Getting close now, and this will be my last “issue” post for General Election 2020.
That issue is Ashtown, where I live and will probably (I hope) still be living for, at the very least, a fair proportion of the lifetime of the next Dail. Topics always up for discussion around here are the positives and negatives of seemingly constant housing build; the provision, or lack of provision, of the things that should come with increased housing (parking, creches, shops, amenities, etc); the status of the Pelletstown ET school; the status of the proposed Pelletstown train station; transport links to the city centre in general; BusConnects and how it will change/alter existing routes through the area; and rent, rent, rent.
Ashtown and I are located at the very east end of the Dublin West constituency, with Dublin Central and Dublin North-West all just a few minutes walk away. That often means that it is an ignored part of the constituency, little visited by canvassers, a situation probably exacerbated by the fairly significant non-national population that live here (and you should definitely not read that last part as a complaint).
That means that talking to the candidates about Ashtown, and their policies related to the same, has to be done through the wonders of the internet. I sent the below e-mail to every candidate running in Dublin West, with the exception of Independent Sean O’Leary, for whom I am unable to find any contact information anywhere.
I am writing to all of the addresses I can find for the candidates contesting the Dublin West constituency.
I am currently living in the Ashtown area, right at the edge of the constituency, and I often find that this part of Dublin West does not get the same attention from politicians as, say, Blancharsdstown or Castleknock. It often seems to me that Ashtown is rapidly becoming a sea of apartment blocks with little in the way of amenities. I am writing to ask what efforts you would be prepared to make, or what endevours you would back, to improve the standard of living in Ashtown if elected?
Separately, I would not be uninterested if you had any other comments to make regards any policy that would involve the Ashtown area.
Please be aware that I may share any responses I receive on social media and elsewhere.
Following are the replies I got, in order of their receipt:
Joan Burton (Labour)
Thank you for your email.
Ashtown is one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in Dublin West, and I am honoured to serve it. My focus as a TD has been to ensure the community gets investment from Government and the local City Council to provide for top-class schools and educational services, public transport, and recreational and community facilities, all of which are essential to growing communities.
I have regularly raised questions in the Dáil, to the Taoiseach and his Ministers, in respect of:
Pelletstown ETNS needs the prompt building of the new school. I have been campaigning for an agreement between the Department for Education and the developer, so that the school can stay on the existing site until such a time as the new school building is ready. We also need a co-educational secondary school for the area to properly cater for the growing number of children who will be starting at second-level in the coming years.
In terms of trains, bicycles and BusConnects. The railway line from Maynooth to Connolly needs to be electrified as soon as possible and extra carriages need to be provided on trains. An Taoiseach agrees with me on this as he told me in the Dáil. However, both extra carriages and electrification are seriously delayed as is evidenced by the current overcrowding on our public transport.
Ashtown, situated as it is between the Royal Canal and Tolka Valley, and adjacent to the Phoenix Park, should be a model of good environmental planning. I have been campaigning for increased tree planting, green spaces, and the promotion of clean air. Developers should not be allowed to damage our precious environment.
Owner Management Companies
Management charges are a hidden extra for many people, particularly young couples buying an affordable home, and often result in a very poor standard of service in return. The fee structures can be opaque and sometimes lack supporting invoices or documentation. Some complexes are badly in need of maintenance and home owners can be left perplexed as to what their management fees are being spent on. Home owners and residents who live in managed housing estates and apartment buildings must be given a more direct say in how their Management Companies are run.
You can view my contributions on the above issues, on my website (www.joanburton.ie) and YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/channel/UCoOowPNZYeAp7HzdZ-JmIgw).
Roderic O’Gorman (Greens)
Thanks for getting in touch.
I know that people living in Ashtown/Pelletstown/Navan Road can feel a bit isolated as regards the Dublin West constituency.
I’ve always tried to work for this area too. I regularly attend the Navan Road Community Council and the Ashtown/Pelletstown Policing Forum. I would also work closely with the Board of Management of Pelletstown Educate Together National School to make sure the permanent site for this school is delivered soon.
You are right about the need to deliver facilities for the new developments at Pelletstown. I know there are astro-turf pitches to be delivered along the River Road under the planning permission, which haven’t been constructed yet. I think it is important that youth groups like Foreoige are giving space in the area where they can start to run events for the growing number of young people in the area.
All the best,
Stephen O’Loughlin (Independent)
O’Loughlin replied asking me a question, which was whether I was a former Fianna Fail councillor that used to represent the area, with whom I share the same name. Notwithstanding why that should matter to the query presented, I did confirm that I was not said Fianna Fail member, but received no further reply.
Aengus O’Maolain (Social Democrats)
Thank you very much for your email. Despite being Dublin 15-based, I know Ashtown very well and as a member of Coolmine RFC I have spent a great deal of time in the area.
I agree that there has been a huge imbalance in the development of the area, and I lament that for all the apartment building there has not been a commensurate increase the the provision of community facilities, green spaces, shops and most importantly schools and policing resources.
The fact that Pelletstown ETNS is still waiting for its permanent school buildings despite several promises from the department of education and skills is a very troubling concern, and is one of the issues I intend to tackle as soon as I start work as a TD if I am elected. The new ERST secondary school has also been delayed on its site at Phoenix Park racecourse.
A very pressing issue for people in Ashtown is the problem of anti-social behaviour, and in particular the use of scrambler-type vehicles in the public green spaces. This requires active police intervention as these bikes are usually uninsured and pose a serious risk to other park users. We need to hire and retain more gardaí for Blanchardstown and Cabra garda stations, and we need them available to police these sorts of activities.
Thank you very much for your email again, and if there are any other specific issues you would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael) – answered by constituency manager Mary Donohoe
Good morning (NFB),
Many thanks for your email which I will bring to the Taoiseach’s attention at the earliest opportunity. I can tell you that regular updates (3 – 4 per year) with information on Dublin West, including Ashtown, are delivered commercially to all homes. As apartments cannot be accessed by the commercial leaflet deliverers, these receive updates in the post. Also, any specific information for a particular area is dropped by volunteers e.g. the recent information on Pelletstown ETNS.
The Royal Canal Greenway is a great amenity for pedestrians and cyclists and the section between Ashtown, 10th lock to 12th lock at Castleknock; 2.5 km. is complete.
As I’m sure you know the ‘deep sinking section’ at Castleknock is still under review but it should be resolved this year.
If there is any information that you need please do not hesitate to contact me.
Jack Chambers (Fianna Fail)
Deputy Chambers did reply to my message, but only to ask if he could have my phone number to call me directly and talk about the issues. As a very strict rule I don’t give my phone number to politicians since I and others I have known have been burned before doing so regards what that number ended up being used for. I do want to acknowledge that he attempted to respond to me though.
I suppose if I was to rank the responses, I would go Burton, O’Maolain, O’Gorman, Varadkar, Chambers, O’Loughlin.
I am afraid that is it. Peter Casey, Ruth Coppinger, Emer Currie, Paul Donnelly, and Edward MacManus did not have the time or see fit to reply. There are still a few days to go before the vote, so maybe they will get round to it. If they do, I will update this post accordingly.