The local elections are fast approaching and many candidates have worked hard in the community, so now it’s time for them to explain what they have achieved. Some may have been involved in smaller projects which have whetted their interest in helping the community more, leading them to run for election. Others are old hands and have done a lot over the years. But are there any who may be trying to take the credit for others hard work?
We tried to contact as many people as possible in Ashbourne and Rathoath that are running in the local election to get an idea as to the scale and types of projects they have been involved in. We asked them to single out a community initiative they have worked on or for directly, their exact role and what they achieved, and who the project benefitted. (We think this may have scared a few people off!) Some candidates, understandably, are caught up in canvassing – one said they have been working on a lot of small tasks, and didn’t want to comment!
The point of this article is not to criticise our candidates. Not all politicians are the same – many have done Trojan work for the community. Remember, however, to ask those running for election to give actual real examples of their work in the community. The onus is on us all to keep an eye out during the periods between elections to see what they are up to, and then perhaps to reward their good work with a vote. Here are a few examples of their projects.
Joe Bonner – Recycling
Joe Bonner’s most recent project was his annual Ashbourne Recycling Day, which he has been organising over the past ten years.
“The turnout at the latest event was unbelievable … This event continues to grow in popularity, and the community obviously appreciates the service. It was the biggest recycling event to date with queues forming from 7:30 am and continuing throughout the day, with estimates of over 1,000 people in attendance,” said Mr Bonner.
According to Mr Bonner, “Over 80 tonnes of waste was recycled on the day – this brings the total recycled to over 600 tonnes since I started organising these events.” Mr Bonner says he has been campaigning for a permanent Civic Amenity to be located in the general Ashbourne area.
The Recycle Days cater for the licensed disposal of a wide variety of goods, from electrical to beds. Mr Bonner also organises an annual free Christmas Tree recycling event where over 1,000 Christmas trees were recycled this year.
Alan Tobin – Youth Café
Back in May 2013, Alan Tobin (along with Regina Doherty, David Byrne and Maureen Bolger) started a founding committee for the Youth Café. “We formed a committee and a lot of people came on board, purely because it’s a really good idea,” said Mr Tobin.
“There are areas around the town where kids congregate, and older people can feel a little threatened by a lot of young people hanging around having a laugh, maybe kicking a ball. We wanted to get a space where these kids could hang out – it would be educational as well as fun. Their own place outside of school, where parents weren’t nagging them but where they were being supervised.”
That’s where the Youth Café idea came from, said Mr Tobin.
The committee teamed up with Meath Youth Federation to get advice on funding, promotion, etc. Mr Tobin says he helped organise the volunteer training. “Presently I’m helping to negotiate a lease on a building in the town. I was down there just now with Lisa Phelan: we’ve been meeting a local architect called Tom Byrne who’s helping us with new regulations for planning and safety, etc. I think we can have the unit in the next week or two, and we plan to be up and running by September.”
Dr Claire O’Driscoll – Fianna Fáil – Anti-bullying meeting
Another candidate with youth issues at heart is Dr Claire O’Driscoll.
“A huge issue in every community relates to dealing with the challenges facing children and teenagers from issues such as stress and bullying.” With this in mind, Dr O’Driscoll decided to organise a public meeting and bring expert guest speakers to one venue to allow people to learn from those experts. “Working in conjunction with TeenLine Ireland – the national listening service for teenagers – and John Lonergan, the former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, I hosted and chaired a public meeting in April.”
Ms O’Driscoll said: “The meeting was packed to capacity and was attended by parents, grandparents, teachers, sports coaches, community leaders, and people with an interest in learning more about the issues. As a result of the meeting, a large number of people have now been able to engage directly with the experts who spoke that night, and learn that they are not alone in dealing with the impact of bullying, stress or trauma on young children and teenagers.”
Deirdre Smith – Ratoath Community Street Festival
“I have been involved in many different community initiatives. One recent project included the Ratoath Community Street Festival, of which I was one of the key organisers,” said Ms Smith.
“My role involved event management and PR. It also involved ensuring the Festival was family-friendly; promotion, logistics, stage management, dealing with suppliers and entertainers. The project was aimed at families within the local community to celebrate village life and foster community spirit. The Street Festival was a huge success which we hope to build on and turn into an annual community event,” she said.
Darren O’Rourke – Fund-raising effort for local community groups
Darren O’Rourke has helped in fund-raising efforts for local community groups.
“I personally organised a marathon run fundraising effort for Ashbourne Youth Café and Ashbourne Boxing Club,” said Mr O’Rourke.
“I printed sponsorship cards, raising the profile of the fundraising drive through the media and online through Facebook. I went door to door, contacted friends, family, and supporters of the groups involved asking for a financial contribution. Personally, I raised over 3,000 euro for the two groups, which helped with the running costs of Ashbourne Boxing Club and with the set-up costs of Ashbourne Youth Café.”
Mr Sean Smith – Ashbourne Hall Development
“I have been working on the development of the Ashbourne Hall for the past three years as part of the Ashbourne Hall Development Committee. This committee has secured 150,000 euro of Meath Partnership funding to develop this building,” said Mr Smith.
Built originally as a chapel in 1834, the Ashbourne Hall is the only listed building in Ashbourne. “I worked on the completion of an extensive application process for Meath Partnership funding by gathering information and visiting other halls in towns close by. As a part of the Secretary team the application required great detail, and there was frequent communication with Meath Partnership, the Hall Development Committee and community groups in this process. This application process was successful and the Ashbourne Hall Development Committee secured 150,000 euro.”
Mr Smith continues to help with the fundraising committee. “The development is progressing very well and is due for completion at the end of August. There are fundraising events being held throughout the year.”
Joe Sheridan – Charity event
“The project I feel that reflects my work mostly was a Santa run which I organised for the first time on the 22/12/2013 in aid of Motor Neurone Disease Ireland. I decided to run this event for a local man who has been battling MND for the last number of years. He has a lovely young family and it was something that I thought might offer some support to himself and his family. I was also trying to create a fun local run / walk for people to feel a part of the community that we live in, and it seemed to be a massive success for its first year.”
Mr Sheridan said he liaised with MND Ireland and made it an official event for them while also promoting it locally in the media, local business and through social media with the help of a lot of local people. “We had up to 80 people involved on the day from all ages and areas of the country, and raised 1,450 euro on the day thanks to the runners and a raffle we also ran off.”
Nick Killian – Ratoath Independent Living Initiative
Mr Nick Killian’s project was the Ratoath Independent Living Initiative.
Mr Killian says he was the founder who formed a committee, secured a site free of charge and secured 2.58 million euro from the Social Housing Section of the Department of the Environment and Meath County Council. Mr Killian says that “working with young people with a physical disability who wanted to live independent lives,” was his goal. The committee mainly helped people who had a disability such as Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.
The project created a 12-unit apartment block for 12 individuals called Arkle House at the Steeplechase, Ratoath.