Fingal County Council sign historic agreement with Lesotho Government

Following on from our successful trip in February 2013 when we worked at building capacity in regard to public service planning staff in Lesotho, this year we followed up with our plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Local Government in Lesotho.

 

During our trip in 2013 we met with the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Mothetjoa Metsing, who is also Minister for Local Government, Chieftainship & Parliamentary Affairs. Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Metsing was very interested in what we were hoping to achieve in terms of our plans to run several Continued Professional Development (CPD) seminars with local authority planners in Lesotho. On the 2013 trip the signing of a MoU was discussed by senior members of Fingal County Council and the DPM so it was exceptional progress to have the collaboration agreement finalised just over one year later.

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National University of Lesotho seeks international accreditation for planning courses

In 2013, when I first travelled to Lesotho as part of the Fingal team’s project with Action Ireland Trust, I spoke to the Chief Physical Planner for Lesotho about the quality of planning courses available to students wishing to pursue a career in town and country planning (or Spatial Planning as it is more commonly known nowadays). I was told at the time that there was a course delivered in the National University of Lesotho (NUL) but it was of a less than desirable quality for what is required by the Chief Physical Planner’s office. I know the NUL will not mind me saying this because they are aware of certain deficits existing in some of the courses they currently run and are in the midst of a review.

When we looked at the issues surrounding the courses we agreed there was a requirement to have a course for planners that would raise the standard of graduates and meet the requirements of the Ministry for Local Government. It was decided that we might contact one of the Irish based planning institutes to explore the possibility of them accrediting third level planning courses in Lesotho. It was decided that we would contact the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as they have global recognition and would be better placed to accredit courses at an international university. Read more

Mapping Ha Foso – #Lesotho14

The first day of training started on Tuesday morning with planners from various councils around the country travelling to Maseru for the introduction meeting. We had also arranged a meeting with the National Bureau of Statistics to obtain as much data as possible from them to be used in our training.

Wednesday saw us commence our training and we had a minibus provided by the Ministry of Local Government so that we could transport the Basotho planners to the subject site in order to survey the area. We had the specific objective of using our GPS units for mapping points and transferring that information to Open Street Maps (OSM). We split the group up into three teams and set off to start mapping the area of Ho Foso.

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Fingal Team land in Lesotho (#Lesotho14)

We set off from Dublin Airport on Saturday morning 8th of February and flew into London Heathrow, then we took a South African Airlines flight to Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo) and then almost 24 hours later we arrived at Moshoeshoe airport in Lesotho. We were greeted at the airport by our colleagues from the Fingal based charity group, Action Ireland Trust (AIT). We got a great welcome from the AIT guys and they swept us all off to our hotel where we will base ourselves for the next two weeks.

On Monday morning we joined our AIT colleagues for the first visit to the school project in Hlalele, just outside the city of Maseru. AIT has carried out building works over the last three years at the school in Hlalele and has transformed the lives of many families in the area. For more information on what AIT and Portmarnock Community School do there, just have a look at the blogs on their websites. We received a phenomenal welcome from the teachers, children and their families. Also contributing to the school project is Lusk (Fingal) based fresh produce growers and food processors, Country Crest. Commercial Manager, Tony Doyle has played an immense role in promoting local horticulture in the area and works closely with a number of organisations in Lesotho. This year is a culmination of the hard work carried out over the last short number of years and this year everyone will be benefitting from home grown pumpkins, potatoes, broccoli and spinach. Tony works with local farmers and students to build capacity and expand their knowledge of all things relating to horticulture. No better man!

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The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho 2014

Following on from the successful trip we made in February 2013 (see below blog posts), the team from Fingal will embark on another mission to strengthen the partnership we have built up with the Ministry of Local Government, Chieftainship and Parliamentary Affairs in Lesotho. Last year we held training seminars on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Local Area Plan formulation, Planning Enforcement action and Casual Trading among other topics. In 2012, Action Ireland Trust approached Fingal County Council (FCC) and invited them to become part of the development project in Lesotho. FCC decided that they would look at the most cost effective way to participate in the project and decided that a knowledge exchange would be the most appropriate way to become involved. That knowledge exchange would involve topics relevant to local government specifically in the planning, IT and emergency management areas. This year we will be focussing on using Open Street Maps and its use with GIS. We will also look at establishing Green Infrastructure with an emphasis on environmental planning and climate change. We will look at crowd sourcing to generate data and also storage of data.

The Fingal team meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister in 2013

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Abolition of Seanad Éireann

Ancient Roman Emperor, Caligula once threatened to make his horse Incitatus a consul such was his contempt for the Roman Senate. Irish Premier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny hasn’t threatened to do anything like that but he is seeking to outright abolish the Seanad. It’s rumoured that Incitatus eventually became a priest…

Anyway, there has been plenty of broadcast media coverage and a lots of articles written about the referendum on Seanad abolition/retention over the last few weeks. The pro abolition side becoming more vocal as a new group ‘One House’ led by Kieran Mulvey of the Labour Relations Commission has just stepped into the media spotlight. So things may be hotting up now.

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Church Street Tenement Collapse 1913

The collapse of a commercial building in Bangladesh in April 2013 is being reported as Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial disaster. Some 2,500 people have been rescued alive whilst (at time of writing) the death toll has risen above 1,000, according to the Bangladeshi Army.

 

This nine storey building housed nine garment factories and was located in Savar, a suburb of Dhaka. It is expected that there will be more bodies found as the continuing cleanup of the site is undertaken. The army operation has been ongoing for the last 19 days and they have used heavy machinery to move the rubble and recover nearly 100 bodies every day. There are harrowing images of the site coming from Bangladesh demonstrating the level of disaster being experienced by the people of Savar. The army is due to end its operation this week and hand the cleanup over to local authorities and missionaries who will finish off the cleanup of debris.

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Spatial Planning in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

*Due to intermittent internet access and restrictions on logging into my website, I am only posting now.

Week 1

I am currently in Maseru, Lesotho in southern Africa where I am part of a two man, one woman team of spatial planners from Ireland, more specifically from Fingal in north county Dublin. This is part of a bigger project being run by Action Ireland Trust (AIT), an Irish based Non Government Organisation. AIT has been carrying out development work in Africa for a number of years and has for the last three years worked on construction projects in the ‘Mountain Kingdom’ of Lesotho. This is the first occasion I have had the pleasure of working with an overseas development project and I’ve got to say, these guys are totally on top of their game.

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Spatial Planning in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho – Week 2

Following on from our meetings with the Deputy Prime Minister and his staff as well as the Director of Physical Planning in Maseru City Council, we agreed a programme to be delivered in week two.

 

We had prepared the Lab and installed the required software to support the GIS training. We needed a second Lab to carry out our planning training and the College of Education obliged by giving us a room in a new building on campus. This was very helpful because we had split the group of 25 participants into two groups, one for GIS training and one for the Local Area Plan workshop.

 

Monday saw the training kick off with Michael McGlynn of Action Ireland Trust officially welcoming the participants to the training workshops. I had to dash off after the official launch because I had been invited to join other members of the Action Ireland team on a visit to the Royal Residence of King Letsie III of Lesotho. Some of you may recall King Letsie visited Ireland in early 2012 and visited Portmarnock Community School in Fingal and then went on to visit Country Crest in Lusk. This visit was primarily due to the involvement of Action Ireland Trust and Country Crest in Lesotho.

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The National Children’s Hospital

It has been two weeks since Minister for Health; James Reilly TD announced that Saint James’s Hospital in Dublin 8 will be the site for the new National Children’s Hospital. This was a significant announcement following the controversy that surrounded the Mater site proposal. This was a proposal that could not previously get through the normal planning process. Saint James’s is a long established hospital; many will remember its former name was Saint Kevin’s Hospital. It previously had a maternity unit and was the hospital where I was born. In fact some years ago when I needed to get a copy of my birth certificate in Lombard Street and told them I had been born in Saint James’s Hospital, you can imagine my reaction when they told me they could not find a record of my birth. It was only when another member of staff intervened and suggested I had been born there when it was called Saint Kevin’s that we resolved the matter.

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