Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Tomás Sharkey takes seat on Louth County Council

15 September, 2003

Tomás Sharkey from Kilkerley was today officially co-opted onto Louth County Council in place of Sinn Féin T.D. Arthur Morgan in the spirit of the Dual Mandate Legislation. In a speech just after the official co-option, Tomás thanked the Councillors, Council staff and the new County Manager, Martina Molony for helping him prepare for the job. He also praised the hard work done by Deputy Morgan on the Council since 1999, mentioning in particular his stand against Incineration and his promotion of Re-cycling.

Planning Crisis

Tomás Sharkey stated that County Louth is in a planning crisis. He said;

"Planning in Ireland is in crisis and it is good to see that Bertie Ahern accepted this last week.

There are too many restrictions being placed on applications for planning permission. I refer to residency and occupancy conditions. It is a matter of time before these are tested in the courts.

It is estimated that the cost of a site is now 42% of the overall cost of building a home in Ireland. Sites are too expensive because people are restricted as to where they are allowed to build and also because this Council‚s zoning for development is out of date. Many Category II Development Centres are already built to capacity. We now have the ridiculous situation where young couples are being forced onto Council housing lists because they cannot get planning permission to build on family land. The Planning Authorities seem to refuse to accept this fact. I will raise the matter on a continuous basis on this Council.

Councillor Sharkey continued;

"There are also too many conditions being put on the design of houses. People all across County Louth face ridiculous demands on details such as window design, fascias and the location of garages. What next? Will Planning Authorities try to police the type of curtains we hang in our windows?

Housing Strategy

"I believe that the people of County Louth would rather we worked on a Housing Policy instead of tying ourselves in knots trying to stand in their way when they wish to build their own homes.

"Nobody wants to spend their life as a tenant to developers and speculators. Developers are rich enough and are now earning 30% more profit than even they expected."

"This Council must look seriously at what we can do to make housing affordable for our constituents. We need to buy land to build houses on. We need to make more funds available to upgrade houses across the county and we need to make it possible for council tenants to purchase their homes at affordable rates."

Financial Accountability

Councillor Sharkey raised the issue of accountability and value for money in the council;

"Last year alone Louth County Council collected approximately €13m. in Motor Tax. We must ensure that every cent of that gets spent on the county roads and goes towards making our roads a safer place.

"Planning levies are a contentious issue. People can pay up to €6,000 in a levy. At the minute our County Manager sets these charges. I will be proposing that Councillors take this decision on ourselves. That way, I will be able to ensure that planning levies get spent in the local communities.

"Over the last number of years, the Minister for Local Government has taken powers off Councillors. Here is an opportunity for us to take back some control. I will be looking for support from all councillors on this matter."

Louth County Hospital

Councillor Sharkey went on to highlight the continuing neglect of the Louth County Hospital;

"When I was a toddler I was taken on protest marches against the downgrading of Louth County Hospital. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to address the concerns of the people of Louth on this issue. In fact, during the greatest spell of economic growth in Ireland, our maternity unit was stolen from us.

"We are all on this council as public representatives and as such it is all of our responsibility to ensure a first class, one-tier Health Service for County Louth. I for one will be continuing to fight for the restoration of all services to Louth County Hospital and hope that we as a team of councillors can help put things right in this regard."ENDS

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