Bryn Edwards

People Before Profit-Solidarity candidate for Balbriggan

How would you help get more housing built in Fingal?

Campaign for housing policies that benefit ordinary people, not landlords and developers, which has been the root cause of this housing crisis. Many families and young people of my generation have been locked out of the housing market. Housing isn't an investment, it should be a public good. Families and young children deserve dignity and to live with security in their home. We need to stop outsourcing our housing crisis to developers and third party agencies.

We need public housing on public land. If elected I would push for increased building of public housing by the council over so-called "turnkey" purchases from private developers: in 2019, figures from Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien showed Fingal County Council spent almost double (€412,000 vs. €209,300) when buying new build social homes from private developers compared to the amount spent on direct builds by the council.

But solving the housing crisis involves more than just building housing: the reality is that there are huge numbers of vacant homes in Ireland (166,000 according to the 2022 census), but the government's market policies incentivise land and property hoarding.

In January this year, DWS Group, a German asset management company with over €800 billion in assets and majority owned by Deutsche Bank, bought up 46 new homes in Belcamp Manor in Balgriffin for €24.5 million. The Business Post reported they immediately went up for rent for €3,175 per month. As of writing some are still up for rent at €3,250 per month. However, while this price is obscene and unaffordable for most in Ireland, what's important to understand is that DWS do not even care about the rent; this is just another investment to them, and these investors have a vested interest in keeping house prices high. I would push for a ban of all purchases by institutional investors.

People Before Profit also stands for a state construction company to build public homes on public land, and I will campaign for this. Housing should be a public good, not for profit.

On the issue of vacant homes, I would push for a tax on vacant homes that actually impacts land hoarders: the government's current 0.3% Vacant Homes Tax is completely ineffective at dissuading hoarding. I would also push compulsory purchase orders by the council on vacant and derelict residential properties across Fingal and use said properties for social and affordable housing.

I will continue to support people facing eviction, organising in the community and encouraging people in precarious housing situations to join tenants unions. This is crucial. There is so much hidden hardship that families and children are facing with housing precarity. The impact on mental health is profound. This should not be the new normal. We need to do more. I would use a platform in the local authority to build on this, build community tenants unions and hold government parties of FF, FG, the greens - who have sold out, to account

What would you do to help make sure adequate amenities and services would be added along with any new housing built?

Care: Fingal is growing rapidly and has vibrant and diverse communities. However, poor planning has left us behind. We need to listen to our community and their needs. From talking to local residents, a key thing that has come up is childcare.

Childcare costs are still too high and many face real difficulties getting their kids places. The council can play a key role in providing community-led childcare. There is only 1 not-for-profit creche in Balbriggan. Childcare is unaffordable to many as the current model leaves it to the private market. I fully support not-for-profit creches, but we need to go further. I fully support a publicly-funded early childhood education and creche system nationwide, that values care workers and pays them a decent living wage.

The same applies to persons who have to go to a nursing home. We need a publicly funded model that makes it the state’s responsibility. There needs to be more options and and not for profit models that considers the dignity of people and their families.

Swimming Pool: In Balbriggan, we need to keep the pressure on to ensure that Balbriggan gets a swimming pool. I know from talking to local residents that there is much anger that it has taken so long. ​​For many the lack of action on the swimming pool symbolises how Balbriggan has been neglected and left behind in terms of services and local amenities. I am committed to continuing to support the campaign for a swimming pool, as well as campaigning for additional services and amenities for our community, putting the communities voices first and foremost.

Disabilities: Additional support for individuals with disabilities, autism, and dementia. This includes early intervention in childhood, but it also requires actively listening to local residents about their needs and how we can campaign on this as a community.

Decades of relying on private developers to build much needed amenities have failed.

What are your views are on Dublin Airport’s current operations and its proposed expansion?

I strongly oppose the proposed expansion: it is not sustainable and makes life for many residents around it unbearable. During Covid we saw airlines tear up workers’ rights and contracts and so we don’t take seriously the supposed concerns of jobs and workers’ rights by the likes of Ryanair and Aer Lingus. We need sustainability in the long term with employment options for airport workers that guarantee wages and pensions in a just transition package. Privatisation of Aer lingus was a massive mistake that must be reversed so that we can properly manage our aviation needs in the future.

What needs to be done to improve public transport in Fingal?

Free Fares: We need sustainable transport solutions. The cost of eliminating public transport fares is 550 million. However we need more investment to improve transport and frequency. This would have a massive impact on people’s lives and the environment. Our policies should not tax ordinary people with congestion charges which the green party proposes. We should campaign for policies that improve people's lives and consider people and the Planet Before Profit.

From listening to students in Balbriggan and Skerries who travel to TU Dublin’s Blanchardstown Campus, that there is no direct route means their travel times can at times be in excess of two hours each way. Compared with what is typically a forty minute car journey, it’s clear that more routes are needed to make the journey practical. But this is just one example; the reality is that a dearth of routes across different regions in Fingal makes it impractical to travel across the region by public transport. I will campaign to continue community pressure to extend the Dart line to North County Dublin. In addition, increase Dublin Bus routes in Balbriggan and Skerries.

What should be done to make it nicer and safer for people to get around the city on foot and by bike?

Firstly, we need more consistent cycle lanes. Balbriggan for example has patchy cycle lanes that begin and end arbitrarily, making cycling feel unsafe. Another key point is to reduce traffic congestion by introducing free fares for public transport.

Additionally, both cycle lanes and footpaths should account for disability and accessibility needs. In Balbriggan, recent works by the crossroads at St. Peter’s and Paul’s Cemetery introduced a steep curb that residents have complained is inaccessible for wheelchair users. That this occurred without consultation from nearby residents shows negligence and a lack of concern for local residents. The council must listen to the community and build a city that everyone can access.

What should be done to make the roads safer for all road users?

Making roads safer requires minimising the most dangerous vehicles on roads, such as SUVs and freight vehicles. I advocate for a ban on SUVs and limits to their usage as they are wholly unnecessary on urban roads.

Regarding freight vehicles: the best way to get them off the road is to use alternative modes of transport such as rail. Ireland is one of the few countries that doesn’t subsidise rail freight and so we should start using our rail system instead which would make roads safer and reduce traffic congestion. We also need to provide extensive school buses to prevent congestion caused by morning school runs.

We also need more sustainable transport solutions. People use their car because they have no alternative, and for some it's the cheaper and most accessible option. We need more public transport options that are accessible to people with disabilities. In addition, I fully support a four day work week with no loss of pay and more remote options for workers. This is a key environmental demand. Working less, means less car use.

We can see from Covid, the change in our society and how valuable our time is with family and friends. A four day work week, and more remote working options would cut down on car use and be better for our communities well-being. I fully support and will campaign with any Trade Union campaigning on this.

How would you help create more natural green spaces and promote biodiversity in Fingal?

The first and most important thing to recognise is that biodiversity isn't just spontaneously disappearing; biodiversity is being destroyed through habitat destruction and overexploitation. The biggest danger that life on earth faces, climate destruction, is inextricably linked. Data centres took up 18% of Ireland's electricity supply in 2022, with that figure expected to nearly double to 32% by 2026. These figures are almost ten times the EU average and are fundamentally at odds with what we should be doing which is reducing climate emissions. Without these data centres, Ireland could transition to almost entirely renewable energy sources, which are actually cheaper than non-renewable sources. These data centres are used by US corporations to generate massive profits and do not contribute to the wellbeing of people nor the planet. I will push to ban the construction of more data centres in Fingal.

One more simple suggestion: leave nature alone. If marram grass grows naturally on the beach, for example, leaving that alone is the easiest increase in biodiversity. And yet in spite of this seemingly obvious inaction, I have heard multiple separate instances across Balbriggan where the council removes swathes of hedges, bushes and trees without any explanation and with no consultation of, or even notifying, locals. The council needs to start listening to what local communities want and be transparent about the actions it takes in the region’s natural areas.

How would you help get more parks and sports facilities built in Fingal?

Covid showed us how important public spaces and places are. Dublin has been blighted with private developments that prioritise the profits of builders and developers, and leave the public facilities communities need to the last or as an afterthought. A key role for councils here is to ensure parks and public spaces are delivered before or during any future development.

The council needs to use their power to CPO for lands that can be developed for community use and not allow land hoarding or speculation to determine what is delivered. The balbriggan pool saga is a salutary lesson in what happens when we wait for private interests to deliver key public goods.