give to all pupils.”
“Putting up to 2,000 SNA’s on the dole is exactly the kind of ‘butchery’ that Labour rightly warned against in the general election campaign. Similarly, a return to class sizes of the past as threatened is anathema to the Labour values our party is supposedly in Government to protect. Ireland's average primary class size of 24 is already the 7th highest in 29 OECD countries. The proposed increase in the pupil-teacher ratio of 2 will, according to the INTO, result in the loss of 800 primary teachers.”
“The mooted pupil-teacher ratio increase at post-primary level to 20:1 will mean the loss of a similar number of teachers and will, according to the TUI, mean one less teacher or 33 less class periods per week in a small-medium size secondary school. Subjects which already attract smaller numbers – including key ones for economic recovery such as Honours Maths, languages or science subjects – may be culled, resulting in further-diminished prospects for our young people.”
“There are also major cutbacks threatened to Youthreach training programmes, which provide second-chance education and training to early school leavers, primarily in areas of socio-economic disadvantage. The economic and social costs of these headline cutbacks – along with the suggested cuts and fee increases at preschool, third and fourth levels – will hit young people in working-class areas the hardest.”
“As one of a handful of Labour public representatives to oppose entry into Government I still held out hope that Labour Ministers might protect the red-line policies for which the party received support. But instead of starting the difficult decisions at the top – by, for example, targeting tax exiles and the wealthy, and slashing funds to private fee-paying schools - it seems that the austerity agenda will begin at the bottom. Labour TD’s, many of whom are rooted in the educational needs of their communities, must ask what Labour in Government is for – and take a firm stance to protect the most vulnerable in the run-up to Budget 2012.”
Thursday, 25 August 2011
“As a St Patrick’s Athletic fan representing a Rovers-mad area I have often had divided loyalties. However, tonight the Irish football fraternity is united in congratulating Rovers on a fantastic victory in Belgrade and in being the first Irish club ever to qualify for the group stages of a major European competition.”
“As well as congratulating Michael O’Neill and his team, many of whom are local players, plaudits have to go to the members of Shamrock Rovers who rescued their club from near-extinction just a short few years ago, many of whom are now involved in the day-to-day running of the club.”
“This is a victory not just for Rovers, but for Irish football as a whole. That an Irish team has achieved qualification to the group stages when both Celtic and Rangers were knocked out tonight shows the improvements which have been made in the League of Ireland in the past decade. Whether or not we will see Rovers playing any of their games in Tallaght Stadium remains to be seen but as a local representative I am on hand to assist, as I have been before to Shamrock Rovers and their fans.”
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
“I welcome that the Department has now officially recognised the need for these schools in Citywest. It is a growing community which is further boosted by the impending opening of the Luas extension. With no schools currently in Citywest, hundreds of local schoolchildren are required to travel significant distances, attending various schools across Tallaght and further afield. If we are serious about building a sustainable long-term community in Citywest, an integrated education system serving the area is a no-brainer.”
“I am a supporter of the campaign by Tallaght/Citywest Educate Together to provide a multidenominational school in Citywest. There is a clear desire for an Educate Together school from parents living in the area, something I know Minister Quinn is interested in through his establishment of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism.”
“With the Department confirming that the two schools are due to be constructed at some stage between 2012 and 2015, I have submitted a motion to the next meeting of the Council calling on Minister Quinn to expedite this process so that the much-needed Educate Together school is built for the 2012-2013 academic year. Citywest is split between the Tallaght Central LEA, which I represent, and Tallaght South, as well as bordering the Clondalkin LEA – so I hope all local Councillors will add their weight to my call.”
Motion for July Meeting of South Dublin County Council in the name of Cllr Dermot Looney: “That this Council, in welcoming news that two primary schools are planned for construction in the Citywest area between 2012 and 2015, supports the efforts of the Tallaght/Citywest Educate Together campaign to have a primary school built in the Citywest area, and calls on the Minister for Education and Skills to expedite the construction of this school in time for the 2012-2013 academic year.”
Monday, 27 June 2011
Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on South Dublin County Council, has expressed his solidarity with the crew of the MV Saoirse, the Irish ship bound for Gaza as part of the “Freedom Flotilla.” Cllr Looney was commenting in advance of the MV Saoirse’s departure for Gaza from Greece, which is due later this week.
“The MV Saoirse is part of a co-ordinated humanitarian flotilla which wishes to bring aid to Gaza, where 80% of the population are dependent on international aid for mere survival. The Israeli-imposed blockade continues to wreak misery for its one and a half million residents. The Freedom Flotilla II, of which the MV Saoirse is a part, aims to deliver important aid and supplies to the people of Gaza in spite of the despicable aggression of the Israeli Defence Force last year in killing nine crew of the Mavi Marmara.”
“The MV Saoirse counts among its passengers a variety of figures from across the political spectrum as well as a tradesman, a trade union activist, an historian, an artist, a photographer and former Irish international rugby star Trevor Hogan. To claim, as some have bizarrely done, that it is some form of ‘ultra-left’ campaign is both disingenuous and dangerous.”
“As a Labour Councillor who has been active in supporting rights for the Palestinian people and a just peace in the region for many years, I want to offer my solidarity to those aboard the MV Saoirse and wish them a safe journey and return home.”
ENDSLink - http://www.irishshiptogaza.org
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
I was honoured to have been asked to speak to the 6th year students of my former school, Greenhills College, at their graduation in "The Comp" tonight. I have served as Chairperson of the Greenhills College Board of Management for two years now and am constantly inspired by the efforts of the staff and the decency of the students. Tonight's group were no different - by all accounts a great bunch of lads, generated a fantastic feel-good atmosphere in the room. Congrats to all involved and good luck to the lads in their exams.
Find below a copy of my written speech as requested on Twitter - although the final, delivered version differed somewhat. I have put italics around a couple of lines which weren't delivered but were written anyway.
Speech to Greenhills College Graduation, Tuesday May 24th 2011
Is mór an ónóir dom a bheith anseo mar iar-dhalta agus mar Cathaoirleach an Bhord Bhainistíochta Choláiste na Cnoc nGlas. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht an cuireadh chuig an Searmanas seo. Bíonn sé i gcónaí deas tagann ar ais ar an halla seo, ina bhfuil a lán cuimhní dearfach agamsa, go háirithe ar oíche speisialta ar nós anocht.
It’s a huge honour to have been asked to speak to the graduating students of Greenhills College tonight. I’m proud to do so not just as Chairperson of the Board of Management here at the Comp, but as a past pupil too in the Class of ’01.
Since then I’ve had something of an interesting decade. I studied Social Policy, Politics and Sociology as part of a Social Science Degree in UCD. I covered the League of Ireland as a football journalist for a while before realising that I could never be impartial about my beloved St Patrick’s Athletic. I busked at night in Temple Bar for a while before realising that there’s only so many times you can belt out Wonderwall before wrecking the heads of the residents who live there. I dressed up as an elf for a children’s Christmas show but the kids were frightened by the fact that Santa was half the size of one of his helpers.
I tried my hands at a few jobs but only later on did I decide on a career – and so, six years out of Greenhills College, I studied for a postgrad in primary teaching and am now finishing my third year as a teacher. It’s a job I love but it seemed to take me a long time to realise it. For those of you unsure about your career path, don’t worry.
To paraphrase a song that was popular “back in my day” - don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you wanna do with your life; the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 18 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 30 and 40 year olds I know still don’t.
Somewhere along the line, I got involved in politics. Greenhills College and this community always inspired a message of social justice and equality. That led me to want to speak up for my community, and in particular for those whose voices are rarely heard, and to stand for election. I’m proud to represent our community on the County Council and to sit on the VEC – and through that, be involved again in this college, being able to give something back to a place and to people from whom I gained so much.
Greenhills College is 40 years old. It is a credit to the staff of this college that thousands of young men have been educated in an institution that is at the very heart of the community of Greenhills. If ever anyone challenges public servants about flexibility and transformation, I point them to the teaching staff of Greenhills College who have coped with roles between traditional Junior and Senior Cycle, LCA, LCVP, Special Needs Teaching, PLC and further education. I'm honoured to serve on a Board of Management of such a school and would like you all to give a bualadh bos in recognition of the staff, led by Principal JJ Walsh.
Ten years ago, I sat out there, watching some other past-pupil of the time – watching, but not really listening. No doubt whoever it was was more noteworthy than me, but regardless, at the time, I, like most of you now, just wanted to get the grad over with and the session begun.
We couldn’t wait to go out on the town, couldn’t wait to make our mark on the world – couldn’t wait to grow up. But now, ten years on, and us grown mostly up - and sometimes out – marriages left, right and centre, kids at many of our feet, jobs and no jobs to deal with – it’s the Class of 2011 that most of the Class of 01 feel most jealous of.
Not that it’s easy for you. You’ve come through what I hope have been five enjoyable years at Greenhills College. But I know for many of you not all of your time has been easy. Be it problems at home, issues with teachers, difficulties with classmates – I know it hasn’t been plain sailing.
Graduation night isn’t a night for regrets. It’s the night where you celebrate overcoming those difficulties – the nights when you kept going on a project when it would have been easier to give up, the mornings when putting your head under the duvet would have been an easier option than facing what was ahead in school.
But Grad night can be a night when you can put some of your regrets to bed. Where you can take a moment to shake hands with that chap who used to get on your nerves, but who you now realise is alright, actually. Where you can take a moment to say a genuine word of thanks to a teacher who you might not have always seen eye to eye with, but who you now know is alright, actually. Grad night is the night for you to thank your mates for being mates, your school community for bringing you through, and your family for being there.
Many of you will be feeling the pressure ahead of the Leaving Cert. Realise that the next few weeks will be tough, but the worst is over. Do all you can to ensure you’ve no regrets at the end of your exams. In the words of the motto that once upon a time adorned our homework journals here at the Comp, be the best that you can be, do the best that you can do.
What you have learned here is so much more than the subjects you are taking in exam form next month. Greenhills College aims for something different than what Pádraig Pearse knew as an academic 'murder machine.' The young men who graduate from the Comp come from a system much more along the lines of Martin Luther King’s famous line about the goal of true education – intelligence plus character.
You graduate into an unsure future. Many of you will find work or attend third-level and PLC courses – but it’s despicable that those who have gone before you have now burdened your generation with scandalous levels of unemployment and forced emigration. I really wish you could all stay and help rebuild this society in the coming decade, so that one or more of you can stand in front of the Class of ’21 and tell them how you did it. Some of you may leave us for warmer shores but we know how much easier staying in touch is, and we know that you will be back.
Your schooling ends here, but your education is only beginning. WB Yeats, a poet who many of you will have studied, put it right when he said;
"Education is not the filling of a pail; but the lighting of a fire."
May all of your flames burn on.
Monday, 21 March 2011
“This decision has clearly been in the pipeline for some time,” noted Cllr Looney, “but the manner in which it was announced was bizarre indeed. I first found out about it on a visit to the Council’s website early Saturday morning. It turns out that the elected Councillors had only been informed about this through a late Friday afternoon email in which we were told the deal was done – but we were told to remain quiet about it. Meanwhile, the Council have posted the information to its website, and Greyhound sent out a self-congratulatory press release which the Council have been happy to publicise!”
“The elected representatives of this Council have had no hand, act nor part in this ‘executive decision.’ I have done everything in my very limited power as a Councillor to stand up for the public bin service, and in particular the thousands of less well-off and elderly residents who rely on the waiver, via motions, questions and political pressure at Council level. However, the decision of successive governments to take any powers away from elected representatives regarding waste means we could not halt this move.”
“We are now told that the waiver will only last another 12 months, and that no new applications are being accepted. This is a grossly unfair decision which will cause huge worry for the thousands of people currently availing of the waiver – not to mention those who will be forced to rely on social welfare in the coming weeks and months.”
“Furthermore, it is clear that this decision has already had a huge negative impact on residents. Those on the Friday collection route, including hundreds of people in my own neighbourhood of Greenhills, did not have their bins collected last week and have also missed out on non-collections on Saturday and Monday.”
“Greyhound are promising lower prices – and they may indeed be true to their word in the short term – but this privatisation may very well lead to market oligopoly in time, with a small number of large private companies operating an effective cartel and being able to push up prices. An accompanying decline in service is very possible in such a market environment. I will be calling on the Council management to at the very least retain the existing waiver system in the long term at our next meeting.”
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Press Release - Grassroots should reject ‘unbalanced, short-sighted” coalition deal, urges Labour Cllr
“Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the party as a whole, Labour has emerged from this general election out on its own in second place;” noted Looney, “an historic achievement for a party which has always played third fiddle in Irish politics. Fine Gael, meanwhile, has been given the lead position but does not have a mandate to govern on its own.”
“Fine Gael have a number of options at this point, including seeking the support of independents or coalescing with their centre-right colleagues in Fianna Fáil with whom there are few major differences. Labour members have just one choice – whether to lead the opposition to a government of cuts and austerity, or to join with it as a minor partner.”
“Having spoken to many Labour members and voters from all sorts of backgrounds during this campaign and in its aftermath, I believe there is substantial opposition to a Fine Gael-dominated government from the grassroots of the Labour Party and from ordinary communities across Ireland. Such a government would be unbalanced and short-sighted.”
“It is clear that a deal is not in the interests of the Labour Party, its voters or the values we have carried since the party was founded by James Connolly 99 years ago. But, more importantly, this coalition would not be in the national interest.”
“The interests of the Irish people are not served by the Labour Party fighting for scraps from a Fine Gael menu of cuts and social conservatism. The national interest will be best served by the strongest ever Labour Parliamentary Party acting as a powerful and constructive opposition in the upcoming Dáil, and seeking to lead the next government not only in terms of numbers, but of policy.”
“Labour has the best potential Ministers in Dáil Éireann but I want to see them in Government implementing Labour policies, not Fine Gael ones.”
“Coalition between an emboldened Fine Gael and a numerically far inferior Labour Party will be bad for Ireland and bad for Labour. I will be asking Labour members to vote against the deal on Sunday and, regardless of the outcome, will seek to play a constructive but principled role in the party in the time ahead.”
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Applications for Disability Allowance are taking an average of 18 weeks, according to the latest information from the Department of Social Protection. The Department outlined other average waiting times such as:
* Invalidity Pension - 16 weeks
* One Parent Family Payment - 15 weeks
* Widows Pension (Non-Contributory) - 12 weeks
* Carer's Allowance - 11 weeks
* Carer's Benefit - 11 weeks
* Family Income Supplement - 10 weeks
* State Pension (Non-Contributory) - 10 weeks
Cllr Looney noted that figures obtained by Labour TD Róisín Shortall show that waiting times for these categories are clearly getting worse. “The average waiting time for Invalidity Pension was 12 weeks in August - now it's 16. Disability Allowance was 13 weeks in August - now it's 18. Carer's Allowance was eight weeks in August - now it's 11.”
“It is obvious that waiting times are worst where the decision involves the assessment of medical evidence. There is a real question if the Department has enough medical officers to deal with the amount of such claims.”
“In many cases, the people applying for assistance are living on the breadline. The long waiting period puts tremendous strain on such people and their families. Residents in Tallaght, Greenhills and other local areas are now forced to rely on the generosity of the already hard-pressed St Vincent de Paul and other charities, or the assistance of the local community welfare officer to get by. We know that in many cases they are forced to borrow from family, friends and, in the worst cases, moneylenders.”
"These waiting times are simply unacceptable, and the Government needs to act immediately to speed up the process by employing more staff in assessing and processing, if necessary transferring them from areas of lower priority. In the medium term, it is clear that better technology can be employed in servicing the needs of welfare recipients,” said Looney.