From Castlebar - County Mayo -
Mayo News 14 Jan 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
17, Jan 2004 - 16:58
Castlebar taxi drivers want eleven car rank on Main Street
THE imposition of an eleven car taxi rank on Castlebar’s main thoroughfare was one of the requests put forward by A.C.T. (Association of Castlebar Taxi Drivers) at a special meeting of Castlebar Town Council on Monday last. The meeting was arranged last month so the newly formed lobby group could vocalise their concerns over the running of taxi operations in the county town. Mr. Conor Cresham, Chairperson of the association, addressed the meeting stating that one of the primary concerns of taxi drivers was the failure of the local authority to implement a rise in fares given to Dublin taxi drivers in 2003. "We are seeking a fares increase in line with our Dublin counterparts which they received in June of last year. Also our current soiling fee is inadequate and we would seek an increase to 75 euro. The overall fare increase is necessary as it will be used to combat the rising costs associated with our business, namely insurance, diesel/petrol, tyres, car maintenance and petrol." The association, which represents 46 of the 87 licensed taxis in Castlebar, held their own three hour meeting in an attempt to draw up proposals for the most beneficial location for the taxi ranks, or stands, in the town. A summary of the changes would see the amounts of actual spaces decrease from 44 to 34 and the number of actual stands would decrease from 11 to 6.
Results evident from Christmas drink driving crackdown
IT APPEARS the anti-drinking driving message is getting across to Mayo motorists with drink driving arrests down by 29% this Christmas period compared with the same period last year.
A total of 54 people were arrested in the Mayo District during this year’s Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign, down from 76 last year. The crackdown, which commenced on November 23rd and ended at midnight on Sunday, January 4th, was in addition to the ongoing "Operation Lifesaver" road safety campaign. Chief Superintendent John Carey said he was delighted with the reduction in drink driving detections over Christmas but pointed out that the total number of drink driving detections in the Mayo District for 2003 were up 6%, from 471 in 2002 to 498 in 2003.
Councillors’ outcry over intrusive ethics legislation
THE request that county councillors make a declaration of their property interests under ethics legislation was met with outrage in Aras an Chondae on Monday night. The protest was led by Deputy Michael Ring who declared it "a step too far that any private business can be discussed down in the pub" and requested that the Council write to the Minister for the Environment to change the ethics legislation. This is the second year councillors have been required to make such a declaration on foot of Part 15 of the Local Government Act, 2001 which came into effect last January. However, the requirement to declare property interests was slammed at Monday night’s County Council meeting by Cllr. Richard Finn (Ind.) who argued that candidates who stood against sitting councillors in the local elections next June would not be required to make a similar disclosure. "It’s not a level playing field," he maintained. County Secretary, Mr. John Condon, told the councillors that all candidates in the June local elections would have to make a return declaring their election expenses after the election. Failure to do so would result in prosecution and disqualification from standing again as an election candidate. Councillors expressed particular annoyance that the ethics register was open to public inspection. Deputy Ring said he had no problem with the disclosure of political donations, but said it was a different matter entirely for a private house and property. He added that it was outrageous that he had to include his private home in his County Council declaration, which he didn’t have to include in his declaration to the Dail. Cllr. Gerry Coyle (FG) enquired if council officials were required to make a similar declaration of their property interests. The County Secretary confirmed that ethics legislation applied to all officials above a certain level. The lone voice of support for the legislation was Cllr. Johnny Mee (Lab) who said he was delighted the declaration requirement had been introduced and reminded Councillors "there’s a background to this," referring to episodes in the past in which "politicians and councillors were given huge donations to influence political decisions."
Nothing seems to get people going quite as much as taxi drivers. There certainly have been quite a few rants by discontented passengers on the Castlebar Bulletin Board. I’ve never had anything but courtesy from Castlebar taxis. Granted I’ve never asked one to please turn on their meter but hten I live out a bit and I have been charged less than the meter charge on occasion (and even when it isn't turned on I am fairly certain that I am getting a better rate than if the meter had been turned on). It is probably time that there was a bit of rationalisation to the new taxi ranks around the town - now that they have had a chance to bed down so to speak. The one at the Court House, for example, will probably eventually get some business when the Court House reopens for business - but in the meantime it’s just a blooming nuisance where it is located now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a taxi at that corner just there on the Mall at Gavin’s video shop - which is always a congested nightmare for parking during the day. So that taxi rank is not helping anyone. Like everyone else, I like to park bang outside the shop when I’m buying a paper or groceries or just leaving a video back.
With taxi drivers reportedly taking photos of number plates of cars parked in empty taxi rank places it means I can no longer stop on the corner of the Mall even when the taxi rank is empty! What’s the world coming to? Will I have to park behind the cinema and walk to Gavins or in the library car park and stroll across? I suppose that’s not the end of the world either, come to think of it, but it’s great to be able to park right outside the door of the shop you are going into. One of the perks of living in a town like Castlebar.
I’m not sure whether the item on drink driving in the Mayo News is good news or bad news. On the one hand the number of arrests over the Christmas period has dropped when compared with last year; but on the other hand the figure for the year as a whole has gone up quite a bit. We don’t really seem to be learning. Even with the horrific TV adverts portraying graphic illustrations of what happens when people drink and drive – it doesn’t seem to have made inroads into that hard core of people who still insist on getting into that car even when they have had a good few too many.
All public servants above a certain income level have to fill in a form each year under the ethics in public office legislation. They are also required to withdraw from any dealings involving property or land dealings where a conflict of interest could possibly arise. Now it looks like this finally applies to county councillors too. It is bizarre that this has not been the norm for couty councillors up to this - the legislation affecting civil servants has been in force for many years now. The councillors are howling in protest? And is it just my imagination or is it the councillors who happen to be auctioneers, landowners or developers themselves who are protesting the loudest? County councillors – and in Mayo over half of them are auctioneers, land owners or developers – these county councillors get to decide the very rules that underpin the value of land in Mayo. We elect them to do this - devising a county development plan is one of their primary functions. Effectively, therefore, they make the rules that affect the value of land - all the land in this fair county. It is obvious that the many changes made to the draft County Development Plan as Mayo County Councillors have done recently has a major impact on the value of land generally. It can be argued quite strongly that removing restrictions on where one-off housing can go pushes agricultural land prices upwards. The opening up of land for development - more or less anywhere and everywhere - by Mayo county councillors will increase the value of all agricultural land in the county in the short term at least. (Whereas the long-term effects could be very negative). The removal of restrictions on where one-off houses can be built effectively switches farm land from the agricultural-land category to the potential-building-land category. By increasing the potential for selling off sites at unit prices that are multiples of the price per acre for agriculturally-zoned land everyone apart from the house buyer gains. The changes made to the draft plan – that are now enshrined in the County Development Plan – definitely had the effect of removing many of the restrictions which had been proposed by the professional planners - and which obviously would have reduced the land value of many farms in the county. This is what we elect councillors to do? Should they reveal their own property holdings like other public servants are required to do? Why not?
It will be interesting to see if that bizarre statistical freak – the fact that there are 12 auctioneers on Mayo County Council – will occur again after the next election? Hopefully the register of interests will be available prior to the election campaign if not already.
© Copyright 2004 by Castlebar - County Mayo -