All posts by Joan Burton

Joan Burton TD is an Irish politician who has served her country as Leader of the Labour Party, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and in a number of ministerial roles - most recently as Minister for Social Protection from 2011 to 2016.

Royal Canal Park SHD

After inspecting the design of the Royal Canal Park Phase 4 SHD, and working with Local Councillor Marie Sherlock (Cabra-Glasnevin), I have made a submission in writing to An Bord Pleanála. This can be read below.


Observation to appeal Re: PL29N.306167  

Royal Canal Park Phase 4 

An Bord Pleanála, 

Marlborough Street, 

Dublin 1 

1

Dear Sir / Madam, 

We are submitting an observation to express strong reservations about the proposed design of the Royal Canal Park Phase 4 SHD.   

As public representatives of the area, we are acutely aware of the need for additional residential housing and for the development of the remaining part of the Royal Canal Park area. However, this SHD proposal amounts to overdevelopment of the area, it breaches the intent of Dublin City Council’s local area plan with regard to building heights for the area and it fails to adequately provide a broad mix of housing type with a disproportionate concentration on one and two bed units. 

We believe there are four key concerns; 

Composition of Housing

The composition of the 435 residential units breaches Objective HO2 of Dublin City Council’s Local Area Plan for Ashtown which stipulates that  

“To ensure a minimum of 50% of large sized units, i.e., of 3+ bedrooms, are provided within the LAP area on completion of all development. Whilst percentages may be permitted to vary above or below this figure on a given site, any significant housing proposal will be required to demonstrate how it can contribute towards achieving the eventual 50% minimum across the LAP.

The proposed SHD is made up of 218 one bed apartments and 217 two bed apartments. This insufficiently meets demand for family housing in the area and we believe the developers must offer a more diverse offering from one bed to three bed units. 

Height

The proposal for two 13 storey blocks appears to be unprecedented across the city council area and breaches Dublin City Council’s Local Area Plan for the area in terms of integration into the existing environment and the maximum six story height limit for the area. The proposed height will impose an overbearing presence on existing housing in the area and it will also pose a particular challenge for emergency service vehicular access. 

Traffic

There appears to be one vehicular exit point out of the development and little detail on what the sustainable mobility plan might be.  

Furthermore, the developer appears to be putting much store on the availability of public transport to carry persons into and out of the Royal Canal Bank area given the proposed ratio of residential units to car parking spaces. However, public transport systems in the area are currently operating above capacity and so will not be an attractive and viable transport option for those living in the proposed units.  

It is also important to note that additional train capacity on the Maynooth rail line is only set to increase by 25% over the medium term and will only become available at the end of 2021 and throughout 2022. The construction of Pelletstown Train will be a great addition to the area but will be of little use over the medium term if rail users cannot get on a train there. 

Future School Demand

The submitted planning documents base their projections on Census 2016 data and suggest that the SHD will not drive significant additional pressure for school places. In particular they suggest a drop in secondary school demand in the area in 2024/2025 and beyond.  

We believe this to be a flawed assessment of existing and future trends in the Royal Canal Bank area. Already there is a serious issue for families in being able to access secondary school places in the area due to the school catchment boundaries set by the Department of Education. Furthermore, we believe demand for secondary places is going to rise and with that more difficulties in accessing places. The developer’s expectation appears to be that the two bed units will not house families, but the extent of the housing crisis is that families will end up having to take up residence there and will therefore drive demand for both primary and secondary school places in the area.  It is also worth noting that the promised permanent Educate Together primary school building has still not commenced construction work.  

Ultimately, the proposed development amount to a daring attempt by developers to maximise over the short term as much profit from their site as possible with little regard to the medium-term sustainability of the development and its integration into the community along the Royal Canal Bank.  

Yours Sincerely, 

 Joan Burton, General Election Candidate, Dublin West

Cllr. Marie Sherlock, Cabra-Glasnevin

Hartstown Community School Debate

Standing outside Hartstown Community School after I and a number of other candidates were questioned and cross questioned by the students from 5th year, 6th year and the student council.

They were tough, but also interesting and important questions about the housing crisis, about crime in the local area, about drug abuse, about how to make life better for people who are parenting on their own, about how to improve health and mental health services, and about what Ireland might be like after Brexit.

Well done to Hartstown Community School! I really enjoyed the questions and I was very impressed by the students.

Better Pay, Job Security

Work is changing and we need to change with it. A job for life doesn’t exist anymore. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have better pay, job security and be better able to balance our work and family commitments. Too many workers are underpaid, and wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. People need a pay rise.

Labour will guarantee everyone the right to be represented at work by a trade union, and employers will be required to negotiate with their employee’s representatives. 

Labour will raise the minimum wage to a real living wage. The Low Pay Commission will chart a path to increase the national minimum wage until it remains above two-thirds of median income (as it was originally in 2000) and is sufficient to provide a minimum essential standard of living. This measure will benefit the one in four workers who are low paid.

Labour will tackle the gig economy. We will eliminate bogus self-employment and ‘if and when’ arrangements and we will enforce a right to certainty of working hours for people in precarious employment.

Labour will maintain the State Pension age at 66, which is affordable for the Social Insurance Fund. This will give society and the economy more time to adjust to people living and working for longer. 

Labour will implement a National Flexible Working Strategy, to develop good practice standards for permitting people to work from home or from other locations, noting that women still are disproportionately likely to be the primary caregivers for children.

Labour will introduce a right to flexible working hours where an employer only has to make a reasonable adjustment to allow for them, to reduce stress and wasted time from commuting, and to facilitate work-life balance for parents and carers in particular.

Labour will enforce a right to certainty of working hours. Too many people do not know the days or hours they will get on a week-to-week basis. This is disruptive to family life and to childcare arrangements, as well as affecting people’s weekly pay.

Labour will implement a right for employees to switch off from work email and telephone calls when outside of work hours and when not compensated for this extra activity.


Read more about our policies on work here.

Labour Signs Up To Anti-Racism Election Protocol


There has been a worrying increase in racism and xenophobia in our country in recent years, and we’ve seen some candidates who are prepared to exploit fear to win votes.

Today I signed the Anti-Racism Election Protocol promoted by the Irish Network Against Racism and committed the Labour Party to their principles.

Labour will maintain a zero-tolerance stance on racism and xenophobia. All of our candidates and elected representatives will be required to uphold the highest standards, not just of respect for diversity but active anti-racism. Similar standards will apply with respect to all the grounds of equality.

Under Labour, we will want the Department of Justice and Equality to enhance the national response to racism and other forms of discrimination and hate crime. Specifically, we will make hate crime illegal, such as racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. The Gardaí will be tasked with keeping accurate statistics on hate crime, as is done in Northern Ireland.

Labour will also develop a stronger national LGBTI+ strategy, to focus on tackling hate crimes, discrimination in schools and workplaces and improving the mental and sexual health of LGBTI+ people. In addition, we will introduce a welcoming New Irish policy, similar to Scotland’s New Scots policy, which will formally recognise that being a member of Irish society is not about parentage or formal citizenship, but about being born in Ireland or choosing to make a long-term commitment to life in Ireland.

To combat the rise of toxic content on social media, Labour will introduce new safeguards to protect young people from abuse and discrimination, including online. Labour will continue to press for its Harassment and Harmful Communications Bill 2017 (“Coco’s Law”) to be enacted, to update the law to include harassment and bullying on the internet, mobile phones and social media.

Sport can be an arena to foster diversity, equality and inclusion. Labour will implement an ambitious strategy to save community grassroots football and to strenghten football’s role in social inclusion, with funding focusing on social inclusion, gender equality, anti-racism and integration.

Climate Justice

Time is running out, so we must invest in climate action now. Labour brought in Ireland’s first climate change laws, and the city bike schemes, and we can be relied on to cut emissions and build a low carbon economy.

Labour will fund local government to deliver an ambitious home insulation scheme, targeting 100,000 homes each year. This will be rolled out to all council-owned properties and will be available on a street-by-street basis for homeowners. A mix of subsidies and grants will be available. All of this will give people warmer homes and lower energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and create new apprenticeships and sustainable jobs.

Labour will invest in the ESB, Coillte and Bord na Móna to create new sustainable jobs in clean energy, recycling and land management. This will ensure a positive future for workers and for regions that are most at risk from the loss of polluting industries.

Labour will support the trade union Just Transition to a low carbon economy. This includes a Just Transition Fund to invest in businesses that are helping workers and communities to make the transition to a low carbon economy.

Labour will invest in public transport and cycling infrastructure, to encourage people in cities and large towns to make the change to sustainable and healthier forms of transportation. This will also ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Labour will target electric vehicle grants to those who need them, especially in rural Ireland, where people may be car dependent. People with a disability who are car dependent will be given an electric vehicle grant. 

Labour will make the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 a legal requirement, and we will publish annual carbon budgets that set a ceiling on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted each year in different sectors of the economy.

Photo of two Gardaí

Drug Gangs Targeting Children

Protecting our children is a priority for any country. It is tragically clear that criminal gangs now represent a very real threat to perhaps hundreds of children across the country.

Crime gangs are recruiting children and ordering them to move and sell drugs.  Involvement in criminality can spiral when a young person is in the clutches of these crime bosses.  Very serious threats and blackmail in relation to minor debts are often the way that criminals force children to do their evil bidding.

We need to do all in our power to protect children and make it impossible for crime gangs to operate.  Labour is currently working on legislative proposals that would make the recruitment, direction or coercion of a minor by a crime gang a criminal offence.

We have introduced similar measures to make the grooming of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation a specific offence – penalised by up to 14 years in prison.  Criminal gangs are also effectively grooming children and they need to face the same jail sentences for these despicable actions.

We need to ensure our legal system can respond to the gangland threat.  This proposal to protect our young people is an important development in that regard.  However, these vicious crime gangs will not be crushed by a law and order response alone.  We need to invest in communities and supports for young people, particularly vulnerable young people.  Providing communities and youth services with the resources they need must go hand in hand with criminal and legal initiatives to crush the gangs.


You can watch my interaction with An Taoiseach about the damage being done to families and whole communities as a result of drug gangs targeting young children.

A Fair Start for Every Child

It is expensive to raise a family in Ireland, but we can ensure that no child is left behind. We must ensure that all of our children are treated equally and given the chance to fulfil their potential.

Labour will make primary education genuinely free-of-charge, to fulfil the guarantee in the Constitution. This will include a free schoolbooks scheme, a uniform grant and free healthy school meals.

Childcare needs to change. We need to bring Ireland into line with our European neighbours. Labour will develop a public Childcare Scheme for Working Parents, because parents should never have to choose between their children and their job. We will first target parents who cannot work because of the prohibitive cost of childcare. The service will include early drop-off times and late collection to reflect modern work practices and commute times, and will be based on best practice education, play and early learning. The costs to parents will be moderate, set at the EU average level of childcare costs – Irish parents are currently paying three times the EU average. 

Labour will introduce new safeguards to protect young people from abuse and discrimination, including online. Labour will enact its Harassment and Harmful Communications Bill, to update the law to include harassment and bullying on the Internet, mobile phones and social media.

Labour will maintain a zero-tolerance stance on racism and xenophobia. All of our candidates and elected representatives will uphold the highest standards of respect for diversity and active anti-discrimination including in particular anti-racism.

Labour will introduce a New Irish policy to formally recognise that being a member of Irish society is not about parentage or citizenship but about being born here or choosing to make a long-term commitment to life in Ireland.

Labour will restore the right to citizenship to children raised in Ireland whose primary affiliation is to Ireland. At present, many children brought up in Ireland do not have an automatic right to citizenship because their parents are not Irish, even though they have never known another home. This can cause serious problem for them after school, such as an inability to go to college, to work or to travel. This legal change can be made under the existing provisions in the Constitution brought in by the 27th Amendment, which remove automatic citizenship for everyone born in Ireland.

Pension Age

Labour will maintain the State Pension age at 66, as older workers and the economy are not yet ready for working longer lives. Many of those now reaching the age of 66 have already made 45 years of social insurance contributions, and many are affected by mandatory retirement at the age of 65. We are living longer, and we do need to prepare for longer working lives, but we have a sufficient surplus in the National Insurance Fund that we can afford to delay the move to the retirement age to 67. 

The pension age increase was agreed by the Fianna Fáil-Green government with the Troika, and passed into law in 2011 when the country was nearly bankrupt. The increase to 67 has not happened yet, and can be stopped now as the country is in a different place than 2011 with more people at work and the Social Insurance Fund is in substantial surplus.

It is simply unacceptable that people would be expected to sign for unemployment when they should be retired and Labour is committed to stop that happening.

At our conference in November, the Labour Party was the first to call for rise in pension age (to 67 in 2021) to be halted. You can watch the video here.

Renters Need a Break

Ireland has had the highest rent increases in the EU since 2015, with rents having risen over 25% in that time. The average rent in some parts of Dublin is over €2,224, an all-time high.

Many people can’t afford to rent close to where they work, and end up commuting long distances. This is unsustainable and is destroying quality of life. Reliance on the private housing market has failed. Rents are unaffordable and homelessness is at record highs, including nearly 4,000 children. Many adult children are stuck living with their parents due to the impossibility of meeting the cost of rent.

Freeze Rents

Labour will freeze rents until enough homes are built, to immediately alleviate the housing crisis. Labour froze rents in 2015 for two years, and it can be done again to give people certainty and to allow time for more homes to be built.

Cap Rents

As well as freezing rents, Labour will introduce a system of rent caps. At the moment, rents are permitted to go up 4% every year, but wages are not increasing at anything like that rate. We will regulate short-term letting and enforce this, in order to free up more homes that should not be being used as hotels.

Secure Long-Term Tenancies

Labour believes that secure, long-term renting should be a viable option so that people have security and can make a place into their long-term home. Labour will bring in long-term leases for renters, with rent certainty, and we’ll stop unfair evictions. To achieve this, we will strengthen the powers of the Rental Tenancies Board and increase its staff so that it has the capacity to fulfil its mandate.

Deposit Protection Scheme

Labour will ban the practice of landlords asking for more than one month’s rent as a deposit and implement a deposit protection scheme.

NCT For Rental Properties

Labour will introduce an NCT-style inspection of rental premises that issues Minimum Standards Certificates so tenants know the places they’re viewing meet standards on fire safety, and oblige local authorities to publish annual statistics into inspections of private rental accommodation to ensure regulations are correctly and effectively enforced.

Make Rent Count

Some renters are paying over €500 more than they would for a mortgage. Labour will ensure that rental payments and deposit savings are counted as part of credit ratings, to help first-time buyers.

Help For Renters Who Want to Buy

Labour will re-introduce a Rent to Buy scheme through our affordable housing plan where a person with a tenancy for three years that successfully pays all their rent would see it turned into a deposit for the property that they will then go on to own.

Peter Casey’s Message of Division Is Not Welcome in Dublin West

Like any other citizen Peter Casey has every right to put his name on the Dublin West ballot paper. Nonetheless many citizens will be uneasy at his sudden intervention in the constituency.

Dublin West is one of Ireland’s most diverse and inclusive communities, in part because it is the location for so many major international companies.

Inclusive societies thrive on their openness and diversity and Dublin West is no exception.

Local workplaces, schools, social and sporting clubs go to immense efforts to create a caring and friendly environment for families from many nations who have settled here.

These efforts have borne fruit and it would be a shocking thing if a Dáil candidate notorious for creating division should use the occasion of this election to sow seeds of disharmony for purely political purposes.

If that is his intention then I respectfully suggest that he think twice and turn back his cavalcade on the N3 and leave Dublin West communities to continue with their work in making the area a welcoming place to live, study and find employment.