The Meath on Track campaign held a public rally (18th September) today at 1 pm in Navan beside Kennedy Plaza. Speakers included Deputy Peadar Tóibín and Navan Councillor, Emer Tóibín. This demonstration was described by Peadar Tóibín as “the most important public rally in Meath for 10 years”.

As an observer at the protest, there was a great turnout and a diverse demographic. Individuals were very eager to get involved in the campaign, evidenced by the number of people who signed the clipboard at the end of the rally.

During the rally, Peadar Tóibín addressed the crowd. His speech focused on the commuter hell Meath residents go through every day to get to work, school and college.

He claimed that there is a need to pressure politicians and that this county has “a lot of government Ministers and we need those government Ministers to provide for our county”. The topic of climate change was also covered, and how it is financially affecting this country as we have to pay a large amount in fines for not complying with the carbon emissions limit set out by the EU.

“The Navan-Dublin rail line must be included in the Transport Strategy that is underway just now, there is a feasibility study happening at the moment, and that is a key point. People can be cynical when it comes to feasibility studies but they show that there is some positive movement, when it comes to the Navan-Dublin rail line, research has been carried out and a cost/benefit analysis is being carried out, so we are at a tipping point, a critical moment in this history of this project. We are demanding that it must be included in the Transport Strategy, otherwise, it will be a disaster, now is the time for maximum pressure on the government to do the right thing”.

“In my experience, there are two things that create pressure, one is telling the truth about your lives and exposing the injustices that you have experienced about your lives, sometimes I think that Minister Joe Duffy is the most powerful Minister in the country, but LiveLine is the only place the truth comes out. So, I would like the people who are here, to ring radio stations, newspapers, and media outlets and tell them about the daily grind of your own experience when it comes to the commute in this town and this county”.

“It is interesting as well, as soon as we publicised this event, all of a sudden local Ministers started to react with regards to this particular project, we were actually blessed with the arrival of the Tánaiste who came down to the rail line in Navan and is now adorning the front page of the Meath Chronicle with his photograph.

‘But it shows you when you stand up when you mobilise people, that’s when you start to exert the pressure. Now, this is the start of a process for the Meath on Track Campaign, we are only getting started here today.

‘We need everyone to get involved, a people-powered campaign. We do aim to take thousands of people onto the streets to force this issue with the government, we honestly need your help it cannot be done without you! Tapping away on a keyboard is not going to change anything, getting involved in a community organisation to put pressure on the political establishment, will! ‘

Speaking to Meath Live after the rally, Aontú councillor, Emer Tóibín said, ‘I would see this issue as extremely important as it is one of tho that has been dragging on for years and there has never been a proper resolution, there is always promising with dealing with the situation but there is no actual action and I suppose as we are one of the fastest-growing populations in the country and we are also one of the youngest populations in the country, we have a bigger justifiable need for all types of public transport.

‘It has been outlined that commuter times are on the increase, it can be anything from two and a half hours a day to four hours a day, longer on a Friday because traffic is always extra busy on a Friday.

“So, we are basically talking about the basic quality of life issues here, people can’t have a good quality of life if they are just sitting in a car for three hours a day and the rail line is there, we are not talking about starting this project from scratch, what appears to be a quite expensive project, isn’t actually that expensive as the infrastructure is there from years and years ago.

‘The population is only going to get bigger, there are massive plans in the National Planning Framework. There are no Universities or Colleges in Meath, so young people have to commute into Dublin or elsewhere and the freedom to rent in Dublin is practically gone, parents can’t afford to have their children staying in accommodation so the bus is their main way to get into college, again how pleasant can that be for any teenager sitting in a bus for three hours a day and never really being able to immerse themselves into college life?”

Speaking on the turnout at the rally, Tóibín claimed, “We were happy but we weren’t ecstatic, you always want more and even if it was double you would say you want more again because we know that this is a burning issue from all the canvassing that we have done over the years, that the rail line is massively important.

‘As Peadar alluded to earlier, there is a massive amount of cynicism, some think it is never going to happen, people think the government’s talk on climate change is just lip service.

‘One of the obvious ways to start climate change is to take cars off the road and get people into public transport. The jobs aren’t being created in Meath so people have to drive to Dublin for work, so it seems a no brainer that if the work isn’t being created, people have to get into their car or onto a bus and as I say, what quality of life does that offer the next generation?”

“I myself did the commute into Dublin from Dunshaughlin for a good number of years. It took an hour and a half from outside Trinity to Dunshaughlin and that was about seven years ago, so you can imagine what it is like from Navan to Dublin today! So, we are happy with the numbers, but it is not only about numbers at a public rally, it is about people coming aboard this committee and getting involved. This is a cross-party campaign and we need to work together!”