This is the first time ever that left-wing parties have taken control of Dublin City Council. It is probably the most powerful position that the left in Ireland has ever been. What can they do for Dublin that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael couldn’t?
A combination of Labour, Sinn Fein, the Greens and independents are now in a position, after the recent elections, to dictate policy in this city for the next five years.
This represents a tremendous challenge and opportunity to parties who have spent their existence criticising those in power. I would like to put a few ideas up for their consideration.
But first, the big problem that a left-wing coalition will face is what to do about the waste charges. Both Labour and Sinn Fein are opposed to the charges but if they don’t make some sort of peace with them, then the left-wing administration will be still-born. The reason for this is that it will be impossible to agree a budget for the city and in the absence of an agreed budget, the city council can be suspended by the Government.
And the Government might be only too happy to let that situation develop as it would give them, and the right-wing press, ammunition to prattle on about the “looney left”. So the parties involved had better get this sorted out and soon.
Any new left led City Council would have a huge opportunity to make radical change in the city.
The first area to be tackled is housing. The approach here should be to increase housing densities in town centres across the city. This would allow ‘pyramids’ of higher buildings rising up to ten stories to be built in areas where there is already good local shopping and services,and good public transport.
This ‘new urbanism’ strategy would reduce land prices per unit provided and encourage new walking communities which would reduce dependency on cars.
I would like the new Council to find an alternative to the Public Private Partnership(PPP) strategy. The alternative would be to substitute co-operatives for the private input. This approach could be used in housing, waste management, libraries, etc, right across the public sector in Dublin. For example, the libraries could be run under a public enterprise ethic for their normal, current opening hours. But library workers and local communities could also be allowed to commercialise the libraries by, for example, charging entrance fees for later opening, or providing extra facilities such as a cafe on site.
Local estate management should be put to the top of the agenda. Anti-social behaviour and petty crime is a huge blight on local communities across Dublin. There is a crying need to build structures where local people can regain control of their neighbourhoods and public spaces at all times of the day and night.
There needs to be new links built between the gardai and communities, and new resources made available for community development.
If the left is to have a future in Dublin and in Ireland in general then it needs to demonstrate in Dublin that it can come up with solutions to solve the problems that people face in their daily lives. It’s a big ask.