Wicklow TD Watch: 29/11/2019

ANDREW DOYLE – FINE GAEL

Minister Doyle Announces the Opening of the €6 million 2020 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Horticulture, Andrew Doyle T.D., today announced that, having secured EU approval, the 2020 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector is now open. As part of Budget 2020, €6 million has been allocated to implement the scheme.

Launching the scheme Minister Doyle stated, “This scheme underlines the Government’s continued commitment to this sector by providing additional aid to support its development into the future. The scheme facilitates both the ongoing supply to domestic markets and also potential expansion into new markets, as well as dealing with potential challenges created by Brexit.”

The Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector is a competitive scheme open to all horticultural sectors – field vegetables, mushrooms, protected food crops, amenity crops, soft fruit, apples and beekeeping and will provide grant aid, at a rate of 40%, for approved capital investments. The closing date for receipt of applications for the 2020 scheme is the 17 January 2020.

The Minister added; “Last year Ireland’s horticulture sector contributed over €433m to the value of output at farm-gate level and is estimated to be directly responsible for over 6,600 jobs with many more employed indirectly both upstream and downstream. The sector is still faced with many challenges. This scheme is a vital support for the horticulture sector in Ireland and it also promotes diversification of on-farm activities which is important given our commitment to reducing emissions from agriculture.”

Doyle hosts Breakfast Briefing on Woodland Environmental Fund

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today showcased its new native woodland initiative to a packed audience of Irish business representatives at an event in Trinity College. Interest amongst the business community was high, with representatives from hotel chains, high street retailers, local government, transport businesses, financial institutions and energy providers gathered to hear how the Woodland Environmental Fund (WEF) can support their environmental ambitions.

Andrew Doyle T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry opened the event, saying that “The WEF is my Department’s response to growing demand from within the business community to become involved in native woodland establishment.  The Department is the principal driver of afforestation in the country, having committed almost €500m of spending under the current Forestry Programme. The WEF creates an ideal platform for business to join with Government and landowners to plant native woodlands.”

The WEF provides an access point for businesses to become associated with individual forests at their design stage allowing the business to report the estimated carbon emission reductions from the established forest against its footprint. In addition to capturing carbon these forests also provide rich and varied habitats for plants and animals as well as opportunities for recreation and water protection.  The WEF aims to re-create the native woodlands that existed all over Ireland thousands of years ago and this vision clearly resonated with business people at today’s event.

This morning’s event heard from the Department of Agriculture on how businesses can participate in the Fund.  There were also presentations from the Forum on Natural Capital and from An Post who were the first business to participate. They have since been joined by Accenture and between them, both companies are committed to planting almost 100,000 native broadleaf trees.

Minister Doyle closed today’s event by saying that “It is undeniable that forestry is the most effective land use option when it comes to capturing carbon, we simply cannot meet our emissions targets without planting more trees. The 8,000 hectare target set out in the Climate Action plan will require a national effort and my Department is committed to working with the business community, landowners and all groups in civil society to make this happen.”

SIMON HARRIS – FINE GAEL

Harris launches ‘Know the Score’ – a new educational resource on drugs and alcohol for senior cycle students

Minister Simon Harris TD, this week (Wednesday 27 November) launched ‘Know the Score’, a new national resource for teachers of senior cycle students aimed at guiding and supporting them to improve their knowledge and strengthen their skills in dealing with the risks associated with alcohol and drugs.

‘Know the Score’ is the first national evidence-based resource on alcohol and drugs for senior cycle students and was developed in partnership between public health and education professionals, with input from teachers and young people.

Topics addressed include building cultural awareness of attitudes towards alcohol in Ireland, the impact of alcohol on the body and the brain, the influences of alcohol branding and sponsorship and information on how to provide emergency care if they are concerned about someone who has been drinking or taking drugs. The resource also addresses cannabis use and the damage caused by alcohol and drugs to mental health.

Minister Simon Harris said:

“I am delighted to launch this excellent resource which represents an important step in our public health approach towards reducing the harms from alcohol and drugs. Know the Score is a good example of the partnership working to promote the health and well-being of our young people, and to support teachers and schools in the important work they do as part of the wider Healthy Ireland agenda.

“Along with a range of other measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, we are driving practical changes in our society in order to ensure that there will be no room for alcohol in Irish childhoods. It is vital that students, teachers and parents get information and supports from trusted resources like the HSE, so that our young people are enabled to develop the important life-skills they need to make healthy choices. It is not appropriate that schools use any materials or resources developed by organisations funded by the alcohol industry.”

Harris announces €70 million funding for Wicklow School Repairs

This week eight Wicklow schools received funding under the Summer Works Scheme.

The Summer Works Scheme (SWS) is designed to allow schools to carry out small and medium scale building works that will improve and upgrade existing school buildings. This scheme is additional to other capital funding schemes that are operated by the Department of Education and Skills such as the additional accommodation scheme, Emergency Works.

Minister Harris said

“I welcome that the announcement has been brought forward this year to allow schools make arrangements to for the works to be carried out over the summer months, so the disruption to students, teachers and other staff will be kept to a minimum”.

The 2020 Summer Works Scheme will include a new climate action focus requiring the works to include energy efficiency and in the case of outdoor works electric vehicle charging points”

PAT CASEY – FIANNA FÁIL

Decline in the number of Garda vehicles in Wicklow – Casey

Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow, Pat Casey, has said the Minister for Justice has questions to answer as to why there are so few Garda vehicles to cover the entire Wicklow division.

Deputy Casey was commenting as new figures revealed to Fianna Fáil show that the total number of Garda vehicles in the Wicklow Garda division in 2019 is 59. In 2018, 2017 and 2016 this stood at 61, 62 and 62 respectively.

Deputy Casey said, “Over the past four years, despite an increase in the population of Wicklow, we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of Garda vehicles to patrol the county.

“There are 41 cars, 10 vans, one motorcycle, and six 4x4s patrolling a 2,000km area with 142,425 residents.

“Wicklow consists of a very mountainous terrain and six 4x4s just isn’t sufficient. The Winter months in particular mean that it is difficult to access rural areas in Wicklow and people in emergencies. In the remote Baltinglass district there is only one 4×4.

“With the vast majority of the population concentrated in the North of the county there is a very real fear that those elsewhere in the county will bear the brunt of a lack of resources.

“Bray to Tinahealy is over an hours’ drive and we have very rural roads. We need a robust and mobile police force to patrol them,” he concluded.

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

Wicklow Council Funding for Grand Designs Style Projects – Donnelly

Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil’s Health spokesperson, has encouraged people to apply for funding to help protect Wicklow’s historic buildings.

Deputy Donnelly explained, “Wicklow County Council is offering Government money under two schemes at the moment. There’s the Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) and the Historic Structures Fund (HSF).

“The funds are designed for people who own, or take care of, culturally significant buildings.  Successful applicants will be given money to carry out repairs and ensure their buildings are preserved for generations to come.  A total of €60,000 is up for grabs as part of the Built Heritage Scheme, which will see individual grants handed out of between €2,500 and €15,000. But there’s a bigger fund available under the Historic Structure Fund which will help those whose buildings are used by the public.

“Anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Grand Designs will know just how expensive and time consuming these kind of projects can be.  But they’ll be aware too of how important it is for us to preserve a crucial part of our heritage. This kind of work also provides much needed jobs for people with specialised skills in restoration and conservation.

“Last year these grants helped with the upkeep of St Mary & Peters Church in Arklow and several homes in Dunlavin and in Rathgorragh in West Wicklow, among others.

“I’ve been told that applications will be open until the 31st of January so there’s no time to lose. Forms are available from Wicklow County Council”, Concluded Donnelly.

Donnelly calls for implementation group as Govt promise to provide free contraception stalls

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Stephen Donnelly, has called for the establishment of an implementation group to introduce universal free contraception.

Deputy Donnelly was commenting as the Health Committee heard from the Report of the Working Group on Access to Contraception. It was confirmed that no funding has been allocated to get the scheme off the ground.

He said, “Despite Minister Harris’s promise to introduce free contraception by 2021, not one cent was allocated in budget 2020 for a free contraception scheme.

“So, we have a plan, but no money, and no way of implementing it. If the Minister is serious about meeting his own deadline of 2021, then he needs to establish an implementation group now.

“The Health Committe are of the belief that if abortion services are going to be provided for free, then contraception must, of course, be provided for free. We can’t have a situation whereby women have to pay for contraception and but not abortion.

“The roll-out of free contraception is something which will take time, if it is to be done correctly. The plans should be put in place now to ensure there is no added burden on GPs, that pharmacies can be prepared and that an education programme can be put in place. This won’t happen overnight.

“I have asked time and time again, why the serious scandals in our health system revolve around women’s reproductive health. Symphysiotomy, CervicalCheck, Mesh Implants, Mother and Baby Homes – the list goes on. There are real questions to be answered as to why this keeps happening.

“We have before us a chance to get something right. Access to contraception is a basic part of women’s reproductive healthcare needs. An implementation group needs to be established immediately,” he concluded.

JOHN BRADY – SINN FÉIN

Pearse Doherty TD addresses insurance meeting in Wicklow

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady was joined by his colleague and party spokesperson for Finance Pearse Doherty TD, who has been spearheading a campaign calling for Insurance Reform at a public meeting in Bray last night. 

This is the latest in a series of campaign events that Deputy Doherty has held across the state in his bid to reform the insurance industry and end the rip-off of individuals, businesses and families.

 Speaking following the meeting, Teachta Brady said:

 “Last night in Bray, I along with my colleagues Cllr Grace McManus and Cllr Dermot O’Brien hosted a public meeting on the insurance rip-off with Pearse Doherty TD.

 “Insurance costs have become extortionate, ripping off consumers and closing down businesses.  Since 2016 Fine Gael have sat back in the face of rising insurance costs while Fianna Fáil have let them off the hook.

 “The insurance industry tells us that fraudulent claims and the cost of personal injury awards are causing premiums to rise.  But through the work of Pearse Doherty we know that their figures don’t add up.  Despite the total number of motor insurance claims reducing by 22% between 2014 and 2017, the average motor insurance premium has increased by 53% between 2013 and 2017.

 “Premiums are rising.  The only other thing that is rising are insurance company profits.  Pearse Doherty is leading a campaign to take on the industry and end the rip-off.  The policies and legislation that he has produced on behalf of Sinn Féin would stamp out fraud, protect consumers, ban price discrimination and reduce premiums for everyone.

Speaking on Sinn Féin’s work to date, Cllr Grace McManus added:

“Only this month, Pearse successfully campaigned for the Central Bank to open up an investigation into price discrimination by the insurance industry.  

“The meeting heard about Sinn Féin’s plan to set up a Garda Insurance Fraud Unit to tackle insurance fraud when and if it takes place and to ban Dual Pricing by the Insurance Industry. The meeting also heard about Sinn Féin’s Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill law which, if enacted, proposes to abolish Premium Levies and put €230 million back in consumers’ pockets while also introducing State Intervention to address the market failure.

 Cllr Dermot O’Brien concluded:

 “The issue of insurance is such a huge one and affects the lives of ordinary people and businesses alike throughout Wicklow, so therefore it’s important that we continue to campaign to end the Insurance Rip-Off.”

Fianna Fáil’s Donnelly & Casey have opportunity ‘to put their money where their mouth is’ on housing crisis – Brady

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady has said that next week’s Motion of No Confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy affords both Deputy Donnelly & Casey an opportunity ‘to put their money where their mouth is’ on the housing crisis they are quick to criticise locally.
Brady is calling publicly on Deputies Donnelly & Casey to support the no confidence motion in the Minister for Housing next week as this government has run out of time and ideas to tackle the housing crisis.  

Teachta Brady said:

“This morning’s newspapers are once again filled with horror stories of the impact of the government’s housing policy on children across the State.

“The government’s housing policy is now in is fourth year and is simply not delivering.

“The problem has gotten worse and for the many families, young people and pensioners their housing situation is grimmer than ever. 
“Wicklow is no exception to this crisis. In the month of October alone, 43 families in Wicklow presented to the Council as homeless. This consisted of 100 adults, and 71 children. There are currently 4,388 people on the Council list for housing support, that’s up from 3,941 in November 2018.
“Renters in Wicklow have also seen a 11.9% increase in rents in the last year and the average price of a home in Wicklow is up 3.1% in the same time period. 
“Sinn Féin will wholeheartedly support the motion of no confidence in the Minister for Housing next week.

“The vote affords an opportunity to Fianna Fáil TDs to make it clear where they stand. Are they on the side of homeless children or on the side of Minister Eoghan Murphy?

“Fianna Fáil either support Eoghan Murphy and Rebuilding Ireland, or they support those who want a housing policy that meets the needs of those waiting for social and affordable homes.

“Fianna Fáil need to stop hiding behind Brexit as an excuse for doing their job and must start holding this government to account. It is time for Fianna Fáil to decide who’s side they are on, those struggling through the housing crisis or Minister Murphy?

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