This week it was Owen Hanley who spoke to Galway Daily about his upcoming local election campaign for the Galway City East ward.
The Social Democrats member holds a Masters in Human Rights Law and has been active on the political scene in Galway for a number of years.
In the past, the activist has campaigned for gender equality, increasing third level funding, LGBT rights and the re-election of Michael D Higgins.
In keeping with the theme of all the of other local candidates Galway Daily has interviewed thus far, Owen Hanley was quick to discuss housing as a crucial priority for his campaign.
Hanley immediately tore into the government describing the housing crisis as a ‘collaborative failure’ of both the city council and government.
He promised to staunchly campaign for an increase in social and affordable housing if elected.
He doubled down on this by vowing to prevent the selloff of public housing.
Hanley wants to see more cooperative housing in Galway and promised to encourage and promote this alternative model. This provides an alternative to renting or buying a home and is seen in other European Countries.
It is controlled by a number of people who become shareholders in the corporation that owns the property. This results in there being no landlord.
Hanley claims this alternative model can reduce overhead costs and go some way to dampen down the housing crisis.
Unfortunately, to Hanley’s dismay the government have been hesitant to adapt and promote this different approach to housing.
The activist outlined the rampant problem of land hoarding currently plaguing Galway City.
In listing examples such as The Corrib Great Southern, He referred to the large-scale dereliction engulfing Galway while emphasizing it’s negative impact on the city and community.
Hanley stated that the City Council has fallen short in tackling the issue of land hoarding even though it has the powers to combat this under the Derelict Sites Act.
The Social Democrats member declared his intention to push for culturally appropriate traveller accommodation if elected to the Council.
Hanley decried the ongoing traffic crisis in Galway stating that ‘single passenger travel has brought the city to a standstill’. He referenced the fact that the average commuter spends an hour a day in traffic.
The NUIG graduate argued that the planned Galway ring road would not effectively solve the traffic problem.
The activist acknowledged the need for a bypass but the proposed ring road was to large in scale. To add to this he stated the ring road would result in a 38% increase of emissions.
When it comes to easing the traffic situation in Galway, Owen Hanley promised to fight for alternative means of travel to be promoted and provided for.
This includes the increased provision of cycling lanes around the city along with their strict enforcement.
He vowed to push for the amount allocated towards cycling in the City Council budget to be doubled.
Along with the promotion of cycling in the City, the activist was adamant that public transport laid at the core of fixing Galway’s congestion issues.
Hanley suggested solutions such as more peak bus times and a fully integrated bus system.
He noted that reliability needs to be of central importance when it comes to promoting and improving public transport in Galway.
The first time candidate reaffirmed the support the Social Democrats have for Bus Rapid Transit.
Owen Hanley welcomed the opportunity that Galway 2020 will bring to trial run free public transport around the city.
The young candidate labeled the environment as being one of his ‘great passions’.
If elected, he claimed he would waste no time and his first motion would be to declare a climate emergency.
To add to this he expressed his intention to advocate for the abolition of the use of pesticides.
Hanley stressed the importance of lobbying for Galway to become a partner in the All Ireland Pollinator Plan which is a scheme to address pollinator decline and protect pollination service.
The Galway native described the necessity of seeing park wardens in green spaces around the city acting as a permanent maintenance crew.
Hanley stated that the transition to a low carbon society must be a fair one. It must tackle Ireland’s failures while taking into account income inequality.
In addition, there needs to be good opportunities for people in carbon heavy occupations to transfer into carbon neutral occupations.
The activist criticized the historic poor planning of Galway City which has resulted in a city riddled with outdated industrial estates.
Owen Hanley described the effectiveness of dealing with local planning at council level since it was one of local government’s greatest powers.
If elected, Hanley intends to campaign for industrial estates around the city to be retrofit into mixed use spaces near the city centre.
Mixed use spaces are areas which blend residential and commercial facilities together.
Hanley claimed Mervue Crown site offers tremendous potential to become a mixed use space.
The young candidate emphasized the need for a shift to a village type model where people live, work and play.
Owen Hanley spoke of the urgent need of reform to Galway City Council.
He pointed out that council meetings were too long, contained too little substance and need to be ran more efficiently.
The activist suggested live streaming Council meetings and making council voting records more easily available to improve transparency.
In addition to all this, Hanley expressed his wish for the mayor to be democratically elected.
Owen Hanley spoke of the ‘massive strides we have made towards social progress’ with elation to Galway Daily.
He referenced the recent referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment and the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum.
Hanley, a member of the LGBT community was ecstatic to see the dedication and activism of young people during the two campaigns.
While overjoyed at the results of the above referendums, Hanley stressed that further progress must be made in areas such as direct provision.
In describing direct provision as an ‘immense system of suffering’ he affirmed to Galway Daily that he sought it’s complete abolition.
The activist also expressed his disappointment at the lack of funding for the Teach Solais LGBT resource centre in Galway.
Owen Hanley rounded off by describing his deep frustration that mental health remains unaddressed in society.
This is particularly the case when it comes to men, younger people and members of the travelling community.
All in all Owen Hanley is setting his sights on Galway City East to be a voice for young people.
He urges all those voters who plan on transferring to transfer to other left/centre left candidates to give the left a stronger voice in the chamber.