About Cllr. Mags Crean

I am an independent councillor in Wicklow Co. Council.  Originally from Bray, I now live in Greystones with my husband Cathal and two children, aged 9 and 11.

Our town and villages have so much to offer. But we can do better. I have a vision for Greystones, Kilcoole, Delgany and Newcastle inspired by my belief in creating a more caring and equal society.

I am currently employed in University College Dublin as a researcher on education reform and I have over twenty years’ experience working across the education, charity and community sectors. I am also on the board of the Greystones Family Resource Centre and Purple House Cancer Support Centre. I was also the community and voluntary representative on the Wicklow County Council LCDC and a past board member of 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World.

As a pro-active member of our community, I’m frustrated by the lack of affordable housing and decent public services. Our community also needs more eco-friendly development, local employment options, efficient transport and a wider range of community facilities and supports. These are the issues that I consistently bring to the council agenda.

Informed by my real-life experience I bring a strong, fresh and independent voice to our council and ensure that the issues of ordinary people are well represented.

Qualifications

With a degree in Botany from UCD, Mags has an informed knowledge of environmental issues. She is also qualified in the social sciences through UCD with a BSocSc and a Masters in Equality Studies. Mags then completed a PhD in Social Justice in UCD, which examined care as a political issue. See more here

Social Media

Twitter

The meat plant issue has been staring Ireland in the face.

MRI told politicians in July that of workers it surveyed: 28% lived with co-workers and 90% of employers didn't do sick pay.

Public health officials are also aware that many share accommodation with nursing home staff.

Good article @VillageMagIRE on lack of diversity in teaching - 99% of applicants for primary (& post-primary) teacher training courses listed their ethnicity as “White Irish” & “Settled”. Also, very few teachers from working class backgrounds, which also needs research & change.

Simon Lewis@simonmlewis

An article about diversity in teachers in Irish primary classrooms, insofar as there is none.
I have a little soudbite in the article which I may use on my gravestone when the time comes. #edchatie @AnahitaTchr https://t.co/OH8iqx3mSu

Housing programmes need to be Covid-proofed (health), recession-proofed (value for money, market cycles) & climate-proofed (energy, water, sustainability) now
pic via @MazzucatoM )

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Importance of public housing

Video: Demand for public housing

As an elected councillor sitting on the Housing Strategic Policy Committee, I am committed to making affordable housing a key concern over my term in local government. 

The majority of houses developed in Wicklow over the past number of years have been unaffordable for individuals and households on low and average-to-middle incomes.

With over 4,000 families in need of social housing, there are many more not included in that figure who are in need of affordable housing. 

Those in need of affordable housing to rent or buy include a locked-out generation of young families trying to balance high childcare and accommodation costs, students and young workers, plus older people facing retirement. 

We need a commitment at local council to social and affordable housing on public land. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pXHihYc7b4

Issues

A Caring Community

I utilise my professional skills to help develop community supports by working with local community groups, resident’s associations and other community networks. I am a representative on the East Coast Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force and the Mermaid Arts Centre for Wicklow. I am working on a community hub for our community.

Housing

We need to initiate action on the housing crisis in Greystones and Kilcoole by working towards a local authority-led public housing model, which provides houses to purchase at affordable prices along with options to rent with security of tenure. I am a member of the Housing SPC in Wicklow County Council and advocate strongly for public housing. I also make representations for people in my constituency on housing issues and work tirelessly to ensure their voices are heard at council level.

Transport

We need to improve our transport services by supporting the need for a local shuttle bus service and making the NTA more responsive to local needs. We need action on the park and ride, which is at capacity and we need to think about a train station stop at Charlesland. These are issues that I continue to advocate on and challenge at a local level.

Environment

We need to promote Greystones & Kilcoole as an eco-friendly and healthy place to live. One of the first motions that I proposed on Wicklow Council was the roll out of LED energy efficient public lighting. I have also raised issues such as tree planting and eliminating pesticide use.

Employment

I continue to be an advocate for local employment options, by demanding the development of the IDA site, which has been promised at every election but never delivered. The IDA site needs to be developed in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way. Microbusinesses and the self employed need support at local level as they make up the majority of our local employers. At the moment they are crippled by exorbitant rates and growing overheads.

Education

We need adequate numbers of school places at primary and secondary level. We also need second chance education through community and adult education courses. I have supported local campaigns for school places and will continue to be a strong voice at a local level on education needs.

‘Homes for heroes’- rewarding frontline workers

The United Nations describes COVID-19 as the most challenging crisis facing the world since World War II. Traditionally, the aftermath to war is defined by rewarding heroes for bravery, hence the need to start a national conversation about rewarding workers that are risking their health and lives to help others.

Just like Lloyd George’s ‘Homes for Heroes’ after World War I and the surge in public housing after World War II, we need to recognise our heroes by providing decent living wages and investing in affordable public services. .

Our heroes, the healthcare workers, retail staff, transport staff and host of other frontline workers putting their lives on the line to save others, are some of the lowest paid workers in our country. With 23% of the workforce earning less than two thirds the median gross income, Ireland has one of the highest rates of low pay in the EU.

The wages that our heroes receive are not fit for purpose in a country where the cost of living and paying for house costs, rental costs, water, gas, electricity and maintenance is almost 57% higher than the EU average.

The housing crisis serves to exasperate the challenges of living on a low income as many of our frontline heroes face considerable barriers to owning a home and struggle to pay unaffordable rents in an unregulated private rental market. Research on household debt by economic think-tank, TASC, found that nearly 20 percent of renters in the private sector who borrow are struggling to repay their loans consistently when they are due. The housing crisis has not gone away during this pandemic; it has merely been side-lined by a health crisis posing a more imminent threat to life.

This public health crisis has taught us that we need robust care services. At the core of this is an accurately resourced public health system. But alongside our hospitals, the home has featured front and centre of this crisis as a site of care and retreat for protecting public health. We need to place access to a home at the very centre of life and Government policy on protecting citizens, not just for short term crisis, but the longer term.

Fundamental to the housing crisis under our previous Government was an ideological block that afflicted Leo Varadkar who claimed that his Government policy on housing was driven by delivery rather than ideology. Yet, that Government failed to deliver on housing.

A defining feature of this pandemic is the vulnerability and interdependence of the human condition but also the compassion and urgency with which our Government has acted. Utilising private hospitals to tackle our current public health crisis is proof that decisive action to protect citizens doesn’t need ideology per se but delivery without ideology, at least needs urgency and compassion.

If Ireland is to be a ‘fit country for heroes to live in’ when this public health crisis passes and when we set out to reward front line workers, then urgency needs to drive policy for any newly formed Government. We need urgent action on decent wages and affordable public services. As a first step, initiating a public housing programme to provide affordable homes for ordinary workers will be a fitting reward for those who have risked their lives and health for the greater public good.

Ends.

Commercialised care is not working

One issue becoming clear from this pandemic is that privatising care is not working in the public interest. This is evidenced in two major moves by Government to manage the COVID-19 crisis. In the first instance, when the COVID-19 crisis hit Irish shores, Government had to essentially ‘take-over’ the private hospitals to ensure equity and efficiency in meeting public health needs.

Then, in the last few days, a second major move saw an agreement being reached whereby in emergency situations public sector staff can work in private nursing homes to ensure patients are cared for. This is in response to the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes and the inability of the private nursing home sector to respond to this crisis.

The reality is that care of the elderly is now seen as a major site for profiteering. It has been privatised on a scale that sees the majority of ageing people reside in for-profit nursing homes with a worrying trend towards larger centres. A HIQA report (August 2019) shows that the majority of nursing home centres (76% or 440 of 581 centres) are operated by private providers. This may benefit investors but it may not serve the care needs of older people or the public health interest in times of crisis.

A Medical Independent article[1] in 2019 written by Brian Haugh states that many investors in the nursing home sector were originally attracted by the opportunity to avail of a tax break, rather than an interest in or understanding of the dynamics of older person care. The removal of this tax break saw investment in the sector decrease. However, more recently, he emphasises that large institutional investors with a long-term investment horizon have started to invest. According to Haugh, investors will remain attracted by the relatively low risk cash flows generated by the Irish nursing home sector and he states that this will lead to improvement of patient care. However, it will also lead to enhanced shareholder and personal wealth and care of our ageing population should not be motivated by financial returns.

The profile of nursing homes in Ireland by the number of residential places at the end of 2018 showed a trend towards developing and opening centres for older people with a large numbers of beds, or residential places. The Medical Independent articles shows that in 2009, there were 447 private and voluntary nursing homes providing a total of 20,590 beds. Ten years on, the author states that the number of beds has grown to 23,376, while the number of homes has fallen to 429.

In 2018, the HIQA report notes that the Chief Inspector registered eight new centres. Worryingly, of the eight new centres that provided 529 additional residential places, 357 of these places (67.5%) were in three of these centres. These types of numbers raise challenges for person-centred or ‘home-like’ centres. In contrast, the average occupancy of the four centres which voluntarily closed and were not replaced was 28 people.

HIQA acknowledges that smaller nursing homes often epitomise the person-centred ethos of a home for an older person and are generally located near the person’s community. The report states that the ongoing trend of these nursing homes closing and larger occupancy centres opening, may reflect a change in the ethos of care being provided to residents.

The Irish Government needs to ensure that dignity, compassion and human rights drive the care of the elderly in nursing homes.

Ends.

[1] https://www.medicalindependent.ie/a-financial-overview-of-the-private-nursing-home-sector/ accessed 17th April 2020

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