Wicklow TD Watch: 08/11/2019

SIMON HARRIS

Minister for Health Simon Harris is set to sign new regulations that would allow same-sex parents to legally register both of their names on their child’s birth certificate from next May.

At present, in most cases only one parent in a same-sex relationship can be a legal parent, which campaigners have described as “perilous” in the event of bereavement and illness.

Mr Harris will meet a number of the families involved and sign the regulations in their presence. This will allow same-sex parents to register both their names on their child’s birth cert from May 5, 2020.

Commenting on the matter, Harris said: “I will be committing to work with them on these issues in coming weeks and months. When I met with LGBT families a number of weeks ago, they pointed out the impractical realities of our current laws.

“While we know some of their issues will be addressed through the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, there are areas that require some consideration.

“I have some proposals as to how to look at these matters but I want to discuss these with the families first and hope to make some progress on this next week,” concluded Harris.

ENDS

Minister for Health Simon Harris welcomed the publication of the National Cancer Registry showing a significant increase in the five-year net survival rate for female breast cancer.

The report from the NCRI shows the five-year survival rate has improved by 15% between 1994 and 2015. This represents almost a halving of the five-year mortality risk over this period.

‘Cancer Trends Report on Breast Cancer’ looks at trends in breast cancer incidence, stage at diagnosis, mortality and survival for the period 1994-2016.

The Report shows:

  • 62,052 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed from 1994-2016 (61,617 female and 435 males)
  • increasingly breast cancer is being diagnosed at an earlier stage. The percentage of Stage I cases increased from 21% in 1994-1999 to 33% in 2008-2015
  • the report demonstrates the influence of the BreastCheck programme

-The median age at diagnosis was 59 years

-40% of cases were in the breast screening age cohort (50-64)

  • the extension of BreastCheck to those aged 65 – 69 is being progressed and will be fully implemented by end 2021
  • although, the number of deaths per year due to breast cancer has remained relatively stable over the period, due to our increasing and aging population, mortality rates showed a consistent downward trend over the past 20+ years

Minister Harris said:“I welcome the improvement in survival rates for breast cancer.”It is heartening to see the increase in early diagnoses leading to better outcomes. Increasing awareness of breast cancer, and strong uptake of BreastCheck, will further improve survival rates.”This is a result of targeted investment by successive Governments. Next year, we will continue to invest in the National Cancer Strategy and will increase eligibility for BreastCheck by the end of next year.”I strongly encourage all eligible women to participate in this free service. It saves lives and today’s report confirms that.”

STEPHEN DONNELLY

A protest rally against the possible closure of Ireland’s largest dementia care home located just north of Bray is taking place this evening. Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Health Stephen Donnelly is set to be present.

Thousands of people have already signed a petition to save St Joseph’s, while the rally is to take place in the Martello Hotel in Bray at 7.30 this evening.

ENDS

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly, says the reported jobs cuts and downgrading of services in RTÉ could have been prevented if the government had made real efforts to solve TV licence evasion problems.

Deputy Donnelly said, “Fine Gael’s failure to address the mass evasion of the licence fee has led RTÉ to this point. Successive Communications Minsters have turned a blind eye to the issue, and now we are seeing job losses and regional studio closures as a result.

“To begin cuts at production level and the removal of some valued services is a big mistake. Not only are creatives losing employment, the abolishing of these jobs removes entry to creative roles for graduates and the next generation of those working in media production. And let’s not forget that many of the staff members in RTE live in Wicklow, given the County’s close proximity to the station so there’s no doubt that there are workers here who’ll be directly affected.

“I believe a greater focus is needed on collecting the television licence fee before further drastic cuts are implemented. €35 million to €50 million of the TV Licence fee is just not collected. The future of public service broadcasting could be secured in large part through this alone.

“Unless Fine Gael begins to get to grips with the problem of TV licence evasion, it will continue to threaten the future of public service broadcasting,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.

JOHN BRADY

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene to ensure that the dedicated dementia care home in St. Joseph’s Shankhill, is not closed due to a lack of funding.

Speaking today, Teachta Brady said:

“The threatened closure of St. Joseph’s in Shankhill has come as a great shock to residents, users of the day-care facility, families and staff, many of whom are from Wicklow.

“It has been announced that the day-care service which currently accommodates up to 120 people every week will close at the end of the year and the residential home which is home to 60 dementia patients is under serious financial difficulty.

“This is based on the insistence by the HSE that they cannot afford to fund the day-care service into 2020. If this funding is not allocated, then St. Joseph’s have said that the residential service will have to be wound down.

“This is a desperate situation for residents, for users of the day-care service and for families who depend on St. Joseph’s for both.

“There are 55,000 people in Ireland living with dementia and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years. We therefore, need increased funding for dementia services and we need to see the development of more services specifically for dementia care, not less.

“We are talking about dementia patients who call St. Joseph’s home. It is the place that they feel safe, cared for and looked after.

“It is the place that they are familiar with. We know from the closure of other dementia care homes in the State that the removal of residents to other settings is never good for residents. In fact, it is detrimental.

“I am calling on Minister Simon Harris to intervene immediately and to request that the necessary funding specifically for the continuation of day-care and residential services is maintained and protected to give certainty to some of the most vulnerable citizens in the State.” 

ANDREW DOYLE

A statement has been made on the temporary delays in the issuing of forestry licences by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Andrew Doyle.

The Department of Agriculture has overall responsibility for approving applications for tree-felling, afforestation and the construction of forest roads.

There have been delays in the issuing of licences due to necessary changes in the procedures surrounding appropriate assessment, a requirement as part of the approvals process, according to the department.

Commenting on this, Minister Doyle said: “I am fully aware of the delays in the issuing of licences for afforestation and felling. While licences continue to issue every week, this has not been at the rate that we would like to see.

“This has caused some disappointment to forest owners, many of whom I have met recently. I want to take this opportunity to provide an update on the ongoing work to reform the processes to ensure that this temporary disruption is resolved quickly as possible.

“I also want to reassure landowners that every effort is being made to improve on the delivery of licences to bring them back into line with the expected timelines for delivery of these,” the minister added.

In approving licences, the department must ensure that all projects are compatible with environmental sustainability and in compliance with EU and Irish law, the authority outlined.

It was noted that every application has to be scrutinised on its “environmental suitability”, including site inspections, statutory referrals, public consultation, and the application of procedures around Appropriate Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment.

Recent European Court of Justice and Irish law rulings relating to the protection of Natura sites have meant changes to this process, specifically in relation to the Appropriate Assessment procedure.“More transparent and robust” procedures are being introduced which will demonstrate the process by which the department arrives at a final decision regarding whether or not a project will adversely affect the integrity of a Natura site, according to the department.

Notwithstanding the current delays, the Minister noted that the afforestation sector has approximately 3,200 more hectares of approved land this year which is available to plant.

He added that 2019 has actually been a record year for issuing of felling licences with 3,866 issued year to date which is an increase of 23% on the same period last year.

“While the introduction of these new procedures involves some regrettable disruption in the short term, we have no option but to reformat the licensing process,” Minister Doyle said.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that all forestry applications are scrutinised and held to the highest possible environmental standards.”

Concluding, Minister Doyle said he has also commissioned a consultant to review the department’s processes and procedures on forestry applications and approvals similar to an exercise undertaken in Scotland. This report will be finalised by the end of November.

It is expected that this comprehensive review, which has taken account of the views of a wide range of stakeholders, will provide further opportunities to make the licensing processes more effective and efficient going forward.

PAT CASEY

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government Pat CaseyTD has criticised the government following news that the number of homeless children in the State has reached the highest ever level.

The number of homeless people in the State according to latest official figures show 10,397 people are currently living in emergency accommodation.
 
The figures show an increase of 59 people last month compared to statistics from August, an average increase of around two people every day. In Wicklow the official figure for homelessness was 20 for the week 23 rd -29 th September.
 
Some 3,873 children are now living without a home in Ireland, according to the Department of Housing homeless statistics for September.

Unfortunately these official figures do not capture the hidden homeless such as rough sleepers, women’s shelters and those in squats or couch surfing.”

Deputy Casey said: “This government continue to fail in one of the most basic needs for our people, a safe and secure home. Rebuilding Ireland is failing our children and change is now needed.”
 

“This is the highest ever number of children in emergency accommodation to date and have passed a previous peak of 3,867 children in July 2018. The number ofadults recorded as homeless also increased slightly up to 6,524 in September.”
 
“There were 4,370 adults and 2,872 children homeless in Dublin and there are now 148 people living in emergency accommodation who are 65 years of age or older, the figures show,” concluded Deputy Casey.

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