Sinn Féin launched the party’s campaign for the local government elections in the 26 Counties this week.
The party is contesting 258 local government seats and is hoping to build on the gains made in 2004, particularly in areas such as Limerick, Westmeath and Wicklow.
“Local communities are under huge pressure,” said party President Gerry Adams at the launch.
“The neglect and mismanagement at national level is being replicated in local communities across Ireland. Cutbacks and a lack of local investment are undermining local service delivery.
“More than 40,000 households are on social housing waiting lists and regeneration projects in Dublin have collapsed. Many roads in country areas are sub standard. There are huge concerns over the provision of water in Galway and Clare.
“But good decisions in local government can make a positive difference in peoples lives. To deliver change locally means electing people who will stand up for local communities. It means changing the balance of power on councils across the state where Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have dominated for decades.
“There is huge anger at the government. And despite attempts by Fianna Fail councillors to cynically distance themselves from the government, they need to be held to account in every single electoral contest across the state. They are not running as independents, they are running as representatives of the leading party in government. If people are angry at the government, if they want to send them a message that change is needed, then I would call on them to vote Sinn Féin.
“Sinn Féin wants build a real alliance for change. And we will start at local government level. We are looking for the strongest possible mandate in this election. And it is our intention to use this mandate on councils where we have sufficient support to work with parties on the left. We are at a defining moment in Irish politics. We need to use these elections to build the momentum for real change.”
The following is a summary of the party’s local election manifesto.
PROMOTING MEANINGFUL LOCAL DEMOCRACY
Local Government Reform
* A major transformation of local government including increased councillors’ powers to include appropriate local control over the provision of services including greater local control over budgets and financing of local government, including the ability to collect tax revenue.
* Restore or increase councillors’ prior powers over planning, housing, transportation and waste management and correspondingly limit Managers’ powers.
* Reform the structure of local government to make it more accountable - including directly elected Chairs and Mayors who would assume many aspects of the council management oversight role.
* Review the powers and functions of Regional Assemblies1 and Regional Authorities2 and introduce direct elections to these bodies. Empower them to develop, implement and oversee coordinated regional policies.
* Build towards Irish Unity by increasing local, regional and cross-border coordination and integration of council work in development planning and service provision.
Local Government Finance
* Demand the accountable, efficient and effective spending of local authority finances.
* Adjust local service and procurement contracts to create a level pitch for local businesses by breaking tenders into segments, allowing smaller contractors to efficiently tender.
* Oppose privatisation of local authority services and the use of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).
* Call for a review of the expenses regime for councillors and Committee Chairs to eliminate excess and abuse and subject claims to strict limits and scrutiny.
* Oppose the imposition of double taxation through new service charges or user fees for essential public services.
BUILDING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES
* Ensure community participation and input at pre- planning and planning enforcement stages and extensive participation during all stages of County/City/Town/Local Area Development Planning.
* Ensure that planning permission favours the development of sustainable rural housing and that development levies do not penalise rural dwellers building family homes, or first- time buyers building modest principal homes.
* Ensure development plans frontload building of community facilities, with onus on the developer.
* For developments of a significant nature, size or scale, demand initial site notification and notification of any amendments to all resident within 400 yards of a site.
* Hold developers accountable by systematically imposing substantial, index-linked bonds (refundable in the event of full compliance with planning conditions).
* Ensure the council sets and meets social housing targets and targets to eliminate homelessness.
* Ensure that developers at least meet the full 20% social and affordable housing provision minimum requirement under the law.
* Immediately double social housing output without budgetary increase by:
* Extending the new shared equity scheme to allow local authorities to purchase housing units on a 50:50 basis in conjunction with the central Government.
* Combining local authority capital and revenue streams alongside government loans to build and acquire more social units.
* Purchasing existing vacant private units at or below market value, subject to appropriate standards and value for money criteria.
* Ensure at a minimum unit-for-unit replacement of social housing, particularly as part of regeneration programmes.
* Ensure that councils use their full powers of inspection of local rental accommodation, adhere to inspection and standards guidelines and engage in robust enforcement against rogue landlords.
* Campaign for Government assistance to those currently at risk of losing their homes due to reckless banking practices.
Environmental Protection and Waste Management
* Return power over waste management to local elected representatives.
* Progressive movement away from landfill and towards reduction, reuse and recycling, closure of all unsafe landfill sites and full remediation of contaminated dumpsites.
* Oppose incineration or other thermal treatment.
* Oppose the privatisation of waste management and the introduction of service charges for waste collection.
* Ensure that each council adopts a Local Climate Change Strategy.
* Advocate the use by local authorities of renewable energy sources, including biofuel, for authority-owned vehicles and facilities.
DELIVERING RESPONSIVE PUBLIC SERVICES
* Work to ensure a clean and safe public water supply to all local residents within the council area.
* Support enforcement of the principle that ‘the polluter pays’ against anyone responsible for contaminating or failing to protect the water supply.
* Call for the introduction of Source Protection Measures for all public and group water schemes.
* Oppose any attempt to privatise the water supply and fight to keep water treatment plants in public ownership.
* Oppose charges for the use of water, including their imposition on schools and other non-commercial organisations under the EU Water Directive. Propose a waiver scheme in the interim.
* Significantly greater public investment in public transportation to ensure more affordable and more frequent service and full public ownership of bus and rail services.
* Propose an audit of local unmet public transport need, focusing in particular on new developments and rural areas, taking into account changing demographics and increased demand.
* Support community-based rural transport initiatives, including demand-responsive dial-up transit and ensure that all local transport operates to county boundaries and covers entire county..
* Initiate local road network accident black spot audits and ensure that councils take appropriate measures.
* Ensure the provision of sufficient taxi ranks to meet local need.
Fire and Ambulance Services
* Propose inclusion of a Fire Brigade representative on the Planning Strategic/Municipal Policy Committee and other planning fora and ensure that planning decisions take into account emergency access and the need for sustainable traffic diversions.
* Support a single ambulance command and control system for Fire Brigade and HSE ambulance deployment.
* Support full North-South cooperation in emergency service provision in border areas.
Recreational Services and Amenities
* Ensure that better use is made of existing civic buildings (including town halls and libraries) to deliver access to the arts (including music education and drama).
* Ensure that all local authority leases to sports clubs are for multiple use to maximise available amenities.
* Ensure that all development plans for towns with a population of 1,000 or more include the provision of one-stop recreational centres (including facilities such as a cinema, bowling alley, swimming pool and youth cafe).
* Establish clear and fair criteria for public art contracts and ensure local community/artists input into the selection process.
GROWING AND SPREADING LOCAL PROSPERITY
* Propose a review of the functioning and management of City and County Development Boards and City and County Enterprise Boards with the objective of making them more responsive to the needs of local businesses.
* Propose the setting up of one-stop shops to provide business support for small to medium and social enterprise.
* Propose to make unused IDA lands available for purchase by local authorities at less than current market value (in many cases these lands were sold to IDA by local authorities and state infrastructure has made them more valuable) and for local authorities to use these landbanks to provide low-cost serviced sites for local business start-up incubation units.
* Ensure full application of Retail Planning Guidelines and propose development of a strategy to support retention of local retailers in local communities.
* Support fair rates and development contributions that help local authorities
* Campaign against education cuts and for significant increases in investment in education with a focus on ensuring sufficient provision for local disadvantaged students.
* Keep needed local school building and remediation works under review and maintain pressure on the Minister to deliver these.
* Oppose the introduction of third level fees and support reform of the granting system in a way that truly opens access to third level to students from low income backgrounds.
* Use positions on VECs to advocate a coordinated approach between the VECs, FAS and the third level institutions, to ensure sufficient provision of local training for sectors that will provide jobs in the coming decades.
* Propose that all available public classroom space is optimally utilised at all times, ie. for out-of-hours training for workers.
* Demand the scrapping of the fundamentally flawed Community Childcare Subvention Scheme and fight to keep local community creches open.
* Support provision or restoration of core funding to good quality childcare to all local community-based creches, to ensure equal access for all who need it.
* Require developers to construct childcare facilities in all new housing developments and transfer these to the ownership of the local authority upon completion.
* Continue to monitor broadband availability in their local areas and push for 100% connectivity.
* Insist on inspections led by the Department of Communications to verify private provider claims of connectivity where the local authority has identified persistent broadband blackspots.
* Propose mandatory telecommunications ducting as a condition of planning permission for all new significant residential, commercial and public building developments.
* Ensure minimum bandwidth of 7MB/s for all towns with populations of over 5,000 by 2011.
* Ensure each council investigates the potential for local conversion to, generation of and public investment in renewable energy.
* Ensure each council adopts a Local Renewable Energy Strategy for incorporation into the local Development Plan and regularly monitors and reviews its implementation
* Propose preferential planning approval for energy efficient developments and conversions and for renewable energy projects where all other standards are also met.
* Propose and seek granting support for conversion and retrofitting of all local authority-owned buildings.
* Work with the local VEC to make free retraining opportunities available to unemployed tradespeople to qualify them as energy rating assessors, or in the installation of solar, wood-pellet, ground-heating and mini-wind turbine systems, as well as energy-saving and insulation systems.
RAISING THE QUALITY OF LIFE
* Fight to establish Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) in all Councils.
* Use their membership of JPCs to influence local policing, with a view to increasing and ring-fencing the number of community Gardai and juvenile liaison officers and to changing rostering and deployment arrangements so that Gardai are on patrol in the locations and during the hours that they are most needed.
* Campaign for a coherent strategy to maximise Garda visibility in rural areas.
* Demand that all drug-related monies seized by Gardai or by CAB are channelled into community development initiatives.
* Work to ensure that local councils work together with the Gardai, the HSE, education providers and the community and voluntary sector to introduce real and lasting solutions to crime and anti-social behaviour with an emphasis on early intervention and prevention.
* Promote the introduction of Good Community Agreements inclusive of all residents and other stakeholders, 12 month Local Authority Introductory Tenancy Agreements subject to appeal and robust eviction guidelines.
* Replacement of our current two-tier, inequitable and inefficient healthcare system with a new universal public health system for Ireland that provides care to all free at the point of delivery on the basis of need alone.
* The retention and further development of the maximum feasible range of services at local hospitals and the provision of quality hospital care for all, regardless of income or geographic location. A halt to the over- centralisation of hospital facilities and reversal of cutbacks in services at local hospitals.
* Work with communities and healthcare workers to campaign for delivery of the best possible local healthcare services.
* Campaign against health cutbacks, including the HSE recruitment embargo and against centralisation and privatisation of hospital services.
* Propose local public information campaigns to enhance awareness of local mental health and suicide prevention services.
* Provision of full spectrum addiction services (for alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs and solvents) for all who need them.
* No more addiction treatment waiting lists. Treatment made available as soon as the addicted person is ready for help.
* Restriction on the number and type of outlets where alcohol is sold, the number of licenses granted and the hours and days of sale.
* Work directly with communities worst-affected by alcohol- related public disorder and the illegal drugs trade. Lobby for increased RAPID and CLAR funding for proven effective prevention resources to disadvantaged areas hardest hit and where individuals are most at risk.
* Promote awareness programmes and harm reduction education and services to reduce unnecessary deaths by alcohol poisoning/solvent use/overdose, HIV or Hepatitis C.
* Campaign with local communities to end the closure of post offices throughout the country.
* Campaign to keep An Post as a public asset under public control.
* Propose a Public Service Intervention Order to enable the subvention of post offices in rural areas along the Western Seaboard region to ensure post masters’ incomes are brought to the minimum wage as a matter of priority.
STRENGTHENING EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
Platform for the Irish Language
* Support full implementation of the Official Languages Act at local level.
* Propose that each council adopt an Irish Language Promotion Strategy and appoint an Irish Language Development Officer responsible for its implementation.
* Support the interests of local Gaelscoileanna and stand with parents and teachers in demanding the retention of Irish language immersion education.
* Ensure development of distinct Local Area Plans for na Gaeltachtai, in consultation with socio-linguistic experts, to both protect the Irish language as a community language and increase the viability of these areas.
Platform for Women
* Support the adoption and ensure the monitoring of affirmative action policies to increase hiring and promotion of equally able women in council employment and in the award of council contracts.
* Ensure each council adopts official policies and guidelines on domestic violence, in consultation with local women’s support service
* Support equal access for all to good quality childcare.
* Use positions on Development Boards to support initiatives promoting women’s entrepreneurship, including expansion of Women’s Enterprise Networks.
Platform for Children and Young People
* Support emerging leadership among young people through the establishment of Youth Councils, to provide a forum for structured consultation and advice to local authorities.
* Ensure all development plans include child and youth amenities to build safer communities.
* Ensure that all councils focus on the provision of age appropriate sports and recreational facilities:
Platform for Older People
* Ensure local authorities age-proof mainstream services (such as Assisted Bin Collection schemes) and adapt or provide specific services for older peoples’ needs.
* Ensure all new builds meet universal design standards to prevent the need for later adaptation by older residents experiencing a decline in mobility.
* Use membership of Joint Policing Committees to ensure policing better meets the security needs of vulnerable older people. Support community-based voluntary schemes that provide vigilance on behalf of and other supports for, older people living alone.
* Ensure local nursing homes are regularly inspected to guard against abuse and neglect of older people in such facilities.
Platform for People With Disabilities
* Ensure each council has a Disability Access Officer to inspect planning applications.
* Ensure provision for independent living within mixed tenure estates.
* Ensure new builds meet universal design standards and require planning applications to include a specific certification to this effect from the Association of Building Engineers or the Royal Institute of Architects.
* Support the adoption and ensure the monitoring of affirmative action policies to increase hiring and promotion of people with disabilities in council employment.
Platform for New Communities
* Promote the inclusion of New Communities in local consultation and planning processes, ensuring the representation of these communities on local bodies and inclusion in decision-making.
* Campaign to end the unjust Direct Provision System.
* Oppose segregated schooling. Promote local education and childcare provision more responsive to the needs of New Community children and their families, including targeted programmes where appropriate.
Platform for Travellers
* Promote the inclusion of Travellers in local consultation and planning processes, ensuring their representation on local bodies and inclusion in decision-making.
* Ensure full and timely delivery of local Traveller Accommodation Plans.
* Promote ongoing and constructive dialogue between local Traveller and settled communities on matters of shared concern.