I have expanded on the points in my short manifesto: please contact me if you want any clarification on points. Much of this is common sense or is borrowed from other independent TD's who have excellent ideas on how to govern Ireland better.
Implementation of Local Management Boards for our Hospitals
When I worked as a nurse, hospitals were run by the people who knew them best: local health staff and local public representatives. It is patently clear from the many and longstanding issues within our health service - patients on trolleys, waiting lists, lack of care in the community, mismanaged health programs and so on - that the HSE is not fit for purpose. I would disband the HSE and replace it with local, accountable management boards.
24 x 7 Cardiac Care in the South East
It is a national disgrace that we do not have 24 x 7 cardiac care in our region. I fully support the South East Patients Advocacy Group in their campaign to deliver this live-saving service in the South East, and have campaigned long and hard on the matter. I will continue to do so until we get this vital facility.
Fairer health service
I do not believe in our current two tier health service, which. I believe in universal health care, properly funded from centralised taxation and properly managed (the HSE model is not currently working and needs to be replaced). We need to put the patient first, devolve powers to a local level, cut bureaucracy and follow working practices that are fair and just.
Absolute protection of the sick, vulnerable and disabled
When I see ministers arguing and denying health cards to very sick children, I hold my head in despair. Are we so heartless that we would deny these kids the care they deserve? A universal health care system, along the lines of the NHS in England, would be a better solution, paid for from central taxation.
Improved suicide prevention and health education
From my work as a nurse, complementary health therapist and on the South East Health Forum, I know that for every illness, prevention is better than cure. I would like to see the areas like suicide prevention on the school curriculum, and I would also like to see complementary health playing a much bigger role in people’s well-being. Health awareness, health education and mindfulness all play a vital role here.
Better housing policy and fairer rents
Housing: very simple - BUILD MORE COUNCIL HOUSES! I would also place a levy on zoned land and derelict buildings which are not developed. I believe a return to bedsits or facilitating lodgers could also helpful, as would less red tape. Finally, I also believe that central government can do more to ensure fairer rents, for example by giving tax breaks to landlords on things like repairs.
Better rural services
If we are serious about protecting rural Ireland, then we have to accept that there is a cost in keeping village post offices in business, bus routes in place, small schools open and so on. I believe that this is a cost worth paying. Rural living is part of the very fabric of Ireland, part of who we are, and part of what makes us attractive as a tourist destination. I would also like to see the role of the superb Leader programme beefed up to help support the provision of better local services, in areas such as local community shops, enterprise and job creation, and community / tourist / heritage facilities. I find it incredible and simply wrong that FG and Labour are actually cutting the Leader budget in Carlow / Kilkenny: indeed much central funding seems to have bypassed our area.
Equal rights and justice for all
It saddens me when people say that the only people who can get justice in Ireland are the very rich or the very poor who have nothing to lose. I saw this very circumstance with the legal challenge to central access scheme in Kilkenny. Cases that are in the public interest should not have to rely on the personal bravery of individuals.
More women in politics
There are not enough women in politics in Ireland, it's as simple as that. I would like to see greater support given to women to get involved, and for that reason I support gender quotas.
I was delighted when the laws for marriage equality were passed. I fully supported this campaign.
I grew up on a farm in rural Co Galway, and am a great animal lover, especially our two family dogs Sunny and Sylvie. For sanctuaries, rescuing animals should not mean putting down animals. I would also like to see tougher penalties for those who abuse animals.
I do not believe the answer to Ireland’s woes is simply to tax the rich. I do think it is fair, however, that people who have lots of money should contribute, and not be allowed to avail of tax avoidance schemes. Taxes on bins, water, coal and so on are essentially not fair: rich and poor pay the same. I am in favour of some higher taxation on people earning more than €100,000 per year, and the introduction of measures to ensure people earning over €250,000 must comply with a Minimum Effective Tax Rate of 30%. Other parties have some good ideas on fairer taxation, and I would support them on this. I also believe we need to come down much, much harder on tax dodgers: that means greater powers for Revenue to pursue offenders, no political interference, public naming, and prison sentences. Keeping with the theme of fairness, I do not support zero hour contracts.
Better support for small businesses and community-based employment
One government agency stands out above all others for successfully creating jobs in the community, namely the Leader projects. Free from bureaucracy and political interference, I would place the local employment offices under the management of Leader. I also fully support former independent TD Stephen Donnelly’s common sense ideas on jobs:
- Flexible social welfare system to incentivise workers to take on temporary and seasonal work (it’s crazy that people can be better off on the dole)
- Making childcare tax deductible, so it is easier for parents to return to work
- A national reconstruction bank (as promised by the current government) and mandated to lend to viable businesses, something that our banks seem reluctant to do.
- Innovation hubs offering shared services and training in strategic locations around the country.
- Stimulus packages. Programmes like the state microenterprise fund need to be given enough funding to make a real difference to SMEs in the Irish Economy.
My areas of knowledge and experience lie mainly in health and education, but I believe there are some simple lessons to be learned from the crash:
- Beefed up regulator to ensure we do not lose the run of ourselves again
- Reckless, incompetent and / or corrupt bankers, auditors and regulators held accountable for their actions (America managed to jail its corrupt bankers – why not Ireland?)
- Limit credit – no household in Ireland would have managed its affairs the way bankers, developers, government and regulators did.
A little thrift, common sense and pragmatism might have saved us the worst ravages of the recession: things like no 100% mortgages, limiting credit, a check on how fast banks can grow, proper enforcement of accounting procedures, and a stronger, independent regulator. We do not need an expensive banking enquiry to tell us these sensible choices.
More localised / devolved powers
Phil Hogan’s reform of local government has largely been an unmitigated disaster in my opinion. I would like to see the reinstatement of the city councils, and more powers returned to local politicians. The powers of unelected council officials also need to be curbed and monitored more closely: often their plans are at odds with the electorate’s wishes.
- Reform of the Seanad - why is it only an elite can propose and vote for candidates?
- Greater local democracy - as described above
- Greater openness in all forms of government - so that the electorate can see how our leaders really function
- Proper accountability in public life
Health waiting lists
I have many friends who are nurses, and when I speak to them, they tell me they have never been asked about how to reduce hospital waiting lists. My nursing friends tell me that there are actually a number of simple solutions. First, there are many people in hospitals who should not be there: they should be in community care hospitals. Second there are people who present to casualty who could easily be treated elsewhere, for example by allowing qualified nurses in nursing homes to administer certain treatments like giving patients IV antibiotics. Something also needs to be done about the huge number of alcohol-related admissions: I don’t have a ready answer on this, but it is an area I would like to pursue.
Health waiting lists have not been solved by government departments, the HSE, doctors, managers and external consultants: so my first step would be to ask the front line nurses how to solve the problem, and then to implement their solutions. Often these solutions need not cost more: a community hospital bed typically costs less, for example.
The rush to centralising all our medical services concerns me greatly. Whilst I agree centralisation makes sense for some specialist services, in many situations, it is actually harmful, counter-productive and even life-threatening. With cardiac care, for example, the first few minutes and hours of care are vital, and that means having a local facility. Long ambulance journeys can result in fatalities, there is no use having a helicopter to airlift patients if the weather is foggy, and from my own long personal experience working as a nurse, I know all about the hugely important and beneficial impact of the visits of family and friends, something which is not as feasible if the patient is located in a remote hospital.
Here are my thoughts on water charges:
(1) The water charge is all about taxation and not conservation. I also fear the charges are the precursor to privatisation and higher bills. I would like to see public ownership of water enshrined in the constitution: that would have been a more meaningful referendum than the recent one on reducing the age limits of the president.
(2) Surely the €1bn + money spent on meters would have been better spent on the crumbling infrastructure.
(3) I propose water be returned to local government and paid for via central taxation.
I am against party-driven agendas. In particular, I would like to see the abolition of the iniquitous party whip system. To those who say that that this would make government unworkable, I say:
(1) Look at who’s primarily against the abolition of the party whip - the big parties themselves and their cronies, i.e. those who benefit from the current system. What else are they going to say? They are under threat so rather than looking for ways to improve government, they criticise the alternatives.
(2) Look at the mess the whip system has given us: it has done nothing about long-standing problems in A&E, inequality in taxation (USC, water charges, coal taxes, LPT, broadcast charge etc), or addressed the issue of cronyism.
(3) I agree that a loose alliance might be difficult to manage, but (a) difficult does not mean impossible, (b) surely it's worth giving a new system of government a try, and (c) it can't be any worse than the current system. I have already met Shane Ross and one of the things we discussed was how independents can agree a practical way to work (do what’s right, find common ground, compromise, make a commitment to work for full term of government, no votes of confidence every five minutes and so on).
Double pensions for TD’s
TDs who are also teachers currently qualify for a pension from both professions. I want to see an end to this practice. I would also like to see new rules introduced for politicians’ pensions, for example if they work after a political career they cannot claim a pension until 65. Finally, no directorships for politicians until 10 years after they end public service. The ten year rule would help to avoid any conflicts of interest.
Cronyism, elitism and inequality
Politicians should be stripped of the right to make political appointments. I fully support Shane Ross’s ideas on public appointments, namely:
- An independent commission to select nominees to all boards. Those appointed should have to appear before an Oireachtas committee in public in front of television cameras. This procedure should ascertain whether the candidates are suitably qualified for the appointments.
- The Dáil committees should ratify them by a two thirds majority.
- The number of semi-state bodies and agencies should be slashed. Today they run into hundreds. The first quango I would abolish is Irish Water, closely followed by the development / enterprise agencies which overlap and duplicate work.
Whilst I am an enthusiastic supporter of the European project, I do feel we sometimes give in too easily and have been bullied . As an example of standing up to Europe, I support renegotiating the deal with IMF/ECB to allow the bondholders to take some pain (I would also like to formally identify and name the bondholders). I would also like to see a better deal from Europe for our farmers.