General Election 2020

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Albert Byrne

Six questions for Louth's general election candidates

Donard McCabe

Reporter:

Donard McCabe

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Albert Byrne

GE2020: Ask the Louth candidate: Albert Byrne

The Dundalk Democrat put six questions to all 15 candidates standing in the Louth constituency for General Election 2020.

Two specific questions in each of the three categories, crime, healthcare and climate change were put to the candidates.

Seven out of the 15 candidates responded. Over the next seven articles we share their responses.

The questions were as follows and the responses from Independent candidate Albert Byrne are below:

Crime

  • What resources would you provide for people in Louth to keep them from drifting into criminality?
  • Do you favour decriminalisation of drugs as part of a range of measures to combat addiction? 

Environment

  • Would you support the idea of making school buses mandatory for all school goers who do not cycle of walk to school - as a means of combating climate change, promote healthy lifestyles and cutting down on rush hour traffic?
  • What public transport measures would you implement in Louth to combat climate change? - would it include free public transport for all? What investment would you make towards electric buses and when would it happen?

Healthcare

  • Would you end the use of agency healthcare workers, including nurses? Timeline?
  • What facilities would you make available in Louth to help fight mental illness and help promote good mental health?

Albert Byrne's responses:

Crime

Q1: We need to understand the causes of crime, and social exclusion (where one feels left behind in society) is an important factor as are socio economic factors.

We need to invest in outreach programs and community policing and recognise the needs of vulnerable youth who feel ostracised and are easily seduced by the camaraderie of criminal gangs.

For this we need to invest in community projects and self-help schemes. However, the causes are deeply rooted which is why we must always be aware of the needs of the less privileged in our society.

Q2: We need to learn from the experience of Portugal where drug use was decriminalised in 2001 if the user had no more than a 10 day supply.

Sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug use decreased dramatically. There has also been a 60% increase in uptake of treatment programs as of 2012.

At the time drugs were being decriminalised there was a fear that there would be more drug users and with that more crime. The opposite happened.

The tax payer also benefits with the decrease in costs of incarceration and the war on drugs.

Drug use should be discouraged without imposing penalties.

We need drop in centers with a staff of psychologists, doctors and peer support workers (themselves former drug users) offering clean needles etc, sandwiches, coffee, clean clothing, toiletries, rapid HIV testing, and consultations – all free and anonymous.

Environment

Q1: I don’t believe insisting everyone takes a bus is practical or socially acceptable.

However, I do believe people should be incentivised to use school buses and that they do offer a great solution to all kinds of environmental problems (including traffic congestion) as well taking the burden of transporting children to and from school from parents.

Q2: In a perfect world all buses would be electric. However, we have to calculate the cost of changing to electric and weigh that up against the savings in carbon emissions.

If the net effect justifies the cost as opposed to other carbon saving schemes then we should invest immediately. However, rural areas still depend on cars and we should consider more subsidies to convert to electric cars for individuals in these areas as opposed to those living in towns. 

We cannot guarantee public transport in these areas as it is simply not cost effective. Public transport should be reduced in cost to discourage people from using private transportation.

Services should be developed on this basis to ensure they can achieve sufficient numbers leading to significant savings in carbon emissions. Reduce the cost to the optimal level.

Healthcare

Q1: Terms and conditions for HSE staff need to be improved while the use of agency staff should be kept to a minimum rather than waste necessary funds.

A cap should be placed on the use of agency staff to cut down on cost over runs which undermines permanent staff pay and conditions. However, agency staff play an important role in maintaining balance in the system.

Q2: People should feel that informal services are easily available without stigma, such as counsellors and traditional healers. Those on lower incomes should be offered these services free of charge.

We also  need to invest in youth centers, rehabilitation centers, arts and crafts and any kind of facility that engages individuals with others in a creative and holistic way and promotes self-care.

No single service setting can meet all population mental health needs. Support, supervision, collaboration, information-sharing and education across the different levels of care are essential to any system.