I advocate the development of a strong, cohesive, stakeholder driven rural development strategy. Too often , the experience of those of us who live and represent rural communities is one where there is a serious lack of coordination between what rural Ireland needs to make it thrive and what it actually receives from central Government in terms of plans and goals. My policy on rural Ireland is to promote an evaluation process that is led from the ground up by the communities and businesses most affected. At its core it is a commitment to prevent any further marginalisation of rural Ireland and to re-prioritise its development in terms of opportunities for job growth.
Our Constitution mandates the regulation and exercise of private property rights according to the principles of social justice and of the common good. These are principles that guide my policy direction on social housing. The constitution also enshrines the rights of citizens and families to appropriate shelter and accommodation by the state, where necessary. To that end I advocate the immediate and expansive investment of the state in the provision of social housing. I share the conclusions of previous Reports on this matter which say that there is no existing constitutional or legal impediment to recommending the introduction of a system of rent control, provided that such a system was framed within the context of the common good and was fair and not oppressive, paying due regard to the rights and interests of both parties.
The family home is sacrosanct. Every policy initiative that is or will be advocated must work from this foundational principle. We have an underlying social crisis in this Country when it comes to the level of mortgage debt and arrears. A crisis I might add that has been abysmally ignored by a weak and regressive Government. Where every reasonable effort is being made to meet obligations, fairly imposed, then the family home should remain in the possession of the family. My mortgage policy starts from where people are at, in terms of repayment capacity. It does not seek to penalise families who while making every effort to engage are left the victims of a ruthless and profiteering policy.
From the ill-conceived introduction of Universal Health Care, to Free GP Care for Under 6’s, this Government has gotten it wrong on health on nearly every occasion. Their response to every crisis has been to add another layer of bureaucracy to already bloated HSE management structure. My health policy calls for the radical reduction of this management culture which has grown at the patients expense. We need to return more responsibility to the Hospital personnel and staff who know what the particular needs of their Hospital are. We need to promote and encourage the work of efficient and patient centred models of health care. Above all we need to place the human person in his or her illness or need at the centre of our medical model for the future.
I hold to a strong, consistent pro-life ethic. I advocate for the promotion of policies in this area which are evidence based and which are guided by the best possible outcomes for mother and child. I opposed the introduction of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2014 because it failed to meet the criteria I have mentioned above. The great weight of the evidence presented to me at the Oireachtas Hearings on abortion convinced me that the proposed legislation was profoundly flawed especially in relation to suicidality.
I have long argued for the need for fundamental root and branch reform at all levels of Governmment; legislative, Executive and Judicial. I voted against the abolition of the Seanad on the grounds that the centralising and autocratic tactics of this coalition had to be resisted at every available opportunity. Left to their own devices this Government has shut down debate on nearly every major piece of legislation, using the parliamentary ‘guillotine’ to achieve that goal. My policy on Dáil reform is for the removal of the Whip System on social or life issues and the limited use of it In relation to financial bills. We need to encourage the free expression of ideas without fear that a TD will be penalised for speaking honestly on any given matter. The token reforms of this Government are an insult to all those who voted for that great ‘democratic revolution’ we were promised.
Since the introduction of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 we have witnessed the decimation of local democratic structures with the abolition of over 80 Town Councils and forced amalgamations. I support the work of Former Local Authority Members Éire (FLAME) who continue to have a valid Plenary Summons issued before the High Court which is challenging the constitutionality of these actions. The vibrant turn out in the last local elections have indicated to us all that local democracy is alive and well and must not be undermined by the attack on it which is represented in the Local Government Reform Act 2014.
The elderly in our communities have been hit hard by regressive and incoherent changes to a host of medical and household packages. My policy on the elderly is rooted in a firm conviction of the dignity owed to them and the belief that they have much to contribute to society. Specifically I would point to the need for the restoration of the Telephone allowance, the return to a Unit based system for Utilities instead of Cash and an additional two weeks payment in fuel allowance. I would also promote a policy where elderly people in Nursing Homes with no disposable income must be given a medical card as of right. In terms of prescription charges the €25 cap per household is very onerous on people who live alone. If the charges are not to be abolished then a 50% reduction to €12.50 should apply to them.
I am not in favour of this form of Double taxation proposed by this Government. I oppose the existence of Irish Water to this very day and will continue to so. It is a monstrosity that should never have been created. It has served to undermine every positive effort to open up a more mature debate around how we engage with the chronic nature of our dilapidated water infrastructure. I protested against the existence of Irish Water. I will continue to protest against the existence of Irish Water. I have made it clear from the beginning of this fiasco that I was fundamentally opposed to the severity of the financial burden being placed upon thousands of families through the introduction of the water charge. I am still opposed to that. Equity and ability to pay must be front and centre to this whole debate. Underlying all of this however is my primary desire that Government listen to what the people are saying in terms of the central issue of affordability. If that means reverting to a system of payment by progressive taxation, then I would be happy for that to happen. I have submitted a a Private Members Bill to the Dáil which seeks to severely limit and curtail the ability of Government to privatise Irish Water or partially privatise it through public private partnership and to force Irish Water into a cast iron position of statutory transparency.