Record of Community Activism

My record in community and voluntary activities spans a period of over thirty years and in that time, I have been very active in many campaigns, initiatives and projects.

I have listed, below, my record for the period up to my election in May 2014 and a later posting will deal with my activities as a County Councillor on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council from May 2014 to May 2019.

My major objective throughout has always been the empowerment of communities. Encouraging active citizenship, good neighbourliness and combating anti-social behaviour.

My community activism and volunteerism has been wide ranging and includes the various local, national and international organisations below.  

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL:       

Member of the County Council’s Strategic Policy Committee on Planning, Development & Tourism 1998-2001

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL:       

Member of the County Council’s Strategic Policy Committee on Culture, Community Development & Amenities 2001-2004 2004-2009

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL:       

Member of the County Council’s Strategic Policy Committee on the Environment, Culture and Community 2009 –2014

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL:       

Member of the County Council’s Public Art Steering Group 2012-2014

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL:

Member of the County Steering Committee for The Gathering Ireland (2012-2013).

BRATACHA 2013

Ireland’s first ‘Parade of Flags’ in Dún Laoghaire 2013

Designer and initiator of the proposal to host a Festival of Flags & Emblems in Dún Laoghaire to coincide with Ireland’s presidency of the European Union and centred on Europe Day (May 9th 2013). Proposal accepted by the Genealogical Society of Ireland as a collaborative project involving the Society, the National Maritime Museum, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company. The event became a ‘flagship’ event for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown for The Gathering Ireland.  

DÚN LAOGHAIRE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION (DLCA):

I am a former Chairman and Co-founder of the DLCA.  My actions included the following issue: Traffic Management, Social Inclusion, Sport, Parking Controls, Drug Clinics, Anti-Clamping Campaign, Coastal Plan, Youth Diversionary Initiatives and as editor of ‘Dún Laoghaire News’.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB (DLTFC):

I am a former Chairman, Director and Co-founder of this “youth diversionary project” which successfully tackled anti-social behaviour and promoted social inclusion for the “New Irish” in the area. This initiative transferred to Shankill in 2008.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE RATHDOWN COUNTY DEVELOPMENT BOARD:

I provided proposals to the ‘Focus Group on Heritage & Conservation’ 2003 and ensured that there was a community input into its consideration of local government policies on heritage and conservation.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE – DUBLIN’S RIVIERA:                   

I was a Co-founder and former Director of this Community Tourism Initiative which was founded in 1998 and organised community festivals up to 2003, including the ‘Annual 4th of July Parade’ until its functions were assumed by the County Tourism Company.  Author of the Coastal Plan presented to the County Council in 2001.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION: (DLBA) 

I have collaborated with the DLBA on local and community issues and initiatives. 

HOLYHEAD DÚN LAOGHAIRE LINK ORGANISATION:

Delegate, editor of “Wavelink” and author of a proposal on third level education in Holyhead which was the basis for the development of a new Lifelong Leaning Centre with an investment of Stg£30 million from the UK government.

AN FORAM OIDHREACHTA :  HERITAGE FORUM:

Founder and author of “Towards A County Heritage Policy” in 1997 which first proposed the position of County Heritage Plans and County Heritage Officers – the latter became national policy.

CENTRAL DÚN LAOGHAIRE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMPANY:

Former Chairman and Director of this community management company overseeing the operation of Park House on Library Road, Dún Laoghaire. 

GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF IRELAND:                 

Co-founder & Director, Company Secretary and Fellow of “Ireland’s most active genealogical organisation’ and author of a number of public policy documents concerning civil registration, heritage matters, cultural identity, social inclusion, place-name heritage, heraldic and vexillological heritage, local and county heritage plans, data protection, national cultural institutions and various papers on the Irish diaspora. (1990 and on-going).

“IRELAND’S GENEALOGICAL GAZETTE”               

I am the Editor of this monthly newsletter.  See www.familyhistory.ie

COUNCIL OF IRISH GENEALOGICAL ORGANISATIONS:

Co-founder & former (first) Chairman 1993-4 – author of its Constitution and its policy document on the General Register Office, Dublin (April 1993).

BELLEVUE, GLENAGEARY AND ROCHESTOWN RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION:

Former Road Representative for one of the most active residents’ associations in the Dún Laoghaire area between 1974-1978 and 1990-1998.

ST. MICHAEL’S HOSPITAL COMMUNITY ACTION GROUP:

Former Chairman of this cross-party community campaign on the future of St. Michael’s Hospital (disbanded after assurances and investment)

GUILD OF ONE-NAME STUDIES:                                

I was the Ireland Representative of this international organisation up to 2010 and I have written extensively on the subject.  This is an international organisation for the study of the history, meaning and distribution of surnames.

ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF ETHNICITY & NATIONALISM (LSE, London)

I am a member of the ASEN at the London School of Economics and I have written extensively on the subject of identities, cultural matters and ethnicity. This is the premier academic association for students and researchers in the fields of nationalism, ethnicity and related matters.

VEXILLOLOGY IRELAND : BRATEOLAÍOCHT ÉIREANN:

Launch of ‘Mountains to the Sea’ flag for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County – May 2013

I am a Co-founder of Vexillology Ireland which promotes an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of Ireland’s vexillological heritage.

The specially designed ‘Mountains to the Sea’ flag, created by Andrew Gerard Ball, flies over County Hall in Dún Laoghaire each evening and at weekends. Counties throughout Ireland their own flags, why not Ireland’s smallest County?

HERALDRY IRELAND : ARALTAS ÉIREANN:

I am a Co-founder of Vexillology Ireland which promotes an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of Ireland’s heraldic heritage.

In addition to the above, I am the author of numerous published articles on Irish history, local history, genealogy, heraldry, Irish language, Manx history & language, Irish surnames, social inclusion, diasporan issues, heritage policy, planning & legislation, placename heritage, community issues, tourism, Irish-Welsh partnership initiatives and also various reports.     

LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGNS

I have a strong record of campaigning on various legislative matters, scrutinising proposed legislation and proffering suggestions for amendments aimed at improving the legislation or protecting the rights of the citizen.

In collaboration with Teachtaí Dála and Senators of all parties and none, I have successfully achieved amendments to Bills in both Houses of the Oireachtas. 

Hereunder are a few of the pieces of legislation, upon which, I campaigned and submitted various amendments etc. The list is not exhaustive as there were a number of other Bills on which I lobbied Ministers, Teachtaí Dála and Seanadóirí.

Statistics Act, 1993 – sought amendment on release of census returns.

Heritage Act, 1995 – successfully secured the inclusion of our genealogical heritage.

National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 – successfully achieved circa 28 amendments in Seanad Éireann and a further 3 in Dáil Éireann.

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 – sought amendments to the 1993 Act in respect of the census returns and the recognition of a right to access one’s genealogical heritage.

Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000 – sought assurances on access to our genealogical heritage and clarifications of copyright in respect of same.

Civil Registration Act, 2004 – sought amendments to the Bill to ensure public access to the records of the General Register Office and sought improvements to the registration system, including the ability to have the Irish language version of your name registered. Unfortunately the latter was unsuccessful. 

Registration of Deeds & Title Act, 2006 – sought amendments to ensure that the practice of selling bogus titles (Baronial and Manorial) was prohibited by the Bill as there is an international trade in such bogus titles. Also I sought assurances that public access to the records would be maintained in the legislation.

Civil Unions Bill, 2006 – supported the attempts to have the civil unions recognised.

Defamation Bill, 2006 and Privacy Bill, 2006 – campaigned to have these two Bills dropped or heavily amended as certain provisions could have been seriously damaging to the publication of genealogical, biographical and historical research. I found the inclusion of blasphemy in the Defamation Bill (now Defamation Act, 2009) seriously repugnant.

Land & Conveyancing Law Reform Bill, 2006 – sought amendments to ensure that the practice of selling bogus titles (Baronial and Manorial) was prohibited by the Bill as there is an international trade in such bogus titles. Also I sought assurances that public access to the records would be maintained in the legislation.

Genealogy & Heraldry Bill, 2006 – drafted and presented the Bill with the objective of providing Ireland with a legally sound State heraldic service and to broaden the provision of genealogical, heraldic and vexillological services. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Brendan Ryan and was taken at second stage in December 2006 in Seanad Éireann.

National Cultural Institutions (Amendment) Bill, 2008 – proposed and advised on the drafting of this Bill which aimed to correct the serious flaws in the 1997 Act in respect of the State’s heraldic services. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Alex White.

Statistics (Heritage Amendment) Bill, 2010 – drafted and presented the bill with the objective of creating a special heritage status for the 1926 Census of Ireland as the first census taken since independence and since 1911. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú. 

Statistics (Heritage Amendment) Bill, 2011 – drafted and presented the bill with the objective of creating a special heritage status for the 1926 Census of Ireland as the first census taken since independence and since 1911. The Bill was sponsored by Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú and was taken at second stage in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday October 16th 2013.

Statistics (1926 Census) Bill, 2013 – drafted and presented the bill with the objective of creating a special heritage status for the 1926 Census of Ireland as the first census taken since independence and since 1911. The Bill was sponsored in Dáil Éireann by Seán Ó Fearghaíl, TD.

Freedom of Information Bill, 2013 – proposed amendments concerning the possibly unintentional ‘re-designation’ of the records of the General Register Office as ‘personal records held by the State’ and thereby, possibly restrict public access. I also sought the inclusion of the ‘Principle of Public Ownership & Right of Access’ to our genealogical heritage. I submitted proposals to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on these matters and they were included in its report on the Bill.

GSI Submission to Oireachtas Joint Committee

On Tuesday, 10th December 2013 the Genealogical Society of Ireland presented its 40-page submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. 

GSI Delegation at Leinster House in December 2013

The Society was represented by Michael Merrigan, Tom Conlon, and Aidan Feerick.  Other organisations represented at this session were APGI, and some local genealogy/heritage centres.  John Grenham also addressed the committee in his capacity as author and commentator on matters genealogical.  Other interested parties were scheduled for hearing in the same week.

Each of the parties made an opening address, and there then followed a questioning the committee members. 

The GSI delegation came away with a feeling that the committee members well understood the points made. 

With the Rapporteur & Joint Committee Chairperson

In 2015 the Joint Oireachtas Committee published th report Maximising our Cultural and Genealogical Heritagehighlighted many important areas for development, including on the legislative side, however, the report is yet to receive any serious attention from the Department.

SO I BROUGHT TO THE ELECTION…..

  • Experience, knowledge and awareness of LOCAL ISSUES
  • Identification with COMMUNITY INITIATIVES
  • Record of public association and action on COUNTY COUNCIL ISSUES
  • Widespread COMMUNITY NETWORK
  • Experience of the workings of LOCAL GOVERNMENT