Our Why Dún Laoghaire campaign is back and for this month we hear from TD for Dún Laoghaire, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.
In this month’s feature, Ms Carroll MacNeill tells us about her role as a public representative for our town, looking after the interests of individuals but also businesses.
Keep reading on to hear what Jennifer had to say…
“Dún Laoghaire Town is a good place to do business” – Jennifer Carroll MacNeill
“What I would like to see for the people of Dún Laoghaire and the area in general is the capacity post Covid to really get the best out of what really is a fantastic place to live and potentially work,” Jennifer told us.
“To not have to travel into the city centre everyday and to be able to have various options where you can get the best of both worlds. For example, if you have a city centre job you could do a day or two a week and work in a hub in Dún Laoghaire, or whatever combination works best for you and your organisation.”
She continued: “We need to have greater flexibility so that people will be able to use local businesses such as coffee shops, local facilities and be closer to their kids after school if they have children and just make life easier so you can get more enjoyment out of your own area.”
Ms Carroll MacNeill said to achieve all of this, we need to have the structures in Dún Laoghaire that can support that, from an economic perspective, from a business facility perspective and also really improving and amplifying what is a gorgeous area to live in.
“I do think Dún Laoghaire is a good place to do business,” she said. “I think it’s a good place because of the proximity to the city but it is also very much a suburban town that has everything this can offer and I think what we can add to that is really, really good remote and digital opportunities for people not to have to travel into the city centre. This has a local benefit and a wellbeing benefit too.”
“If you look to other capital cities around Europe I don’t believe there is anywhere as good as our county’s capital town where you can be so close to major cultural institutions and yet have this sea and costal living opportunity in a suburban town like Dún Laoghaire,” she added.
Repurpose vacant space back into active use for the benefit of the community, says Jennifer
“We have too much vacancy in Dún Laoghaire both retail space and over the shop vacancy and other vacancies in big buildings,” Ms Carroll MacNeill says.
“I think there’s an awful lot of work we can do to repurpose that now, partially for housing but also for people to work so there are big opportunities there.”
What does Jennifer hope for going forward? “What I hope we will see is that vacancy converted into active use, which I think will be of great benefit to the town and to the community. There will be more people around and more local spend as a result.
“I’m very aware that there is an important network effect on having high-quality, particularly tech start-ups in a concentrated area and they benefit from each other and work in a collaborative way that enhances knowledge and innovation. We can certainly try and capitalise on that opportunity and give space to that part of the community that is so important.”
Jennifer’s own background in small business gives her an informed insight into the needs of the businesses of Dún Laoghaire
Ms Carroll MacNeill has direct experience working in a retail role, which gives her an insight into what work goes into keeping a high street shop trading and what supports they need to sustain themselves.
“My dad ran a newsagents shop in Blanchardstown and I worked in it from the age of ten, selling newspapers and bags of sweets,” Jennifer recalls.
“I worked all the way through summer holidays so I always had a very direct experience of what it’s like to stand in a retail store in a suburban town all day every day and see the different flow of customers, sometimes standing watching the door waiting for customers to come in.”
She continues: “I know and get the pressure that is on small businesses and it has naturally informed my perspective on a vibrant town and the need for business to sustain that vibrancy.”
Jennifer says the footfall big businesses in the area provide to SMEs is very important and should not be underestimated.
“Whether it’s a big company with an outpost in Dún Laoghaire or it’s a small start-up that’s spending time here, that’s footfall and it’s so important. It provides support to businesses which makes the place even more vibrant, it’s a very positive circle – but it is up to us though to strategically look at the vacancy that’s there and see how that can be converted into purposeful use as quickly as possible.”
What is a day in your role like?
We asked Ms Caroll MacNeill to describe a day in her job as an elected representative for Dún Laoghaire in her own words, and what it means for the people of the county and businesses.
“I have three roles really. One is I’m there for individuals and constituents and to advocate for them where they run into difficulties with day services or government policy in general and that is my individual representation function,” she explained.
She continued: “The second role is then a more broad representation on behalf of the area, on behalf of the Dún Laoghaire constituency and the broader interests of it, so that consists of the businesses in the area, the development of the area and protection of the sea water. It’s essentially looking after the short term and long term development of Dún Laoghaire including the delivery of services for constituents. Then of course I have an actual function which is to try and contribute to policy in general that is going to benefit Dublin and by extension the Dún Laoghaire area.”