Political news in brief

What have your local representatives been saying?

What have your local representatives been saying?

Works approved for Bekan NS – Ring 

Michael Ring TD, has welcomed confirmation that Bekan N.S., Bekan, Claremorris (Roll No: 13659I ) has been granted funds under the Emergency Works Scheme. Emergency Works have been approved for Mechanical Works. "I look forward to the works being completed as quickly as possible for the Health & Safety of the pupils and teachers in this school" concluded Deputy Ring.

Calleary receives update on Cullens NS 

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has this week received an update on the proposed new Scoil Naomh Brid National School, Culleens, from the Department of Education. Deputy Calleary stated: "Replying to my latest correspondence this week, the Department has confirmed that the major building project planned for Culleens National school, Ballina, is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning - Stage 2b – Detailed Design, which includes securing Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate and the preparation of tender documents. The Department has further advised that the enabling works are now completed and the Design Team are currently concluding the prequalification process with an update expected from the Design Team in May. Upon completion of the prequalification process, the Department will contact the Board of Management in relation to progression of the major project to Stage 3 - Tender. I know that the management are anxious to move to Stage 3 and to get the Tender process underway and I will be maintaining my line of correspondence with the Department in this regard to ensure that this happens as quickly as possible."

Ring receives assurances for hill sheep sector and upland farmers 

Deputy Michael Ring TD has stated that he raised the issue of the hill sheep sector and upland farmers at a recent meeting of the Select Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, where he outlined the challenges faced by hill sheep farmers in future schemes. Following the meeting, Deputy Ring reported: “Deputy Charlie McConalogue TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, stated the following to me at the committee meeting - that there is: 'an absolute clear, crystal commitment from me as to the importance of the hill sheep sector and upland farmers, that they will be there and fully part of the new flagship agri-environmental scheme'."

Deputy Ring continued: “The Minister for Agriculture also stated to me that he is fully committed 'to ensuring we back our upland farmers in every way possible and ensure they are fully accommodated within the new flagship agri-environmental scheme which we will be working on, to introduce from January 2023'.

“I welcome these strong assurances and I will continue to highlight the issues faced by hill sheep farmers and upland farmers with the Minister,” concluded Deputy Ring.

Sinn Féin TD tables bill 'to end unfair advantage for property investment funds'

Mayo Sinn Féin TD, Rose Conway-Walsh, is urging those locked out of home ownership by investment funds, to come forward and share their story. She wants to hear from constituents ahead of a Sinn Féin bill that would, if passed, instruct government to end the tax advantages and exemptions they granted to institutional investors, which are making home ownership increasingly unaffordable to ordinary workers and families. She said: "The housing crisis continues to spiral out of control. House prices have increased by over 88% since 2013. High rents and residential property prices are putting home ownership out of reach for an ever-increasing number of workers and families. In many parts of the state, we have a generation locked out of owning their own home. Institutional investors holding rental properties avail of significant tax advantages and exemptions granted to them by the Fine Gael-led government in 2013. Now, ordinary workers and families across the state are paying the price. Successive governments have been living in denial. For years, in repeated budget submissions and amendments to Finance Bills, Sinn Féin have called for the tax breaks and exemptions gifted to these investment funds to end. They have turned a blind eye. The result is that cuckoo funds spent a record €696m on houses and apartments in this state over the course of the first three months of this year - driving housing prices up and up in the process. Governments have refused to listen to the repeated warnings of Sinn Féin, so now they need to hear how their inaction has affected you. These funds pay no corporation tax on income from their property rental businesses and no capital gains tax accruing on the disposal of assets of their property rental businesses. Sinn Féin will call on government to introduce legislation to end the tax advantages and exemptions they granted to institutional investors, including REITs and IREFs, in the residential property market. In doing so, we want to use our platform in the Dáil to give you a voice, so I urge anyone who has experienced being denied the opportunity to own your own home because of an investment fund muscling in ahead of you, to get in touch."

Community Enhancement Programme in Mayo gets €145,203

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has announced funding of €145,203 for county Mayo under the 2021 Community Enhancement Programme. Deputy Calleary said: "The CEP provides small capital grants designed to assist in the re-opening of facilities such as community centres, men’s and women’s sheds, parish halls and youth centres. The grants will range from a few hundred euro up to €10,000, however, exceptions will be made depending on the application. The funding may be used to carry out necessary renovations and repairs or to purchase equipment such as tables and chairs, tools and signage, laptops and printers, lawnmowers, canopies and so on. As the grants are relatively small, this programme may appeal to groups that are not eligible for the €10 million Covid Stability Fund, which was launched last week. I would encourage all interested groups to get in touch with their Local Community Development Committee that administers the programme in their area. Supporting local communities to shape their future is a key focus of the Government’s new rural development policy, Our Rural Future. This funding will ensure that important small scale, ground-up projects can be delivered by local communities for local communities. In order to allow flexibility, the Department is not setting a national closing date, but will allow each LCDC to set its own, to best suit its area. The Department will require that all closing dates are no later than July 16, 2021. Groups should check with the LCDC for further details," he said.

Lifting of restrictions on maternity units is long overdue – Chambers

Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers has welcomed comments by the HSE that maternity units nationwide should lift restrictions on partners’ attendance. HSE Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry, said he is writing to all maternity units indicating the HSE’s National policy on this. Senator Chambers commented: "The lifting of restrictions on maternity units is long overdue and I welcome the comments from Dr Henry. I want to see hospitals act on this direction without delay and implement the updated guidance. It is not acceptable that depending on what hospital you attend the restrictions vary, it shouldn’t be a postcode lottery. We need uniformity of care nationwide. I know this will come as a huge relief to many expecting parents."

SF stimulus voucher scheme would boost local businesses and give families a break – Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin TD for Mayo, Rose Conway-Walsh, has called on the government to introduce a stimulus scheme to provide a much-needed boost to hospitality and recreation when the sectors can reopen later this year. Last summer, Sinn Féin launched a hospitality and recreation voucher scheme proposal, which would allocate €200 to every adult and €100 for every child to be spent on hospitality and recreation in local economies across the state. Teachta Dala Conway-Walsh said: "Last summer, Sinn Féin launched a proposal to boost local economies across Ireland through a hospitality and recreation stimulus package. Our detailed and fully-costed plan would give workers and families a break by putting money back in their pockets, while also boosting local economies through increased spending in local tourism and hospitality. Our scheme would allocate a voucher worth €200 to every adult and €100 for every child to be spent locally in hospitality or on recreation. That would mean €600 for a family of two adults and two kids. This would mean families could have a day out at a local attraction, a meal in a restaurant or put the voucher towards a holiday. This would ensure that families who may have lost income over the course of this incredibly tough year would have a much-needed break. Overall cost of the once-off scheme would be around €860 million. We recognise this is a significant outlay by the Exchequer, but Fáilte Ireland calculates that for every one euro spent in the tourism sector, 23 cent is generated in tax. This financial injection will support hundreds of thousands of jobs and reduced dependence on the EWSS and Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. It would boost local businesses by bringing in customers and help keep jobs in the local economy within industries that have been brought to their knees by the Covid restrictions. This would stimulate the economy and boost exchequer returns. Unfortunately, despite our scheme receiving the backing of many in these industries, the government ignored our proposals last year and instead opted for the flawed Stay and Spend Scheme, which turned out to be a total flop. Less than 1% of the government scheme’s allocation was drawn down by March 4 and the scheme ended after being a complete failure. I am again urging the government to consider Sinn Féin’s voucher proposals as a better and achievable way of boosting local economies instead. Here in Mayo and across the state, local businesses would benefit hugely from our scheme. It is not acceptable for the government to implement their failed scheme and then simply walk away and offer nothing else. Local businesses need this vital support and must not be abandoned by this government. Sinn Féin’s voucher scheme is fair, it applies to everyone, it is straightforward and it puts money directly into people’s pockets to spend in local restaurants, tourist attractions or on accommodation. Every person, family, and every town and village in every corner of the state would benefit from our voucher scheme. I am calling on the government to back our scheme and ensure that families can get a break and local businesses get a much-needed boost."

SF offers solutions as government feigns surprise at housing crisis – Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin Mayo TD, Rose Conway-Walsh, has said the government ‘must own’ the housing crisis and the tax policies that give an unfair advantage to property investment companies. Teachta Dala Conway-Walsh said: "I was astounded to see the surprise expressed by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs about vulture funds snapping up houses at the expense of workers and families. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael designed the tax breaks that give these property speculators such an unfair advantage. Either they didn’t know what they were doing or were persuaded by the vested interests that lobbyists presented to them. Either way they must own it. They must own the consequences of throwing hardworking families under the property bus through their fiscal policies. I raised this as far back as 2016 with Michael Noonan, the then Finance Minister. And my colleague Pearse Doherty continues to raise it and table amendment after amendment to close these loopholes. These investment firms don't pay capital gains tax; they don't pay corporation tax and they don't pay any tax on their rent roll. These tax policies have led to reckless property speculation rather than thought-out long-term investment. We cannot depend on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to fix the housing crisis and provide people with homes. They are both right when they blame each other for the Housing Crisis – they share equal responsibility. It is time to abandon the failed Rebuilding Ireland housing policy and its over-reliance on the private sector to meet social and affordable housing need. Sinn Féin’s priority is to deliver public homes on public land to ensure people have access to genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy."

Works approved for St. Tiernan’s College – Ring

Michael Ring TD, has welcomed confirmation that St. Tiernan’s College, Crossmolina (Roll No: 72100J ) has been granted funds under the Emergency Works Scheme. Emergency Works have been approved for Roof Works. "I look forward to the works being completed as quickly as possible for the benefit of the pupils and teachers in this school" concluded Deputy Ring.

Apprenticeship waiting lists spiralling out of control – Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has accused the government of continuing to fail apprentices, over a year into the pandemic. Teachta Dala Conway-Walsh said: "Half of all apprentices are on a waiting list to access the state provided training they need to advance in their apprenticeship. I have been highlighting these issues with the department for months. Despite assurances that action would be taken, waiting lists continue to spiral out of control. Right now, 9,071 apprentices are waiting to access off-the-job training. Many more are enrolled in a course that they are not able to complete. Apprentices I have spoken with feel abandoned. This has serious implications for not only their education, but also their income. Through no fault of their own, many apprentices will be trapped on apprentice wages for years longer than they should. Despite the amazing efforts of administrators and teaching staff across the country, apprentices are being badly let down when it comes to getting the education they need. Covid has seriously disrupted training but the government has had sufficient time to put measures and additional capacity in place to at least mitigate the situation. However, we are seeing waiting lists continue to grow. This is not solely the result of Covid. A lack of interest and investment in apprenticeship training predates the pandemic. This is evident in the fact that 3,651 apprentices have been waiting over a year to access their course. Now we are facing a backlog of training that needs to be done to allow apprentices to become qualified tradespeople and other forms of professionals. Every one of these apprentices represent tradespeople and other professionals sorely needed for the post-pandemic recovery."


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