The Labour Party has to stand up against councillors who block progress on cycle routes and related issues, a party councillor told its conference at the weekend.
Cllr Darragh Moriarty said that he was struck by some of the brilliant motions and contributions to the Labour Party’s conference at the weekend, including what he said was a “fantastic motion” by
Anne Cronin, a Limerick Labour Party representative.
After Cllr Moriarty posted a video of his speech to Twitter on Monday night, Anne Cronin replied: “Thanks Darragh – having checked with Central Council today I’m advised the motion as passed is now party policy and should be adhered to by ALL Labour Councillors. Therefore Labour reps must support active travel changes and trials where designated by LA active travel units. No get out clause.”
The motion by the Limerick City branch calls for Labour representatives to “support the roll-out of active travel infrastructure, i.e., cycle lanes and cycle pathways where local authority active travel units designate trials for cycle segregation”.
It adds: “Labour reps will support cycle infrastructure changes and trials to improve existing road infrastructure… and support the safety of priority road users, i.e., pedestrians and cyclists…”
Cllr Moriarty at the weekend and again on Twitter since has stressed his annoyance that the amendment was watered down — by deleting the line in the motion that clarifies that “support” includes “voting in favour of segregated cycle lanes, improvements to road infrastructure at junctions and roundabouts that would facilitate safer walking and cycling”.
At the Labour conference, Cllr Moriarty said: “It’s kind of a moot point that I want to raise because the amendment has since been accepted. But I’m disappointed the amendment has been accepted. I thought it Limerick motion itself was very ambitious, and it was sort of a statement of intent.”
He said: “We just heard the panel. We’ve just heard all the commentary around COP. Ciaran Ahern mentioned that we have to cut down car journeys, 500,000 car journeys a day. How can we do that if we don’t actively be hostile against the car? Get it off the streets.”
He said people need to be encouraged to walk and cycle, and that the motion asked local representatives to support such and to deny parking on footpaths. But Cllr Moriarty said: “And this has been diluted. It’s been completely diluted by that amendment which has been accepted and I understand they’ve accepted it, but I’m very disappointed that it has been diluted.”
Cllr Moriarty said: “I would’ve supported the original motion the way it was and unfortunately now because it has been diluted, I won’t be supporting the motion, because it’s not ambitious enough — we just heard how ambitious we need to be and once again, we’re actually being stifled.”
He added: “We heard Sean Horgan talk about the minority of councillors that are trying to undo some of the good that been done during Covid and some of our own councillors are guilty of that. We have to stand up to that as a party.
Cllr Moriarty said that ultimately that the party isn’t ‘green’ enough.
“Cities held to ransom by a legacy of car dependency”
At the conference, Cronin said in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, that the party has “no choice but to support climate mitigation measures otherwise we are actively condemning future generations to a planet that we have destroyed – in the full knowledge that we could have done better – we could have been stronger, we could have been fairer, we could have fought harder.”
She said: “As someone who grew up in North Kerry and cycled to school, it saddens me that children living in the same rural circumstances today, cannot do the same. Increasing speed limits, poor spatial planning and a complete lack of active travel infrastructure in rural Ireland means that it is completely unsafe for children to cycle their bikes on our country roads.”
“Our cities and towns are held to ransom by a legacy of car dependency which has led to transport becoming the fastest growing contributor to carbon emissions in this country,” said Cronin.
She said that most trips are a short distance, especially in urban areas but that the “overwhelming majority of all those trips are taken by car.” In contrast to that, she highlighted how CSO data shows that just 6 — six — girls in the Limerick metropolitan area cycled to school.
“As we heard at COP26 this week – the world is on track for a temperature rise of 2.6 when we know that 1.5 is our limit… As Mary Robinson told us this week, leaders need to get into crisis mode and embrace efforts and programs that reduce emissions. To wait for future governments or other parties to do so is fool-hardy – we must all as activists, party members, policy designers and legislators act swiftly and with conviction,” she said.
Cronin said: “Supporting people that want to drive everywhere and park everywhere is no longer an option… We cannot wait – for endless consultation on maintaining through traffic or redirecting traffic or which road is one-way and which isn’t,”
She added: “Not everyone will support active travel safety measures, but they will embrace them once they witness the changes to their air quality, children that need their inhalers less, better health, lower levels of obesity and respiratory illness and less congestion.”