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This is what YOU would do to improve Ireland

Disused railways into cycle paths; flat fares; community schemes; co-op gardens on Nama lands – some of your spiffing suggestions on turning the current state of the nation on its head.

Ireland: Not a bad spot. But it could be better, say our readers, if we implement some of their ideas...
Ireland: Not a bad spot. But it could be better, say our readers, if we implement some of their ideas...
Image: Ireland coast via Shutterstock

WE RECENTLY TOLD you about a ‘citizen parliament’ taking place at the Big House Festival this weekend outside Celbridge, Co Kildare.

The ‘parliament’ will debate new ways to shake up our society, culture, government and economy. Then we asked you what YOU would do to improve Ireland, if you had the power to implement change.

We have gathered some of your ideas here, dividing them by theme. There is some pretty inspiring stuff in there. As one commenter, Glen, said:

I would make a wish that all the great suggestions on this thread are actually implemented, rather than nothing happening and business as usual continuing in good auld Eire…

Here they are:

TOURISM AND AMENITIES

A commenter called Driftwood Curley had a lot to suggest in this area – litter pickups on beaches and tourist areas rather than jail terms for minor crimes; walking and cycle lanes along the whole coastline of the island; bins and seats in beauty areas to create a “better tourist experience and create employment”; “ban salmon farming and invest in our rivers and loughs for tourist anglers – they spend a lot of money for good game and we are the only country left in the world with pure genetic wild trout”.

He added:

Another idea would be to invest heavily in organic farming and therefore justify our high prices: everyone will know you buy Irish food – you buy the best. We’re a small island we could go 100% organic and be the envy of the western world, we’d also have to remove flouride from the water for that one.

themamba1 - “Pedestrianise Salthill in Galway and have shops, cafes and restaurants with outdoor eating areas the whole length of the prom. Make it a proper attraction for everyone to enjoy.”

Niall H, Walter Ford and Keaneland thought we should look at what has been done with the old train line from Westport to Achill – which as Dwayne Jordan said has been turned into a greenway cycle track – and replicate it across the country.

Eoin - “Start a land bridge project to Britain….” Something Ted Carroll agreed with saying that it would help tourism from UK.

jer hefner cryptically suggested “Dog parks…”

Marlon Major said that he would turn Ireland “into the country of festivals“, using current festivals as distribution points for local and overseas marketing and then increasing the number of them and finding ways to weatherproof some venues so the fun could continue even when the weather turned sour.

Ollie Owens suggested that unused strips of land owned by councils eg, along motorways or beside facilities could come into play:

Each council should plant these verges with coppice trees like ash, willow etc and harvest them every 7-10 years (no need to replant coppice trees). Sell the timber / harvest for biomass. It will also make the place look better.

This would not be viable / profitable to do using “council staff” – however if we used some longterm unemployed people who actually want to work it would more or less self fund after the initial 10 years – or with the first harvest. You would not be competing with anyone (clean energy) and it would give people back their dignity.

CRIME

Philip Brady – “They need to focus more on developing people in prison instead of punishing them I feel, the percent of  reoffenders in Ireland is 50% after the first 2 years. Some  lack the mental and emotional tools to function in society and possibly coming from a background of neglect, addiction, crime, disadvantaged areas, poor or little education and what ever else! Locking them up for years with play stations tv etc is just  not stimulating plus they have known nothing else other than messing around the streets, scheming! Why not go with a different system. I suppose this is for repeat offenders, I don’t think people would be interested in such a system for murders,  rape etc!”

Many people thought of plans to keep minor offenders out of prison – for example, Wishie Jatt thought community service should be applied to anti-social behaviour:

Throwing slaps outside a nightclub on Harcourt Street and disturbing the peace? 100 hours working with the council crew on that same stretch during cleanup to be completed in 6 months etc.

Peter Kiely thinks the war against drugs is not working and that they should be legalised and taxed while Ricky Morris said: “Legalise Cannabis and watch the taxes roll in.”

Stephen O’Neill – “Build three new, large, modern prisons. Reform and expand An Garda Siochana, reform the justice system so that those who do break the law are punished appropriately instead of the current system whereby the judiciary do their best to let criminals off the hook. I would also like to see a proper juvenile criminal justice system so that young offenders are given every opportunity to get their lives on track.”

PUBLIC TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE

Peter Kiely wants to reduce public transport prices by 90 per cent, although he doesn’t mention how the prices will be subsidised. He adds: “Abolish road tax, instead increase tax on petrol. People pay as they use and impossible to avoid payment.” Alan H -AFC suggested a flat fare for cities and anyone with a free travel pass other than pension/disability should pay €1.

Pat Lennon – “How about re-opening the West Cork line. A transport consultant was hired a few years ago to do a feasibility study. He found it would be profitable.”

Jo Buckley took the big picture view of how improving national infrastructure would lead to growth:

A dynamic country cannot only rotate through one point. Ireland is not only Dublin. Proper, modern transport through different parts of the state without having to go through Dublin.

For example, a train from Donegal to Cork! Or a proper road through the whole of the west, or Sligo to Waterford. Communications through the West from north to south are nearly of third world level in many areas. Build communications first, investments will follow.

ECONOMY

Brian Cleary - “Invest in our own natural resources, look what it did for Norway! We have enough oil off the coast to solve our financial problems for generations.”

Sinabhfuil - “I’d make sure every home in Ireland had solar panels for hot water – heating water is one-third of the average home electricity bill – and have a deal that these could be paid for over five years on the utility bills. It would slash our carbon footprint, and release electrical capacity for industry.”

Nigel O’Keeffe admitted it was wishful thinking but asked if it were possible for the government to borrow 10- or 15-year money at 0.5 or 1%, help repay struggling mortgages. “Mortagees then repay over the 10 or 15 year period..stress sorted..lower repayments..money to spend in the real economy..jobs boost. Win win but as I said, it’s only fantasy!”

More banks? Yes, says Ian Stack, as long as they are foreign ones – instead of “having to choose from the farcical ones operating and charging us ridiculous fees for handling our own money!” Paul was not on for more banks – he asked:

Do we really need banks, or do we have them because we don’t have a choice? Never too big to fail if you have an alternative…

Brian Fitzpatrick thinks we should invest heavily in wind energy. “We’re sitting on a gold mine with our windy west coast but we do not take advantage of it at all.”

Fiona Cauchi - “Reduce the VAT on Irish goods- enforce the cost reduction be passed into consumers. Reduce tax for new businesses that keep money in Ireland - increase tax on international competitors that remove money from the country. Make companies clearing a certain margin of profits take on trainees from the live register for 6-12 months as a back to work scheme. They pay the trainees their dole or more and are allowed write off the cost against tax. Exponentially increase the cost for foreign counties to fish in our waters- reclaim or natural resources. Nurture tourism- the track around the country is a great idea.”

Kev O Sullivan really thought this all out – read his 10-point plan here.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Gemma Winters - “Introduce community involvement as a compulsory component of the educational system. Make it a constituent part of the CAO. Taps into a strong sense of wanting to improve the world and a natural willingness to help in teens.”

Niall H also wanted to get people involved in their local community. He said:

Rural Ireland is dying fast and nobody is going to help us unless we help ourselves first.

There are European (and other) grants available for local projects which can help achieve employment, increase tourism and added amenities. If everyone helped out at local level it wouldn’t take long to see the benefits at national level. Complaining and moaning about what has happened isn’t going to solve anything anymore. The people in power are not listening so it’s up to the people of Ireland to pull together and get ourselves back on track.

CAJOT - “I’d set up a means-tested scheme with the local tidy towns committees to make young people who are on the dole do a few hours’ cutting grass/painting/pick up rubbish/clean out drains etc. I’d target young people who have no overheads and propose that they do x amount of hours a week to get their full dole payment and if they do nothing they only get a third of it, the idea being to improve your local area and help young people respect their locality as well.”

In the matter of social justice, Rachel Mathews-McKay had a wishlist: “Use legislation for better equality rights, eg same sex marriage, adoption rights, children’s rights, special needs education and support, Transgender recognition, better and easier access to education, improved universal health care and a higher minimum wage, for starters!!! Separation of Church from State would be awesome too! #equality. #social-justice”

Making truth-telling and ethics central to public life and society was central to Craven_Lickspittles comment which is a little long to reproduce here but you can read it by clicking here.

David Grey had an idea for unused and Nama-ed land to be used for the building of polytunnels and raised beds, available for a reasonable rent to locals in which they could grow fruit and veg/ He said:

Put rules in place so if anyone isn’t using their allocated space it will be taken off them & assigned to someone on a waiting list!

The net result is a reduction in imports, healthier eating, more disposable income circulating in the local economy, a reduction of poverty, an increase in profits for local businesses growing- it’s a win, win, win!

SOME BUSINESS IDEAS…

Marion Ryan – “Open up empty retail units to new businesses and entrepreneurs. Make them rent free for 24 months, but landlord gets a percentage of revenue or profits. Both parties have an interest in making the business successful, provides employment, gives new businesses a reasonable shot without the overhead of rent, high streets and shopping centres have higher occupancy, councils get their rates and government gets the tax. These buildings are empty anyway, so no one’s making anything right now.”

Bluechip78 – “Require restaurants other than fast food outlets to serve until midnight. It’s a disgrace that you can’t get a meal after 10 in the cities and towns of Ireland as you can abroad. If you want to provide an alternative to the pub then we need to provide alternatives. Also make it easier for the customer to pay. The acceptance of Cash, Debit/Credit, split bills etc should be mandatory without incurring surcharges.

Pat Lennon - “Why not get Bord Failte to offer a full wedding planning service, from travel to honeymoon. Irish hotels give OUSTANDING value for money.”

themamba1 - “For small business to start thinking outside the box! There’s a coffee shop in Galway city that stays open until 1 a.m and its packed to the rafters each night! When there’s something happening in your area or even good weather stay open longer and try and make the most of the footfall. And get to grips with Facebook and Twitter – it’s the best form of advertising you’ll ever get and it’s FREE!!”

REFORMING POLITICAL SYSTEM

Glyn Carragher would immediately “Introduce proper representational democracy and end the party political system.”

Theresa Carter wants more female decision-makers:

Facilitated female participation. I wonder how many women will engage at this event? Any women leading discussions? Men speak- women discuss.

Ciarán had a very specific process for reforming the Seanad – worth a read here.

Two further extensive sets of suggestions for refurbishing our political power structure came from Peter O’Halloran (read his here) and Michael Berchmans – another man with a ten-point plan!

Thanks for all your fantastic suggestions, folks.

If you are a person of power (or at least the illusion of it) and you’re reading this – do get in contact if anything made you sit up and listen, won’t you?

What would you do to improve Ireland?>
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