On Thursday 21st February myself and fellow Sinn Féin representatives Louise O’Reilly TD, Leader Mary Lou McDonald and Cllr Malachy Quinn took to the streets Balbriggan, Swords and Fingal to visit communities.
Jean Brady and the staff of Balbriggan’s Community Creche us a warm tour of the school and explained the positive impact it’s had on the community as a not for profit childcare facility providing affordable full day care for parents on low incomes. We in Sinn Féin believe that childcare should be a public service. Current childcare costs are unaffordable for most working families. Sinn Féin’s, “Better for Childcare” policy would change that.
We later met with the founder of Balbriggan’s Soup Kitchen Mark O’Neill who set up the kitchen in 2013. They currently feed 600 families and distribute 150 food packages to homes weekly. The kitchen is run solely by volunteers and the generosity of public donations. They do not receive government funding. People who avail of their services say it gives them hope, a sense of community and opportunity to meet people. “It takes a lot of courage for a man or woman to walk through the door of a soup kitchen and ask for help, we welcome anyone that comes to our door without any judgement”.
Sinn Féin in government would end Ireland’s growing dependency on food banks and soup kitchens. Initiatives such as Balbriggan Soup Kitchen require strong community participation and engagement to exist. It’s a depiction of the great humanity of people and builds hope and belief in the change that is coming.
Cross Care Youth Service facilitates for 150 young people in Swords weekly. Seven staff deliver over 20 programmes including alternative learning programmes, counselling services for mental health and support for alcohol and drug abuse. Hot meals are provided by members of the community employment scheme and the café that’s run by the young people draws large crowds. Rising rent prices and cuts to public expenditure make it difficult for much needed services such as this to survive.
Back in Louise O’Reilly’s constituency office, we met with representatives of the Balbriggan of the Balbriggan Integration Forum. The women, originally from Libya, Somalia, Nigeria and Turkey were full of praise for the people of Balbriggan and described it as a very friendly, welcoming and inclusive place to live. Sinn Féin believes diversity of culture should be embraced, and views Ireland’s growing diversity as a source of strength and an opportunity to learn. Dáil Eireann fails to fully represent women and many cultural groups in Irish society due to a lack of political representation. Sinn Féin aims to change that too.