Green Councillors call for hybrid meetings to facilitate inclusiveness at local Government level

Cllr Pamela Conroy and Cllr Karen Power who have sourced letters of support from advocacy groups

Fingal County Council are to hold a vote with all members at its “Organisation, Procedures and Finance” meeting on Monday which will decide if council meetings will be facilitated in a hybrid manner – allowing council members and staff to take part in meetings both in person and online. The Council has technology in place that has been tested and shown to allow full participation of participants both in person and online. The technology was trialed at a number of different council meetings earlier this year.

Following the trial all councillors were asked to consider whether to proceed with facilitating council meetings in a hybrid fashion, and if so, under which circumstances should hybrid meetings be allowed.

The Green Party Councillors based in Fingal are calling for a hybrid model to be facilitated for all Council meetings arguing it provides for more inclusive participation in local politics.

Cllr Karen Power said:

“As it stands, local government in Ireland is experiencing a democratic deficit. The female population is represented by only 25% of elected councillors. Childcare, lack of maternity and parental leave, unsociable meeting times are some of the barriers which have prevented female representatives from fully participating in political life. We believe facilitating hybrid meetings can help to remove some of these barriers and encourage more female representation at local Council level.”

This position is supported by a recent policy position paper “Making Local Politics Family Friendly” from Women for Election. Amongst other measures the report advocated for “Option for remote access to meetings with appropriate tech and administrative support.”

Cllr Power continued:

“It is important to emphasize, facilitating hybrid meetings will not prevent those who wish to attend in person from doing so, but rather it can encourage and facilitate more diversity and wider participation. The current situation in Fingal means we have policy decisions that impact on the lives of disabled people being made by people whose lives are not directly affected. By removing the need for in person attendance at meetings we enable active inclusive participation in these policy decisions.”

The group have sourced letters of support from a variety of advocacy groups including National Women’s Council of Ireland, Independent Living Movement of Ireland, disability rights activist Selina Bonnie, See Her Elected, Women for Election and Inclusion Ireland. In her response to the group, Disability Rights Activist Selina Bonnie highlighted how, on a personal level, the ability to participate in a virtual manner had enabled her, “a disabled person (wheelchair user), a mother and full time employee to re-engage in a variety of groups which I had stepped away from over the past decade”.

Responding to this, Cllr Pamela Conroy said:

“We have a unique opportunity when making the decision around facilitating hybrid meetings to take a step that will make our chamber more inclusive going forward. As a group, we feel that it is important that Councillors are fully informed when making this decision and so we contacted various advocacy groups and individuals to ask them to comment on hybrid meetings. Selina Bonnie’s words, and those received from other groups, demonstrate exactly why this council needs to facilitate hybrid meetings. We have a duty to ensure that no one is excluded from participating in local politics. This decision enables us to remove a barrier to active participation, which the last two years have demonstrated does not need to be there.”

Cllr David Healy remarked:

“When the pandemic meant we couldn’t meet in person it highlighted the value of face to face meetings. But it also demonstrated that online meetings enable much wider participation, making it possible for people to attend who otherwise would have been excluded. That is why we are asking the Council to agree to hybrid meetings as standard.”

The Green Party group in Fingal County Council have shared the information they have gathered from advocacy groups and individuals with their colleagues via email ahead of the vote takes place on Monday 11 April at 4pm.

Frequently Asked Questions for Displaced Ukraine Nationals

Frequently Asked Questions for Displaced Ukraine Nationals

Q.1 I am a displaced Ukrainian national seeking refuge in Ireland. What should I do or how do I go about it?
A.1 For general information, please see https://www.irishimmigration.ie/faqs-for-ukrainenationals-and-residents-of-ukraine/
As a Ukrainian arriving in Ireland you have 90 days before you need to regularise your status.
Ireland is an EU country and is working with the EU to activate the EU Temporary Protection
Directive, an emergency provision designed to respond quickly and humanely to the mass
displacement of Ukrainian people.
Once this is finalised, the details will be made available on irishimmigration.ie. In the
meantime, if you require it, displaced Nationals arriving from Ukraine can be given
accommodation by IPAS. You are also free to source your own private accommodation.

Q2. I am a displaced Ukrainian national and I have nowhere to stay in Ireland. Where can I find help?
A.2 If arriving in the airport, please make yourself known to Immigration who will then bring
you to the Border Management Unit. The Border Management Unit will liaise on your behalf
with IPAS, who in turn will arrange accommodation and transport for you.
If you have already arrived in Ireland, please contact the IPAS Helpdesk at
ipasinbox@equality.gov.ie and someone will assist you.

Q.3 I am a resident in Ireland and want to offer accommodation to displaced Ukraine
nationals. What do I do?A.3 Please find all information on accommodation pledges at the Irish Red Cross register of pledges: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.

Q.4. I am a Ukraine/Irish citizen currently living in Ireland. What documents do I need to
bring children from Ukraine into Ireland whose parents must remain in Ukraine? Who do I contact?
A.4 Please contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at 01 4082000 and ask for their Ukraine
Unit.

Q.5 I am an employer of newly arrived displaced Ukrainian nationals/refugees. Can I support them in hotel accommodation myself or do they need to use IPAS accommodation?
A.5 Any employer is free to accommodate their employees privately once the accommodation
is of an approved standard. The employee will, however need to obtain a PPS number. Please
see answer to question 14 below regarding PPS numbers.

Q.6 How do I register newly arrived Ukrainian children into schools?
A.6 The Tusla Education Support Service can assist you to find a school for your child/children.
See contact email per region below.
https://www.tusla.ie/tess/get-in-touch/#EWO

Q.7 How can I access urgent medication and/or medical assistance?A.7 Where there is NGO support available on site, contact them with any medical
requirements. In the absence of an NGO, please ask the Centre management team for
assistance.
If you require immediate access to medical care or medication, or any questions on your
entitlements, services or how to access HSE health or social services in your area you can
phone HSE Live (HSE) on http://www.hse.ie or via phone on 00 353 1 240 8787.

Q.8 I am a displaced Ukrainian temporarily residing with a member of the general public but will soon require accommodation?
A.8 Anyone being temporarily accommodated with friends or family may request access to
IPAS accommodation.

Q.9 How can I access my finances and Banks in Ukraine?
A.9 IPAS deals with accommodation-related queries and as such cannot advise in relation to
Ukrainian bank accounts. Please enquire with the Irish Central Bank at
enquiries@centralbank.ie

Q.10 How do I open a bank account in Ireland?
A.10 You can open a bank account with one of the main Irish banks or with An Post (post
office) if you are resident in the EU/Ireland and over 18 years old. You will be required to
provide at least one document as proof of identity and another document as proof as
address. Proof of identity can be either your passport or your Ukrainian Identity Card. A
proof of residence document letter will be provided by the Centre Manager of your IPAS
Accommodation Centre on request. For those not residing in IPAS accommodation, please
enquire with your bank of choice what would be acceptable as proof of residence.

Q.11 I am a member of the Public. What can I do to assist Ukrainian refugees?
A.11 Please find all information on assisting Ukrainians at the Irish Red Cross register of
pledges: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.

Q.12 I am a member of the public that speaks Ukrainian. Can I assist as a translator?
A.12 Please leave your name and contact details with IPAS at the ipasinbox@equality.gov.ie
and we will contact you if we require your assistance.

Q.13 Do I have to quarantine in any IPAS accommodation Centres?
A.13 There is no longer any quarantine requirement for new arrivals to any IPAS
accommodation.

Q.14 Can I work in Ireland when I arrive and what financial supports will be available to me while I look for work?
A.14 Under the Temporary Protection Directive, displaced Ukrainians have the right to work
and to receive social welfare payments in Ireland. You need a PPS number to do so, which can
be organised for you once you arrive in Ireland. Details on social welfare from DSP here:
https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/abf3e-social-welfare-supports-for-ukrainian-citizensarriving-in-ireland-under-the-temporary-protection-directive/

Q.15 What assistance & supports can I receive when sourcing my own accommodation?
A.15 Under the Temporary Protection Directive, displaced Ukrainians have the right to receive
a social welfare support payment. You need a PPS number to do so, which can be organised for you once you arrive in Ireland. Details on social welfare from DSP here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/abf3e-social-welfare-supports-for-ukrainian-citizensarriving-in-ireland-under-the-temporary-protection-directive/

Q.16 Can I bring my family pet into Ireland from Ukraine?

A.16 When travelling to an EU country or Northern Ireland, your pet needs:
 a microchip
 a valid rabies vaccination
 an animal health certificate, or a valid pet passport that’s accepted in the countryyou’re travelling to
 tapeworm treatment for dogs if you’re travelling directly to Finland, Ireland, NorthernIreland, Norway or Malta
(These requirements also apply to assistance dogs).

Some useful Contacts

 Irish Red Cross: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie or call 01642 4600.
 International Protection Office Phone: +353 1 602 8000 Email: info@ipo.gov.ie

 Citizens Information: 0818 074 000 9am – 8pm
 Health Service Executive HSE: http://www.hse.ie or via phone on 00 353 1 240 8787
 Department of Social Protection: http://www.gov.ie/DSP/Ukraine
 Embassy of Ukraine: 16 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. D04 NY31
Phone 00353 (0) 1 668 5189.

Town Centre First policy to empower Fingal’s communities to revitalise and regenerate their town.

Fingal Greens have welcomed today’s (4th February) launch of the Town Centre First policy. The Green Party has long advocated for a ‘Town Centre First’ approach to support local communities to bring life and vibrancy into towns across the country

Councillor Karen Power said;

“With the launch of this policy today, the Greens in government are delivering on a key Programme for Government commitment to develop a Town Centre First policy, modelled on the scheme developed by the Scottish Government, and informed by the Town Centre Living Initiative pilot project.

“This policy sets out a number of ways in which local communities will be empowered to come up with their own plans to bring life back to their towns. What we’ll see is structures being established and supported at local level, with funding to be provided by central government.

“I’m delighted to see that a Town Regeneration Officer will be appointed to Fingal to help train and support a ‘Town Team’, made up of local stakeholders such as residents, businesses and community groups, to develop a ‘Town Centre First plan for towns like Skerries and Balbriggan, and to know that our local authority staff will be on hand to support this work.

A Town Centre First approach revitalises and regenerates towns by bringing vacant and derelict buildings back into use and creating new opportunities for unused lands that will encourage more people to live and work within our rural towns and villages. In addition to quality housing and job opportunities, this approach also ensures that good transport links, safe and accessible public spaces, and climate resilience is at the heart of how we plan our towns.

Councillor Ian Carey said;

“This approach gives the people of Swords an opportunity to shape the future of our town, and to influence decision making on things like heritage, our public realm, how we plan the town going forward, how we tackle issues like vacancy and dereliction. From a Green perspective, this also empowers the community to put climate action, sustainable mobility, and regeneration of our public and green spaces at the heart of our Town Centres First plan.”

“The ‘one-stop-shop approach in Local Authorities will make it easy for businesses and residents to access supports for building adaptations and renovations, and much like Tidy Towns, the awards programme for Town Teams will really help to incentivise people to get on board.”

Speaking at the Moate launch of the Town Centre First policy, Green Party Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD stated;

“I’m delighted to launch the Town Centre First policy today with Minister Humphreys and Minister Burke. This is an important step towards empowering our communities to create towns and villages we want to live in and be proud of. Architecturally, culturally and socially, the Irish town is unique in European terms. For far too long, we have turned our backs on this important heritage.”

ENDS

Fingal Development Plan

The very apt words of Fingal’s engagement campaign “It’s good to plan ahead. It’s better to talk first” have nicely rounded up the first stage in the consultation process for the new Development Plan for the county. The Development Plan sets out the vision for how Fingal should develop over the life of the Plan while ensuring compliance with national and regional policy.  The Development Plan presents an opportunity for the general public to shape Fingal for the future and ‘have your say’ when it comes to important issues such as housing, economic development, community and heritage.

Following the Strategic Issues Paper, a Chief Executive’s Pre-Draft Consultation Report was prepared and Elected Reps were given the opportunity to submit motions on the seven key themes:

  1. People & Place
  2. Climate Action
  3. Connectivity & Movement
  4. Employment Economy & Dublin Airport
  5. Cultural Heritage
  6. Green Infrastructure & Natural Heritage
  7. Infrastructure & Utilities

Submission

Cllr Power and Minister O’Brien

The first round of public consultation submissions and the supporting documents can be viewed here. Minister Joe O’Brien and I prepared a submission which can be viewed here.

Next Steps

We are currently in Phase 3 and the next steps are outlined in the image below:

Next steps

The submissions from Phase 3 consultation are considered when the Chief Executive, AnnMarie Farrelly, publishes her report. This report contains four parts.

  1. An introduction to the report
  2. Summary of submissions from several key bodies (Office of the planning regulator, Eastern Midland Regional Assembly and the National Transport Authority) & the CE’s response to them
  3. Summary from all submissions, and her response & recommendations
  4. Chief Executives recommendations

Green Party Work

The five Green Councillors on Fingal County Council coordinated the drafting of 139 motions so as not to duplicate too much. A more or less complete set of our motions is available here on my colleague, Cllr David Healy’s website. David has gone above and beyond in helping the group understand the process. Consideration of the pre-draft report and motions will start on 30th August and the meetings of all considerations will be webcast here. So tune in and check it out and feel free to contact me at karen.power@cllrs.fingal.ie if you have any questions about the process or issues you would like considered.

GREEN PARTY COUNCILLOR SECURES SUPPORT FOR FIRST WOMEN’S CAUCUS IN FINGAL COUNTY COUNCIL

Motion by Cllr Karen Power co-signed by representatives across all parties and Independents voted through and Executive now to apply for funding to establish cross party working group for elected female reps in Fingal

A motion from Karen Power Councillor for Skerries, Balbriggan, Lougshinny and Balrothery, which was co-signed by female elected representatives across all political persuasions, was passed at Monday evenings Operation, Finance and Procedure meeting.

The motion directs the Executive in Fingal County Council to apply for Government funding made available for the creation of Women’s Caucuses around the country. The Executive have given a strong commitment of their support to the establishment of such a group within Fingal.

It is hoped that the establishment of the caucus will help to maximise impact on policies and decision-making, and offers opportunities to harness the knowledge of long-established women councillors and combine it with new ideas and perspectives from more recently elected women councillors whilst also drawing on the various skills of all.

Speaking about the motion and the cross party support, Cllr Power said; “It was an honor to put forward this motion here today, supported by my female colleagues, to establish a Women’s Caucus in Fingal county Council.”

“Women councillors don’t network as much as our male counterparts due to other commitments outside of the council, including jobs and caring responsibilities. The Women’s Caucus will provide us with a set time to gather to discuss and implement our common goals and priorities”

“By working together we can distribute the workload, therefore a project which may not have been achievable for one councillor can be progressed through the combined effort and support of multiple councilors”

“Other reps often remark that Fingal is one of the more progressive Councils in terms of broader representation of our communities and an exceptional female CEO in Ms farrelly. But in spite of this progressive label only 14 councillors are women with many of us co-opted to our seats. This does not reflect on our capabilities but rather the lack of equal playing field for female representatives.”

“You cannot be what you cannot see. If young women don’t see women in politics, then they may think that politics is nothing to do with them. However, we know that women are materially affected by politics and that the decisions that are made will impact on every aspect of their lives. These impacts will be whether they can afford a roof over their heads, whether they can access affordable childcare when needed or how much they get paid in their chosen career.”

The establishment of a Women’s Caucus gives us an opportunity and potential to kick start a cross-party forum for Fingal female councillors to discuss and campaign on issues predominantly affecting women.

The Council will now formally apply for funding scheme which was launch on International Women’s Day in March on the back of the publication of “Women doing politics differently – development of Local or regional caucus for women councillors – identifying interest and examining possible supports”, a research piece undertaken by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI). Along with the funding to assist with the establishment of caucuses, the National Women’s Council have also produced guidelines to assist and support both the elected members and local authorities in their endeavors.

Cllr Power along with Minister Joe O’Brien and welcomes grant for martello tower in Skerries

Minister Joe O’Brien and Fingal TD and Cllr Karen Power have welcomed the approval of a grant by their Green Party colleague, Minister Malcolm Noone, for the Martello Tower in Skerries under the new Community Monuments Fund. The grant will be administered through Fingal County Council.

The core objective of this grant is to assist with the development of Conservation Management Plans/Reports aimed at identifying measures for conservation of the Martello Tower and improved public access .The funding is an investment of essential capital in our valuable archaeological heritage to help owners and custodians of archaeological monuments to safeguard them into the future for the benefit of communities and the public and to stimulate local employment and economic activity.

Speaking about the funding allocation for Skerries Martello Tower, Minister O’Brien said;

This investment will see the start of supports for those working to care for our heritage in Skerries and to ensure the protection and promotion of our archaeological and built heritage.  It will see the start of work that will ensure that our heritage in the town is protected as a community asset and made more accessible for residents and visitors in Skerries.

Also welcoming the announcement was Skerries and Balbriggan Councillor, Karen Power who said;

“I want to thank Fingal County Council for recognising the importance and significance of the Martello Tower in Skerries and for putting it forward as a suitable project.  Our heritage is so important, especially in these challenging times, in providing recreation, comfort and a sense of well-being to communities in Fingal and I am delighted to see progress on work which will ultimately provide safe public access to Martello Tower.”

Green Party councillor’s concern over coastal erosion evident in Balbriggan

A Green Party councillor has expressed concern over coastal erosion in Balbriggan.

Cllr Karen Power said: ‘Earlier this year Fingal County Council established the Fingal Coastal Liaison Group – the only one of its kind in the country – to tackle the extensive coastal erosion in Portrane.

‘Following recent bad weather and Storm Aiden, the cliffs behind Bremore Castle have been further damaged and large chunks hang precariously over the beach below.

‘The Fingal Coastal Liaison Group have responsibility for developing a new coastal strategy and as part of this exercise areas which are in need of extra protection will be examined.’

Cllr Power is asking that the coastline in Balbriggan is examined as an area which could need potential extra protections.

She said: ‘Walking along Balbriggan beach it’s hard not to notice the very serious impact of coastal erosion, particularly along the cliffs behind Bremore Castle following Storm Aiden.

‘This is a particularly popular route for walkers and the cliffs above have large sections that look likely to break off soon. I have asked the council as an immediate measure to secure the particularly dangerous section and in the long-term to look to include Balbriggan in the coastal strategy.”

“We have seen the devastating effect in Portrane of ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away with family homes now uninhabitable and homes being isolated as access roads are falling into the sea. Action is needed now to safe guard our coastline in Balbriggan before the problem develops past the point of successful intervention.”

BALBRIGGAN YOUTH SERVICE INCLUDED IN CAPITAL GRANT FUNDING YOUTH PROJECTS/SERVICES NATIONAL YOUTH ORGANISATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Balbriggan Green Party Councillor, Karen Power, has welcomed the inclusion of the Balbriggan Youth Service in the Capital Grant Funding announced by Minister O’Gorman at the Department of Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration.

A grant of €15,533.18 has been awarded to the local service in Balbriggan and will assist the purchase and replacement of essential equipment to support the running of this services for young people and for national youth organisations to provide innovative models of safe online communication for staff and with young people.

Speaking on the grant, Cllr Power has said “I am delighted to see that my party colleague Minister O’Gorman has included the Balbriggan Youth Service in this grant scheme. This service makes exceptional contributions to our community and welcomes every young person in the door from 10 years plus.”

“Throughout the Covid-19 restrictions, Balbriggan Youth Service adapted and continued to support young people’s well-being and social connections. The role this service plays in our community cannot be overstated.”

Balbriggan youth service has a range of clubs, groups and cafes for all young people from 10 to 18 + years old. A cafe is a group that is fun for young people to hang out with their friends in a safe environment. young people from 13 -15 are welcome on Thursday night cafe and young people from 16-18 are invited to Friday night cafe.