Wicklow TD Watch: 15/11/2019

SIMON HARRIS

This week Minister Simon Harris met with representatives of St Joseph’s Hospital and again assured the hospital, patients and their families that St Joseph’s Hospice will stay open.

Minister Harris said: St Joseph’s will stay open – the doors will not close.

“I met with representatives of St Josephs this week and assured them the hospital will remain open. I know this will be the case as this week the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund have been engaging and meeting with St Josephs to discuss their funding needs”

“I want to assure patients and their families that St Josephs is safe and that their concerns will be addressed”

ENDS

Minister Simon Harris TD responded to the announcement by Rondo Foods to wind down their Arklow factory early next year.

Minister Harris said: “The Government will make every State support available to these employees. In particular, staff of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), will be made available to meet the employees concerned, either individually or collectively, to discuss their employment rights.

“Enterprise Ireland is actively engaging with the company in relation to their future plans. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is aware of the situation and the government will do its utmost to help these workers transition and find new employment opportunities

“Notwithstanding the strong growth in employment locally this is a troubling time for Rondo workers and their families. The government will do everything.” 

STEPHEN DONNELLY

Fianna Fail’s Health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly welcomed the opening of an emergency night shelter in Bray for rough sleepers.

Deputy Donnelly explained, “Every winter extra beds are provided in Bray for people who find themselves out on the streets in the cold weather. As usual, anyone who wants to use the service needs to contact either Wicklow County Council, Dublin Simon, the local Five Loaves homeless charity or the Gardaí.

“While these beds are greatly needed and will hopefully help those most at risk, we should remember that this is only a very short-term solution. Come springtime this emergency shelter will be gone again and the very vulnerable people who’ve been staying there will be back out on the streets at night.

“This Government must once and for all tackle the homeless crisis that it’s created. There are now over 10,000 people homeless in this country. Shockingly almost 4,000 of them are children. As campaigner Fr Peter McVerry says Fine Gael has ‘normalised’ homelessness which should, in fact, be a source of intense shame”, concluded Donnelly.

ENDS

Donnelly warned that the new secondary school for the Greystones/Kilcoole area must not get stuck in prefabs.

Deputy Donnelly commented, “I have just received word from the Education Minister that his department is looking for so-called ‘interim accommodation’ for the new school.  We all know that’s often code for prefabs.  My fear is that if the school is set up in a prefab, then it may take years before it manages to move into a permanent building, if ever.

“This is rapidly turning from a good news story into a nightmare.  The Education Minister recently announced with great fanfare the fact that the new school would open a year ahead of schedule in September 2020. While that appears to be fantastic progress on the surface, if you look a little deeper you’ll realize that we’re now less than 12 months away from the opening date and not a brick has been laid. 

“I was so concerned about this fact that I recently checked the Department of Education’s Website, which claims the new school is only at the ‘land acquisition’ phase. I believe a preferred site has been identified and negotiations are ongoing with the owner. But there is no way to tell how long these discussions may take, and in the meantime, the opening date is getting ever closer.

“None of this inspires confidence in the Minister’s ability to provide a new secondary school for the Grestones/Kilcoole area by September 2020 and if it does indeed open as planned, we are genuinely concerned that it may be relegated to makeshift classrooms for several years. Our children deserve better than prefabs and I’m going to make sure the Minister knows it”, concluded Donnelly.

JOHN BRADY

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady welcomed the passage Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill through the Dáil this week. This legislation would reform insurance contracts, increase transparency and tilt the balance in favour of the consumer.

This is just one of the many actions taken by Sinn Féin as part of our campaign to end the insurance rip-off.

Teachta Brady said:

“The passing of this Bill is good news for insurance policy holders, for consumers and businesses.
 
“Rip-off insurance costs are squeezing incomes and closing down businesses across the State. People are wondering how their premiums can go up every year even though they haven’t even made a claim.

“The insurance market isn’t working for policyholders. For the past 3 years the Government have done nothing to reduce insurance costs.
 
“At the same time, companies are making massive profits while we are charged rip-off premiums. Despite the cost and number of claims going down, premiums continue to rise.
 
“Our Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill, which passed Report and Final Stages in the Dáil will tilt the balance in favour of the consumer. By increasing transparency and strengthening the hand of the policyholder before, during and after the terms of their insurance contract.
 
“This Bill will require companies to inform the customer of the past 3 years of premiums paid and claims received for all non-life insurance contracts. This would increase transparency and strengthen our hands when we look for a better deal each year.
 
“Any company that cancels a policy would have to pay the costumer the outstanding balance of the premium paid and make it easier for the customer to withdraw from a contract.
 
“It would also require a company to inform customers of any claim made against their policy, allowing them to submit their own evidence and informing them of the cost of any claim against their policy that has been settled.
 
“The legislation would also make it harder for an insurer to wriggle out of paying valid claims on grounds that have nothing to do with the accident or loss incurred by the policyholder.

“In short, this would bring huge benefits to policyholders.

“The legislation will now go the Seanad and should now become law before the end of the year.

“Sinn Féin want to take on the insurance industry and end the rip-off. By stamping out fraud, protecting consumers, banning dual pricing and bringing down premiums. The passage of this Bill today is a part of that work.

“Sinn Féin will bring its insurance reform campaign to Wicklow with a public meeting on Wednesday November 27th in the Royal Hotel, Bray at 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. ”

ENDS

Brady has welcomed commitments he has received from the National Transport Authority to make improvements to the 133 Bus Éireann route. They have also informed the Deputy that the 133 route will remain within the Direct Award Contract between the NTA and Bus Éireann until 2021 at which stage the services will be competitively tendered.

Speaking after his engagement with the National Transport Authority and Bus Éireann Deputy Brady said ““The 133 bus service is one of the most complained routes and serious changes are need. Following my ongoing engagement with the NTA and Bus Éireann in relation to the improving the 133 bus route, I have secured some important assurances from them.”

“There was concerns that the 133 would be privatised, however it will remain within the Direct Award Contract between the NTA and Bus Éireann until 2021 at which stage the service will be competitively tendered.”

“The NTA have assured me that they will provide a regular and more frequent Arklow – Wicklow – Bray service during 2020 once additional driver resources become available following the transfer of certain bus routes from Bus Éireann to Go-Ahead Ireland during December and January.”

“I have also secured a commitment that the NTA in conjunction with Bus Éireann will examine an option to serve Bray from Wicklow as a separate stand–alone arrangement. This Wicklow to Bray stand-alone service would operate via Bray Main Street. They have commenced the process of examining this proposal which I believe would be a very beneficial route for bus users.”

Deputy Brady concluded “We need to see big improvements to our public transport system and give viable options to people from areas like Arklow and Wicklow Town to access good reliable alternatives to using their cars. We also need to look at improving the 133 service to places like Glenealy and Rathdrum by expanding the timetable.”

PAT CASEY

Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow, Pat Casey, will debate a Fianna Fáil Bill to tackle overcrowding in rental accommodation at second stage in the Dáil today.

Deputy Casey said the Bill provides for a new statutory definition of overcrowded housing and strengthens penalties against landlords who breach them.

The Bill draws from legislation in the UK and Canada and replaces the current outdated definition from 1966. Some 3,465 people have cited overcrowding as their primary reason for applying for social housing in the last Social Housing needs assessment published last week.

Deputy Casey said, “The current law is out of date and out of touch with the reality of life in Ireland. The aim of today’s Bill is to provide clarity to ensure landlords cannot exploit the current rental crisis by forcing people to live in unsafe and substandard conditions.

“Even today sub-standard accommodation is being advertised across Dublin. This is simply unacceptable. Our Bill sets the basic minimum not the preferred option standards for new builds.

“While fire safety legislation can be used to tackle issues such as overcrowding, it does not cover all units, nor does it encompass quality of life standards. Everyone watched in horror as the RTÉ investigates programme was aired which showed horrific scenes of 14 people to a bedroom with bunk-beds squashed in together. These kinds of standards are not acceptable in a modern country and our Bill will stamp it out.

“We are in the middle of a housing crisis and need to boost supply to tackle rising prices. However, we cannot allow standards to fall or unscrupulous individuals to exploit the current situation. This Bill will help to achieve that. I look forward to working with the government and other partiers to get this legislation passed”, concluded Deputy Casey.

ENDS

Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow, Pat Casey, said the potential closure of Rondo Food in Arklow, with a with a projected loss of over 100 jobs, must be avoided at all costs.

It is reported that management at Rondo Foods will meet today to discuss the future of the business.

Deputy Casey called on the Government to pull out all the stops to keep the company from closing.

Deputy Casey said, “It is my understanding that Rondo Foods has been feeling the effect of Brexit and the volatile market. They have reported negative financial results which are not sustainable.

“If Rondo Food closes, the impact on the region will be devastating. This many job losses in one town is huge and my thoughts are with the employees and their families who are rightly wondering what happens next.

“The Government must do all they can to assist the company to keep its doors open and people employed. I would ask that Minister Humphreys speak with management at the earliest possible opportunity and discuss the next steps for the company and what supports are in place from her Department to help them to mitigate against the impact of Brexit.

“In just three weeks we have seen 500 job losses announced for Co. Clare, 320 in Ringaskiddy Co. Cork, over 80 in two Power Plants in the midlands and now this. The Government urgently need to outline what they are going to do to bring jobs to the rest of the country.

“Having spent many months working on bringing a data centre to Arklow I know what the town has to offer. The infrastructure network is excellent, and we have a highly educated workforce.

“I will be working closely with local Councillors Tommy Annesley, Pat Fitzgerald and Pat Kennedy to ensure that there are alternatives in place for employees and that they will be able to access any necessary Government supports.

“It is important now, that management engage with staff to outline a clear picture of what the future holds,” concluded Deputy Casey.

ANDREW DOYLE

Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine with responsibility for forestry today outlined additional supports to assist forest owners in making their 2020 Forestry Premium Payment application online.

This initiative is part of the Department’s drive to improve the online services that it provides to its customers and is aligned with the e-Government Strategy 2017-2020 objective of adopting a digital first approach to service delivery. The on-line facility to make payment applications relating to the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme, operated by the Department has been in place since November 2012.

The Department’s plan to move to a completely on-line forestry grant and premium system from 1st January 2020 was announced this August by Minister Doyle. The Minister stated “I am delighted to announce that the online application system for 2020 Forestry Premiums will be open for use from 20th November with applications due to be paid in early January 2020. This allows forest owner to apply for their forestry premium for the coming year in advance. Officials from my Department will be providing a range of supports over the coming weeks and months to first time on-line applicants.’

Forest owners who are not already using the Department’s Online Services should register as soon as possible at www.agfood.ie to enable them to apply for their 2020 forestry premium payments. The website includes a training video which provides a step-by-step guide on how to submit a forestry premium online.

Should forest owners wish to contact the Department in relation to their online Forestry Premium application they can do so by contacting the dedicated Helpdesk at:

·      Tel. No.:           076 106 4437

·      Email Address:            forestservicepremiums@agriculture.gov.ie

In addition, information clinics will take place in November and December this year at the locations and dates specified below. Department staff will be present at these clinics to assist forest owners with submitting their individual Forestry Premium Application through the online system.

Information Clinic Dates and Locations
CountyDateTimeVenue
Wexford20th – 22nd November 20199am – 5pmDepartment of Agriculture, Food and the MarineJohnstown Castle Estate, Wexford, Y35 PN52
Kerry26th November 20199am – 5pmGovernment OfficesSpa Road, Tralee, Co. Kerry, V92 VX4V
Leitrim3rd December 20199am – 5pmGovernment OfficesDerryhallagh, Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim,N41 EW27
Kildare10th December 201910am – 4pmClanard Court HotelDublin Road, Athy, Co. Kildare, R14 FY90

Forest owners also have the option to contact their farm advisor for assistance with submitting their forestry premium application through the online system.

ENDS

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle, T.D., today confirmed that annual payments of over €4 million have now duly issued to producer organisations in the fruit and vegetable sector. 

The Minister commented; “I am happy to confirm that payments of over €4 million to Producer Organisations operating in the fruit and vegetable sector have been completed. These payments provide valuable support to a sector that generates a farmgate output of €370 million and exports over €90 million of fresh produce annually”.

The EU Producer Organisation Scheme provides an important mechanism for growers to achieve greater bargaining power in the marketplace by becoming part of a larger supply base. Funding is provided to Producer Organisations around measures that support income resilience, collaboration, protecting the environment and climate action. 

The Minister added “Acknowledging the importance of the PO scheme to the horticulture sector I am pleased to announce that my Department has recently granted recognition to a new horticulture producer organisation, Unigreen PO. The Minister further added ‘‘’In the face of ever greater concentration of demand, grouping smaller producers in this way strengthens the position of producers in the market and fosters a fairer distribution of value-added along the supply chain’’.

The Minister concluded “I am hugely supportive of the development of producer organisations, the strength and value that can be harnessed through greater co-operation can make an immense difference towards helping improve the sustainability of the horticulture industry.”

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