Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval of Grant assistance for improving of Arranmore Day Care Centre, the approval was given by Roinn na Gaeltachta following various representation on my part. The grant allocated will be used to carry out upgrade works within the Day Centre on the island, including new floor covering and ancillary works – the amount approved is approx.. €2,400 and will be of great assistance to the voluntary group which runs the centre.
Pat the Cope added great work is carried out on a daily basis by the Day Care Centre and it is a focal point for the Islanders to meet and gather together, I wish to compliment all those who work and support the Day Centre without their contribution none of this would be possible. It is facilities such as the Day Centre right through all our rural communities which make a significant contribution to the lives of the elderly and those who live alone and therefore must be supported in order to make rural life easier and more comfortable, plus it adds to the social inclusion and combats isolation within rural communities and as such warrants the full support of all state agencies concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has received confirmation following a Dáil question reply that the Department of Education has NO APPEALS process for unsuccessful schools who participated in the recent round of DEIS school applications. In the Department’s reply to the Dáil question it clearly states “a verification process is provided for schools wishing to seek information used to assess the level of disadvantage of it pupil cohort, but no further schools will be added to the DEIS plan”.
Pat the Cope stated it is important that this matter is clarified as some public representatives were leading schools and parents to believe that there was an appeals mechanism and creating an expectation whereby schools could be added to the current DEIS plan – this is clearly inaccurate and wrong. The recent designations and omissions of schools by the Minister of Education and the Government are a fait accompli – the schools which were omitted and left out will be left high and dry until such time as another DEIS designation scheme is announced. It is an increditable and unbelievable decision on the part of the Government to not allow for an appeals process, it denies unsuccessful schools the right of appeal or the right to submit additional information concerning their applications and it is contrary to previous occasions when DEIS designations were made by other Ministers in the past. It is particularly wrong when viewed in the context that a number of schools which were denied DEIS status have now observed errors in how their application was appraised and dealt with by the Department. The lack of an appeals process means those schools have no recourse other than to await a new scheme to be announced by the Government. It is inconceivable that current scheme be permitted to remain in place, in many areas we have a situation whereby the neighbouring schools are in DEIS but another school next door has not received DEIS status. In such cases whereby adjacent schools have different DEIS status while it is evident that they come from the same socio economic backgrounds and circumstances – it is evident that the system of designation is flawed in the first instance.
Pat the Cope added it is obvious this Government are not willing to listen to the milliard of schools omitted from DEIS and are directly negatively affected by the recent decision of this Government, it clear also that some Government representatives simply do not know what they are talking about when they refer to an appeals mechanism which does not exist. The Government have made a mess of DEIS designation for disadvantaged schools throughout Donegal – all that is being sought here is a level playing field and fairness for all schools. No school, no community nor any child should be left in disadvantage due to a direct decision of a Government and this Government has failed to treat all children equally when handling DEIS designation. I call on the Government to immediately provide an appeals mechanism and to allow schools which fulfil the criteria be designated as DEIS schools concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has criticised the Government’s failure to take action to curb rising motor insurance costs which has directly affected every household in the country over the past 4years. This cannot be excused any longer, the Insurance Report is complete and recommendations made but still no action from this Government. Premiums are continuing to rise while the Government sits on its hands and delays on implementing policies to tackle the problem.
Deputy Gallagher stated the Government must stop stalling and start acting to tackle rising motor insurance costs. Since 2014 premiums have continued to rise at uncontrollable levels year on year. The Oireachtas Working Group on the Cost of Insurance published their report insurance costs a number of weeks ago but the issue appears to have fallen off the Government’s agenda. People are walking into my constituency office, with their renewal premium in hand, shocked at the rise in their premiums. They are seriously worried about these spiralling prices, and some people who cannot afford to pay these extortionate premiums and are considering giving up their cars.
Pat the Cope added in rural communities in Donegal, a car is a vital necessity; it’s not a luxury. Without access to affordable insurance, we are consigning people, especially older people, to an isolated existence. The rate at which costs have been growing is completely unsustainable and unaffordable. In 2016, motor insurance costs increased by an annual rate of 11.6%, in 2015 they rose by 30.8%, and in the 12 months to August 2016 there was a jump of 28%. These increases are outrageous and are putting families under serious financial pressure. Unlike other types of insurance cover, motor insurance is not an optional extra – it’s a legal requirement for everyone on the road. However, families are being squeezed time and again by insurance companies who are bulking up their profits by slapping huge premiums on already overburdened customers.
I have been highlighting this issue for well over a year but the Government has sat on its hands – total inaction on their part while thousands of motorists pay through the nose for insurance premiums. The Government are only getting around to debating the report next week in the Dáil. This is simply not good enough - the Government must work harder to ensure that consumers are getting a fair deal on their insurance cover rather than being continuously fleeced for premiums concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has slammed the Health Minister Simon Harris for failing to appoint a Review Team to Letterkenny University Hospital, the proposal was originally made by me in the course of a Topical Issue debate in Dáil Eireann earlier this month and I have subsequently corresponded with the Minister on separate occasions regarding the need for the Department to appoint a full Review Team to conduct a root and branch review of all services, current staffing levels, present bed capacity and future bed capacity requirements along with the potential outputs of the Hospital, the review to be carried out in partnership with frontline staff and medical teams of the hospital but answerable to the Minister and through him the HSE. I am extremely disappointed that the Minister has failed to grasp the need and urgent necessity for such a Review Team to be appointed to Letterkenny Hospital – it is self-evident to everyone how much daily pressure Letterkenny Hospital is under by way of services, staffing numbers and the number of patients frequenting the Hospital.
Pat the Cope added the staff of the Hospital are working to their utmost abilities and beyond the call of their duties in trying to deliver the services required of them – but the hard cold facts are the Hospital is under staffed, under resourced and seriously lacking in bed capacity. The review which I sought would clearly identify Hospital pressure points and put in place a mechanism to counter act and alleviate the underlying problems within Letterkenny Hospital. I now firmly believe that the current Health Minister completely fails to understand the crises of services and capacity which exists within Letterkenny University Hospital – in the Minister’s own detailed reply to me he lists the problems with the Emergency Department, outpatients department, Oncology department, the need for an additional Breast Surgeon, Endocrinology and Diabetes services, Neurology and Dermatology services, Urology and Rheumatology services – the Minister in his reply identifies all the problems but proposes no solutions, it is as if he was a spectator rather than the political head of the Department of Health and that simply is not good enough.
Pat the Cope challenges Minister Harris to stop hiding behind his Health Bureaucrats and his failed HSE strategies for dealing with the problems within Letterkenny University Hospital and take a solid political decision and appoint a review team to directly tackle the underlying problems within the Hospital – such issues as understaffing, lack of bed capacity and lack of resources. Enough time has been wasted in pondering and procrastinating, action is required and needs to be taken without further delay. Letterkenny University Hospital needs the Minister’s full attention and the complete support of the HSE all other initiatives thus far have failed as the situation has deteriorated and worsened, I am calling on the Minister to reconsider and appoint a fully empowered Review Team to Letterkenny Hospital in order to deal with this crisis concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the inclusion of additional Donegal Schools in the DEIS programme, this follows extensive lobbying on the part of various school authorities, their Boards of Managements and on my own part since getting re-elected to Dail Eireann but it is difficult to understand why certain schools are left off todays approval list. The DEIS programme is of great benefit to schools and contributes greatly to the daily running of schools with additional resources, various additional supports for the school and increased funding for the running of the school, the schools from the South West Donegal area announced today which will benefit from the DEIS programme in Donegal are – Edeninfagh NS, Fintown NS, Gleneely NS, Glassan NS, Castlefin 1B NS, Killygordon NS, Robertson NS Ballintra, Scoil Mhuire Fanad, Ballylast NS, Bruckless NS, Donaghmore NS, St Bridgets NS Convoy and Pobal Scoil Chloich Cheannfhaola. Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal Lifford moving from Band 1 to Band 2.
DEIS programme includes funding for school meals programme, school community liaison, increased DEIS grants for schools, Planning supports for school, school books grant scheme and literacy and numeracy supports within the school to mention a few of the additional supports and benefits for the schools awarded the status.
Pat the Cope added that this is good news for the schools which are added to the DEIS programme today, but many other schools within the County are struggling to cope especially with the reduced Capitation Grant rates, which have been reduced in successive budgets between 2011 and 2015, it is now necessary that Capitation funding levels be restored in order to assist the running of schools and reduce the burden on parents who otherwise have to make up the funding shortfall. I am shocked that DEIS status was not given to Ranafast NS, or to Gortahork NS both schools which clearly fulfil the DEIS requirements but were not approved by the Minister in this afternoons announcement, I have to furthermore question the logic of the Department in not allowing an appeals mechanism to the decisions reached on DEIS status especially for those schools which failed to qualify. In not allowing an appeals system schools have no recourse to being omitted from DEIS
Pat the Cope stated that the DEIS programme has a proven record at directly assisting schools in disadvantaged areas, and as such will greatly assist the schools which benefit from its status being announced today – but more needs to be done for the Primary Education sector and today’s announcement should have been a good news story for all schools within Donegal but by omitting certain schools we have created a two tier primary education sector within adjoining communities. The Minister for Education needs to act immediately to avoid a situation within rural communities that by granting DEIS to certain schools while not to others that he does not create a situation whereby pupils will start moving from one school to another. It will be essential in the years ahead that school budgets are increased and that we as a country better plan for our Education sector and increase funding and staffing of our schools. I am calling on the Minister to review the failure by his Department to designate certain schools within Donegal in DEIS, I will be raising this matter directly with the Minister, concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has expressed concern at the worsening situation with waiting lists at Letterkenny University Hospital, figures released to me show as of January 2017 the following was the situation within the hospital, there are 2,452 people awaiting an Inpatient and Day Case appointments, with 312 of them waiting more than 12 months. The figures also showed 2,438 patients awaiting an Outpatient appointment, an increase of 235 from January 2016, but 1,120 are waiting more than 18 months for an appointment in the Outpatient Department.
Pat the Cope added the situation is worsening to critical levels, and I am seriously concerned as to what the HSE, the Government especially the Health Minister and Hospital Management are doing regarding this crisis of health care within Letterkenny University Hospital. Inpatient and Day cases figures have increased by 93 since December 2016 and by over 606 in the twelve months since January 2016 based on the HSE’s own figures. Similarly when one examines the Outpatients waiting list with 2,438 patients waiting an appointment, an increase of 235 since 2016 or a 7.6% increase on the year. No progress is being made at the Hospital in terms of increasing the rate of treating patients who are presently on the waiting lists, the situation is deteriorating on a monthly basis and is very alarming when one assesses it over a 12 months basis.
Pat the Cope reiterated his call made in the Dail debate on the 2nd of February that the Minister for Health immediately appoint a full Review Team to the Hospital to conduct a root and branch inspection of the Hospital, to fully assess the Budgets and management efficiencies, to consult directly with frontline staff and the medical professionals who see first-hand on a daily basis the problems within the Hospital and that this Review Team report back directly to him and through his Department the HSE – how much longer can the Minister procrastinate and fail to take a decision on intervening to assist Letterkenny Hospital. Action needs to be taken in order to deal with the backlog of patients on the waiting lists and the daily crises we experience within the Emergency Department, it is clearly self-evident that the Budgets for Letterkenny University Hospital have been allowed to be cut too much, it is clear there is not sufficient bed capacity and it is very obvious that there are staff shortages – until this is addressed we will not get a handle on the crises within the Hospital and be in a position to deal with the increased demand on the Hospital. The Minister for Health needs to take a stance on Letterkenny Hospital, just simply visiting the hospital and believing that this solves the problem just does not cut the ice – the Minister now needs to show leadership and take action and appoint a full Review Team without further delay concluded Pat the Cope.
Ends – 09/02/2017
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the commitment he has received from Irish Water following his representations for the inclusion of Lower Dooey and the Fr Mc Dyer Centre including the Folk Village into the new Sewerage scheme, a great of local annoyance and disappointment was aired when it was discovered that the area was not to be included in the proposed works of the new sewerage scheme – this came as shock to the residents as the local beach is located in Dooey and therefore the pollution risk was real. In a reply to Deputy Gallagher’s query to Irish Water, they have now confirmed that Irish water will seek a quotation for the extension to the Glencolmcille Sewerage Scheme to include the Folk Village and all households between the end of the existing newly proposed scheme and Lower Dooey including the Folk Village.
Pat the Cope added I am delighted that this is finally progressing and I wish to thank Irish water officials for taking on board my proposal for extending the sewerage scheme by way of a separate works contract, the extension is essential for the future development of the Folk Village and the residents on the Lower Dooey road. It will now be very important that those directly affected in that area express an interest in connecting to the new scheme and make an application to join the sewerage scheme immediately. I have circulated application forms in order to move this proposal forward, should anyone who has not received a form please contact my office.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating we must now maintain the pressure in order to get these works carried out and the extension completed but it is very significant development that we now have a commitment from Irish water to obtain a quotation for the works required and an invitation from Irish water for the residents of lower Dooey and Folk Village to seek a connection to the new sewerage scheme. The provision of this new extension will greatly assist in the development of the Dooey area and the Folk Village and it further provides development opportunity to the property owners in that area.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval of € 5 million funding for the Killybegs Harbour extension but more needs to be done with smaller harbours and piers throughout Donegal. The extension of the harbour facility at Killybegs is long overdue and is a matter which I lobbied for since my re-election to the Dail; the extension will provide safe anchorage for 8 to 10 vessels and is much needed by the fleet, the 120 meter extension will provide stern berthing for these vessels and the construction of the new facility will take 9 months to complete. These works sanctioned by the Department of Marine will be a great addition and asset to the Killybegs fishing vessels in the years ahead, I will be insisting that the Department immediately prepare for tender, appointment of a contractor and move to construction of this new harbour facility will out undue delay.
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Fianna Fail Marine spokesperson added that while welcoming the Killybegs extension more needs to be done for the smaller harbours and piers throughout Donegal, and what is required of the Department now is a rolling programme of harbour and pier improvements within the county, it is essential we look after the smaller harbours and piers as well as the large fisheries harbours such as Killybegs. Throughout Donegal at present there is a great deal of improvement works required on different piers and harbours, the Department needs now to move and address these works and improvements. The announcement by the Department of €2.5 million for local authority projects nationwide is far too little when it is spread over all the coastal local authorities within the state, the department need to be realistic when setting a budget for repairing and improving harbours and piers- the budget set is grossly inadequate and will not meet the demands placed on it.
Pat the Cope stated I will be asking the Marine Minister and the Aire na Gaeltachta to put in place a multiannual programme of funding to improve and upkeep our piers and harbours which are critical for our marine sector, leisure and activities sector as well as tourism development. A great deal of work and investment is required in this sector, while the Killybegs extension is essential and critical to the fisheries sector -the other improvement works for other harbours and piers are as equally important and must not be forgotten about concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed that the review into Seasonal and Part time workers entitlements for Job Seekers Benefits is underway – the matter was raised by me on numerous occasions since the last General Election. A commitment was obtained from the Minister for Social Protection in the course of the Social welfare Bill debates, the various changes brought into effect by the previous Government over the past 6 years has made it virtually impossible for seasonal and part time workers to obtain social protection payments under Job Seekers Benefit. The changes have impacted directly on many hundreds of seasonal and part time workers right through out Donegal and this review must deal with their concerns and assist them in restoring their entitlement to Social Protection as seasonal and part time workers.
Pat the Cope stated that the Minister had replied to a Dail question tabled by him and the Minister confirmed that “the review had commenced and the aim was to have the report ready for the Social Protection Committee hearing by end of March or early April 2017”. It is now essential that the department officials deal fairly with this review and make every effort to understand the difficulties these changes in Job seekers benefit are having on rural families and seasonal workers. The role seasonal and part time workers play in the rural economy is extremely important, for employers who function on a seasonal basis it provides the necessary labour and for those in employment it further sustains the incomes of many farming families and fishermen’s households.
Pat the Cope added that the basic social welfare principle has always been to support those who work, and the many seasonal and part time workers are entitled to full support from their social welfare contributions – that is what the review is about and that is what this Government must restore for these workers, their basic right to obtain Social Welfare payments when their seasonal or part time worker ceases. I am calling on the Government to restore full entitlements to seasonal and part time workers as it was a complete mistake to remove and change their rights to social welfare in the first instance concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has debated the current crises at Letterkenny University Hospital with Minister of State Catherine Byrne who stood in for the Minister of Health Simon Harris who failed to attend the debate. The motion brought forward was in order to highlight the ongoing crises within the Hospital with total capacity protocols being exercised on a routine basis, full capacity within the Oncology department, failure to appoint a second breast surgeon ,lack of bed capacity, gross under staffing of frontline services, lack of services in Urology, dermatology, diabetes to mention but a few. In 2016 full capacity protocols were exercised on 104 separate occasions and again on three separate times over the past week by the Hospital. The current hospital staffs are performing trojan work under impossible circumstances with underfunding, under resourcing and understaffing – I acknowledge their work and praise the continual efforts they make to deliver full services and care to the people of Donegal.
Pat the Cope added the crises in Letterkenny University Hospital is worsening and no improvement is in sight – furthermore I am not convinced that either the HSE or the Department of Health fully appreciate the depth of crises which exists within the Hospital at present in Letterkenny. It was with that motivation I called on the Minister to appoint a full Review Team to be placed in the hospital, to seek the views of frontline staff, medical professionals who work across the services, to fully examine the lack of bed capacity and the blockages within the Emergency Department and the lack of services, other services which have been withdrawn and the lack of access to services. I am clear that the overarching problem within the hospital is the lack of resources and the underfunding of the hospital over a continued period of time – without substantial budget increases nothing will succeed in dealing with this crisis.
Pat the Cope stated I disappointed that the Minister did not even see it fit or worthwhile to attend the debate, it is little wonder why the HSE and the Department fail to understand the crises at Letterkenny University Hospital when the Minister fails to be part of the debate and the solution – it is no longer acceptable that this crises be allowed to continue, the issues facing Letterkenny are now out of control due to lack of commitment from the Government to deal with it previously – we can no longer wait for a solution. The review of the running of the hospital and services would have provided a mechanism to demonstrate the shortcomings in services due to lack of resources, underfunding and budgeting cuts over the past 6 years. Letterkenny needs support from the HSE and the Government and the people of Donegal need a hospital which can meet the demands of the county – this does not currently exist. The Government today have missed an opportunity to be part of the solution to the crises in Letterkenny Hospital instead we see more of the same neglect of our health services by this Minister and Government. It was shocking that the Minister for Health failed to remain in the Dail for the debate- it is a poor indictment of this Government’s commitment to Letterkenny University Hospital and the people of Donegal by his no show for the debate concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the reply which he has received from Garda Commissioner Noreen O’Sullivan to his earlier representations on the declining Garda numbers within the Donegal Division. Commissioner O’Sullivan informed Deputy Gallagher that she has sought a report into the decline of Garda numbers within the Donegal Division and will evaluate the matter on a county wide basis in conjunction with senior Garda authorities and revert back to Deputy Gallagher once the report is completed.
Pat the Cope welcomed the commitment of the Garda Commissioner to have the matter looked into and a report compiled on the current compliment of Gardaí serving within the Donegal Division and the decline in numbers which has occurred over the past 6 years and the impact that is having on service delivery. This is a matter which I have raised on a number of occasions in Dail Éireann, with the Department of Justice and most recently with the Garda Commissioner, the commitment to have a report compiled is a welcome first step and it will be imperative that Garda management take real action and that Garda numbers will be increased within the Division on a phased basis over a prescribed period of time.
Pat the Cope has further requested the Garda Commissioner by way of written correspondence - as an interim solution to the shortage of Gardaí in the Donegal Division to proactively look at all current internal Garda transferees, who are seeking to transfer into the Donegal Division and fast track their transfer in order to deal with the current shortages within the Garda ranks in the County. The Donegal Division has experienced massive decline in Garda numbers over the past 6 years and the situation is steadily worsening- it is going to essential that immediate action is taken to strengthen Garda numbers and to properly resource the Donegal Division in order that they can carry out their duties to meet the growing challenges facing them on a daily basis concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas- Cheann Comhairle has criticised the Government and the Department of Transport for their approach in dealing with the crisis facing Bus Éireann.
Deputy Gallagher made the comments after Fianna Fáil tabled a Dáil Private Members Business motion, seeking to resolve the problems facing the semi-state body. It seems everyone else aside from the Government, recognises the enormous crisis that Bus Éireann is facing. The company reported losses of €5.3m in 2016 and even greater losses are projected for 2017. The cash reserves that the company has on hand are quickly evaporating and core services are at risk of being axed entirely. It’s not tenable for the Minister for Transport to continue attempting to claim that he has no responsibility for dealing with a crisis, which could result in the collapse of public transport services in communities right across the country. A recent report carried out by Grant Thornton suggests that the entire Expressway service may be closed down. This would have a devastating impact on our public transport network especially in counties such as Donegal where we rely heavily on public transport for connectivity. There is sufficient scope for both Public and Private Transport sector companies, Donegal has been to the forefront and fortunate to benefit from privately operated transport companies added Pat the Cope
Fianna Fáil recognises the enormous challenge facing Bus Éireann. The emphasis should be on how we can make the company sustainable instead of just solely focusing on cutting back on services. There is a future for Bus Éireann, but this requires investment in our public transport infrastructure. It’s important that the Government uses its powers as a Stakeholder to ensure there are no destructive changes made to the Expressway service. The Government also needs to work towards a plan to restructure Bus Éireann with the consent of both management and workers. This requires a proactive approach and must ensure that rural bus routes are protected and connectivity for Donegal to airports and Inter city is guaranteed for the future concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has criticised the directives contained within the National Framework for procuring transport services – which curtails and confines numerous state agencies and organisations such as HSE, ETB both ETB schools and all other Secondary Schools, An Garda Siochána etc. to procuring or hiring bus transportation from a centralised list framework which will be operated through a Dublin office. Whilst we are all for cost saving measures this is taking things to an extreme, the newly published framework, which is a policy initiative of the Department of Public Expenditure is blatantly anti rural and anti-small business with many small bus operators unable to complete or even meet the qualifying criteria.
Pat the Cope added in a week when the Government published its Rural Strategy, this policy framework certainly has not been rural proofed, as it fails to understand the scale and complexities of counties such as Donegal. This policy will be a nightmare for school principals and other managers to administer and it also will be extremely detrimental to small scale and family operated bus companies’ right throughout the county. Policies such as these which are drawn up and implemented from desk top bureaucrats neither understand rural life or have experienced practical day to day running of transport in rural areas- which are far removed from Dublin.
Pat the Cope stated the Department must immediately put in place a derogation for all Secondary and ETB schools and other such organisations which deal with transport within rural areas otherwise we are going to have chaos from an organisational perspective, and furthermore we are going to impose financial hardship on many rural and local bus operators within Donegal. These bus operators are providing an excellent service and provide excellent value for money with the added benefit that all money spent remains local. Centralised bus operations simply will not work within Donegal and to undo the current system defies logic as each organisation at present on an annual basis tenders to obtain the best value for their transport needs backed up with a full understanding of the needs of their group/school and the local community. I am calling on the Department to modify the framework requirement and provide a practical solution for transport hiring within Donegal rather than attempting to provide a one size fits all directive from upon high concluded Pat the Cope.
Minister Pascal Donoghue T.D.
Minister for Public Expenditure
Re: National Framework for Passenger Ground Transportation Services
Aire , A Chara.
I am writing to you concerning the above framework and the possible impact the directive will have on small businesses in rural areas and secondly the organisational difficulties it will pose on schools and other such organisations. The centralising of procurement of buses and transport services for example for a school in west Donegal wishing to go on a geography field trip some 40 kms down the road to Glenveagh National Park – whereby now that school will have to use the centralised list of operators for the trip. That list may or may not have an operator from the immediate area of the school or county even, whilst in principle group procurement leads to savings it may not in this incidence due to the low critical mass of trips/runs for buses. It is also worth noting all schools on an annual basis tender their services locally in order to obtain best value for money and generate savings. I am also concerned that a centralised procurement of transport service will exclude many small scale bus operators – family run bus companies which by enlarge provide many of the services to schools and other such organisations at present.
I propose that a derogation be put in place from the framework for secondary schools across the board on the basis that they tender locally for services each year, on the basis that the framework will cause too many organisational issues to implement within the secondary schools sector, that it would exclude many small and family run bus companies and businesses from the process, that it is anti-rural in its approach and would favour larger operators. Therefore I ask you to give favourable consideration to my proposals on this framework and accordingly amend the directives issued to the ETB and Secondary Schools sector.
Le gach Dea Ghui
Pat the Cope Gallagher
26th January 2017.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the general public to have their say on the review of the processes and procedures in issuing Aquaculture Licences which is now underway, his comments come following recent establishment by the Marine Minister of a review group comprising of a 3-person Independent Review Group to carry out a review of the aquaculture licensing process, procedures and associated legal framework. The Independent Review Group includes Ms Mary Moylan, chairperson, Dr Ken Whelan and Mr Lorcan Ó Cinnéide.
Pat the Cope added the Independent Review Group is presently inviting submissions from all stakeholders. The Public Consultation was advertised in the Irish Independent on Tuesday 10 January 2017. Details of the Public Consultation and the Group’s terms of reference are hosted on the Fishingnet.ie website. The Public Consultation will close on the 10 February 2017 therefore I am urging all interested parties to have their say and make their submissions in order to best determine the most appropriate framework and procedure for the future issuing of Aquaculture licences . The Objectives of the Review Group are to identify changes required to the aquaculture licence process and its associated legal framework that will: Deliver licence determinations in a timely manner, having regard to international best practice; Facilitate enhanced transparency in the licensing process for all stakeholders. The group are to establish a framework which will command the confidence of both sectoral interest and broader community and clearly define for all the process by which aquaculture licences are decided and issued by the Department.
Pat the Cope stated there is now an opportunity for the general public to express their views so that it will from part of the consideration of the new process which will eventually evolve from this process – the Group are to revert back to the Marine Minster within 4 months, thereafter I would expect the new guideline and procedures to come into effect and be the agreed way in which future licences will be issued by the department – therefore it is essential the general public are aware of the review and secondly have their say by making the necessary submissions concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has branded the newly published Government policy “realising our Rural Potential” as nothing more than a rebranding and a relaunching of missed and lost opportunities by the Government. The 71 page report about revitalising and reviving our rural communities excels in colour and flops on substance and is a cut and paste of every Government Department’s failure and missed opportunity over the past 5 years by this Government and its predecessor in office.
Pat the Cope added that the long awaited strategy for rural Ireland has been a complete disappointment as it lacks any innovation; it fails to deliver on firm deadlines and lacks financial back up and resources to provide the necessary investment in order to revive our communities in rural Ireland. Furthermore it distinguishes between rural village & town and rural community life by giving greater emphasis to those living within Village and Town boundaries over those living outside town boundaries. In order to sustain and develop rural life both rural communities and villages- towns must be supported on an equal basis. It is shocking that the new strategy aims to prioritise “small housing schemes in towns and villages as an alternative to one-off housing” our rural communities’ future depend on one-off housing whereby families can build on their family farms and lands, this strategy is sending out the wrong signal in this regard. No rural area will prosper or develop if it does so in isolation of its hinterland and surrounding areas – balanced rural development encompasses all rural communities and areas equally.
Pat the Cope stated that the newly published strategy will fail to make any impact on our rural communities – the plan is not properly funded, it is not properly planned with set targets, it lacks balance for rural Ireland and fails to convince anyone that it is the plan that can deliver revival and renewal of our rural areas and communities. I challenge the Government to put in place a meaningful plan and strategy for delivery, in order to save our rural communities rather than more Government spin. The Government must finally realise that spin will not create additional employment, spin will not deliver additional services, spin will not keep families in rural communities- spin creates nothing only a vacuum and this strategy for reviving rural life is a complete vacuum of substance concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has confirmed grants of €20.2 million for regional and county roads within Donegal for the year 2017, it was confirmed to Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher by Minister Shane Ross this afternoon.
Pat the Cope added the grants announced today, cover all county and regional roads improvements and maintenance right throughout Donegal, in addition the grants announced today, cover bridge restoration and safety improvement measures in the county. Whilst I welcome today’s announcement it falls far short of our expectation and basic need in order to maintain the county’s roads network and infrastructure. The grants today show no real terms increase on 2016 announcement and from that perspective it is disappointing and needs to be re looked at by the Government. In addition I am extremely disappointed the Government has failed to provide funding for Local Improvement Schemes which are desperately needed in rural Ireland and especially in Donegal - again this year the Government has failed to provide funding for non-county and access roads in today’s budget announcement.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating additional resources must be obtained for Donegal roads in order to maintain the vast road network we have within the county – we have a backdrop of under investment on our roads network between 2011 and present – there we need to accelerate investment and therefore I request the Department to make an additional announcement of resources for Donegal in the course of 2017 from internal savings concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has challenged both the Garda Commissioner Noreen O’ Sullivan and Justice Minister Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to intervene and address the decline in Garda numbers within the Donegal Division – which have declined by 21% in the past 7 years along with the failure to post any of the new Garda recruits to Donegal over the past 12 months.
Pat the Cope has personally written to both the Garda Commissioner and Justice Minister highlighting the plight and decline of Garda numbers within the Donegal Division. In a strongly worded letter the concerns of the local communities were emphasised especially regarding recent robberies, anti-social behaviours, rising drug problems right throughout all our communities and the milliard of other duties the Gardaí are asked to perform on a daily basis. The current force compliment of 387 serving Gardaí within the county were commended by Pat the Cope for serving in such difficult working conditions when understaffing is so evident. They perform their duties above and beyond of what is required of them but it is impossible to expect a force of 387 to perform the duties when the Donegal Division force once comprised of 488 Gardaí as was the case in 2010.
Deputy Gallagher added the Garda Commissioner who has direct responsibility for Garda numbers within the Division must now act and set in place a programme of Garda replacement – over a set period of time with clear targets so that the Garda numbers will be replenished and restored to 2010 numbers within the Donegal Division. The Minister for Justice must also intervene in order to underpin and support this call. I have continuously highlighted this matter in the Dail since the last General Election. In the interim the Commissioner should fast track internal transfers from within the force for those wishing to transfer into the Donegal Division – this is in light of no new Garda recruits being assigned to Donegal. It is only with an unqualified support on the part of the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister will we be in a position to solve the Donegal Garda numbers decline and provide our communities with the comprehensive Garda presence that they require. I challenge those in authority both within Garda Headquarters and the Government to act now and address the crises of Garda numbers within Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Minister for Justice
Re: Garda Numbers in Donegal Division.
Tánaiste, A Chara
I write to you concerning the matter of Garda numbers within the Donegal Division and as you are aware, I have raised the matter with you on a number of occasions by way of Dáil question. Currently within the Donegal Division Garda numbers are down 21% since the first of January 2009 and unfortunately in the last two batches of new recruits no new Gardaí were assigned to the Donegal Division.
The matter is now of great concern for the local communities right throughout Donegal – as we have ongoing issues with crime – robberies and disturbances not to mention the ongoing drug related issues which is increasing at an alarming rate throughout our communities. The current numbers of Gardaí within the county make it impossible for them to deal effectively with the milliard of issues which confronts them on a daily basis in the line of their duties. Morale of the Gardaí will eventually suffer unless something is done to remedy the situation; I am calling on you to intervene and put in place a programme whereby numbers will be restored over a phased basis during a set period of time for the Donegal Division.
Donegal is a vast county and the current compliment of 387 Gardaí are struggling to provide a full service to the entire county – this is despite many of them working way beyond the call of duty in an effort to fill the gaps. In light of the ongoing issues of crime related activity, drug issues and Donegal being a border county we require additional resources , therefore I ask you along with the Commissioner of the Gardaí to examine the matter and put in place additional Gardaí for the Donegal Division. I thank you for your time on this matter and look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Le gach Dea Ghui
Pat the Cope Gallagher
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has called on the Government to fast-track its long-promised plan to revive and revitalise rural Ireland. Deputy Gallagher made the comments following reports that the Government is currently considering a number of options to incentivise living in rural areas but focusing only on rural villages and towns. Whilst any additional investment and support programme is welcome for rural areas, I fail to understand why make a difference between rural areas such as those who live in the countryside than those who live in rural villages and towns. Rural life is under treat from many aspects and it is wrong of any Government to distinguish between any country and rural living - be that village or rural townland. All aspects of rural life have suffered negatively over the past 6 years and therefore all rural communities require support and assistance.
Pat the Cope added Rural Ireland has suffered profoundly since 2011 under the previous Government and there is a failure under the present Government to address the rural decline and the neglect of rural communities. Investment and job creation opportunities have been disproportionately focused on large urban areas especially the east coast of Ireland. The result of this has been the eroding of community life in rural areas as people are forced to relocate in order to support their families, with further knock on effects on rural towns, villages and communities. This in turn has put enormous pressure on housing in areas such as Dublin and Cork whilst at the same time cheaper housing options exist in rural areas.
Pat the Cope challenged the Government to put in place a plan that will comprehensively deal with rural needs, to reverse the years of rural decline and to make it attractive for people to live in small towns, villages and rural communities. There needs to be investment in GP services, our hospitals rural schools, broadband, infrastructure, planning regulations in rural areas – such as ribbon development which not be enforced on county or regional roads, mobile phone service and other key services which make life easier and possible especially in rural areas. The IDA also needs to step up its efforts to attract jobs to rural areas. This is the only way that we can revitalise rural Ireland in the long term.
The Government have been great at talking the talk when it comes to supporting rural Ireland but their track record speaks for itself and is daily visible to us that live in rural communities, but the time for meaningful action is long-overdue. This proposed rural action plan of the Government must not make any difference between rural villages and rural townlands – rural decline was endemic across all the west of Ireland and the Government must now put in place a strategy to deal with all aspects of rural life and rural communities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has expressed severe criticism of the Government for the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) 2017 National roads allocation for Donegal – this year we are seeing a reduced allocation with only €10,595,000 being allocated to cover all national Primary and secondary roads throughout the county and that would include allocations to construct new roads. The budget for major construction projects has been cut by 47% and the budget for planning and design of new projects cut by 15%. The maintenance budget for the upkeep and pavement of National primary and secondary roads is cut by 15% for 2017. In short no new projects, no new plans and just about enough to maintain the roads.
Pat the Cope while welcoming the allocation of €1 million euro for the continuation N56 Gweebarra to Glenties, he rounded on Government for failing to provide TII with sufficient funds to continue the works on the N56 Mountcharles to Inver, N56 Bluebanks to Coolboy or the N15 and N14 between Ballybofey to Lifford and Lifford to Letterkenny and the continuation of works at Cappry to Ballybofey to list but a few. The allocation for 2017 will be just sufficient to maintain the roads to avoid potholing and other routine maintenance but projects such as those listed above are on the road to nowhere with a complete failure to provide funding for them in the 2017 allocation. There was a genuine belief this year with increased revenue in the National Exchequer that increased roads grants would be allocated to Donegal – obviously the message hasn’t got to the Department of Transport or our voice been heard at Government.
Pat the Cope added the national roads allocation to Donegal is nothing short of a disgrace and I am calling on the Department of Transport and the Government to stand up for Donegal and provide us with an increase in funding in order that we can get some of our new road projects off the ground and improve the county infrastructure – so that future investment and job creation can be incentivised within the county. There is a huge need to invest in Donegal roads but allocations such as this one will no advance our infrastructure demands – and a great opportunity was missed by the Government to prioritise development and make real change within Donegal. I am calling on the Government to allocate additional funding for Donegal roads in the course of 2017 – priority has to be given to Donegal national and non-national roads in any future allocations and I have already been in touch with the department and intend to raise this matter with the Minister when the Dail resumes next week concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the Constituency Commission to re unite Donegal into one single Dail Constituency, I have made a submission to the Commission calling on them to restore Donegal into one constituency and to return the parts of South Donegal which were as part of the Boundary Commission of 2012 transferred to Sligo Leitrim Constituency.
Pat the Cope added that the breakup of Donegal in 2012 was a retrograde step and one which had extremely negative consequences for the people of south Donegal. The proposal which I submitted to the Commission was based on the return of south Donegal into the existing five seat constituency of Donegal; this was based on the premise that the Dail is increased to 160 seat chamber. The population of south Donegal which now forms part of the Sligo Leitrim constituency feel completely disenfranchised and have no natural affinity to the constituency which they were forced to be part of- this was demonstrated in the 2016 General Election with a record low turnout at the election. I believe the present commission has sufficient scope as part of their recommendations and guidelines to recommend the reunification of Donegal into one single constituency.
Pat the Cope urged the Commission to seize the opportunity now and correct the mistake of 2012 – when south Donegal was severed from the rest of Donegal in order to satisfy broadly based guidelines without taking any consideration of historical links, geographical connections and natural affinity of the people of south Donegal. There is only one natural home for the people of south Donegal and that is to be part of the Constituency of Donegal. There is only one Donegal and that must include south Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
I make the following submission to the Constituency Commission in the firm belief and resolve that the constituency of Donegal should encompass all of the County and people of Donegal – the present situation whereby the southern part of the county (all areas south of Ballintra to the County Leitrim border) forms part of a four county constituency known as Sligo Leitrim, is neither practical, feasible nor right. The citizens of Donegal have a right under the broader terms of this newly established commission to remain as one single entity, in that the county boundary should not be breached – a constituency that includes all the population of Donegal and preserve the county as one single entity.
The case I make will be referenced to the Molloy v’s The Minister for the Environment, the terms of the current Commission, the needs and aspirations of the people of south Donegal and the greater county as a whole, the lack of representation due to the unnatural composition of a four county constituency - of which south Donegal is the smallest entity thereof, the total lack of any cohesion and natural historical or geographical linkage between the various parts of the Sligo Leitrim constituency as constituted by the previous Constituency Commission of 2012.
Points of consideration for the Commission.
Molloy v’s The Minister for the Environment – The ruling of this particular case was that – it is not possible for any court, commission or otherwise to set a universal threshold by which all constituency compositions of population can be adjudged on. Therefore the current practice of having a variance between constituencies of in or around 1 to 1.6 % has no basis in law or guidance for any Constituency Commission nor the otherwise utilised standard variance of 5 % as practised by previous Commissions. It is my belief that the Molloy ruling was attempting to accommodate the situations which arise – such as the south Donegal case at present whereby minority areas of larger counties have to be removed from the overall county in order to satisfy a guideline for a Commission – without giving equal consideration to the removal of a geographical area into another constituency which hitherto no natural linkage or bond existed with. The Molloy ruling is attempting to introduce flexibility to avoid situation which are neither desirable nor practical – such as the case of a four county constituency (Sligo – Leitrim – Cavan and Donegal). I submit if the Molloy ruling were to be used by the present Commission then south Donegal would be re united with Donegal (5 seater) constituency, the current population of Donegal is 158,755 as set in the last census, the current population of the Donegal 5 seat constituency is 150,342. Even if the previous standard variance of 5% which was practiced and used by other Boundary commissions in the past were to be used, then I make the case to include the 7,859 of the Donegal population which were included in Sligo Leitrim constituency in 2012. Accepting the current constituency population to be 150,342 then activating the 5% variance the constituency population would be 157,860 – that then would have Donegal have a Population to TD equal to that of 6 other national constituencies at present and still within the spirit of the Molloy judgement, the previous variance if utilised as a measure and satisfying guideline 2(c) the breaching of county boundaries should be avoided.
The terms of the current Commission as published, I am now referencing to sections 2 (c ) and 2 (e ) respectively and specifically quoting - 2( c ) the breaching of county boundaries and 2 (e ) the need to take on board geographical considerations in deciding upon a constituency boundaries. The breaching of Donegal’s county boundary should have been avoided at all costs in the previous Constituency Commission’s Report of 2012 and final recommendations which came into effect for the General Election of 2016. The consequences of that decision by the boundary commission – has led to an area being separated from its natural hinterland, it has negatively impacted on the population - in 2016 the separated area from Donegal recorded the lowest General Election turnout in its history – a decline of 15% in turnout and such a decline was completely out of kilter with the surrounding areas. The level of apathy was due to that area of south Donegal being part of a constituency which they had no linkage to or affinity for.
The aspirations and needs of the population of south Donegal – the current makeup of constituency in which they are presently part of and find themselves in – does not meet nor serve their needs and aspirations. Referring again to the Molloy judgement, I submit that a broader interpretation of that ruling allows for lesser emphasis on universal thresholds of populations and more emphasis on geographical areas and there natural boundaries -that is what the ruling was referring to, the spirit of the ruling was to avoid situations whereby small enclaves would be separated from their overall natural homelands - in order to create constituencies which simply satisfy guidelines and not historical or geographical links. No one can present a logical or sound argument as to why south Donegal or west Cavan must form part of the Sligo Leitrim constituency other than it satisfies the 2011 Boundary Commission guidelines, whilst the guidelines have a purpose and are well intentioned on the part of those who compile and enforce them – they do not factor in human considerations, natural and historical linkages and the long established practices of geographical areas – such as south Donegal. In short it is my view that simple broad-based guidelines without geographical and historical considerations are too blunt an instrument to draw up constituency boundaries.
The lack of the future prospect of Dail Eireann representation from the immediate area, the further lack of local representation as a direct result of the abolition of Town Councils by the previous Fine Gael led Government has created a situation whereby political apathy has grown, as demonstrated in the poor turnout in the General Election 2016. As someone who has represented this area when it formed part of Donegal Southwest constituency, I am keenly aware of how politically involved and politically active the people and this area in particular have been historically. In those times they were part of a constituency which they naturally felt at home with, they had natural and historical links with the other parts of the constituency. It is also correct to state that the abolition of the Town Councils in the Town of Bundoran and the Town of Ballyshannon has further eroded the connection between the body politic and the voters of south Donegal.
In conclusion, I make the case for the re unification of the County of Donegal into one single Dail Constituency comprising of the entire county as encompassed by its county boundaries. The current breakup of the population of Donegal has failed, the separated part of the county and its population of South Donegal have not integrated naturally into the newly created four county constituency – it has led to the disenfranchisement of a people from their natural county, it has led to voter apathy and to the creation of a constituency which never historically or geographically had any basis in reality other than to satisfy a departmental guideline at a particular moment in time.
I respectfully request the Commission to consider my points of view and the submission I make to you, I thank you for your time and opportunity to make this submission.
Let’s make Donegal one constituency for it is one County.
Pat the Cope Gallagher.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the publication of the ‘Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance’ but has called for swifter implementation of some of the report’s key recommendations in order to deal with the spiralling insurance costs. Many motorists have seen their premiums rise by 80% to 150 % over the past two years, the insurance cost and cover for premiums is out of control and beyond the price range of many.
Pat the Cope stated “The Cost of Insurance Working Group was set up in July 2016 as a direct result of a Fianna Fáil private members’ motion put before Dáil Éireann the previous month and was adopted by the Dail. I welcome the publication of the report and – if implemented without delay – I believe the report can halt the trend of rapidly rising motor insurance premiums. While the government cannot directly control motor insurance premiums, we have always argued it can influence the factors that determine the premium levels and how they are set. Last June, we as a party called for the establishment of a national claims register and a motor insurance database to record data across the sector. In that regard, I welcome the report’s recommendation that a national claims information database be set up, this will assist in lowering the levels of premiums each one of us has to pay annually.
“However, I am deeply disappointed that the target is to have this done by the middle of 2018. If you look at the experience of setting up the Central Credit Register (several years behind schedule) then this timeline could slip even further,” added Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher added the insurance industry has consistently claimed that the cost of awards is the decisive factor in spiralling motor insurance premiums. In that respect, the establishment of a Personal Injuries Commission is a step forward but it must act swiftly to address awards that are out of line with international practice. I welcome the fact that the Commission will examine the various ‘care not cash’ models of compensation used elsewhere. In addition, the Injuries Assessment Board has to be given stronger powers to be the final decision maker in respect of more claims; this is something I personally called for over the past year.
There has to be a serious clampdown on the issue of false and exaggerated claims as this practice is undoubtedly contributing to sky high premium increases. We are not seeing enough of these cases brought to Court for prosecution. The key issue now is implementation – the talking is over, now we require action. The idea of quarterly reports is a good one, but these should commence in quarter 1 of 2017 and not wait until mid or late 2018 – the Irish motorists have suffered enough with inflated costs now is the time to take action and alleviate that burden on them concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas Cheann Comhairle has sought an immediate meeting with An Post concerning Drumkeen Post Office which has functioned as a Postpoint Terminal over the past number of years. His call comes following the cessation of services at the Postpoint in Drumkeen over the past week, Pat the Cope along with local Cllr Patrick Mc Gowan will meet with An Post in order to resolve the current difficulties in providing a service at Drumkeen.
Pat the Cope stated the situation whereby An Post services are no longer available in Drumkeen must be addressed, and I am keenly aware the entire viability of Postpoint terminal offices are becoming more difficult for those local business people to provide such services as required under the Postpoint agreement, services such as Social protection payments, Bill payments TV Licences, ESB, etc. A great deal of the responsibility of providing a Postpoint service rests on the business operator rather than An Post – in return the Postpoint operator gets very little remuneration for all the work involved and the responsibilities undertaken by them – this is not the first instance within the county of local post office services operated through Postpoint being in difficulty.
Pat the Cope added the Government must now seriously look at supporting rural Post Offices and that very much includes Postpoint Terminal agreements such as in Drumkeen. It is evident that we now have a crisis in the rural post office sector and measures need to be put in place in order to save and support remaining Post Offices. Rural decline has to be counter acted and rural life in rural communities evolves around the Post Office, it is imperative that action is now taken to support our Post Office network concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle welcomes the announcement of Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD today that his Department is allocating €2.77 million in funding support for the four regional airports in Donegal, Ireland West Airport Knock, Kerry and Waterford. I have always maintained the case and pressurised the Government for support of regional airports since my re-election to Dail Eireann in the interests of regional development, connectivity and overall access to the regions.
Pat the Cope Gallagher stated the grant of €320,046 was being made under the Regional Airports Programme 2015-2019, which supports these airports with both capital and operational grants for projects and activities in the areas of safety and security.
The grants announced today provide assistance towards the operational costs incurred by Donegal Airport and are in addition to capital grant funding announced earlier in 2016 and grant aided measures of safety and security investments at the airport.
The grants announced today are critically important towards the running of the airport and in addition to the provision of Public Service Obligation (PSO) air services on the Donegal/Dublin, which I continue to lobby for in order to sustain the airport in Donegal. These supports are very important for airports such as Donegal and for the role that they play in promoting a level of international connectivity to support business, tourism and wider travel access from and to counties such as Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Marine & Fisheries, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has said the 2017 fishing quotas agreed last night in Brussels represent a mixed bag for Irish fishermen, with some sectors loosing while other fishing sectors gaining.
While I welcome the fact that Ireland has seen an overall increase in total quotas of 8% at the EU Fisheries Council meeting, the devil is in the detail with some sectors loosing on a percentage quota basis.
Fishermen who catch mackerel and blue whiting will be particularly pleased by the increased quota for next year, it will be essential that the additional quota be distributed on a historical catches basis, which will be of huge advantage to Killybegs as historically most Mackerel and blue whiting are landed in the Port of Killybegs added Pat the Cope.
However, the 20% reduced Haddock quota in the North West for 2017 will come as very disappointing news for coastal communities that rely on this catch with possible job losses ahead. A scientific review needs to take place immediately to get a more accurate picture of the mortality rate of this stock and the Government must ensure that such scientific evidence is available to them at times of fisheries negotiations added Pat the Cope.
When I became aware yesterday evening that a number of Member States were opposed to activating the Hague Preferences, which allows Ireland receive increased quotas for certain species, I immediately contacted Minister Creed at the Brussels talks. I told the Minister to hold firm and informed him, that in my previous role as an MEP, I secured the strengthening of the terms of The Hague Preferences and the occasions in which the preferences can be activated. Had Ireland not pushed for these preferences last night, some 600 tonnes of whitefish quota would have been lost stated Pat the Cope.
Finally, while the actual reduction of Cod is less than those initially proposed, this 15% cut will result in significant economic loss for those Whitefish Fishermen who rely on these stocks in these coastal communities and as such will have a direct negative impact on coastal areas concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas Cheann Comhairle has expressed his disappointment that the Government has failed to recognise the importance of local access and non-county roads in the recent announcement of CLÁR funding, thousands of households’ right throughout Donegal reply solely on non-county or Local access roads in order to gain overall access to the county road network. The Government have again failed to recognise the importance of investing in rural Ireland – the failure to provide funding for the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) through the CLÁR programme, has left the hundreds of local, non-county and access roads in a state of limbo whereby no funding opportunity exists for their repair or improvement added Pat the Cope
Pat the Cope stated that the CLÁR programme which was first initiated under a Fianna Fáil government with the purpose to provide additional funding to rural areas which had suffered adverse population decline over the past 50 years, therefore the provision of LIS roads funding in CLÁR is completely in keeping with the intent of the original CLÁR programme. I am calling on the Government to make provision for LIS roads in rural areas, or Boithre Áise in Gaeltacht areas – no allocation of funding has been made for these categories of roads since 2010.In the intermitting period of time many of these roads have deteriorated to a point where they are impassable and dangerous for travelling on, but as many of these roads are former or abandoned county roads and there upkeep without grant assistance is virtually impossible due to costs on the road users and residents. There is without doubt a crises unfolding for rural roads within Donegal unless funding can be sourced for their immediate improvement but the Government have failed to recognise that fact added Pat the Cope
Local and access roads are the backbone of rural life and living in rural Ireland and the failure on the part of the Government to fund these roads, is further proof that this Government fails to understand rural life and the value of rural living, the CLÁR allocations were a missed opportunity to assist and support rural families, farms and communities by providing funding to improve local, non-county and access roads concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas- Cheann Comhairle has publically called on the Health Minister Simon Harris to deal with the ongoing crises of overcrowding, capacity protocols, cancelled procedures, operations, the lack of a second breast check surgeon, lack of health services in Letterkenny University Hospital during his visit the county on Monday next. The Minister who previously visited the Hospital some months ago, but in the intervening period has done nothing and taken no direct action to alleviate the ongoing problems and crises which we witness almost on a daily and weekly basis within the hospital.
The Minister and his senior HSE officials will be attending the launch of the Digital Medical Academy in the Hospital on Monday – while I welcome the launch of the academy, it would be wrong of me not to highlight the crises within Letterkenny Hospital, which is escalating to breaking point, with routine capacity issues in the Emergency Department and services within the hospital deteriorating on a weekly basis over the past number of months added Pat the Cope.
This Health Minister and previous Ministers of Health since 2010 have allowed services within Letterkenny University Hospital to hit rock bottom, we have a crises of services and a crises of management within the Hospital. On the 25th January 2016 former Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed the appointment of a second Consultant Breast Surgeon for the Hospital, to date no appointment has been made – in fact I am of the opinion the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) are actively blocking the appointment of the second surgeon. The LUH Symptomatic Breast Service is under considerable pressure at present with the number of patients attending routinely for treatment and care, the Minister must visit the Oncology Unit in Letterkenny on Monday. At present many Donegal Patients are being required to travel long distances due to capacity issues and the lack of a second Breast check Surgeon appointment in the Hospital, some of these patients being referred end up on a waiting list of another Hospital rather than being seen to stated Pat the Cope.
I am publically calling on the Health Minister Simon Harris and the Government to stop stalling, dallying and procrastinating in relation to Letterkenny University Hospital and deal once and for all with the lack of resources, the pressure under which services and hospital staff are preforming under, the lack of services and staff and the ineffective management of the Hospital at present by the HSE – We are at a state of crises in relation to Letterkenny Hospital and ignoring it will not make it go away. Without Government intervention, genuine support, increased resources, additional staff and the Minister to take personal charge of this crises we will have dire consequences in our health services within Donegal in the months ahead concluded Pat the Cope.
Clarity needed on Farm Assist and RSS assessment but progress being made- Pat the Cope
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle welcomed the Government decision to honour its commitment in the Confidence and Supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil to secure the future of family farms by reducing income assessment levels for eligibility for Farm Assist Scheme.
Following pressure from Fianna Fáil, the Social Protection Minister has confirmed that the changes in assessment will take effect next March.
Deputy Gallagher explained, “I welcome the decision by Minister Leo Varadkar to re-introduce the 30% disregard of means and to reinstate allowances for children as part of the Farm Assist Scheme. The decision by the previous Government to implement the abolition of the income disregard for Farm Assist eligibility was disgraceful and I am glad that the new administration has seen the error of its ways and corrected their earlier mistake. Securing these changes was a key element of the Confidence and Supply arrangement negotiated between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael earlier this year.
“Despite the announcement by the Government that farmers will be automatically reassessed in March 2017 for Farm Assist eligibility, there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered. The Department has been unable to tell me whether every farmer’s income would be adjusted by March in time for the reassessment, or whether retrospective payments will be paid to people who are reassessed after March stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope added “I am still concerned that there are a lot of outstanding operational issues that may delay the process and could lead to difficulties for farming families. The Minister failed to outline how he will deal with people who were previously on Farm Assist but who have now moved to the Rural Social Scheme only to say that work on this project will begin over the coming weeks.
“I am calling on Minister Varadkar to clarify these issues and to ensure that all farmers who qualify for Farm Assist or the Rural Social Scheme benefit from these changes from next March and I again call on the Minister to clarify his intention to limit new RSS contracts to 3 years only. I will maintain the pressure on the Government and Minister in order to address the outstanding issues concerning Farm Assist and RSS” concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has expressed shock at the recent figures which showed no new Garda deployments for Co Donegal following the recent batch of recruits being released from Templemore Training College. This announcement comes following my earlier query this year to the Minister for Justice which showed a 21% decline in Garda numbers within the county since 2009. The number of Garda within Donegal in 2009 stood at 488 , but as of 31st of August 2016 only 387 Gardaí served within the county - a decline of 101 officers serving in the County or 1 in 5 less Gardaí over 7 years serving in our communities stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope added that if we are to restore the compliment of Gardaí within the county then serious effort has to be made by the Government in providing newly recruited Gardaí to rural counties such as Donegal, it defies logic in light of the statistics which show a 21% decline in Garda numbers as to why the Senior Garda Management in Garda Headquarters and the Government have again failed to provide additional Gardaí for Donegal. It is further testament of the neglect and decline of rural Ireland under this Government that no priority is given to increasing Garda presence within Donegal.
Deputy Gallagher stated that many communities are expressing sheer frustration and annoyance at the decline of Garda presence in their respective areas, whilst the Gardaí currently serving within the county are providing an excellent service – it is impossible for them to provide a service equivalent for a force that once was 21% larger in number. I am challenging the Government to prioritise Donegal, to increase Garda numbers in Donegal and for once to stop their policy of rural neglect and provide rural communities with the safety and security of increased Garda numbers added Pat the Cope.
There is no excuse for the Government in failing to increase Garda numbers in Donegal, it is time that Department of Justice remembered where Donegal is located when extra Gardaí are being allocated – the Government need to put in place a 3 year rolling programme whereby Garda numbers will be restored within Donegal to creditable and pre-existing levels as the current Garda numbers within the Division are grossly inadequate concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle stated that whilst he welcomed the commitment by the HSE, to repair the existing X-Ray unit at Dungloe Community Hospital it is evident that the unit is no longer fit for purpose and therefore this temporary arrangement for repair will not be sufficient or adequate for the medium or long term future of the X-Ray unit at Dungloe Community Hospital.
Pat the Cope added that the X-Ray unit within the Hospital is extremely important to the entire west Donegal, and greatly reduces the pressure on the Letterkenny based X-Ray Unit and provides a service for the communities of west Donegal without having to travel long distances. Due to its location the unit is extremely well utilised and as such the X-Ray unit must be fit for purpose and one which can be relied on for providing a full and complete service for the west Donegal communities which it caters for.
I am now publically calling on the HSE to make provision for a new X-Ray unit for Dungloe Community Hospital as part of their capital budget, and that they prioritise the purchase of such a unit in the 2017 capital spend, the current repairs to the existing unit will only buy time but the reality is the unit is no longer fit for purpose and requires immediate replacement. The service provided by Dungloe X-Ray unit is critical for West Donegal and as such requires immediate attention of the HSE official and the Depart of Health concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle is optimistic following representations to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and having worked in conjunction with Local Councillor Patrick Mc Gowan that a resolution will be found and funding made available for road improvements at Cappry to Ballybofey on the N15. It is hoped that funding can be obtained from the 2017 TII budget to proceed with further road improvements following the completion of works at Mc Groary’s Brae. Both Cllr Mc Gowan and I have worked closely with the Cappry Resident Group, in reaching this solution – I wish to compliment the residents group on their professionalism and efficiency in working with the road authorities in formulating this proposal added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope has received confirmation from Donegal Road Design Office, that a preferred option outlining online road improvement, with new road surface from the end of phase 1 at Mc Groary’s Brae, with additional minor road levels changes and further substantial works to be carried out at Cappry Junction. The junction improvement is also to include footpath, lighting in the interests of public safety. The estimated cost of these works is put at €465,000. , and an application has been made for this funding to TII to form part of the 2017 works programme, should funding be approved by TII works would commence in 2017.
Deputy Gallagher was informed that funding of this project will not be known until TII allocations are made for 2017, but Pat the Cope has pledged to lobby the Transport Infrastructure Ireland, highlighting the urgent need for this project and how critical it is for funding to be made for this project. I wish also to compliment the staff of the Donegal Road Design Office for all their preparatory works in getting this project to funding approval stage, it is now essential we get immediate approval for this project ,as the N15 road is the most travelled road in Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has completely rejected the assertion of Junior Minister Joe Mc Hugh “that there is confusion surrounding seasonal and part time workers social welfare entitlements “, replying to a statement issued by the Minister, Pat the Cope stated the Minister simply does not know what he is talking about – the issue regarding the eligibility rights of seasonal and part time workers is one in which hundreds of workers and their families throughout Donegal and elsewhere are unable to draw Unemployment Benefit , when their seasonal work ceases many of these workers have worked seasonally for over 20 years and it is only since 2013/14 that they are unable to draw their social welfare benefits.
Pat the Cope stated over the past 2 years - hundreds of seasonal workers have been DENIED their traditional right to access unemployment benefit as a direct result of changes made to Unemployment benefit since 2012, “I can assure Minister Mc Hugh there is no confusion on the part of the many workers who have been written to by the Department of Social Protection telling them in writing they are no longer eligible to access their social welfare claim”. I have met numerous seasonal workers personally regarding this issue – I know of 14 cases whereby the workers were left with no payment for a period greater than 7 months, with another 22 cases where no payment was given at all, and even since the last 6 weeks tens of new cases are arriving – let’s be clear there is no confusion, we have a crises for seasonal and part time workers who traditionally relied on their social welfare when work ceases stated Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher who is the only Donegal T.D. to have addressed the issue of seasonal and part time workers’ rights both at Committee stage and Report stage of the Social welfare bill, and through his amendment made by Willie O’Dea at committee stage which has now directly resulted in getting the Minister for Social Protection and the Department to initiate an immediate review of the entitlements and rights for all seasonal and part time workers. It was through my intervention at Report stage that the Minister agreed to moving to an immediate review by the Department rather than waiting for the Bill to be enacted and moved to the Senate and signed by the President- therefore the onus is now on all Donegal Public Representative to utilise this Departmental Review which I have secured to correct the anomalies, the unfairness and the rules which work against Seasonal and Part time workers, nothing is being sought here by these workers only their traditional right to security from Social welfare when their employment ceases – and that is a basic right of any worker in this state concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the commitment from the Minister of Social Protection to immediately commence the review of the rights and entitlements of seasonal and part time workers to obtain and draw social welfare benefits.
Pat the Cope who in conjunction with Fianna Fail Social Protection spokesperson Willie O’Dea placed an amendment at committee stage highlighting the plight and difficulties of seasonal and part time workers wishing to avail of Social Protection payments, received an assurance at committee stage that the Department would review the eligibility criteria and current difficulties workers are experiencing availing of social welfare payments. The regulations and criteria is now directly impacting on the livelihoods’ of many families and workers whose ordinarily employment is of a seasonal nature.
Speaking both at Committee stage and in the Dail report on the Social Welfare Bill stage Deputy Pat the Cope, the only Donegal T.D. to speak at both stages, articulated the various anomalies of the current rules and regulations for seasonal and part time workers. It is going to be necessary now that the various changes required are brought forward by the department and brought back to the Social Welfare committee in order to solve these ongoing problems.
Pat the Cope who pressed the Minister to start the review now rather than to wait for the adoption of the Social Welfare Bill by the Seanad and latterly the signing of the legislation by the President , which could delay the review by 2 months, it was on that basis that my original amendment was not written into legislation in order to give the flexibility required, There is now an onus of responsibility on all Donegal Public Representatives to play an active part in this review of the social protection eligibility for seasonal and part time workers in order to protect their incomes in the years ahead and their respective entitlement to social welfare concluded Pat the Cope.
- Three year contract will restrict family farm incomes -
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has called on the Minister for Social Protection to reverse his decision to limit the new contracts under the Rural Social Scheme (RSS ) to three years in place of the existing open ended contracts which are renewed annually. He described the move as regressive, short sighted, anti-rural and said that it would penalise small farmers and rural communities.
Deputy Gallagher explained, “The Rural Social Scheme was set up to provide off-farm income and employment to low-income farmers, which would help them supplement their household earnings as well as delivering high quality services within local communities.
“The scheme has been a magnificent success, providing top class services up and down the country, including care services; village enhancement; maintenance of community facilities such as football pitches, community halls and green spaces; and the development of walkways.
“The RSS has provided huge stability for farm families by guaranteeing financial security for those on the lowest incomes. By imposing a time limit on the scheme, Minister Varadkar is plunging these families back into financial and job insecurity, undermining many people’s livelihoods. It will also inhibit their ability to develop their farms and borrow money because it limits their long term financial security stated Pat the Cope.
“As well as the financial and economic benefits, the scheme also reaps social dividends. Social isolation has become a big issue in the farming community leading to mental health issues and depression. People living alone, who may otherwise feel lonely or isolated, are placed at the heart of the community through their work they carry out as part of the RSS, which is as much about social inclusion as it is economics added Pat the Cope.
I am also calling on Minister Varadkar to reverse the RSS means test that was introduced by his predecessor , which has led to a significant reduction in payments to families. I am aware of many families who are only in receipt of €20 a week for 19 hours week, which amounts to a payment of €1 an hour. This is deeply unfair and should be addressed as a matter of urgency and restore the balance, fairness to the RSS scheme and participants concluded Pat the Cope.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Deputy Willie O’Dea has said that Minister Varadkar must review the treatment of seasonal and part-time workers and their eligibility for social welfare.
Commenting on the issue Deputy O’Dea said: ‘At the first opportunity I tabled an amendment to the Social Welfare Bill at Committee stage specifically requesting that a review be carried out in relation to the treatment of seasonal and part-time workers in terms of their eligibility for Jobseekers Benefit; the contributions required to access the payment and the €12.70 rate per day set for subsidiary employment earnings. Furthermore, I asked the Minister to bring forward a report to the Committee on Social Protection on this issue within 3 months of this bill being enacted. I was the only TD in the Dail to table such an amendment at Committee stage in partnership with Fianna Fail Marine Spokesperson Pat the Cope Gallagher. I am delighted that the Minister gave a commitment to review this situation in 2017 and so I withdrew my amendment from having to be written into legislation’ on the basis that the Minister was agreeing to the amendment and gave a commitment to revert back to the Dail within 3 months.
‘It is imperative that the Department examine mechanisms whereby it can provide greater income security to seasonal and part-time workers. I know that this affects many people, particularly coastal regions, and I hope that the Minister will conduct this review in early 2017 and bring forward recommendations that will help address the issues, particularly the issue of income security of income and access to social welfare entitlements, which is a persistent problem for seasonal and part-time workers’.
Cross Border Healthcare Directive applies equally to all European citizens and it gives the right to anyone to access and obtain treatment in another member state and claim reimbursement from the HSE as a right stated Pat the Cope. The Cross Border Directive was introduced in Ireland on the 1st June 2015, any patient with a referral letter from a GP or a Consultant may obtain treatment in another member state, it is not necessary to be on an existing waiting list. The scheme if properly managed has the potential to provide timely treatment for numerous Irish patients who are awaiting treatment here at home. Currently over 415,000 Irish people are waiting for outpatient appointments and a further 67,000 patients waiting for inpatient appointments.
Pat the Cope proposed that the Irish Government now accept the intent of this Directive and fully implement it and afford the same rights to the Irish citizens that every other European citizen has as a result of the Cross Border Directive. A support scheme must also be considered by the Government and the HSE to facilitate patients travelling abroad for treatment, due to the fact that the directive gives a commitment for full reimbursement only after the patient pays the costs initially – therefore many patients will not have the resources to pay costs on the first hand even though a full 100% reimbursement is available as a right of the Directive. The Government must also consider in consultation with the Irish banks and credit unions low interest loans for those wishing to access treatment abroad through this health care directive, that such a scheme be introduced in consultation with the Department of Finance and Health allowing for frontloading payments in order to avail of treatment and subsequently reimbursement by obtained from the HSE as per the Directive added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher stated the Cross Border Directive is a European wide policy, it affords the right of timely treatment on all citizens regardless of where they reside, but in order to maximise its potential and to extend equality of opportunity to all our citizens; support measures must be introduced and people made aware of their rights, ideally if our citizens could avail of these treatments within our own jurisdiction but in the absence of that certainty this European option must be explored and maximised in order to deal with waiting list backlogs and ever lengthening waiting lists for treatments and procedures. It is the intention of this scheme that all citizens have the same right of access to health services as any other European citizen and that the costs of treatment be reimbursed by the home country of the patient stated Pat the Cope.
In dealing with this worsening health care crisis within our country, every option must be explored and maximised in order to clear the backlog on our waiting lists and provide orderly and timely treatment for all our citizens concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope’s amendment for Seasonal and Part time workers social welfare entitlements was adopted in principle at committee stage of Social Welfare Bill 2016, this follows a lengthy process whereby the rights and entitlements of part time and seasonal workers was highlighted on a continuous basis by Deputy Gallagher in the Dail. The numerous changes to various Social Welfare Bills since 2011 have made it virtually impossible for Part time and seasonal workers to access their social welfare entitlements once their seasonal or part time job ceases. Minister for Social Protection has given an undertaking to revert back to the committee concerning the issues raised regarding seasonal workers, he has also accepted the point raised by me - that seasonal workers are having difficulty accessing social welfare particularly in Donegal added Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher through his motion has secured “a review of the treatment of seasonal and part time workers in terms of their eligibility for jobseekers Benefit, the number of contributions required accessing the payment and the €12.70 rate per day set for subsidiary employment earnings” and that the report dealing with these anomalies be brought back for discussion and decision within 3 months; Minister Varadkar gave an assurance to the committee that all of these issues would be examined as part of the review requested by Deputy Gallagher . Pat the Cope who addressed the Committee in person concerning the plight of seasonal workers and their social welfare entitlements welcomed the undertaking.
Pat the Cope added that the plight of seasonal and part time workers has been grossly unfair and the rules and regulations which directly affects these workers has to be reviewed and a new system must be introduced which rewards seasonal and part time workers rather than excluding them from the security and safety of social welfare payments. All work must be rewarded, and the state system must actively encourage people to work – the current system of treating seasonal and part time workers is a complete discouragement to work stated Deputy Gallagher.
I now publically call on the Government and their respective TD’S to proactively support my motion to review the Social welfare entitlements of these workers, and to listen to the plight and circumstances of the many hundreds of part time and seasonal workers in Donegal and elsewhere throughout the state; and for once and for all to deal with this gross injustice and to restore the protection of Social welfare payments to seasonal workers – many of whom have worked on a part time and seasonal basis for the past 20 years or more added Pat the Cope.
The process is now set in train as a direct result of my motion to restore Social Welfare Benefits and relax the eligibility criteria for seasonal and part time workers, the review which now commences must be supported by the Government if they genuinely seek to address these social welfare anomalies and all public representatives have a responsibility to step up to the mark and restore a balance to the eligibility criteria and protect those workers who traditionally work on a seasonal basis concluded Pat the Cope.
Amendments to second stage of Social welfare Bill 2016.
The wording of the amendment is as follows.
The Minister shall review the treatment of seasonal and part-time workers in terms of their eligibility for Jobseekers Benefit; the contributions required to access the payment and the €12.70 rate per day set for subsidiary employment earnings and shall bring forward a report to the Committee on Social Protection on same within 3 months of this bill being enacted.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D.
Willie O’Dea T.D.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has urged the Government to prioritise the A5/N2 scheme and to open up the Northwest for rapid motorway access and connectivity with the rest of the island, the Government needs to progress route selection of the N2 Monaghan to the Border, which is currently suspended in order that the entire A5/N2 project be delivered in its entirety and as a single project.
Pat the Cope was commenting following a reply to a question he posed to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) concerning the A5/N2, in the reply TII stated that it is intended to proceed with a phased construction basis of the A5, with the final phases leading directly from Ballygawley to Aughnacloy and onto the Border being suspended until such time as the Irish Government progresses and decides a route for the N2 – Monaghan back to the Border to meet the A5.
I am concerned due to the fact that the current Government has suspended the N2 Monaghan scheme, and that the scheme has not progressed to planning nor route selection that the A5/N2 scheme overall will now only proceed in a haphazard and piece meal manner. It is imperative that this project benefit from joint up thinking, with all parties playing an active and full role in its delivery added Pat the Cope.
The TII have clearly indicated in their reply to me – “that phase 3 of the A5/N2 project will not progress until there is a commitment to delivery on the N2 (Monaghan) on the part of the Irish Government”- it is now essential that the Government address this and progress the N2 project to route selection – and planning, as failure on their part to proceed will have disastrous consequences for the entire Northwest stated Pat the Cope.
The A5/N2 project is going to be a lifeline for revitalising and a catalyst for new development in the entire northwest of Ireland - the project must get top priority on the part of the Irish Government. The project must remain as one single entity, with all parts of the route progressing together, but unfortunately at this juncture the Irish Government are dragging their heels and allowing the N2 fall behind if not fall of the schedule for delivery, with disastrous knock on consequences for the A5/N2 section between Ballygawley to the Border. This project has always been of critical importance for Donegal and the Northwest but it is of even greater importance now due to the unknown consequences of Brexit and the potential upheaval that may or may not bring to the Border counties – concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope has stated the Government’s continued failure to commit to announcing the Minor Works Grant scheme for schools is resulting in higher costs for parents, with many schools now struggling to survive and other schools having to levy parents to meet running costs.
The Minor Works Grant provides funding for the upkeep and maintenance of schools. The scheme has been consistently underfunded by the government in recent years, which has led to schools having to forgo essential maintenance work. I have raised this issue previously with the Government in September but yet no progress has been made stated Pat the Cope.
“The Minor Works Grant provides essential funding to schools to allow them operate on a day to day basis. It is used to help repair damage such as leaking roofs, broken heating systems and smashed windows. Schools have been denied this basic funding in recent years, and Budget 2017 has failed to include any provision for the scheme and now with the ongoing delay to announce the scheme many people within the education sector are getting concerned,” explained Deputy Gallagher.
“I have raised this matter with Minister for Education Richard Bruton and have implored on him and the Department the need to provide funding for the scheme as a matter of urgency. The Minister has so far refused to provide the necessary funding and has delayed a review of the decision until later in the year. This is unacceptable when you consider schools are back for nearly two months at this stage, and many have been unable to carry out essential maintenance works due to a lack of funding.
“This has resulted in schools having to hike up voluntary contribution charges to cover the upkeep of buildings. This shouldn’t be the case; schools should not be under such pressure nor work in such financial uncertainty. Voluntary contributions should not be used for basic needs like lighting and heating repairs and toilet upkeep. The Government needs to up its game and provide funding for the Minor Works Grant so that parents aren’t out of pocket at the end of the year,” said Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has again called on the Government to provide for additional resources for Mental Health, his comments come following his party moving of a private members motion requesting the Government to honour its commitment to fully fund mental health services as outlined in the policy Vision for change.
Pat the Cope complimented Fianna Fail spokesperson on Mental Health services -Deputy Browne for moving the private members motion, the debate is scheduled to take place later this evening and calls on the government to review its spending allocation for mental health services, to ring fence and prioritise funding for mental health services.
“The Confidence and Supply Arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael commits to the full implementation of the ‘A Vision for Change’ policy, and this remains a key priority for us. There has been significant under investment in mental health services in recent years and this practice must change,” stated Deputy Gallagher.
The July 2016 estimate from the Department of Health outlines that the required resources to fully implement ‘A Vision for Change’ is €177.3m, or €35.4m over five years. The funding committed by the Government for 2017 is just €15m, so a significant increase in mental health spending is needed.
“Fianna Fáil is calling on the Government to set out how exactly it intends on achieving full implementation of the country’s mental health strategy. We have made it clear that mental health spending can’t be put on the backburner, so it’s time for Fine Gael and their Independent colleagues to spell out their plan for mental health services added Pat the Cope.
“One key measure which we want to see is the introduction of a multi-annual plan for the development of mental health services. Currently the Government allocates funding to mental health on a year to year basis. This is preventing long term planning and development from taking place. Instead there should be a multi-annual plan so that our mental health services can be developed with certainty,” concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on Ministers Denis Naughton and Heather Humphreys to act and give real power and authority to the newly established Taskforce on Mobile Phone and Broadband services. The taskforce which was established in July of this year as part of the programme for Government to unlock barriers to investment in mobile phone services, to improve availability of mobile phone signals and to provide initiatives for practical solutions for areas which currently cannot avail of mobile phone signals or broadband services.
Pat the Cope added the taskforce must directly involve the relevant Government and state agencies as well as other agencies of state such as ComReg and the Telecommunication operators, the solutions to the ongoing crises of poor mobile phone signals lies in a multi-agency and cross departmental approach and co-operation. Whilst this newly established taskforce is welcome in its approach – its success will depend on the powers and authority it retains for delivery and on how it can compel commercial operators to provide services to less populated, more rural areas which are often the most difficult areas to provide Mobile Phone signals and broadband access for.
Deputy Gallagher urged the two relevant Ministers of the Government to ensure prompt delivery of the taskforces recommendations – to be followed with prompt and directed actions in order to solve for once and for all the crises of poor or no Mobile phone signals throughout Ireland and especially Donegal – likewise the issue of broadband needs direct action on a cross departmental basis.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating the existing telecommunications infrastructure, such Tetra Ireland masts utilised properly and to maximum usage can provide a greater part of the solution to this problem, similarly in many places the communications infrastructure needs upgrading or in the instances of rural Ireland completely new infrastructure needs to be provided in order to deliver a proper and available mobile phone signal. The taskforce in order to be effective must act, must have the power to act and must have the full and complete support of the Government in order to deliver added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher has placed an amendment to the Social Protection Bill in order to pressurise the Minister and the Department to improve the rights and entitlements of part-time and seasonal workers, the current situation has adversely affected the income and rights of seasonal and part time workers. Many of these seasonal workers would have traditionally worked on a part time basis for the past 20 years or more.
Pat the Cope who has raised the issue of seasonal and part time workers previously with the Minister and the Department, and following the failure of the Government to highlight and deal with the ongoing issues in the recent Budget – has now placed an amendment to the social Protection Bill in order to obtain social protection rights for seasonal workers. The current situation is grossly unfair to seasonal workers – who traditionally work for a number of weeks each year and when the seasonal work ceases they traditionally were able to draw their social welfare entitlements until the seasonal work recommenced.
The numerous changes brought about in social welfare over the past 6 years has now meant that it is virtually impossible for part – time and seasonal workers to draw any social welfare when they are out of work. The effects of this policy change have been devastating to rural and coastal communities especially here in Donegal with the many fish factory workers and other seasonal employees be that in the Tourism & Hospitality sector, farming sector throughout the county added Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher stated it is now a matter to force the hand of the Government to make the necessary changes to the Social Protection Bill, in order to remove this unfairness and restore the entitlements of the part time and seasonal workers. The current rules and regulations have to be changed for not alone is it causing extreme hardship to workers and their families, it will also lead to a skills shortage as it is no longer an incentive to obtain part time or seasonal work.
Policies must always help those who most need assistance, it must help those who help themselves and must reward those who work to provide for themselves and their families, the error and mistake of the present Government is that it fails to recognise this; and the current rules covering social welfare for seasonal and part –time workers is a complete failure to reward work and to support workers, their families and rural communities throughout Donegal and the west of Ireland concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Irish Government to form a special task force to support undocumented Irish citizens living in the United States especially after the recent election result. The current situation is extremely volatile and requires the highest attention of the Government in order to best represent and protect the interests of the Irish undocumented currently residing in the United States.
Pat the Cope calls on the Government to urgently establish a special task force to work with the American Administration to protect the many undocumented Irish who have built their lives in the United States of America but do not have full citizenship rights, even though they have spent many years in the US their situation of residing there is uncertain – many of whom have already got families and homes in the US. Many Irish living in the USA will be deeply concerned about what the future holds for them under a Trump administration, given his campaign rhetoric about immigrants and mass deportations. I am concerned for the rights and residency of these Irish citizens in the US at present.
Pat the Cope urged An Taoiseach and the Government to immediately bring this issue to the fore - It is important that the undocumented Irish; see the Irish Government standing in solidarity with them and doing all it can to protect them at this politically turbulent and uncertain time. I would have expected An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have already highlighted the issue of the undocumented Irish during his initial telephone conversation with President elect Trump following his election concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has requested the Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney to introduce a broader, fairer and more accessible system for postal voting in Ireland. The current system is far too restrictive and applies very narrowly to circumstances of illness, students studying within the state and circumstances of employment within the state only – unlike most European countries whereby you are eligible to cast your postal vote or early voting ballot on the grounds of being unable to be present on the day of voting as a right , circumstances such as being absent on holidays, or working outside of the state or even studying outside the state all of which are presently ineligible for postal voting rights.
The current system of postal votes in Ireland is outdated and has never progressed with modern circumstances of employment, studying and life style changes ; the fourth report of the Convention on the Constitution has already recommended that a system providing for greater access for postal voting and absentee voting be introduced in Ireland stated Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher proposes that a new system of postal voting be introduced covering a much broader criteria and circumstance of being absent for voting on day of polling – such as being absent due to being on holidays in line with other European countries, or due to reasons of being employed outside of the state but ordinarily domiciled within the state, likewise for students studying in the UK but natives of Ireland – presently all these categories of voters are excluded from voting rights. Likewise, provision should be made for any voter who through circumstance cannot be present on the day of the election but is in a position to vote early at a designated point by prior arrangement – points such as a court house or district Garda Station. The new system of postal or absentee voting can be supervised and protected in order to still maintain the integrity of the ballot, the proposals I am making are already standard practice in 15 other European countries. Ireland is the only country in Europe which does not permit its citizens the extended rights of absentee voting rights or relaxed postal voting rights and that is completely unfair – as a democracy we must encourage citizens to vote and facilitate ease of access to voting concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed the return to use and full service of the X ray unit in Donegal Community Hospital, it follows an earlier intervention by Deputy Gallagher with the HSE when the x ray unit was out of use due to breakages. The X ray unit was out of service earlier and required upgrading and repair – Pat the Cope lobbied the HSE and successfully secured a commitment from them to fund the repairs to the unit in order to get the unit up and running again.
I am glad to report that as of today the X ray unit is fully operational and available to the public, the provision of an X ray unit in Donegal town and for the surrounding area is essential as it avoids people and patients having to travel further to avail of x ray services. The original x ray unit was purchased through voluntary contributions from the general public of the Donegal Hospital catchments area added Pat the Cope.
I wish to compliment the HSE for honouring their commitment to fund the x ray unit and their commitment to maintain it into the future concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher has urged the Government to ensure that the upcoming rural action plan contains detailed proposals to improve living standards, the quality of life for people living in rural Ireland and the services available to rural communities, rather than becoming an exercise in unfulfilled promises and missed opportunities by a Government with a very poor record in rural development.
Deputy Gallagher commented, “The previous Fine Gael led Government introduced a series of measures that negatively impacted on rural Ireland. Garda station closures, Farm Assist cuts, LIS and road grants cuts, no broadband services – poor mobile signals, failure on regional employment creation and small schools under threat, rural Ireland was singled out for cutbacks across a wide range of areas."
“Ahead of the publication of the Government’s action plan, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Rural Affairs Eamon O’ Cuiv submitted a policy document to Minister Humphrey’s department. The submission sets out a blueprint that details precise measures which will directly improve service provision, infrastructure and employment opportunities in rural Ireland."
“Our submission puts forward a credible plan with practical solutions to reverse the 5 years of unfair Government attacks on rural Ireland." Stated Pat the Cope.
“Fianna Fáil is committed to supporting the development of rural Ireland – our policy puts rural communities and parish communities first, it proactively and positively discriminates towards developing rural Ireland. Balanced regional development will support rural families and sustain communities. Our vision centres on giving rural people the same opportunities to prosper and grow employment as people living more urban centres, and ensuring the rural Ireland is not left behind in terms of infrastructure, growth and development." Concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope has accused the Government of reneging on its promise to provide €35m in funding for mental health services in 2017, at a time when mental health services are under considerable pressure, with many patients failing to avail of support and waiting times growing in length.
“The Minister for Health Simon Harris initially said at budget time that €35m would be invested in mental health services next year. However less than a week later Minister of State for Mental Health Helen McEntee outlined that just €15m of the allocation would be spent in 2017,” outlined Deputy Gallagher.
“The Government has essentially halved the funding earmarked for mental health services next year. This is despite the fact that there has been significant under-investment in mental health services in recent years, twice in the last three years the mental health budget has been cut or under spent. Staffing levels in child and adolescent services are currently 48% below recommended levels, while staffing levels across the board are 21% below target; I support the call by the Mental Health Reform for a complete review of the funding allocation for the mental health services in 2017 and for the Government to prioritise mental health services - stated Pat the Cope.
“Significant work is needed to bring our mental health services up to the standard required and needed to meet demand; this cannot be achieved without adequate funding and genuine support on the part of the Government. Currently the Government is planning to increase mental health funding by a measly 1.6% in 2017, as opposed to a 7.4% funding increase across the health sector. This clearly shows that mental health services simply are not a priority for Fine Gael. I support the call made by Mental Health Reform for an urgent review of funding for mental health services in 2017. The Government should bring forward a multi-annual service plan for the mental health sector in order to achieve this and to specifically ring fence funding for improving health services concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has raised the issue of the Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistri, Donegal Town with the Minister for Education and has urged him to proceed to design stage for the new school project without further delay and to obtain planning for the new building. The reply follows from earlier questioning of the Minister on the matter by Deputy Gallagher last May in the Dail, in the Minister’s reply to the question raised last week – the department stated “it hopes to proceed to appoint a design team in consultation with the Board of Management shortly, following the design and planning stage it is hoped to proceed to tendering and construction “
Pat the Cope whilst welcoming the commitment to proceed to design stage of the new school, he expressed his disappointment that the project was dragging on and moving at an extremely slow pace, he also questioned also the lack of a real commitment to capital spend in order to build the new school facility. The provision of a new facility for the Gaelscoil in Donegal Town, is a top priority and must be prioritised by the Department of Education, that will involve the project moving at a much quicker pace between stages within the Departments building programme, I would also like funding to be specifically ear marked for the building of the new school added Pat the Cope.
I will maintain the pressure on the Department of Education and the Minister in order to progress this project, in order to see it to completion in a timely fashion, delays and slow pace of progress must not be tolerated in regard to the need for a new school in the Gaelscoil – Donegal Town concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has voiced his concerns at the lack of progress on the future of three Community Hospitals – Lifford, Ramelton and St. Josephs Stranorlar, his commends come following a meeting with the HSE officials, public representatives, along with members of the SOS – Save our Hospital services action group. The meeting which took place in Donegal on Monday 24th of October came to no conclusion and no progress was reported between the interested parties.
Pat the Cope who had earlier this month questioned the HSE’s overall intended strategy towards these three community hospitals, now remains even more concerned due to the lack of any clear plan or commitment to maintain and upgrade these community hospitals by way of capital investment or planned upgrades within the current investment plan of the HSE. It is my belief that the HSE are overly focused on providing one centrally located hospital through a public private partnership, this cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of the other three hospitals. The new hospital for Letterkenny is welcome news and the additional bed capacity is much needed within the county; but the building of the new hospital and its extra bed capacity cannot be used by the HSE as the reason to downgrade and remove the long term bed capacity from Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s Stranorlar community hospitals.
Pat the Cope stated the solution to the three Community Hospital future now rests completely with the Government, as it remains solely a political decision as to what the future of these hospitals will be. All three hospitals play an essential and key role in their respective communities’ health care; the care of our elderly and sick within their own community setting has to remain the focus of all Donegal public representatives. All three community hospitals have an excellent record of providing care for the elderly and sick within their communities – expertise and facilities such as these will be impossible to replace. I welcome the decision of the SOS action group to now proceed to lobby all political parties and their health spokespersons in Dail Eireann as part of their strategy to secure the future of these hospitals, it will be essential also that the Minister for Health Simon Harris meet with the delegation also – I for my part, commit fully to the safeguarding of Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s Stranorlar Community Hospitals and will continue to fight for their future concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope welcomes the increase in mackerel quota for 2017, the increase was following negotiations at the International Fisheries talks which were hosted by Ireland this year. The 2017 increase means that an extra 10,500 tonnes of mackerel can be caught by the Irish fleet in 2017 bringing the total allowable catch to 86,429 tonnes of mackerel.
Deputy Gallagher, Fianna Fail’s Marine spokesperson stated the total value of the mackerel catch for Ireland will now exceed €85 million euro and this is much welcomed news and a boost for the fishing sector and the coastal communities. The increase is in line with the recommendations of the long term management strategy agreed by all the partners last year to provide sustainability and increased quotas when the stocks permit as set out in the agreed framework.
Pat the Cope stated - It is very important that the Government position themselves for the 2017 renegotiation between our international partners who form part of the International Fisheries group, as the present framework of quota allocation is to expire in 2018. The best interests of the Irish fishing must be articulated and fought for in the months ahead in early 2017, so that we as a country will be in a strong position for the post 2017 new framework of quota allocation between our International Fisheries partners. The fishing sector need strong leadership and total commitment from the Government at this critical time concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Minister for Justice to immediately improve Garda numbers within the Donegal Division, responding to a reply to his recent Dail question to the Minister, which revealed a decline in Garda numbers from 488 Gardaí on the 1st of January 2009 to 387 Gardaí as of the 31st of August 2016 – a decline of 101 Gardaí in seven years within the county of Donegal.
Pat the Cope stated that the content of the reply from the Minister was shocking in that it revealed such a stark decline in Garda numbers within the different Donegal Districts and that the closure of the Glenties District simply reduced the overall number of Gardaí serving within the county. All the Donegal Districts par one have experienced decline in Garda numbers – Letterkenny District declined from 191 to 156, Buncrana District declined from 91 to 70, Ballyshannon District declined from 99 to 95, with the closure of the Glenties District it meant a nett loss of 58 Gardaí to the Donegal Division. Only Milford District recorded an period albeit the area Milford cover doubled with the closure of Glenties District during that period.
Within the same period as the decline in Garda numbers , we as a county have experienced a rise in rural crime, anti-social issues and with many of our communities actively lobbying for increased Garda presence in order to counter act crime and the growing menace of drugs within our neighbourhoods added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope voiced his frustration at the Government for allowing the Garda numbers to fall so significantly within Donegal – it certainly appears no one was looking after rural counties and rural communities within the previous Government. The decline experience in numbers within Donegal must now be addressed – and needless to say urban areas traditionally get the majority share of new recruits, in 2014/2015 the previous Government committed 97% of the new recruits to urban centres at the expense of rural areas.
The present situation is now at crises level within the Donegal Division with 101 less Gardaí now serving the people and communities of Donegal, I am challenging the Government to put in place a programme which will restore Donegal Garda numbers over the next 3 year period, to reinstate the Glenties District and to properly equip and resource the Gardaí within the county. The rural decline which flourished under the last Government must now stop – rural areas must come first in order to reverse the decline experienced over the past number of years. Rural communities have real and genuine fears regarding security and policing, the closure of Garda Barracks and less Gardaí are only adding to those fears, the new recruitment programme for Gardaí must address the decline in Garda numbers within Donegal and it is only the Government that can as a policy reverse the decline concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope has claimed the Government’s failure to commit to a Minor Works Grant for schools is resulting in higher costs for parents, with many schools now struggling to survive and other schools having to levy parents to meet running costs.
The Minor Works Grant provides funding for the upkeep and maintenance of schools. The scheme has been consistently underfunded by the government in recent years, which has led to schools having to forgo essential maintenance work.
“The Minor Works Grant provides essential funding to schools to allow them operate on a day to day basis. It is used to help repair damage such as leaking roofs, broken heating systems and smashed windows. Schools have been denied this basic funding in recent years, and Budget 2017 has failed to include any provision for the scheme,” explained Deputy Gallagher.
“I have raised this matter with Minister for Education Richard Bruton and have implored on him the need to provide funding for the scheme as a matter of urgency. The Minister has so far refused to provide the necessary funding and has delayed a review of the decision until later in the year. This is unacceptable when you consider schools are back for nearly two months at this stage, and many have been unable to carry out essential maintenance works due to a lack of funding.
“This has resulted in schools having to hike up voluntary contribution charges to cover the upkeep of buildings. This shouldn’t be the case. Voluntary contributions should not be used for basic needs like lighting and heating repairs and toilet upkeep. The Government needs to up its game and provide funding for the Minor Works Grant so that parents aren’t out of pocket at the end of the year,” said Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has rejected the HSE’s position on Stranorlar, Lifford and Ramelton Community Hospitals, replying to a HSE issued policy statement Deputy Gallagher stated their position is totally unacceptable and defies logic – it is unacceptable that the HSE as a policy will not invest in these three Community Hospitals until such time as a new nursing home facility will be constructed, which is projected to be completed by 2021 at the earliest.
To consign these three Community Hospitals to total stagnation of investment for the next 5 years, to allow a situation to develop whereby Stranorlar, Lifford and Ramelton Hospitals would neither update or invest in improved facilities is simply a policy of closing these three hospitals by stealth. No public representative can stand over nor allow the current HSE position to go unchallenged stated Pat the Cope.
I am very fearful of allowing a situation to continue whereby the HSE fails to invest in community hospitals for such an extended period of time, the consequences possibly could lead to a situation that the HIQA standards over time may not be reached by these hospitals – it is essential always that community hospitals are properly funded in order to remain to the highest standards otherwise they run the risk of failing to meet standards and the consequences of that are stark added Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher challenged the Government to now intervene and state clearly that it is Government policy that these three hospitals – Stranorlar, Lifford and Ramelton remain open and function for both long term and short term care patients alike, he further added the Government must direct the HSE to put in place a funding programme to maintain and upgrade these three Community Hospitals in order they continue to meet the HIQA standards for patients care. The current situation in relation to Stranorlar, Lifford and Ramelton is now unsustainable, as no one knows the future of these Community Hospitals both confidence and clarity must now be provided and the future of these hospitals guaranteed by the Minister and Government concluded Pat the Cope.
Budget 2017 is a much fairer Budget than the 5 previous Budgets delivered by a Fine Gael lead governments as a direct result of Fianna Fail’s influence. Pat the Cope stated that the regressive budgets of the past five years have been stopped, and that the process of returning fairness to the centre of policy making has been restored as a result of Fianna Fail’s confidence and supply arrangement with the Government.
Pat the Cope welcomed the return of CLAR funding an issue which he campaigned on but the finer details have to be trashed out; equally he welcomed the extension of the Seafarers allowance tax credit to cover fishermen, an issue which I personally campaigned for and took the lead on in the Dail as it would be of significant benefit to the fishermen of Donegal. The additional resources for housing is to be welcomed but cautioned that rural areas must get a fair share of housing resources rather than a complete focus on Urban areas at the expense of rural communities. The across the board Social Welfare payments increase was central to Fianna Fail’s allowing the Budget to be past and an issue which we as party pressurised the Government on during the Budget negotiations, but did express disappointment that the social welfare payments are not to commence until March 2017 as opposed to the usual January commencement date. The changes in the farm assist allowances brought about by pressure from our party will help many families in rural Ireland. I welcome the fact the Minister for Social Protection accepted my proposal to increase the number of Rural Social Schemes placements available nationwide, which allows for an increase of 500 new placements in 2017 added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope expressed concern that seasonal and part-time workers entitlements were not mentioned in the budget statement but committed to continuing the campaign for improvements to their working rights and to lobby for inclusion in the Social Protection Bill yet to be published. He further stated that the additional resources for Health must be directed towards the area’s most in need such as the waiting lists, home help and the grossly underfunded Hospitals- such as Letterkenny University Hospital in order that they can meet the growing demands and needs of the people of the region. As a border Deputy I am extremely disappointed the budget has not included any steps for counter acting Brexit and the sterling decline – proposals were made to the Government to support the Border retail sector but the recommendations have been ignored stated Pat the Cope. It will be important that proposals for the Border retail sector are included and facilitated within the Finance Bill to be published after the Budget. The additional resources for Transport infrastructure must include ring fencing of resources for Local Improvement Schemes and lower classed county roads which are essential for rural community’s right across Donegal.
Deputy Gallagher expressed his disappointment that the budget statement contained no commitment on increasing the Capitation Grants for primary and secondary schools, nor was there any firm commitment to deal with the pupil teacher ratio, a great number of primary schools are under considerable pressure. I have already sought an explanation from the Department regarding Guidance Counsellors and their ex quota status restoration which was not included in Budget 2017.
Deputy Gallagher stated that the Budget 2017 is a first step towards a fairer and more equal Ireland but many more steps will be needed to be taken in the years ahead. It is only by Fianna Fail influencing this Government and Fine Gael that we can be assured of fairness and balance for all the people of the country and that the divide between urban and rural areas will be eradicated. The country needs stability especially with Brexit on the horizon and while the agreement made by Fianna Fail with the present Government is being honoured and fairness returns to policy making , we as a party will not precipitate an election by failing to abstain on a budget concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed the commitment to Donegal Airport as part of the Budget statement, the commitment given to the airport as part of the Aviation programme for capital investment will assist in future expansion but more significantly the statement included a commitment for the PSO for Donegal Airport as part of the Regional Airports Programme 2015 – 2019.
Pat the Cope who lobbied extensively for the PSO arrangement to continue for Donegal Airport welcomed the fact the Minister accepted his proposal regarding Donegal Airport, the PSO commitment is essential for the success of the airport and its continued growth in the years ahead. The budget PSO commitment secures the airports future and will now allow the airport authorities to plan in an orderly way for future expansion and growth, the announcement of further capital investment is also welcomed news.
Donegal Airport is a key part of the county’s transport infrastructure as it offers connectively to many locations – further potential growth and new locations can be tapped in the future now that funding is guaranteed for the airport concluded Pat the Cope...
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher outlines in detail the procedures and current factual position concerning the application for an Aquaculture shell fish farm licence for Cruit Island oyster farm recently agreed by Minister for Marine Michael Creed, his comments come following a lengthy discussions with Department of Marine Officials concerning the matter.
Firstly, the Appropriate Assessment of the waters and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) around Cruit Island & Keadue have been completed and were published on the 12 February 2016. In the case of Oyster farms or Shell fish farms no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required this has been the agreed procedure and norm on all shell fish aquaculture licence applications since 2012. In the case of fin fish farming such as salmon etc., an EIA is automatically required stated Pat the Cope.
The screening for suitability of a particular area for Aquaculture – such as Cruit Island and Keadue is solely a matter for the Minister for the Marine. When the Appropriate Assessment was complete by Department, it was then signed off on by the Minister, as was the case in relation to Kincasslagh Bay covering Cruit Island and Keadue when Minister Michael Creed signed the order on the 22nd August 2016.
Pat the Cope further outlined that public opinion is now being sought on the Ministers decision to proceed with the individual applications and their respective licence applications for shell fish farms. The public opinion being sought is the suitability of the individual application, its location, its scale, its impact on the amenity and the environment. The general public, residents, action groups, sectoral groups and state bodies have until the 13th of October in respect of Keadue and the 17th of October for Cruit Island to make their submissions by either letter or email format and no fee applies for making a public submission. Submissions by email can be sent to the following email – firstname.lastname@example.org each submission must be referenced T12/458 A & B in respect of Cruit and reference T12/474 in respect of Keadue.
Following receipt of the public’s submissions regarding the licence applications, a report is prepared by the Department officials to revert back to the Minister for Marine; it is he as Minister alone decides the outcome of the licence applications on the basis of the evidence before him. The decision he makes must under statute go for a further round of public consultation for a period of 30 days. Statutory bodies or individuals have again the right to appeal the decision made by the Minister, as does the applicants should the decision be negative. It is at this stage only an appeal can be made to Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) which is an independently constituted board; ALAB – have the right to endorse the decision of the Minister, amend the decision or over- turn the decision of the Minister. The final determination made by ALAB can only be appealed by way of a judicial review through the courts on a point of procedure on the process. It is important the public are aware that only one appeals mechanism is available to them following the Ministers final decision stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope strongly urged individuals, interested parties and community groups to make their views known by way of written submission to the Department, it would be extremely important that their submissions would outline their own unique objections, concerns and areas of opposition to the proposed site for the Oyster farm. It will be also necessary that state bodies such as Failte Ireland, Dept. Environment, NPWS, An Taisce, Inland fisheries Ireland, Marine Institute, Donegal County Council, Udaras na Gaeltachta, Inland Fisheries express their views also especially those charged with protecting the natural beauty of the area and the totally unspoilt area. It will be necessary that these state bodies are made aware of the level of public disquiet and the public’s view of the proposed development in the Cruit Island and Keadue areas concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed the commitment by the HSE to fund the repairs and operational cost of the X-ray Unit in Donegal Hospital. This follows recent difficulties with the X –ray unit within the Hospital which lead to a number of breakdowns of the X- ray unit and intermitted service by the unit.
Deputy Gallagher lobbied the HSE to carry out and fund the necessary repairs without delay as the unit is both necessary and critical to the Hospital and the overall catchment area covered by Donegal District Hospital. The x ray unit for the hospital was initially fund raised and purchased by the local communities and people of the Donegal hospital area; it was therefore essential that the HSE step up and now fund for the maintenance and upkeep of the unit which so many people contributed to the purchase of. Pat the Cope acknowledged the commitment of the HSE towards the unit and expected the X-ray to operational without further delay.
Deputy Pat the Cope has highlighted the unfairness and difficulties many seasonal and part time workers are having accessing their social welfare entitlements, this is despite the fact that many of these part time or seasonal employees having worked for over 20 years on a seasonal basis. The numerous changes brought in by different Social Protection Ministers since 2011 has meant that many part time workers have no longer an entitlement to Social Protection payments upon ceasing their seasonal employment due to the new regulations and rules of the department.
Seasonal and part time workers play a key and critical role in many factories and businesses in rural Ireland, equally as important is that the seasonal or part time job has sustained many families down through the years. To make any alterations to seasonal workers social welfare entitlements is wrong and demonstrates a poor understanding of how rural life and the livelihoods of many families survive in coastal and farming communities stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope in a written submission to his party has proposed that the daily subsidiary income from a secondary income be raised from the present €12.70 a day to €50.00 a day, so that those workers with secondary income other than the part time employment can qualify for Jobseekers benefit. Pat the Cope also proposed that the eligible number of contributions for a seasonal worker be calculated over a 5 year period instead of the present 3 year, this allows the seasonal worker to demonstrate they have worked each year and made the necessary 20 contributions per annum instead of the present 39 contributions each year over 3 years. Very few seasonal workers at present would be able to make 39 contributions per annum so therefore this rule is excluding them from the protection of social welfare when their seasonal job ceases. These seasonal or part time workers typically work over the winter months or for a number of months in seasonal employment right throughout our communities. Pat the Cope also proposed that seasonal and part time workers also be allowed to transfer from one claim to another without any hassle providing they demonstrate the 5 year contributions made by seasonal employment. Every single alteration to eligibility criteria for seasonal workers has made it more and more impossible for them to obtain Social Welfare stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope stated that unless changes are made by the Government in Budget 2017 to the present Social welfare system many factories and business who function with seasonal and part time workers will find it extremely difficult to source skilled labour, what the various Ministers for Social Protection have succeeded in doing is removing the incentive for seasonal and part time workers to obtain work, these workers who have worked routinely each year many of whom for 20 or more years and they have made and continue to make a major contribution to this country – the very least we can do as a country is reward the people who seek out and obtain employment and that very much includes seasonal and part time workers – concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Government to intervene and take action on the ongoing crises whereby insurance premiums are increasing by 50% to 80 % or more in some cases and placing unsustainable pressure on motorists seeking to renew their annual premiums. Statistical analysis of insurance claims for the period 2010 to 2014 shows that insurance claims pay-outs were static and showed no significant increases in payout levels in Ireland. The Chief Executive of the Injuries Board in his evidence to the Dail Committee on Insurance premiums stated “the average insurance payout claim has risen by €400 in the past 8 years” but over the same period insurance premiums have risen by multiples of that.
Pat the Cope called on the Government to take real action rather than just talking about action and tackle the crises on insurance premiums hikes, which for the third year in a row costs are spiralling out of control for Irish motorists. Previously I called on the Government to re-establish the Motor Insurance Advisory Board and to open the insurance market to European Insurance companies under the free movement of goods and services, which many transcontinental haulage companies are currently doing and availing of much cheaper insurance premiums within the EU by obtaining Insurance on the continent rather than here. No other European country is experiencing premiums hikes to the level as Ireland at present, in an average of 8 European counties the level of increase is only 3% over the past 2 years stated Pat the Cope.
The cost of insurance is now a major concern for every motorist and it is rapidly becoming beyond the reach of many motorists who depend on their car or van for their livelihood, and yet nothing seems to be done by the Government. All options have to put on the table in order to solve this crises and further time cannot be wasted talking about solutions – action needs to be taken by the Minister of State Eoghan Murphy and his Department stated Pat the Cope.
The burden of this crises has to be lifted from the backs of the ordinary motorist and it is only the Government that can intervene and take the necessary actions and measures to counter act the hikes in insurance premiums concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has advised residents and interested parties to have their say and make submissions to the Department of the Marine, this follows the Department’s decision to open the bay around Cruit Island for expression of interests for Oyster farming. His comments come following a face to face meeting with Minister Michael Creed on the matter, on foot of numerous calls of concerns from local residents of the Cruit Island and Kincasslagh area.
Pat the Cope was informed by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Marine that the department will receive public submissions regarding the Cruit Island application until the 17th of October, and it is extremely important that those who are concerned about the future of the bay surrounding Kincasslagh and Cruit Island make a written submission to the Department. The process which was initiated by the Minister opening the waters around Cruit Island for aquaculture, is now open to the general public to make their views known by way of submissions to the department, it is essential that those who are concerned make the submissions by the 17th of October as failure to do so will mean they will be unable to further appeal the decision should the need arise. I appreciate full well the importance of the bay around Cruit Island to tourism, local residents and the community stated Pat the Cope.
I am fully supportive of the local residents and their bona fide concerns regarding this application, it is in everyone’s interest to maintain the natural beauty and unspoilt nature of the area around Cruit Island. I will maintain the pressure on the Department of Marine and the officials throughout this public consultation process in order to ensure the public will have their say on this application. Meantime I strongly urge the public to make the necessary submission to the department, to outline their concerns and to express their opinions about this application for an oyster farm in the waters around Cruit Island and Kincasslagh concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher raised the issue of providing a Catheterisation Laboratory in Letterkenny University Hospital as currently no such facility exists within the Northwest and the next nearest Catheterisation Laboratory is located in Galway University Hospital while on a cross border basis such a facility exists presently in Altnagelvin Hospital.
Treatment within the first 90 minutes of a coronary event is critical for full recovery of the patient in that context the provision of Laboratory for the Northwest of Ireland would be as equally critical as providing a second Laboratory for the Southeast of Ireland. Cardiac and coronary health just does not recognise regional boundaries and therefore the provision of a Catheterisation Laboratory for the northwest must be considered by the Department of Health, HSE and the Government. Patients health depends on the effective use of time, distance and location are critical therefore for the patients wellbeing whilst Altnagelvin Hospital can cater for Donegal patients by way of a cross border health agreement it still not a permanent solution to the problem nor should it be an opt out for the Department of Health in failing to provide a Cath Laboratory for the northwest of Ireland. Presently 60 Donegal patients are using the Altnagelvin Hospital Laboratory on a regular basis stated Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher urged the Government to reconsider their decision not to provide a Catheterisation Laboratory for Letterkenny University Hospital, especially as Letterkenny has a Consultant Interventional Cardiologist appointed to serve within the hospital. There is a growing regional imbalance in the provision of coronary health care developing and there is a responsibility on the Minister for Health, HSE and Government to restore and correct that imbalance, so that regardless of where one chooses to live they have a fair and equal access to health care provision irrespective of what their postal address is concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher seeks a firm commitment from Minister for Finance Michael Noonan T.D. that the Seafarers allowance will be extended and rolled out as part of Budget 2017, his comments come following a reply from the Minister of Finance to a Dail question raised by Deputy Gallagher.
Pat the Cope called on the Minister to implement the measure as proposed by the Marine Tax review regarding the seafarers’ allowance, and expressed disappointment that the allowance was not brought back as part of the current 2016 Budget process and Finance Bill. The matter was brought before the Dail in early April by way of questions to the Minister, on that occasion the reply obtained by Pat the Cope indicated the Department were seeking to have any outstanding difficulties resolved so that it would form part of the Budget 2017 announcements. It is now imperative the Department and Minister stand by their commitment and introduce the Seafarers allowance, so fishermen and their families can benefit directly from the allowance. It is not acceptable that there are ongoing delays in introducing this measure stated Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope committed to holding the Minister and Department officials to account for the commitment given earlier regarding the Seafarers Allowance, he furthermore expressed disappointment at the delay in re introducing the allowance and called on Minister Noonan to take immediate action and insure it forms part of Budget 2017 announcements concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher welcomes the HSE’s commitment to continue operating all existing service levels at the Dunfanaghy Health Centre, the written commitment was given by HSE officials following representations made by Deputy Gallagher on the future of the existing health centre.
Pat the Cope further welcomed the commitment of the HSE to explore the possibility of providing a new facility by either way of a Public Private Partnership or by way of lease agreement. It will be essential that a new upgraded facility be provided for the Health Centre and that the HSE outline an agreed way forward and location for the health centre without further delay. The continuation of existing health services is essential for the people of Dunfanaghy but equally as important is that the HSE provide a state of the art health centre for the Dunfanaghy catchment area.
Pat the Cope is committed to maintaining the pressure in order to reach a conclusion on this matter and was assured by the HSE that following technical assessments of the site options, that a report would be made available by mid-October outlining the future proposals for a new Health Facility in Dunfanaghy. It will be very important that we now maintain the momentum and deliver this project concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher TD has welcomed the confirmation that Glencolumbkille Post Office is to reopen on Monday the 10th of October. The area has been without a post office all over the summer months, which has been a great inconvenience to the locals.
Pat the Cope welcomed the news and congratulated the Byrne Family who will operate the new Post Office, which is ideally located. It is essential for rural Ireland that Post Offices remain part of rural communities and An Post must be congratulated for selecting such a fine location for the new Post Office and indeed their co-operation throughout the process. The officials worked tirelessly to source and fill the vacancy for the post office.
It is regrettable that it took as long to reopen the Post office, as the past two months have been a great inconvenience for the customers who had to travel the long distance to Carrick. The confirmation of the opening of the new Post Office and the guarantee of services into the future, is welcome news for the residents and people of Glencolumbkille concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Government and the IDA to prioritise job creation in rural areas and counties such as Donegal, his comments come following the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation figures recently published, which showed that only 2% of IDA job creation was located and spread over 18 rural counties, that compared to 59% of job creation being located between counties Dublin and Cork during the same period of time.
It is clear from this early stage that the Governments Regional Action Plan for job creation on a countrywide basis is not working and the Government policies are permitting a two tier recovery, with rural areas being left behind. The departmental figures showed that in 2015 Donegal had 2,918 IDA supported jobs, these jobs are essential to the county and are welcomed but more needs to be done to tackle the county’s unemployment rate. The Government and IDA now need to prioritise rural areas for job creation, this can only be done by redirecting Government policy to favour job creation in rural areas and counties such as Donegal stated Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope has called on the Government to commit our job creation agencies to achieve specific targets supported by real investment in order to create jobs and employment in counties such as Donegal. The regional employment strategy of the present Government now requires to be re prioritised and it needs to be backed up by real action by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation – with tangible results and real targets in order to deal with this growing divide between rural and urban job creation. In the case of Donegal the Government needs to direct the IDA, Udaras na Gaeltachta and other agencies to source and direct employment opportunities to this county, it further requires capital investment in order to provide the necessary infrastructure to facilitate future employment opportunities, this will require frontloading capital investment under the 2020 property investment programme concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Department of Transport, Stobart Air and the Donegal Airport authorities to explore the possibility of providing a link with London from Donegal Airport, it is now more important than ever that such a link be explored in the context of the possible ceasing of the Derry Airport – London link as being suggested from early 2017. The uncertainly of the recent announcement regarding the Derry London link must direct the Irish authorities to look at alternatives within the northwest for providing direct links with the UK and London.
Pat the Cope stated that there is an obvious demand for such a service from a Tourism, Business and connectivity with the disapora prespective. There are extremely strong links between the UK and Donegal and the number of people who routinely travel between both jurisdictions is an expanding and growing market. The ending of the Derry to London flights was a disaster for the northwest region as many people relied on that connection on a weekly and routine basis; it is in the absence of such services and connectivity that Donegal Airport must fill the gap in current services and aim to provide flights to London on a trial basis.
In addition to delivering this new London service, Pat the Cope proposed that the authorities must provide a “through fare connection option” for passengers especially those wishing to travel to the UK and mainland Europe, it defies logic as such a service currently exists for passengers wishing to travel from Donegal Airport and onwards to the USA. What I seek is parity for UK – Europe bound passengers with those travelling to the USA from Donegal Airport.
The potential removal of the Derry service is most regrettable and should be contested by the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland but it also provides an opportunity for Donegal Airport to meet the demand for a London service. It provides the Airport with an opportunity to expand passenger choice and the service provider to grow passenger numbers, it is essential that we explore this gap in services which currently exists and advance the case for Donegal London flights concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher welcomes a grant of €341,000 for Donegal Airport announced by the Department of Transport as part of the Regional Airports Capital Programme. The grant allocation is to cover capital works at the airport in Donegal and the funding will be necessary for the Airport to progress and develop in the years ahead. The grant allocation of €341,000 will provide for a backup facility for existing lighting units for runway lighting and airport navigational aids, a new de icing unit for the runway and aircraft and an apron extension to provide for additional aircraft.
Pat the Cope urged the Government to increase the support to Donegal Airport especially in the context of increased funding in next years Capital Works Allocations Budget, particularly as Donegal Airport is so important to the economic development of Donegal. Pat the cope who worked closely with Donegal Airport over the years will be meeting with the Minister of Transport shortly with a view to ensuring that the PSO will continue when the existing agreement expires in 2017. The continuation of the PSO is the very lifeline by which the airport survives and as such it’s renewal must be guaranteed. Donegal Airport serves a hugely important role in the socio economic life of Donegal both in the context of Tourism and connectivity to other airports and other communities for tourists, business people and locals alike, including hospital appointments for locals accessing health appointments in Dublin. The Department of Transport must remain committed to developing and progressing Donegal Airport as County Donegal lacks either rail connection or Motorway access to the county - the airport is a key transport link for the county.
Pat the Cope complimented the management and staff of Donegal Airport on their continuing success with the Airport and the services they provide, as it is evident with the increased passengers numbers using the airport and the increased services available to the airport users. It will be extremely important that “Through fare options” be made available for passengers using Donegal Airport and travelling on to the UK and mainland Europe as such a service currently exists for passengers travelling on to the USA. It is of critical importance that Airports such as Donegal remain high on the Governments agenda and are sub vented accordingly for the role they perform and play in rural development and providing transport links for the people of Donegal.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher while welcoming the additional resources allocated to the HSE and home help packages, has cautioned that the extra €40 million euro may not be enough to deal with the current crises within hospitals, not alone prepare the Hospitals for the oncoming winter and the usual increase in hospital admissions for the winter period. The allocation was made by Minister Simon Harris following Pat the Cope’s highlighting of the issues of delayed discharges, lack of access of home help packages, under utilising of Community Hospitals, delayed operations and the crises within the Emergency Departments of our Hospitals.
Deputy Gallagher has stressed that unless the Minister for Health directs the HSE to insure that the extra money is ring fenced for additional services, additional home help packages and extra capacity within Community Hospitals otherwise the extra resources will simply be used to fill existing gaps and deficits within current HSE budgets and no tangible nett gain will be obtained from this allocation.
Pat the Cope has challenged senior executives and management within the HSE to provide a more joined up and coordinated service within the health sector, whereby the recourses allocated are used to the maximum benefit of all service users. This will involve the HSE management speeding up with delayed discharges, coordinating with Community hospitals to better use those hospitals in providing step down facilities from our General Hospitals and by providing home help packages without delay for patients who are being discharged from our hospitals.
Deputy Gallagher has requested Minister Simon Harris to detail the exact benefit the Department of Health’s allocation of extra resources will have for Letterkenny University Hospital, this after the Ministers visit to the Hospital recently. Letterkenny UH urgently needs the Minister to personally address the ongoing hospital budgets shortages, bed capacity issues, surgeries and procedure delays and the crises within the Emergency Department on a weekly basis, while the extra resources deals with the Health problems on a national basis – there is an urgent need and expectation in Donegal that Minister Harris will follow on from his visit to the hospital by providing a specific Letterkenny University Hospital allocation in order to address the problems facing health care within Donegal. Failure to deliver the extra resources for Letterkenny University Hospital will mean an extremely difficult winter period for patients and staff alike and now is the time to plan ahead to deliver what is required for the hospital concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to take immediate action and provide additional resources and funding for Letterkenny University Hospital following his recent visit with the Director General Tony O’Brien. Deputy Gallagher has voiced his concerns regarding the growing pressures which the Hospital has to function under on a daily basis due to budget constraints and staff shortages. The staff of the Hospital at present are working under extreme pressure and are very committed and dedicated to the care of the patients but their task is impossible unless additional resources are provided by Minister Harris and the HSE.
Pat the Cope has had numerous constituents conveying concerns regarding the hospital and the pressures under which the Emergency Department functions, the lack of bed capacity, cancelled procedures or operations – all of these issues are greatly negatively impacting on the people of Donegal who depend solely on Letterkenny Hospital. Patients, families and hospital staff alike are completely frustrated with the lack of funding and support which is forthcoming from the HSE, Department of Health and Government – Letterkenny University Hospital now requires immediate action by this Government, whilst the Ministers visit to Letterkenny is very welcoming, what is more essential is that the Minister follow up by providing the Hospital with additional bed capacity to cater for numbers attending hospital and the staffing shortage issues stated Pat the Cope.
The HSE, Department and Government now need to make a special case for Letterkenny on the basis of its importance to Donegal, its isolation from other hospitals within the Republic and the worsening crises which the Hospital currently is experiencing. Extra beds will mean extra capacity to function and deliver the services so desperately needed by the people of Donegal, extra capacity will relieve the pressures at the Emergency Department and allow for more admissions, rather than the impossible situation which staff find themselves in presently concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope complimented the Minister for visiting the Hospital personally but now challenged him and the Government to put in place an Action Plan for the Hospital to deal directly with the ongoing issues which affect the hospital daily, especially as we face into another winter whereby the hospital will be under greater pressures. A supplementary budget allocation and an increased annual budget is now essential for Letterkenny hospital in order that the hospital meets the growing demands of the county – that must be the message Minister Harris brings back to Dublin.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has been briefed by Executives of the HSE on Ard na Greine Court care and residential facility, Stranorlar. Following inspections by HIQA a number of concerns and issues were highlighted by the standards agency, the report by HIQA outlined the ongoing issues and concerns as follows.
Management of centre, Resident safety, managing risks within the centre, behaviour support planning and staff training.
The HSE and staff of Ard na Greine upon receipt of the HIQA recommendations immediately set about implementing change and safeguards to guarantee and insure the safety of all residents and patients of the facility, new structures have been put in place to better manage the facility, to manage incidents of abuse between residents/patients should that arise, structures on behavioural support and broader based training for all staff made available.
The HSE informed Deputy Gallagher that at all times they liaised with the families, guardians of the residents regarding the ongoing issues and the outcome of the HIQA report.
Pat the Cope, has urged for a balanced approach to the issues highlighted by HIQA, and for support to be given to the excellent staff at Ard na Greine, who are very dedicated and hardworking. The Ard na Greine facility offers excellent care to the residents and now with the revised plan after the HIQA inspections and new management systems and work practises put in place, the care of the residents will be secured for the future. The safeguarding of the residents and their full and complete care is always the primary focus of Ard na Greine management and staff and I am satisfied that they will continue to do that in the years ahead concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher will attend the funeral of the late Bishop Edward Daly, Bishop Emeritus of Derry representing the Offices of the Ceann Comhairle and Dáil Eireann.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle paid a personal tribute to the late Bishop Edward Daly stating “he was a man of the people, who devoted his entire life to the service of others and to the church, a person of great faith and a person of great understanding of other faiths. Bishop Daly was a man of humility and understanding; he always viewed his role primarily as pastor serving the people, the communities and the parishes of the Diocese of Derry. Throughout his lifetime of ministry he faced many challenges from Bloody Sunday, to dealing with the many deaths of the violence but it was always Bishops Daly’s view that it was “better to communicate than to excommunicate”. It was that great pastoral care and ability of the late Bishop which made him special amongst his people.
In his lifetime the late Bishop Daly witnessed first hand the great changes which the island of Ireland underwent from the out break of the troubles to the lasting and sustainable peace on the island. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle paid tribute to the work the late Bishop carried out on behalf of and while Chaplin in the Derry Hospice, where he worked until recently.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle expressed his deepest sympathy to the family of the late Bishop Daly - his Sisters, nieces and nephews, Brother in law and wider family circle, To the Bishop of Derry, Bishop Donal Keown, to his brother Priests and the people of the Diocese of Derry.
Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher is urging the government to increase the hours of Home Help Service which is provided to older and vulnerable people nationwide and to relax the eligibility criteria for availing of home help.
In Ireland over the next 20 years the number of people aged over 65 will double and the number aged over 85 will almost quadruple based on present statistics. Budget 2017 must take this reality into account and project for the future need as well as providing for the present shortfall of home help hours within Donegal.
Pat the Cope stated that “Age Action has recently highlighted the crisis in community care and their latest report detailed that as many as half of their clients in nursing homes, or on the waiting list for nursing homes, could be at home if the proper supports were provided for them in the comforts of their own homes. It is in this context that both the Government and HSE must increase the support levels for those who require home help.
Pat the Cope also pointed out that each Community Health Organisation responsible for providing home care services has its own system of assessment of need. Therefore, someone might be getting the home help they need in one area but not be eligible for support on the other side of a HSE boundary. This lack of consistency in adjudicating the criteria for Home Help only adds to the stress experienced by the elderly. The provision of Home Help services is imperative for families who are under strain from helping to look after a loved one who may need additional care.
"Fianna Fáil has proposed to offer people a home care package as an alternative to long-term residential care. This will apply in circumstances where the provision of a home care package is less costly to the State compared to long term residential care. This necessary measure not only benefits the individual concerned and their families, but also the State due to less demands being placed on long-term residential care services stated Deputy Gallagher.
Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher TD, has called on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton and the Department of Education, to increase the level of Schools capitation grant available to Primary and Secondary schools. Many schools throughout the country are experiencing financial difficulties with over 11% cut in the level of financial support available to the schools over the past 4 years. The accumulative effect of capitation grant cuts over the past number of years, is now adversely affecting many of our schools. Numerous schools are struggling to run on the reduce budget levels, with many in a serious financial position and others depending solely on the voluntary contribution made by parents.
The amount which parents have to pay by way of voluntary contribution to bridge the gap between the shortfall in state funding and the amount necessary to run the schools, is increasing and becoming a financial strain on many families. The Department of Education must now review and increase the capitation grant levels allowing for the growing demands on both Primary and Secondary Schools. The first priority must be to ensure that our schools are properly funded without adding any burden on families. Deputy Gallagher urged the Government that now was the time to invest in education, invest in the future of the children and provide the country with the skills set necessary for the future development and advancement of our country in the years ahead. Ireland’s current level of investment and funding in education is falling behind the EU average, whereby we rate amongst the bottom ten countries for resourcing primary level education, considerably below average for investing in the secondary level and amongst the bottom 5 countries for third level investment in terms of GNP spending on the education sector. The reality of growing class sizes in our schools and the pressures schools are under as a result of the pupil teacher ratio, highlights a sector under considerable pressure and one which the Government must prioritise and provide additional funding for in the budget.
Pat the Cope supported the children’s charity Barnardos’ request, that additional funding of €103 million euro be invested in the education sector, this investment would make primary education completely free and abolish the need for voluntary contributions at primary school level from parents. It is also apparent that additional funding is needed in the secondary level in order to support that sector particularly with the reforms in the junior cert and other changes to the curriculum being proposed.
Deputy Gallagher concluded by stating that as additional recourses become available to the state, it is imperative that the education sector obtain additional investment and that the financial strain and worry of sending children to school be lifted from parents. The future prosperity and success of our country will depend on the largest part to the educational opportunities we provide for our students of today – a failure to provide for education is a failure to maximise the future potential of this country.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. has called on the Minister for Finance to urgently set up an Insurance Task force similar to the previously existing Motor insurance Advisory Board which in the 1990’s successfully lowered insurance premiums by 30 to 40 %. The current situation is totally unsustainable with every insurance policy now being increased by anything from 50% to multiples of that amount.
This comes in light of the information revealed by Fianna Fail Finance spokesperson Micheal Mc Grath when in a written question to the Department of Finance revealed that insurance payouts in 2014 were €400 million euro less than what was paid in 2011 or 36% less payouts, and similarly the amount paid in 2014 was less than the amount paid in 2012 and equal to what was paid in 2013. The insurance companies were blaming the massive insurance hikes on the increased payout levels experienced by the sector over the past number of years, now as revealed by the Department of Finance figures this argument simply does not stack up – stated Pat the Cope.
The escalating premiums are a major financial strain and burden on motorists and households alike, equally is the case on businesses across the country. The Government urgently needs to take action and establish a task force to identify the real reasons why premiums are rising at unsustainable rates and take the appropriate action to solve this problem which is directly affecting every individual and household throughout Donegal and the country alike. Motorists are now typically paying twice the amount or several hundreds more than what they were in 2014, added Pat the Cope.
The Insurance Task force needs to be established immediately with a clear mandate to investigate these massive insurance hikes, and to report back to the Dáil committee directly within 6 weeks so that this problem can be resolved otherwise premiums for insurance will continue to sky rocket – stated Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher allays fears regarding the future of Glencolumbkille Post Office and the prospect of its closure. “Having been contacted by numerous residents from the Glencolumbkille area regarding the future of their local Post Office, I have been in direct contact with An Post officials, who in turn have given me a guarantee that the post office in Glencolumbkille will remain open” stated Pat the Cope.
An Post have confirmed that they are currently seeking a new Postmaster/ Postmistress to operate the Glencolumbkille post office and that they are currently publically recruiting for same. When the new appointment is made, the Post Office in Glencolumbkille will operate with the full support of An Post and it’s future will be secure.
Any service disruptions or temporary closure during the appointment of the new postmaster/postmistress will be kept to a minimum to avoid any inconvenience to An Post customers in the Glencolmbkille area.
Pat the Cope stated “It is essential that An Post commit fully to areas such as Glencolumbkille, as the local post office is an integral and important part of any rural community’s life”. He added that he hoped there would be no delay in filling the vacancy at the Post office in Glencolumbkille.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. in a question to Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar T.D. has sought a guarantee that social assistance payments to persons who are in receipt of a UK pension will be assessed favourably in light of the declining value of Sterling. The Minister in his reply stated “his department is keeping the currency situation under review at present” and the department will review this matter on a quarterly basis.
Pat the Cope stated that it is important for those who receive a UK pension that their payments are protected and that they are not at a financial disadvantage due to the recent fall in Sterling rates which has seen their pensions fall by 10 to 12% in the past 2 months. The fallout of the UK decision to exit its membership of the European Union has caused a great deal of volatility in the financial markets with its knock-on consequences for currency exchange rates. The Department of Social Protection must now ensure that this matter is dealt with in a sensible and commonsense like manner as many of the people who are in receipt of a UK pension depend solely on the Irish top up payment from the Department of Social Protection, as the UK pension rate is lower than its Irish equivalent. The true value of the UK pension has further declined with the changes in the Sterling – Euro exchange rate at present.
Pat the Cope in conclusion stated that this matter must be kept under review and if necessary dealt with as part of the budget 2017 process, as many thousands of people are currently affected and many others will be directly affected by the falling Sterling value in the months ahead. It is essential that the Department and the Government be proactive in avoiding any possible hardship and financial difficulty cases as a result of currency exchange rates and the income levels are protected stated Deputy Gallagher.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. raised the matter of the Department of Education’s funding of the Summer Works Scheme 2016 in a question to Minister for Education Richard Bruton T.D. in the Dáil recently. The Minister replied by stating “valid applications were not funded for reasons that the funding available was already committed and that the scheme was curtailed and subject to the overall availability of funding”.
Pat the Cope expressed concern on behalf of the numerous schools which did not receive approval or funding for their respective schools throughout Donegal. The Summer Works Scheme is an excellent model for delivering improvement works to our National and Secondary schools. There are numerous schools awaiting grant approval in order to carry out improvements to there buildings – such as windows, doors, mechanical works, heating systems, toilet improvements and other structural improvements. It was extremely short sighted of the Department and Government not to anticipate the level of applications and needs of the various schools in order to properly fund the scheme from the outset in 2016.
Pat the Cope proposed that a supplementary estimate be brought forward by the Department of Education in order to deal with the backlog of applications awaiting approval, and that the Minister of Education commit to improving funding levels for the scheme in 2017 in order to avoid this fiasco of lack of funding in the future. The supplementary estimate should prioritise schools which are most in need of improvements. The current gross under funding of the scheme must be dealt with by the Minister as many schools are under considerable pressure to maintain there buildings with ongoing cuts to the capitation grants and the summer works scheme is the best mechanism to assist schools to improve the standards of there building – concluded Deputy Gallagher.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney to increase the funding available to Donegal County Council in order to refurbish the 149 vacant units throughout the county at present.
Pat the Cope stated it was utterly senseless having vacant properties at a time when houses are in such need by many families, it is now time that the Department for Housing, Planning and Local Government increased funding for refurbishment and upgrading these units in order to allow these properties to be relet to families who are in current need of housing. At present there are 149 housing units vacant in Donegal, last year the Department cut the refurbishment grants available to local authorities and it further capped the amount which can be spent on each vacant property to €30,000 per unit.
Deputy Gallagher now called on the Minister to remove the cap on refurbishments and to significantly increase the funding available to Donegal County Council in order to clear the backlog of refurbishments and free up much needed houses for letting within the county.
The Government have not finalised the budgets for local authorities for 2016 yet, so the Minister has ample opportunity to address this situation and insure that resources are more productively used by upgrading existing vacant properties. There are currently 2,751 vacant properties under local authority control throughout Ireland at a time when the homeless numbers are reaching record levels, the Government need to take immediate action and address this crisis concluded Pat the Cope.
EA Name of Service Priv/Comm Amt €
Donegal Inver Community Playgroup Comm €10,000
Donegal Niall Mór Community Childcare Centre Comm €10,000
Donegal Kid Kare Priv €6,504
Donegal Naíonra Dublinn Riabhach Comm €4,998
Donegal Footprints Montessori Pre-School Priv €3,524
Donegal Little Angels Montessori School Priv €3,620
Donegal Kiddlywinks Childcare Priv €3,996
Glenties Slí an Eolais Priv €7,871
Glenties Creeslough Community
Childcare Services Ltd Comm €9,178
Glenties Little Learners Montessori Priv €1,547
Glenties Lamha Beaga Montessori Priv €3,391
Glenties Ardara Community Childcare Comm €4,384
Inis Eoghain Little Stars Pre-School Priv €10,000
Inis Eoghain Little Acorns Montessori Playschool Priv €9,903
Inis Eoghain Donagh Creche Priv €9,999
Pat the Cope Gallagher TD, is pleased to announce that he has been informed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone TD, that capital funding is to be made available to 36 Pre-School providers across Donegal.
c.€245,000 has been allocated which will be apportioned to both the Community Managed and private base service providers. This funding will go towards minor building works, refurbishment or new build accommodation and the purchase of additional equipment thus allowing service providers to enhance their services for the expected increase in enrolment numbers for September 2016.
This Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with the assistance of Pobal, invited applications from all services contracted to deliver its various childcare programmes. All submitted applications were considered in order to find those that most closely and completely met the criteria and objectives of the programme.
Pat the Cope has called on the Minister to make further funds available in order that other pre-schools in Donegal could avail of grant aid to improve their facilities.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. welcomes An Bord Pleanala decision to grant planning permission to Bio Marine Ingredients Ireland (BII) Killybegs following an appeal by An Taisce to Donegal County Councils original decision to grant planning to the development in February 2015.
Pat the Cope worked closely with the development from the outset having played a key role in obtaining the national Boarfish quota when he was a member of the European Parliament. Deputy Gallagher lobbied to ensure the development obtain planning permission having submitted a detailed report outlining the benefits of allowing such a facilitate planning for the fishing sector and the Killybegs region. The plant will be extracting nutrients, proteins and oils from Boarfish and Blue whiting with special emphasis and focus on health and the sports nutrition market. This is welcome news for Killybegs and the fishing sector and offers the potential for job creation both at construction stage and when the plant is in production when more permanent jobs will be made available. This project offers great potential for added value for fishing stock; it offers diversification and an entire new line of products to be derived from fishing stock. The plant will be of the highest technologies and state of the art facilities when constructed focusing on extracting high end proteins, oils and calcium from fish. It is by allowing facilities such as BII Killybegs that the fishing sector will maximise employment opportunity from fishing. This is a potential game changer in the seafood sector with BII Killybegs leading the way in developing health products, food ingredients and proteins all derived from the seafood sector. BII offers great potential for innovation and diversification concluded pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope was critical of the delay in issuing the planning following the appeal by An Taisce; “it is not acceptable that it takes 17 months to deal with a project which potentially is a €50 million euro investment to the region notwithstanding the employment creation opportunities it offers”. He complimented the investors and directors of BII Killybegs for their commitment to the project and despite the delays their willingness to see the project to fruition. Pat the Cope paid a personal tribute to the late Martin Howley who played a pivotal role in bringing this project together and who spear headed the project before his untimely death .The project will create 60 jobs at construction stage on the site at the Industrial Road Killybegs which will greatly benefit the local economy and up to 50 jobs when the plant goes into production. The prospect of up to 50 permanent jobs is much welcomed news for the Killybegs region stated Pat the Cope.
In conclusion Pat the Cope Gallagher hopes now the company can move to site preparation and construction with out further delay.
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice (our equivalent of the Supreme Court) ruled last week to reject an appeal by the Commission relating to safety tonnage applications made by KFO members. This is the third time the KFO safety tonnage applicants have been successful in the EU Court of Justice, the first time 2006, second time 2014 and now a ruling for a third time by the ECJ Grand Chamber.
Safety tonnage relates to the volume of the vessel not to tonnes of fish and covers enhanced safety measures on aboard the fishing vessel such as shelter decks, raised wheelhouses, increasing the freeboard and improvements to crew accommodation.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D said on hearing the ruling:-
“I wish to congratulate the KFO members on this very significant win in Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice. I find it incredible that it has taken fifteen years to get to this point particularly as the applications related solely to improving safety features on board their vessels which are operating in the North East Atlantic one of the harshest marine environments in the world. I am all too familiar with the loss of lives at sea and these safety features should have been warmly welcomed rather than rejected by the Commission.”
He added;” I note that the judgement is a damming indictment of the Commission in exceeding their powers under the Treaty and acted illegally in rejecting the applications. During my tenure as MEP I was aware of these safely tonnage applications and tried on a number of occasions to get the Commission to resolve these very legitimate safety tonnage applications. In light of this very decisive judgement I will be actively pursuing this issue both nationally and at EU level to get the Commission to resolve this issue without further delay. This has gone far too long and must now be resolved to the satisfaction of the applicants. ”
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. has welcomed Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant aid of €400,000 in a project worth over €650,000 to the county.
The Better Energy Communities Fund is an initiative to support projects wishing to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, public buildings, community centres or businesses. Typical works which will be grant aided will be boiler upgrades, insulation upgrades, lighting upgrades, renewable energies, heating upgrades and window/door replacements. The energy efficiency project in Donegal was prepared and submitted by Terence Gallagher, Letterkenny who has vast experience in the energy efficiency sector. Terence will be the project co-ordinator assisted by Seamus Boner, manager of the Ionad an Chrois Bhealaigh, Arainn Mhor. Pat the Cope complimented both on their initiative and the success of their application which will benefit many households, buildings and businesses as a result.
The funding announced by SEAI will benefit Home owners on Arranmore Island as the Island was a central part of this successful application announcement. Pat the Cope stated “these homes will now be able to upgrade their insulation and energy efficiencies as part of this programme announcement”.
In addition to Arranmore Island other beneficiaries will be Scoil Roisin Maghery, Ionad Tempail Dungloe, Sean Tech Dungloe, Machery Community Centre, Ramelton Community Centre as well as the two Topaz petrol filling stations located in the towns of Letterkenny and Ramelton.
Deputy Gallagher added that it is very important for all of us to use energy effectively and efficiently in efforts to keep energy consumption low and energy costs down. This initiative will be of significant benefit and advantage to the respective communities and home owners. I have worked closely with this application and am delighted to welcome its successful conclusion but in addition I see great merit and potential in rolling out this initiative further through out the county and will be contacting SEAI, the Department of Rural Affairs, and the Department of Planning and Local Government with a view to expanding this programme.
“It is expected that a similar programme will be rolled out next year however this will depend on the funding being made available at budget time” concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. has rounded on the Government for failing to prioritise new employment creation within Donegal. In a reply to a Parliamentary question the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation confirmed to Pat the Cope that only 1 site visit by IDA had taken place in Donegal within the first 4 months of 2016. The reply further revealed that there were only 5 site visits in 2015 and 6 in 2014.
Deputy Pat the Cope stated at a time when the Government is claiming that growth is returning to all parts of Ireland, it is incredible to think that no priority is being given to Donegal especially in the context of current high unemployment levels within the county. It is going to be imperative for the new Minister to positively discriminate in favour of Donegal and other western seaboard counties in order to have balanced regional development, otherwise communities throughout Donegal will not see the benefits of reducing national unemployment levels.
The past 5 years have seen a very anti rural approach to sustainable development; this if it is allowed to continue unchallenged will destroy rural Ireland. I challenge the Government and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to put in place with the support of the Dáil - an Action Plan for job creation in counties such as Donegal. This plan needs to have set targets, goals, aims, strategy and fully resourced in order to ensure its delivery. It further requires total buy in from all employment/ job creating agencies of state. The figures released from the Minister confirming only one site visit to Donegal leads me to believe that the message of Donegal’s unemployed has not yet reached the Government stated Pat the Cope. The employment creation situation is further exasperated by the continuing delay in rolling out broadband to the county with the deadline now delayed once again.
In conclusion Pat the Cope called on the Government to prioritise job creation within the county, by placing greater pressure on the employment creation agencies to deliver for Donegal and to back up actions with recourses in order to deliver jobs for the county. Now is the time for focused action in order to deal with this ongoing employment problem.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. has called on the present Minister for Housing and Local Government Simon Coveney T.D. to suspend the introduction of a new charging regime for bin charges until such time as there is transparency surrounding the scheme and certainty that the new charging mechanism will not increase costs on households throughout the country.
In principle the concept of paying by weight is fine, providing that this does not lead to sizeable increases in charges and the price it costs households to dispose of their rubbish. The present proposals by the current Government totally lack price security and consistency of pricing throughout all the private operators within the state concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Gallagher proposed that the Government introduce a Customer charter ensuring that Households will not be forced to pay higher bin charges as a direct result of changing the method of waste collection from a flat rate collection to pay by weight system, this must be especially be made to benefit people living in rural areas where collection rates could be increased due to wider collection areas for pick up. It is now requires a Ministerial order to firstly suspend the chargers and secondly to put in place safe guards for the customers to prevent massive increases in the cost of waste disposal.
Pat the Cope called on the Government to take immediate action on the charges surrounding Pay By Weight in order to protect the customer and the household’s right throughout Donegal.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. is calling on the Government to reintroduce the Motorised Transport Grant following its abolition in 2013.
The Grant provides much needed assistance for people with disabilities who need to buy a car in order to retain employment, to lead a full life and integrate fully with the benefit of access to personal transport. The last Government axed the Motorised Grant in 2013 but insisted at the time that a new scheme would be introduced in its place, as of yet no scheme exists. Therefore I am calling on Minister of State with Responsibility for Disability Finian Mc Grath to re introduce the allowance as a priority.
Pat the Cope stated “this allowance is a vital support for people with disabilities as it assists and helps them to remain in the workforce, to lead a fully independent life with access to their own car. It is important that this support for the disability sector be
reinstated as promised by the previous Government”. Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher committed to pursuing the matter with the present Government and will retain pressure on the Government until they reverse the original cut.
Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed the decision by Michael Creed T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine not to proceed with the Penalty Point System as outlined in the Statutory Instrument laid before the Oireachtas on the 10th March.
This outcome has come about as a result of a strong case made by the politicians and the Fishing Organisations. The former Minister referred the Statutory Instrument to the Attorney General. It has now been confirmed that the Penalty Points can only apply after a court has dealt with the case. This is in sharp contrast to the original intention.
Today's announcement will ensure that a fair Fishery Point System is implemented in compliance with E.U. Regulations. A new Statutory instrument or primary legislation will take into account the findings of two successful High Court Challenges.
Pat the Cope has thanked the Minister for his pragmatic approach and paid tribute to all involved in securing this realistic outcome.
It will not now be necessary for those of us who tabled rescinding motions to proceed with the motion.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. calls on Minister for Education Richard Bruton T.D to speed up the planning and design stage of the Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí, Donegal Town. The Minister in a reply to a Dáil question from Pat the Cope stated “the project can proceed now to planning design stage” whilst this is welcome news, it is still only allowing the school to go to construction in 2019 to 2021 capital programme of the Department. The need for the new school building is great and the delay in such circumstances is unacceptable and the Department of Education must re-examine the urgent need for accommodation at the Gaelscoil in Donegal Town.
Pat the Cope called on the Minister of Education to speed up the design stage and obtain planning as a priority, so that the project would be shovel ready and that the department could move forward the building stage of the Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí, because at presently planned it is not acceptable to wait until 2019/2021 to commence construction on the school. If planning is obtained then a stronger case can be made to move forward the building commencement date for the school concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher committed to maintaining the pressure on both the Minister of Education and the Department in order to speed up the progress on the new Gaelscoil in Donegal Town.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed Minister Simon Coveney’s decision to refer a Statutory Instrument which enforces a penalty points system on fishermen, to the Attorney General for examination to determine its legality and legitimacy. The decision to refer the S.I. was as a result of my tabling a Dáil motion to rescind the signing into law of the S.I. by Minister Coveney; a number of other TD’s also supported the rescinded motion which was laid before the Dáil this week.
Speaking in the Dáil this week, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher said – I find it incredible that the Minister signed a new S.I. in March, which was widely condemned by the fishing industry and failed to address the very significant findings of the High Court.
The 2016 S.I. ignored the findings of two successful High Court challenges relating to the absence of a suitable appeals process and the issue of penalty points being applied irrespective of whether an offence had been found to have been committed stated Pat the Cope.
As a result of this unfair system, Pat the Cope tabled a Motion to Dáil Eireann supported by his Fianna Fail colleagues requesting that the latest Statutory Instrument be rescinded immediately. I am confident this S.I. will be rescinded with the support of other parties and non party Deputies
It is not fair that this S.I. would permit authorities to administer points to fishermen in the absence of a conviction through the courts. It is incredible that if the court subsequently decided that a fisherman was not guilty, the penalty points would still be attached to the fisherman’s record stated Pat the Cope.
I welcome the fact that the Attorney General will now examine the matter independent of the Department of the Marine.
We must ensure that a fair fishing points system is implemented in compliance with EU regulations, one which treats everyone fairly and equally before the law. This needs to be reflected on by the outgoing Minister and the newly appointed Marine Minister. I would strongly urge the new Minister Michael Creed TD, to examine the system that is used in the UK with a view to rolling it out in Ireland concluded Deputy Gallagher.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. speaking in the Dáil today on a debate on the Irish Language and Gaeltacht called on the Government to prioritise the Irish Language and to actively support and invest in Gaeltacht areas and Gaeltacht communities.
In his lengthy contribution to the debate, he challenged the newly elected Government to prioritise funding for Udaras na Gaeltachta in order to create employment in Gaeltacht areas, for job creation is the biggest issue directly effecting Gaeltacht areas. Unless Udaras na Gaeltacht is properly funded it will not be able to compete with out employment creating agencies covering other parts of the country. The Udaras Budget must be prioritised by Government in the lifetime of this Dáil in order that Gaeltacht areas can sustain themselves and future generations.
Pat the Cope also pressurised the Government into committing to re instating community supports, housing grants and grant assistance schemes for Gaeltacht areas. Schemes such as Boithre Aise, community support grants, sports facilities, community facilities and housing improvement grant aid. These schemes traditionally helped families and communities live and survive in Gaeltacht areas. If we are committed to the Gaeltacht areas then we must support the people who make up and live in these Irish speaking areas as a policy – the Gaeltacht is the “ tobar na Gaeilge” without it the language will struggle to survive concluded Pat the Cope.
Concluding in his debate to the Dáil, Pat the Cope stated the Government must now put in place a policy that completely commits to the Gaeltacht and the people of the Gaeltacht by way of prioritising investment, job creation and Udaras na Gaeltachta and support of Gaeltacht communities and the supports that those communities can avail of. The Government must give greater consideration to the Gaeltacht than the paragraph written in the current programme for Government and that in the immediate future new policies must be advanced for the Gaeltacht.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. calls on Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to speed up the application process for Carers Allowance and Carers Benefit. It is becoming clear that unnecessary delays are occurring with the processing of Carers payments, with some applications experiencing 18 to 20 week delays before their application are being dealt with by the department.
Pat the Cope complimented the staff in the Department of Social Protection that are dealing with the current backlog of payments but it is clear they are working in a difficult circumstance as they are under staffed and under resourced. It is clear that the Minister must redeploy staff to deal with this current backlog in an effort to process applications promptly and in a time acceptable fashion.
The delays are causing unnecessary hardships and stress to many families who are caring on a full time basis for their family members and loved ones. The Carers by way of their work are saving the state billions of Euros each year by caring for their family members at home without state intervention, the very least we can do as a state is treat them with respect by dealing with their social protection applications in a timely manner. It cannot be accepted that it takes 18 to 20 weeks to process an application in order to get payments to the families of these carers – stated Pat the Cope Gallagher.
Pat the Cope called on the Minister for Social Protection to personally intervene on this matter and to increase the staff numbers who are currently working within this section, in order to clear the backlog of applications as a priority.
Pat the Cope calls on Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald T.D. to restore Garda numbers in Donegal to 2010 levels, figures released from the Department of Justice revealed that the number of Gardai in Donegal dropped from 466 in 2010 to 392 in 2015. That shows a decline of 16% in garda numbers over the five year period - with 74 less Gardai stationed within the county. That is 74 less Gardai working within our communities, towns, villages and Parishes at a time when the Gardai are under growing pressures from increasing crime and violence.
Commenting on the Department of Justice figures Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D., stated that many of our communities feel vulnerable and uneasy due to the decrease in Garda numbers, with many rural Garda Barracks closed and the under resourcing of Gardai - with garda vehicles aged or non existent all of this has lead to an environment of fear and unease in many areas across Donegal.
Rural communities feel isolated and neglected in terms of security, with many areas unable to access Gardai due to the Gardai numbers being stretched to beyond breaking point. Pat the Cope called on the Minister of Justice to prioritise rural and community policing in attempt to strengthen security of rural communities. He further stated that some of the Garda Barracks closures would have to be relooked at, in addition to the divisional Station at Glenties must be reopened. The resourcing of the Gardai within Donegal must be reviewed also, with many areas either sharing Garda cars or using Garda cars which are near the end of usage cycle.
Pat the Cope in conclusion stated security of our communities and citizens is something we can not take for granted, in the times we live in no area is isolated from crime. It will require additional resources, additional garda numbers and an overall commitment to support the Gardai in the duty to protect the community. He called on the Minister for Justice to set in place a plan to reverse the decline in the number of Gardai serving within county Donegal and to restore Garda numbers to 2010 levels within a 3 year period and to commit additional funding to better resourcing current serving Gardai within the county.
An Post has issued a statement today regarding the sorting office in Derrybeg amid speculation that it is to close within weeks to be centralised in a new facility in Falcarragh.
An Post say there are no immediate plans to move its postal staff from Dunfanaghy, Gortahork and Derrybeg to Falcarragh.
The company is, however, examining the possibility of centralising its mail facilities in North West Donegal at some stage in the future with the former bank premises in Falcarragh deemed an ideal location for such a facility.
Donegal Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher says it gives a renewed hope that the services may not be centrailised:
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has supported the Fianna Fail position of abolishing Irish Water and the immediate abolition of water charges for the lifetime of the next Government..
“Irish Water is a failed entity and has lost the confidence of the people of Ireland and it no longer commands the confidence of the majority of Dáil Eireann” stated Pat the Cope.
Irish Water as a company was rushed through the Dáil by former Minister Phil Hogan, it was never properly planned nor thought out and as such Irish Water will never succeed in delivering the service in a cost effective manner, nor will it enjoy the support of the people, nor as it is presently constituted is it politically accountable to either the Dáil or the Public Accounts Committee even though it annually spends millions of public money – stated Pat the Cope.
More shocking is the fact that by the end of 2016, Irish water will have spent in excess of €2.4 Billion Euros of Irish tax payers money, and yet we can neither audit nor evaluate any of this expenditure. It is no loner “creditable to continue investing and spending millions of Tax payer’s moneys on Irish Water, we have to call halt to this waste of public money and reassess the best way forward to upgrading our national pipe network” concluded Pat the Cope.
“The formation of the next Government is essential for the country in order that we deal effectively with the many issues facing us as a country on a daily basis, but equally so we must manage and address the legacy of Irish Water as we committed to during the last election” stated Pat the Cope.
In his speech to the Irish Country Hotels and Manor House Hotels AGM being hosted in Donegal Town this evening, Deputy Gallagher said, “Over the past three years the tourism sector has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing industries and we in Ireland have a very unique product to promote. As such, I believe that the target of attracting 10 million visitors by 2025, as set out by the outgoing Government, is not ambitious enough.
“We must capitalise on the current weakness of the euro in America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, by aggressively marketing Ireland on the global stage. Many other countries are already doing this - Austria has increased its budget on marketing this year by 30%, Hungary by 20% and Czech Republic by 25% - and we cannot afford to be left behind.
“The years ahead offer great opportunity for the tourism sector if it is properly managed and the Government has a key role in supporting tourism product development, regional balance and domestic and overseas marketing. We are reaping the rewards of the Wild Atlantic Way and we must capitalise on other similar initiatives.
“The tourism sector faces a chronic skills shortage at present, especially in the hospitality and food sectors, which will have to be met by improvement and expansion of apprenticeships in key areas. We have to ensure that more resources are made available for medium and long term research and marketing so that tourism agencies can identify, appraise and pursue new areas in regions with low tourism numbers and can look at new opportunities such as food tourism, eco-tourism and niche market tourism.
“As a member of Dáil Éireann, I will play my part in raising important tourism related issues in the term ahead. I understand its importance to Donegal, to the west of Ireland and to rural development within this country and I will ensure that the issues relating to this valuable sector are addressed”, he concluded.
Pat the Cope Gallagher TD has welcomed the announcement by Burtonport Wild Atlantic Seafood’s that they are establishing a Fish Processing facility in Burtonport. They will process crab, which will be procured locally, for the Export Market
Locals John and Michael Boyle, whose family have a long tradition in the fish sector are the promotors.
They have purchased a factory in the Port and will shortly equip, refurbish and upgrade the factory to the highest standards
It is hoped that they will be in a position to commence production within a matter of months.
It is expected that 8/10 jobs will be created initially.
The project is supported by Udaras na Gaeltachta and Bord Iascaigh Mhara.
Pat the Cope stated “ this I hope will be the another stage in the revitalising of Burtonport as fish processing port”
Pat the Cope paid tribute to the Boyles ,who are in business in the UK, for investing in their local area .
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has supported the call by the Garda Sergeants and Inspectors association for a full review by both the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Justice of the previous Government decision to close certain Garda District stations across Ireland, in particular the decision to close the Glenties District Station on 11th of November 2013.
Pat the Cope stated the decision to downgrade Glenties District Station in November 2013 was a backward step in rural and community policing within the county, and has impacted negatively in the level of Garda cover in rural and west Donegal. The current situation whereby the west and southwest of Donegal is covered by Ballyshannon and Milford District Station does not adequately meet the needs of the area between both Districts which previously were served by Glenties.
Pat the Cope further stated that this “review must also take into account Garda numbers, availability of Garda cars and general Garda resourcing within Donegal as currently the force is under considerable pressure through under resourcing and cutbacks, now is the time to invest in security and crime prevention in order to support rural communities “.
The Garda Commissioner must also commit to restoring Garda numbers within the county with particular emphasis for rural areas of Donegal, in order to provide the security that rural communities need in addition to providing the other services which operate through local Garda Barracks, Stated Deputy Gallagher.
Pat the Cope in support of the Garda Sergeants and Inspectors Association’s call for review of this previous decision, has written to the Garda Commissioner’s office and the department of Justice on this Matter.
I am delighted to have been elected to the 32nd Dáil to represent the people of Donegal.It is a great honour and privilege for me.
I want to thank all who gave me their No 1 or indeed any preference thus ensuring my election.
I wish to thank the organisation led by Brendan Byrne Chairman of our CDC,who decided the Strategy that managed the vote between the old NE and SW.
My Regional launches in the various locations were very successful and my thanks to all who attended.
This is my 9th General Election and I must add the best organised and managed thanks to the role played by Brendan Byrne DOE , Sub Directors in each Comhairle Ceantair Area...Cllr Seamus O Domhnaill in Cloughaneely - Creeslough.
Hughie Mc Bride - Gweedore.
Enda Bonner/David Alcorn in the Rosses.
Anne Moy -Martin Breslin in Ardara/Glenties/Fintown/Portnoo.Sally Bonner in Donegal. Mary Coughlan in Inver. Brendan in the Bruckless CC,Patrick Mc Gowan/Gerry Crawford in Finn Valley,Liam Blaney in Rossguill and their teams who canvassed all homes and businesses in the Area allocated to me. We would all wish to thank the people of Donegal for the very kind reception and hospitality accorded us during the course of the campaign.
I travelled extensively throughout the constituency and by my side throughout was Fred Sweeney who has been with me during all of my 15 Campaigns at all levels.
Noreen and Aideen worked with me in the past and were available to assist at all times of unsociable hours
My thanks to the many who canvassed with and for me together with the teams who erected the posters.
Thanks to those who attended our regular strategy meetings this ensuring that the campaign ran so effectively.
I also wish to thank the organisation in the NE for their great cooperation
I am delighted to have achieved our objective of securing 2 seats and congratulations to Charlie Mc Conologue who topped the poll with such an outstanding vote.
My congratulations to,the other successful candidates and commiserations to the unsuccessful candidates.
Béidh lá eile agaibh.
Gura míle maith agaibh go léir.
Pat the Cope Gallagher
"Together, and supporting one another we can do better for Donegal"
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. today has called on Comreg to intervene with the mobile Phone operators to improve the service provision which they are currently offering their customers right throughout Donegal. The quality of service and availability of mobile signals has greatly deteriorated in Donegal over the past year. The current network is neither fit for purpose nor able to cater for the increased volume of mobile phone customers.
Deputy Gallagher stated “Comreg have a statutory role in regulating the sector in terms of service provision, in that regard many parts of Donegal and throughout Ireland have very poor or no signal at all”. It is essential that areas have full and complete access to mobile phone coverage; it is an essential that mobile phone operators are made accountable in terms of their license provision by Comreg.
Pat the Cope further called on “Comreg to review the terms and conditions of the mobile phone license allocation in line with similar actions in other European countries recently, currently Comreg only compel Mobile phone providers to provide 70% to 90% coverage on a nationwide basis’s”. This has a very negative impact on lesser populated areas such as parts of rural Donegal, as mobile phone providers can fulfil the terms of their licence without providing a service to more remote, rural and less populated areas.
Deputy Gallagher stated “mobile phone companies should be compelled to co located with other services on existing masts/infrastructure, they should also be compelled to provide 100% nationwide coverage, especially with advances in technology in this sector”. Pat the Cope concluded by stating that “Comreg are ideally empowered as a statutory body to bring forward the necessary changes and regulations to the Department of Communications in order to make this a legal requirement on mobile phone operators”