Political news in brief

What have your local representatives been saying?

What have your local representatives been talking about this week?

Ring welcomes Emergency Works approval for Sacred Heart School, Westport

Michael Ring TD, has received confirmation from the Department of Education that the Sacred Heart School, Westport have been approved funding under the Emergency Works Scheme. Deputy Michael Ring stated: "The Sacred Heart School, Westport has been approved funding in respect of structural works in the school. This funding will go towards the replacement of the gym floor in the sports / general purpose hall. This will result in a much needed new gym floor. I am pleased to see this funding being allocated to the Sacred Heart School and hopefully, work will commence shortly."

Restore the right to retire at 65 – Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh has called on all TDs to back the party’s motion to restore the right to retire at 65, which is to be put before the Dáil for debate next week. Deputy Conway Walsh stated: "At last year’s election, voters sent a message loud and clear that they want to restore the right to retire at 65 on the full pension rate. Next week this government will have been in power for a full year, yet they have failed to act and simply stalled on this issue. People want to see real change and they want to see urgent reform to the pension age. Delays aren’t good enough. Sinn Féin are bringing this motion to the Dáil next week to stand up for workers and show the government that a year of dithering and delay isn’t acceptable and cannot continue. They must commit now to restoring the right to retire at 65. People who worked hard all their lives deserve the right to their full pension at 65. It’s time to restore the right to the full rate. This is a fundamental issue of dignity for workers. When they reach 65, after a lifetime of work, workers deserve the choice to retire on the full pension rate or to work on in their job. This is about choice - workers who wish to work beyond the age of 65 must be allowed to do so. Sinn Féin's motion gives workers the choice at 65 to continue to work or to retire on the full pension rate, so that workers can decide. To force workers to retire at 65 is unjust. I am calling on all TDs to stand up for workers and back Sinn Féin’s motion in the Dáil. The appetite for change that we saw last year hasn’t gone away. Workers want to see a fair and just pension system which treats workers with dignity and gives them the choice. Next week marks a year of this government being in power - a year of inaction and failure to bring about the change that people want. Sinn Féin is committed to ensuring that this change is delivered and will continue to hold the government to account on their responsibility to listen to workers and treat them fairly."

Welcome for extension of Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme

Mayo Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon has welcomed news from Further and Higher Education Minister, Simon Harris TD, that he has confirmed a further extension of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme (AIS ) until the end of December 2021. The Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme provides financial support for employers who register apprentices to a national apprenticeship programmes. Employers who are approved by SOLAS to employ apprentices are eligible for a €3,000 payment for each new apprentice registered. The payment comprises of €2,000 per apprentice to eligible employers following the registration of apprentices with a further €1,000 payable in Year two for each apprentice retained on their apprenticeship. Deputy Dillon commented: "I know Minister Harris is serious about changing how we recognise and promote apprenticeships in this country. Ireland has ambitious targets for apprenticeships and we need to ensure employers are supported in taking on new apprentices. I am delighted Minister Harris has listened to employers and I am glad this incentivisation scheme will be extended to the end of the year. Employers must firstly be approved by SOLAS to employ apprentices, and they are eligible for a payment of up to €3,000 for each new apprentice registered. So far, a total of 49 employer applications in Mayo have been approved, which means payments of up to €147,000 will issue to Mayo employers. It is great to see Mayo employers engaging with the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme and I hope to see many more doing so in light of the extension until the end of December 2021."

SMEs hit with insurance premium hikes for making Covid claims – Conway-Walsh

Sinn Féin Mayo TD, Rose Conway-Walsh, has called on the Finance Minister 'to investigate the insurance industry substantially increasing insurance premiums for business for attempting to claim under business disruption because of Covid'. Deputy Conway-Walsh said: "I have been contacted by a number of business owners that have been quoted huge increases in their insurance premiums. One case of a local business in Belmullet has seen their insurance premiums go from just €1,200 in 2020 to over €4,000 for 2021. Those kinds of extortionate increases would be crippling at the best of times, but to try and find that kind of money when you have seen such long closures will be impossible for many. This seems to be a direct response to making a claim under business interruption because of Covid. I raised the issue with the Minister. He cannot sit back if insurance companies are punishing businesses for attempting to make a claim as they are entitled to do. I was very disappointed by the Minister’s answer. While I accept there are limits to a government’s power to intervene, for him to completely wash his hands of the issue is unacceptable. We could potentially have a situation where a business sees huge hikes in premiums for making a claim that may or may not be successful. We have seen the industry resist passing on any saving resulting from lockdown to people on their motor insurance. We have seen insurance companies try to deduct state supports from insurance claims; an outlandish attempt to turn business supports into insurance industry subsidies. There is clearly a view within the insurance industry that they can get away with what they want. This attitude has been encouraged by successive compliant governments that have failed to hold the industry to account."

Dillon welcomes additional accommodation go-ahead at St Anthony’s Special School

Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Alan Dillon, has welcomed confirmation that additional accommodation for St Anthony’s Special School in Mayo will proceed to tender and construction. Additional accommodation will consist of 2 x 70m² Mainstream Classrooms and 2 x 12m² Small Safe Spaces. Further works will include 2 x 15m² Toilets, 2 x 10m² General Storage Rooms and 1 x 10m² Laundry Room. Deputy Dillon said: "This is great news for St Anthony’s Special School in Castlebar. I know Principal, Fiona Byrnes, and the Board of management have been very proactive in securing these works with Minister Foley’s Department and it is great news for the over 50 students at the special school. The approval to proceed to tender was confirmed to me by Minister Foley and the Department of Education and I look forward to the works commencing as soon as possible."

€20,125 to two Mayo projects under Regional Museum Exhibitions Scheme

Michael Ring TD has welcomed the announcement that two projects in County Mayo will receive funding under the Regional Museum Exhibitions Scheme 2021. The projects approved for funding are: (1 ) €9,375 for The Ballinglen Arts Foundation for an exhibition entitled On a North West Shore and (2 ) €10,750 for the Jackie Clarke Collection for a project on Jackie Clarke's Civil War collection. Deputy Ring said: "I am delighted that support is being offered to these exhibitions in Mayo. Our local and regional museums are an important cultural resource across Mayo. As society reopens, our museums can again provide a wonderful outlet for people."

Chambers welcomes Planning and Development Amendment Bill

Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers has welcomed the Planning and Development Amendment Bill passed in the Seanad on Friday June 18, which provides for an amendment to the Planning and Development Act 2000 in response to disruption caused by the restrictions introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Senator Chambers commented: "This is an important piece of legislation that will help councillors throughout the country prepare vital development plans for their areas. It provides for an additional period for the preparation of development plans required by planning authorities and gives planning authorities the option to extend the duration of existing development plans pending the preparation and making of new development plans. Development Plans form the blueprints for the social and economic development of counties and cities across Ireland. It is therefore vital where planning authorities have encountered disruptions, that additional time can be allowed to them to ensure that their development plans can reach the highest possible standards. The Bill also provides a similar extension mechanism for planning permissions, which can be extended by up to two years or until December 31 2023, whichever first occurs." Senator Chambers also noted that the rural housing planning guidelines draft document is expected to be published in October. Senator Chambers added: "The publication of the draft rural housing planning guidelines is particularly important to local authority members in rural areas. Elected members of the councils will have the opportunity to see these guidelines and take them into account when preparing the county development plans."

Ballina MD is Siberia of Mayo County Council says Loftus

Cllr Michael Loftus has described Ballina Municipal District as the 'Siberia of Mayo County Council'. Speaking at the June meeting of the authority, he stated: "If I look at the overall manager's report I am extremely disappointed; it looks like Ballina is the Siberia of Mayo County Council. If you look at the roads programme section there is not one mention of roads in the Ballina Municipal Area. I'm just quite conscious of the fact that we don't have any major road programme in it and it is a bit disappointing. The only other time it is mentioned is in relation to staff having gone out to the vaccine centre, and the Red Bull (cliff diving event which is coming to Downpatrick Head ). But I see no other mention at all of the Ballina Municipal Area and that is disappointing." Responding to Cllr Loftus, director of services for Mayo County Council, Tom Gilligan said: "There is in relation to directorate highlights, there is a motion on the n26 and N59 Ballina bypass phase one to progress to route options in quarter four of 2021; there is also mention in relation to the climate adaptation allocations for Mayo, there is €1.5 million, which was an excellent allocation and I know there were a couple of schemes in Crossmolina that were specially mentioned on that - we have a page in which to try and put information in. Ballina is by no means left out in this report or any report to the members."

Cruise calls on council to step to help Browne museum

Fine Gael councillor Neil Cruise has asked Mayo County Council management to put together a meeting to see what can be done in regards to securing the future of the Admiral Browne Museum in Foxford. Speaking at the June meeting of Mayo County Council, Cllr Cruise said: "An incident that has happened in Foxford in the last week, is a direct result of Covid-19. A number of you have been down at a number of events hosted by the Admiral Browne society in conjunction with Mayo County Council in welcoming our Argentinian visitors and various ambassadors from Argentina in Foxford but sad to say, the museum had to close in Foxford. I wanted to make the people here aware of that. I would like if management, if we could have a meeting pretty soon about that. It is a thing that Foxford and the county is famous for. we are twinned with a province in Argentina and it would be a shame to let this very important tie for our county die with such important developments as this - it is through no fault of the Admiral Browne society, but it is sad to say they ran out of road financially to keep the museum going. I would like to have a meeting about this and sort something out. " Fianna Fáil councillor Brendan Mulroy supported his colleague from the other side of the house, saying: "I support this 100 per cent, I saw first hand during my year as Cathaoirleach what it meant to the Admiral Browne Society in Foxford and what it meant to the Argentinians who come over here to visit. It is an emotional area for them, particularly now that we have the former Argentinian ambassador buried there. It is important that this council would lead out and follow on from what Cllr Cruise has said and whatever finances are needed, to make sure they are in place. We can't be speaking out both sides of our mouth and need to make sure that the money is there. The society is a credit to Foxford and Mayo."

Duffy calls for pedestrian access to Glebe estate in Ballina

Independent councillor Mark Duffy submitted a notice of motion to the June meeting of the Ballina Municipal District calling for the council to install a footpath linking up to the pedestrian access to the Glebe estate in the town. Speaking on the motion Cllr Duffy said: "There is a pedestrian entrance to the Glebe, it is on the other side of the road; it is a very short extension that is required. It would require adjacent landowners' permission, it wouldn’t need the walls stepped back but it is a very dangerous bend and it would help pedestrian access, walkers and cyclists from the Glebe estate. It would be appreciated by all there." His motion was seconded by Cllr John O'Hara, with Cllr Annie May Reape also speaking in support of it. In a written response to the motion, Mayo County Council said: "The provision of a pedestrian link at this location will require road widening, land dedication/agreement and heavy civil engineering works due to the significant level difference between the existing road and adjacent private property. The works will require the construction of a retaining wall which will bring the road edge closer to the rear of existing properties with restricted sites. An estimate of the cost to provide a retaining wall, undergrounding of services and construction of a footpath and associated works would be a minimum of €85,000. Consultancy, Safety and Archaeological costs will be extra and subject to specific procurement. This project may be included on the Ballina MD list of unfunded projects with the agreement of BMD Councillors but will be subject to a safety review, land dedication/agreement, archaeology and specific funding."

€66k for monuments granted for Mayo - Calleary

Mayo has been allocated €66,172 under the latest round of the Community Monument Grant Scheme, according to Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary. Deputy Calleary said: "Four projects in Mayo have been successful in their applications – Kill Abbey (€37,807 ), Knocktemple Ecclesiastical Site (€6,888 ), Kilgeever Abbey (€11,685 ) and Kilmovee Heritage Trail (€9,792 ). The core objective of the Community Monuments Fund is to support the conservation, maintenance, protection and promotion of local monuments and historic sites – this is good news for all involved in these specific sites and I wish them every success with the proposed works."

Dillon welcomes expanded rollout of WiFi4EU initiative in Mayo

Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Alan Dillon, has welcomed confirmation that the WiFi4EU initiative will now be rolled-out further in Mayo, with the service being extended to Balla, Ballinrobe, Castlebar and Claremorris before September 2021. This builds on the existing Wifi4EU hotspots around Mayo located in Ballina, Belmullet, Crossmolina, Newport and Swinford, which have been live since December 2020. Deputy Dillon said: "The WiFi4EU initiative promotes free access to Wi-Fi connectivity for citizens in public spaces including parks, squares, public buildings, libraries, health centres and museums in local authority areas throughout the European Union. The WiFi4EU initiative provides local authorities with the opportunity to apply for vouchers up to the value of €15,000. These vouchers are then used to install Wi-Fi equipment in public spaces that are not already equipped with a free Wi-Fi hotspot. In addition, the hotspots must be free of charge to the user and free from advertising. The Wifi4EU initiative is a further step in the right direction for increasing the range of services available for tourists and shoppers in our towns and villages. I wish to commend our Broadband Officer in Mayo County Council, David Reddington, for his proactive approach in identifying funding opportunities at European level and rolling out the hotspots in a range of locations throughout Mayo. It is excellent to see the draw-down of European funding at local level on initiatives which will make a real difference to the connectivity of our town and village centres."


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