Wicklow TD Watch: 22/11/2019

PAT CASEY – FIANNA FÁIL

New Bill cracks down on Housing overcrowding – 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The Bill draws from legislation in the UK and Canada and replaces the current outdated definition from 1966.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Deputy Casey said, “The current law is out of date and out of touch with the reality of life in Ireland.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.

STEPHEN DONNELLY – FIANNA FÁIL

A mounting crisis in Emergency Departments – Donnelly

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has brought forward a motion to be debated in Dáil Éireann which will highlight the overcrowding crisis in our hospitals, the increase in delayed discharges, and put forward solutions to these problems.

Deputy Donnelly said, “The statistics are genuinely shocking. In November 2019 the 100,000 people on trollies threshold was broken a fortnight earlier than in 2018. October 2nd saw the highest ever daily trolley figure in an Irish hospital when 82 people had to wait in Limerick. September was the worst September for overcrowding on record with double the number of people waiting on trollies compared with the same month ten years ago. The facts speak for themselves. A major crisis is unfolding in our Emergency Departments.

“There was a time when 500 on trolleys would have been an infrequent occurrence. However, under this government and Minister for Health it is a daily event. What was appalling has become the norm. Is it any wonder that senior doctors say the Minister is complacent and deaf to the suffering of patients across Ireland?

“Take one look at our Emergency Departments and you will see fundamental failures with hundreds waiting on trollies daily. At the end of October this year, 13,466 people over 75 years of age have endured emergency department waits of more than 24-hours, a third more than for the same period in 2018.

“The Health Service Executive (HSE) Winter Plan 2019-2020 provides for no additional acute beds or frontline hospital staff. We need proactive measures which do not appear to be forthcoming.

“Our motion this week puts forward positive actions which can have a benefit to frontline services in Emergency Departments. I look forward to the debate and would urge the government to support this motion,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.

117,000 children getting sicker as they wait for healthcare – Donnelly

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Stephen Donnelly has said the fact that over 117,000 boys and girls are waiting for healthcare is a national scandal.

Deputy Donnelly received new figures which shows that 117,463 children are on a waiting list for surgery, diagnostics and assessments. Shockingly, 30,628 of these boys and girls have been waiting for over a year.

He said, “These figures are staggering. This is the first time we’ve had a national snapshot of just how many children in Ireland are waiting for hospital care and the figures are inhumane.

“Many of these young people are in serious pain, many are getting sicker as they wait, many are going to need more serious medical interventions by the time they’re finally seen.

“Never before has so much money been spent in healthcare and yet never before have this many children waited for healthcare. In no other country in Europe do they have waiting lists like these, so why do we have to put up with it here?

“What’s worse is that this is just one portion of the total number of children waiting. I asked for the number of children waiting for speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, audiology and more. These figures will begin coming in shortly from the HSE – and then we’ll see just how complete the Government’s failure is in one of its most important roles – ensuring the children of Ireland have access to healthcare.

“There is no defending these figures. No amount of fast talking or press releases can explain this away. This is total failure by the Government,” concluded Deputy Donnelly.

ANDREW DOYLE – FINE GAEL

343,000 jobs created since 2016 in Mid East region

Commenting on CSO data released this week, Wicklow Andrew Doyle TD has stated that 343,000 jobs have been created in the Mid-East region since 2016 under Fine Gael.

The Mid east region classification comprises Kildare, Meath, Louth and Wicklow and shows a 15% increase in people working in this region since 2016, representing 45,000 extra people at work.

Some encouraging figures from this latest data show:

-There are 2,327,000 people in Ireland at work today– surpassing the peak of 2007 by 74,700 jobs

-There are over 53,700 more people at work since this time last year with our enterprise economy creating over 1,000 jobs per week

-The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.9%. Long term unemployment (over a year) has dropped by 68% since the start of 2016

-Over 246,000 jobs have been created since the start of 2016, well exceeding our target of 200,000 new jobs by 2020

“With IDA employment at its highest in the agency’s history with over 22,000 new jobs added in 2018 and Enterprise Ireland employment also at a record high, adding nearly 19,000 jobs, there is good reason for optimism and the fact that over 162,000 new jobs created outside of Dublin since the beginning of 2016, accounting for over 6 out of every 10 new jobs, demonstrates that jobs recovery has been regionally balanced and that the Fine Gael plan for our economic success is working for the whole of Ireland.

“The signing of the National Broadband Plan contract this week is further evidence of our commitment to ensuring that rural Ireland will be positioned to take advantage of the opportunities in the digital economy and able to adapt to changing world of work.”

Update from MoS Andrew Doyle on re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme

Given recent commentary on the Organic Farming Scheme I wanted to provide some information on the Scheme and our strategy for the further development of the Organic Sector. The Organic Farming Scheme is one of the most successful schemes under our current Rural Development Programme.  A budget of €56m was allocated to fund the Scheme during the period 2014 to 2020 which was the largest allocation ever to an Organics support scheme.

RDP Targets

The Scheme has more than achieved its targets in terms of new land converted and the maintenance of organic land. The area of land under organic production has expanded dramatically as a direct result of my Department’s investment. Latest figures indicate that there are now some 72,000 hectares under organic production, an increase of nearly 50% on the position at the start of the Programme in 2014.

Indeed, the target for the RDP was to attract some 16,000 hectares of new land into production and to support 46,000 hectares of converted land. These targets have been more than exceeded

Assessment of case for re-opening scheme

As a further vote of confidence in the organics sector by this Government, I established an Organic Sector Strategy Group last year comprising relevant stakeholders and State bodies. Part of the remit of the Strategy Group was to consider the case for a possible re-opening of the Organic Farming Scheme. They recommended that it should be re-opened but on a targeted basis. The areas targeted were areas for which there is a clear market demand, and which are critical to the further development of the Organic Sector, namely horticulture, cereals and dairy.  This recommendation acknowledged that the budget was very limited given the success of the current scheme and the overall spending within the RDP.

Alignment of Production with Market Demand

In developing the Strategy for the Development of the Organic Sector, the Organic Strategy Group focussed on the current production profile of the Irish Organic Sector and market opportunities. Having considered same, the Group concluded that while the area under organic production has increased, production patterns are not fully aligned with market opportunities. Most organic farmers are engaged in beef and/or sheep production with a relatively low number engaged in tillage and dairy. According to Bord Bia research, categories with the greatest growth potential in the domestic market are fruit and vegetables, and dairy. The current profile of the Organic Sector with a predominance of beef and lamb production was perceived therefore as limiting the potential to avail of the growth opportunities that exist. The insufficient supply of organic cereals and proteins, highlighted by the SWOT analysis of the Organic Sector and through the public consultation process, was deemed to be inhibiting the growth of the dairy, meat and aquaculture sectors. This deficit in supply necessitates importation thus increasing costs of production and therefore impacting competitiveness.  Targeting tillage was deemed to be the best route to address the inhibiting effect of the current deficit on the growth of other organic sectors.

Based on this research and analysis of the current profile of the Irish Organic Sector, the Organic Strategy Group therefore concluded that the key to long term sustainable growth is to ensure that the further development of organic production is aligned to market requirements and consumer demand.  To this end, it was decided that the areas to be targeted in a re-opened Organic Farming Scheme should be horticulture, dairy and tillage.

Re-Opening of Scheme

As regards the re-opening, the Scheme remained opened for applications up to the 19 December and a total of 225 applications were received. A total of 58 applications were either withdrawn or were deemed ineligible.  Following the ranking and selection process, one applicant withdrew, 55 were successful and 111 farmers received letters informing them that they had been unsuccessful.  All unsuccessful applicants were given a right of appeal to the Organic Unit of my Department. It should be noted that in 95% of the unsuccessful applications, the predominant enterprises were not from the targeted sectors identified when the Scheme was launched.

It is important to note that this was a targeted re-opening and that I would fully expect that there will be a new Organics Scheme under the next CAP. I would encourage all stakeholders to make their views known on the shape of this future scheme as part of the wider CAP consultation process.

JOHN BRADY – SINN FÉIN

Wicklow’s 5 TD’s need to commit to advancing the shelved N81 Upgrade Scheme-Brady

Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has said that unless all 5 Wicklow TD’s are pushing for the N81 Upgrade Scheme to be progressed, it simply won’t happen. He made his comments following a special sitting of the Baltinglass Municipal District on Friday last, all 5 TD’s were asked to attend the meeting, however only 2 attended.

Speaking after the special meeting was held to discuss the N81 and to try getting the shelved scheme progressed Deputy Brady said “Transport Infrastructure Ireland they have said that the N81 scheme will not be progressed before 2027 at the earliest. This is because the government have not included the 31km upgrade between Tallaght and Hollywood Cross in the National Development Plan 2018-2027. A special meeting of the Baltinglass Municipal District was held on Friday to discuss the issue, all 5 Wicklow TD’s were invited, however only 2 bothered showing up.”

“The N81 is one of the most dangerous roads in the State and the shelving of the upgrade scheme is not only having a negative impact on road safety, it is also having an impact on the economic development of West Wicklow. The government made a political decision not to include the scheme in the National Development Plan. Unless there is political pressure on the government to progress the scheme, it simply won’t happen.”

“The political pressure needs to come from the public representatives in Wicklow. I welcome the fact that the councillors in West Wicklow held the special meeting to discuss the N81 last Friday. Unfortunately the public representatives that can actually push this issue most, never showed up. There are 2 Government Ministers in Wicklow, they sit at the Cabinet Table and should be pushing the need to progress the project. However they must take the issue seriously first and see the need to progress it.”   

“Last year I presented Minister Ross with a petition containing thousands of signatures demanding that the critical upgrade scheme be progressed, I also arranged for him to visit West Wicklow to meet with public representatives and look at the dangerous condition of the road. The Minister hadn’t even the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of the petition. Now when I raise the issue of the N81, the Minister completely passes the book on it. He is also refusing to meet the public representatives from West Wicklow and is ignoring correspondence from the Municipal District.”

Deputy Brady concluded “Avoiding meetings and ignoring requests to meet won’t make the N81 any safer and it certainly won’t help progress the upgrade scheme. All 5 Wicklow TD’s need to put on the county colours and work together to try progress it. We can’t wait until 2027 for this project to be looked at or even considered. The major safety issues can’t wait that long. The development of West Wicklow is also being strangled by the failure to progress the scheme. I am now calling on Wicklow Ministers Harris and Doyle to intervene with their Government colleague and ensure the project is progressed without delay.”

Pearse Doherty TD to address public meeting in Wicklow as part of campaign to end the insurance rip off

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty will be in Wicklow next Wednesday 27th November for a public meeting as part of the campaign to end the insurance rip off. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm in the Royal Hotel, Bray.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady said “I’m delighted that Pearse will be in Wicklow on Wednesday for a public meeting as part of the campaign to end the Insurance rip off. Recently i have been working with a number of Wicklow businesses that have really struggled to find insurance firstly and secondly insurance that is affordable. Unfortunately many businesses across the State have closed due to the rip off.”  

“Pearse has been fantastic on the issue and forced the rip off high up the political agenda. Businesses have closed and are still closing, home and car insurance premiums continue to rise, this is despite the number of claims and payouts continuing to fall. Pearse has also exposed the industry for deliberately exaggerating the number of fraudulent claims. This has been done by them purely to try justifying their high premiums.”

Deputy Brady concluded “Unfortunately the government have sat on their hands and have given a free pass to the insurance industry. Action is needed now to end the rip off and the loss of more jobs. Come along on Wednesday and share your story and hear what can and should be done to tackle the insurance rip off.”

SIMON HARRIS – FINE GAEL

Harris welcomes fall in tobacco use

Wicklow Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the publication of the Healthy Ireland Survey, showing smoking has dropped from 23% of the population in 2015 to 17% in 2019. There are now an  estimated 165,000 fewer smokers than there were five years ago.

Minister Simon Harris said:

“I welcome the findings of this year’s Healthy Ireland Survey, and in particular the continued drop in the smoking rate. This shows that our multi-pronged approach, with legislation, support for smoking cessation, and policies to denormalise smoking in our society, is bearing fruit and we are heading in the right direction to being a Tobacco Free Ireland.”

“Plain packaging with health warnings, introduced under a new law in 2018, was cited by 25% of smokers as a good motivation to quit.”

“Our aim is to achieve similar positive trends in the future with the other risk factors which impact on people’s health and contribute to chronic disease, such as obesity, alcohol, physical inactivity and nutrition, through continued partnership working across Government and wider society on the Healthy Ireland agenda. “

“The findings from the 2019 Survey report will help us monitor how well our policies are working, as well as identifying ways we can better support people to be healthy.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD welcomes progress on Bray Primary Health Care Centre completion

Local Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the progress on the completion of the Bray Primary Health Centre

“In recent weeks much of the scaffolding surrounding the Primary Health Centre has come down to reveal what will be the delivery of a key service for the community in North Wicklow”

“I have received a number of queries from residents about when the centre is to open. This state of the art Primary Care Centre should be finished by the end of the year and open by Q2 next year”.

“It will include all primary care services under one roof, a GP practice, a pharmacy, cafe, a new home for Bray Old Folks and Meals on Wheels and a car park”.

“Crucially it will also be able to house an X-ray facility which will ensure we can access x-rays in the community without needing to go to hospitals”.

“It is badly needed and I am delighted to have been in a position to deliver this for our community”.

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