Category Archives: Motions 2017

Motion requesting That Ireland would ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments

“That Ireland would ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments 2004.”


Motion to full Council, 23-10-2017


When a ship’s cargo is unloaded, ballast water is pumped in to maintain safe operating conditions throughout a voyage.  When the ship is later reloaded, often on the other side of the world, the water is discharged.  So ballast water is essential for safe and efficient modern shipping operations.


But ballast water may pose serious ecological, economic and health problems.  As the ballast tanks are filled and drained in different sequences, the water in one tank may comprise water and sediments from several ports.  And that water will include organisms, suspended solids, chemicals, including industrial and human wastes.  In 14 recent European ballast studies, 990 different species were recorded from ballast tanks, ranging from bacteria to 15 cm long fishes.  Discharge of ballast tanks into port waters far from where it was taken on board gives a very real and direct opportunity for species transfer between countries.  Specialists in the UN estimate that more than 7,000 species can be carried across the globe in ships’ ballast tanks.  Some of these may be pathogenic and some may be invasive in an environment that is not their own. 


The National Biodiversity Data Centre estimates that invasive and non-native species cost Ireland and Northern Ireland some €261 million every year due to biodiversity loss and impact on economic activity and human health.  Japanese knotweed has shown us that even to control an invasive species takes massive time and financial resources. The NBDC estimates that about 13% of the 377 recorded non-native species here have a high-risk impact.  And the rate of introduction is increasing.


Shipping is global.  90% of goods are carried around the world in ships.  it is reckoned to transfer up to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water around ports of the world every year.  So tackling the spread of disease and invasives through ballast water has to be a global issue.  This is what the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments is all about.  Led by the IMO Member States, it was adopted after 14 years of negotiation.  It entered into force last September.  But it works only if it is ratified by everybody.  Over 50 countries have done so.  Ireland, although it drafted legislation in 2006 to allow its implementation here, has not yet ratified the Convention.  The only really effective way of tackling invasives is controlling them at source.  Here we have a real opportunity to protect ourselves and others by doing just that and we haven’t done it yet.  Direct contact with the IMO office in London indicates that they are very anxious that we would do so and cannot understand why we are not.  Last year, Minister Shane Ross has said that the 2006 legislation is being amended to take account of recent changes to the convention and that Ireland would ratify it before it entered into force.  But we haven’t. 


Ask that we would write to the Minister asking that we express our desire for Ireland to follow up on its promise of years, not waste any more time and ratify this convention.


“That Cork County Council would initiate its commitment to Green Infrastructure outlined in the Cork County Development Plan 2014 by ensuring the critical elements of green infrastructure within Cork County are identified and mapped during the remaining lifetime of the County Development Plan 2014:

  • Biodiversity and ecological networks
  • Water quality and flood attenuation infrastructure
  • Recreational/quality of life infrastructure.”

I wish green infrastructure wasn’t called green infrastructure.  It makes it sound like some flowery, esoteric concept that costs a fortune. 


It isn’t.  In a modern society, with our increasing knowledge, our awareness of the finite nature of the earth’s resources and the impact of our footprint on them, the concept of green infrastructure is no longer a luxury.  It is basic.



“That this Council requests amendment of the Valuation Act 2001 such that standard rates would be payable on constituency offices run by members of the Oireachtas for representational purposes.”



Constituency offices are important.  They are a great way of enabling public representatives to connect with their local communities.  So in proposing this motion, I am not for a second denouncing the benefits of constituency offices. 


But what strikes me as extraordinarily unfair is that under the 2001 Valuation Act and its amendments, constituency offices are exempt from paying rates. 


Businesses in my town are closing, one after the other.  They pay rents, a range of taxes including VAT on gross profits, property tax, PRSI, water and waste charges, energy costs, bank fees, staff wages, insurance, public liability, material costs and they pay commercial rates.  I know of one self-employed tradesperson with a shop outlet who earned €X after tax and although the business has effectively ground to a halt, he still owes €X in commercial rates per year.


TDs start with a basic salary of over €87,000 pa.  They get an unvouched one off payment for setting up a constituency office.  They have the right to claim back energy bills, rent, rates, furniture costs, IT, stationery, signage both on the office and on their car or van, insurance, public liability, cleaning, alarm installation, security costs, telephone calls, web hosting, advertising and leafleting.  And in addition, under the Valuation Act, their constituency offices are exempt from commercial rates.


The defence is that a constituency office is offering a public service.  And undoubtedly it does.  But so does a doctor’s clinic, a dentist’s surgery, a solicitor’s office, an accountant’s office and so on.  And all of these businesses pay commercial rates on their premises.  The doctor, the dentist and the solicitor are all making a wage from the services they offer.  But the TD too is taking home a salary and connection with the public is essential if that income is to be maintained.  So whilst a constituency office may offer a public service, it is a critical part of keeping a TD in his or her job.


There are not one, not two but three TD constituency offices on Carrigaline main street at present.  Don’t begin to tell me this triplicate presence on the main street of a town is for any real benefit other than self-promotion.  And to boot, the Citizens Advice Bureau operates out of the Carrigaline Youth Centre three mornings each week, also providing a public service.  The only person carrying the cost of this quadruplicate service is the taxpayer.


This motion has nothing to do with the National Revaluation Programme currently underway, although the sooner Cork is included in that revaluation, the better.  Rate-paying businesses could sorely do with a break.  Rather, this motion is asking that through an amendment of the Valuation Act, TDs would be required to contribute, just like every other business, to the services of their local authority by paying commercial rates on their constituency offices.  Nor would it be acceptable that either TD expenses or salaries would be increased to cover the cost but rather that TDs would align themselves with every other commercial ratepayer by paying commercial rates directly out of their income.


I ask for your support.