Long Term thinking and Homelessness

Every Christmas the problem of homelessness gets big press, and with steadily rising number of people out of home and sleeping rough it is only right that this issue gets some serious coverage. However I have worked in a variety of homeless services in Dublin and I know that when the Christmas spotlight fades the problem doesn’t.

Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue and there is no quick one size solution. However there is one fundamental thing needed – homes. Homes alone won’t solve the problem, but the failure to adequately provide social and affordable housing across Dublin City is contributing to the current crisis. The latest Homeless Framework Action Plan recently debated by Councillors rightly aims to follow a housing first approach, this is hardly possible without the houses. Continue reading

Repair and Upkeep of Deirdre Kelly Memorial, Ranelagh

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I stood proudly with my local scout group the day they unveiled the memorial to local historian Deirdre Kelly on the triangle in Ranelagh. Deirdre had been the Group leader of Leeson Park Scout Group at one time as well as been a local historian and conservation activist, and it was fitting to see a memorial dedicated to her.

However, over the years the simply yet appropriate memorial of her bike placed in the ground under glass has fallen into disrepair. This is the sort of thing that Deirdre fought against, allowing our natural and built heritage to be mistreated and left in a state of decay. Continue reading

Transparency and Accountability in Poolbeg

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I am struck by the feeling that no one is in charge when it comes to the incinerator.

At a recent Public Accounts Committee meeting City Manager Owen Keegan stated he didn’t know if the incinerator would be built or not. Given that it is up to him and his officials this seems a crazy statement and shows the problems with the lack of transparency and accountability in this project. Continue reading

Redundant Phone Boxes and Redundant Thinking….

The Irish Times recently reported on the problem of abandoned and derelict phone boxes in Dublin. Dublin City Council, however, says it has no powers to remove old phone boxes.

The article dealt only with Smart Telecom’s phone boxes but it raises a wider problem. There are a great many boxes owned by other telecom operators in disrepair or abandoned across the city. These boxes, with broken phones and vandalised windows, have become little more than an obstruction on the pavement and an eyesore.

Several local business owners have told me that these boxes are a real problem. But in some areas of Dublin, as Olivia Kelly reported, their presence disqualified villages from enjoying Tidy Towns status.

The Council says it has no power to remove the boxes. But this thinking is wrong in two respects. First, the law does empower the Council to take action. Second, by doing so the Council can provide a benefit to the public beyond removing a public eyesore.

The 1990 Act 

The Council has a variety of powers under the Derelict Sites Act, 1990 [link], which defines a derelict site as one which

“detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question”.

The Council can argue that this threshold has been reached.

Not only this, but the Act, in Section 11, lays out precisely what the Council should do in this situation:

they shall serve a notice in writing on any person who appears to them to be the owner or occupier of the said land.

(2) A notice under this section shall—

(a) specify the measures which the local authority or the Minister, as the case may be, consider to be necessary in order to prevent the land from becoming or continuing to be a derelict site,

(b) direct the person on whom the notice is being served to take such measures as may be specified in the notice, and

(c) specify a period (being not less than one month) within which such measures are to be taken;

(5) Where a person on whom a notice under this section has been served does not, within the period specified in the notice or in the notice as amended, as the case may be, comply with the requirements of the notice, the local authority who served the notice may take such steps (including entry on land by authorised persons in accordance with section 30 ) as they consider reasonable and necessary to give effect to the terms of the notice or the notice as amended, as the case may be, and may recover any expense thereby incurred from the person on whom the notice or the notice as amended, as the case may be, was served and who is the owner or occupier as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

Failure to comply on the part of the owner of the derelict site is an offense under the act for which the owner can be made subject to fines (see detail at http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1990/en/act/pub/0014/sec0028.html#sec28). In other words, the Council can take action in the case of the derelict phone boxes, and is invested with extensive powers to do so. But it chooses not to.

The opportunity 

But beyond merely requiring that telco operators clean up their phone boxes, Section 14 of the 1990 Act gives the Council the power to

“acquire by agreement or compulsorily any derelict site situated within their functional area”

Therefore if the telco operators fail to clean up their act the Council can take over the boxes itself. And herein lies an interesting prospect. The Council could use these sites to expand the Free WiFi scheme across Dublin City. At present the Scheme operates at a limited number of locations (see map below).

The Council must step up to the telco operators and demand better behaviour.  If they do refuse to comply then it should take action under the 1990 Act, potentially taking over these sites and blanketing the City with free WiFi for the public. Far better to enable every citizen to access the Internet everywhere than continue to allow phone boxes to be left to rot.

Patrick Costello

Detox Yoga Workshop fundraiser (25 January)


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DETOX YOGA WORKSHOP

TIME:       2pm – 5pm
DATE:      25 January 2014
VENUE:   Lesson Park, Methodist Centenary Church, 4 Leeson Park, Dublin 4 (map below)

A winter workshop to warm the body and clear the mind.  This practice is designed to create heat and space in the body, promoting digestion and mental clarity after the indulgence of Christmas.

The workshop will include movement (asana), breath-work (pranayama), meditation and relaxation.  It is suitable for all levels.
Cost is €25 per person.  For bookings contact sharonmwaters@gmail.com.  Spaces are limited so please book early.

Sharon Waters (RYT 200) is inspired by the Ashtanga yoga tradition, a flowing, dynamic practice designed to introduce the benefits of yoga to fitness enthusiasts who frequently experience stiffness or injury. Particular attention is given to building core strength and flexibility in the shoulder girdle and hips.

Recently, she has also been working with restorative practices and Yin (cooling) yoga, which are particularly suitable for cooling down and injuries.  Further information http://sharonwatersyoga.blogspot.ie/

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Image credit: Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamking/826142536/sizes/o/