The Green Wave: a new breed of eco-councillors
May 26th, 2019
With more than half of the seats now filled in the local elections, it is clear that a Green Wave has washed over Ireland.
While the traditional twin power players of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have so far racked up half of the first preference votes, the Greens have easily seen the most significant bounce in the share of the vote compared to 2014.
With 35 councillors elected so far, Kayle Crosson takes a look at some of the eco-friendly faces elected to local authorities across the country.
Dublin City Councillor Ciaran Cuffe is now re-elected in the North Inner City district with 1,386 votes and is currently on track to secure the largest share of votes in the Dublin MEP constituency.
He has previously served two terms in the Dail and was a Minister of State, where he was responsible for Climate Change, Planning, and Sustainable Transport. Cuffe is also the party Spokesperson for Transport & Cities.
In addition, he co-chaired the committee that established the Climate Change Action Plan 2019 – 2024 for Dublin City Council.
Cuffe has consistently campaigned on investment in public transport and wants to bring Dublin City Council homes from a D to an A energy rating.
Speaking on Claire Byrne Live, Cuffe also said he would like to see the introduction of free public transport, starting with children. “I’d move onto reduced fairs, and eventually, make it free,” he said.
He has also proposed allowing for the sale of surplus electricity generated by homes, business and farms back to the grid.
Claire Byrne has been re-elected as a Dublin City Councillor with almost 2,000 first preference votes, and will retain her seat in Dublin South East Inner City. She is also the Green Party spokesperson for Arts & Culture.
Byrne has expressed her intention to “continue to create a clean, vibrant, green and climate-ready city” if re-elected as well as to “create a safe, calm, cycling and child-friendly city”.
As a councillor, she introduced a ban on single-use plastics in Council offices, cafes in parks and public events, and helped to deliver the new climate action plan for Dublin City.
She also pushed for measures to address litter and dog waste, advocated for trials of public recycling bins and drinking water fountains, and monitored the activity of the Poolbeg Waste to Energy facility through the Council’s environment planning committee.
Byrne also recently secured an agreement for 900 social and affordable homes and has proposed motions to introduce rent controls.
In addition, as a councillor Byrne also reintroduced a cycling and walking officer for Dublin City and proposed the pedestrianisation of Suffolk, South William, and Drury Street.
With over 20 per cent of the Kimmage-Rathmines vote, the Green Party’s Patrick Costello has been re-elected to the City Council. A former social worker, Costello is the Party’s spokesperson for Social Protection.
Costello campaigned for sustainable transport, particularly in relation to walking and safe, affordable cycling. He argues that it allows Dublin to play its part in tackling climate change, as well allowing a cleaner, more accessible place to live. He has also advocated for a “strong executive mayor” to deliver on public transport.
In order to reduce daily traffic, Costello has proposed creating “school streets” which would allow streets with entrances to schools open only to cyclists and pedestrians at opening and closing school times.
Costello pledged that if re-elected he will push for public housing on public land and to work on the city’s Climate Action Plan.
“And I want to see the Council equip its own buildings with micro-generation technologies to reduce its carbon use, and help reduce costs,” Costello recently wrote on his candidate website. “A Green voice at the Council is essential,” he added.
Hazel Chu became the first Green councillor elected this weekend bringing in a whopping 33 per cent of the vote – with more than 2,000 surplus votes – to gain a seat in the Pembroke ward in Dublin.
Chu, the party’s Spokesperson for Enterprise, stressed the importance of “climate action now rather than later” in her campaign.
She says that “we need proper climate action, and we need just transition for workers in companies that are impacted when we move to a greener future”.
A graduate of The Kings Inns and UCD Smurfit, Chu is a first-time candidate and has previously worked in Hong-Kong, New York and Sydney.
Chu has expressed an interest in looking at rent control and a higher levy so that derelict sites can be revitalised and become new homes. She also told the Dublin Inquirer recently that 24-hour cycle routes are needed in the capital.
Another first time candidate, Una Power has been elected in the Killiney-Shankill district of Dublin. She topped the poll in the ward with over 2,000 first preference votes and will now take a seat on the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council.
She is currently a communications adviser to TD Catherine Martin and is also the party’s spokesperson for Equality.
In her campaign video, Power pledged that if elected, she would prioritize, climate action, sustainable planning and affordable homes, as well as biodiversity protection, and active and public transport that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
Power also told The Green News today that affordable and energy efficient housing is also going to be a priority for her.
First-time candidate Neasa Hourigan won one of the seven seats available for the Cabra-Glasnevin ward with over 2,000 first preference votes and gains a seat in Dublin City Council.
Hourigan has previously worked in the private and public sector as an architect and a consultant in sustainability on a number of Irish infrastructure projects.
As a full-time carer for a disabled child, Hourigan is a strong advocate for disability rights and says she will “fight for increased access to employment and the provision of healthcare and appropriate supporting therapies to all persons where needed”.
According to her candidacy website, she is a proponent of decent, affordable housing, city accessibility, and good cycling infrastructure.
Hourigan has pledged to focus on waste and plastic reduction, to address air pollution, and improve green space and sports amenities access for children and adults.
Community activist Donna Cooney has been elected as a councillor for Clontarf with over 2,500 first preference votes.
During her campaign, Cooney stressed her commitment to protecting the “natural and built heritage” in Dublin Bay and neighbouring areas and for a safer cycling and walking environment.
Cooney has also proposed safeguarding access to quality childcare and care for older people in communities, as well as creating living communities designed with consideration for children and people who are less mobile.
Speaking to the Dublin Inquirer for their local election voting guide, Cooney also referred to her previous campaign work on fossil fuel divestment. She also recently campaigned for a revamp of the proposed plans for the new children’s hospital to bring it up to new mandated European energy efficiency standards.
Michael Pidgeon has secured his Council seat in the South-West Inner City district with over 1,700 first preference votes.
Pidgeon is an experienced campaigner, having worked for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as well as Ciaran Cuffe during his time as Minister for Sustainable Transport and Planning.
On his campaign website, Pidgeon pledged to “stand up for affordable housing, crack down on full-time AirBnB lettings, [and] penalise derelict units”.
He also supports cost rental developments, and would like to see a speedier planning permission process for developments with more social and affordable housing.
He also hopes to create more open space in the city, expand safe cycle lanes, give pedestrians priority at busy junctions, and support bus reforms.
With over 1,300 first preference votes, Roisin Garvey was elected on the fourth count in Ennistymon in Co Clare.
Garvey continuously campaigned to support small businesses, stressing on her website that, “small businesses are the biggest employer in North Clare and a lifeline for the local economy”.
In order to bolster them, she advocates for better access to local training, marketing, and support, for sustainable tourism. She also wants to work with local entrepreneurs to help, “future proof Clare businesses against Brexit”.
Garvey also campaigned for supporting farmers who she says have “always been the natural custodians of the environment” and are very aware of the effects of climate change.
She pledges to aim for better prices for meat and milk through linking farmers directly to consumers, to assist with farm diversification and to work for a less bureaucratic approach to the cottage food industry in Co Clare.
Vincent P Martin
Vincent P. Martin has secured his seat in the Naas electoral area in Co Kildare with over 1,400 first preference votes. He is a former member of Monaghan County Council.
“We haven’t had a Green voice elected on Kildare County Council for a period of ten years, that’s changed now,” Martin told Kfm’s Clem Ryan on Sunday.
“A ten-year gap was too long. We can now start a different conversation, a different perspective. We’re not going to fix the world with the election of a couple of Green members, but we can certainly try to make things a lot better on the ground,” he added.
In a recent campaign video, Martin stressed the need for supports in facilities, in services, and in traffic management to meet a growing commuter population in the county.
Martin has a legal background and currently works as a barrister in Dublin.
Following the fourth count in Connemara South, Alastair McKinstry today secured a Galway County Council seat with 985 first preference votes.
During his campaign, McKinstry pledged his support for Greenways that would connect Connemara, Barna and Galway to revitalize local tourism and improve rural transport.
McKinstry comes from a science background and is currently a climate scientist at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing in NUI Galway.
According to the Green Party website, McKinstry using Ireland’s supercomputer facilities to determine the effects of climate change, and how we can mitigate and adapt to the changes coming down the road.
Lorna Bogue has been elected to Cork City Council with over 2,000 first preference votes in Cork City South-East.
On the Green Party website, Bogue lists large-scale provision of public housing, protecting Cork City’s heritage and fighting against the wall scheme as key positions.
Ending direct provision and reintroducing a system of light rail to Cork City are also among her campaign priorities.
Bogue was the press officer for the Cork Together For Yes and is an active opponent of the proposed Ringaskiddy incinerator. She also assisted with the drafting of proposed legislation banning microbeads from the Greens.
Pauline O’Reilly, the party’s spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs, has secured her seat on Galway City Council after winning over 1,200 first preference votes.
The first Green to be elected to Galway City Council since 2004, she wants to prioritise sustainable development, safe green spaces, and more frequent buses and rail options.
She is also looking to improve cycling infrastructure in the city, as well as push for more inclusive multi-denominational options in education.
O’Reilly supports the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, and according to the Galway Advertiser, has previously called on Galway City Council to set aside areas in public parks and roadside verges for pollinators.