Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has extended an invitation to the Education Minister Richard Bruton to visit or allow for delegations to meet him, from seven different schools which are awaiting upgrade or sanctioning of grant aid for improvements. The circumstances and present conditions of these seven different schools, have been raised on numerous occasions in the Dáil by me. These schools which I again highlight to you, require urgent approval and you as Minister can certainly make these projects happen, it is for that reason your personal attention to these projects must be drawn to, in order to make the necessary progress.
Pat the Cope stated in a written invitation to the Minister “as you are aware I have being raising the issue of a number of Donegal schools for some time and I am most anxious that we make progress in our improvement plans for these respective schools. I understand that you are to attend a school opening in Letterkenny on the 23rd of February, can I invite you to visit the schools in question, especially Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí in Donegal Town, the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town and St Mary's National School, Stranorlar in the case of these schools new buildings are required as their current building conditions is just not acceptable. Indeed St Eunan's College in Letterkenny urgently requires major improvement and would require your personal attention also. The other schools which are in urgent need are Scoil Adhamhnain, Luinnaigh, Gaoth Dobhair, St Eunan's National School Raphoe, Scoil Mhuire National School, Cresslough and The Royal and Prior School Raphoe – all of these schools either require additional accommodation or improvement works. If by chance you do not have the time to visit all of these schools perhaps a delegation can meet with you and your officials at a location of your choice”.
I greatly appreciate your busy schedule but you like I, understand too well the importance of seeing first-hand the current state of repair of these buildings, schools and the future needs of the children currently going through their education in these schools. Many of these schools are overcrowded and under considerable pressure of numbers and the buildings are no longer fit for purpose. It is in that context that your personal intervention is urgently required in order to move these projects forward to construction stage. I would also expect the Minister of Education to meet the ETB while in Letterkenny concluded Pat the Cope.
-17.6% of households have no employment income nationwide and even higher in Donegal -
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has said that Ireland’s rate of jobless households demonstrates that tens of thousands of families are not feeling the benefits of the economic recovery. This is highly visible and evident in rural areas and the entire west of Ireland – the two speed recovery continues with many areas struggling to see the benefits of the recovery. Jobless households are a clearer indicator of the recovery than the top line figures of employment creation as it provides a barometer of the strength and broad nature of the jobs recovery.
Pat the Cope added the new information was obtained through parliamentary question replies by both myself and my party. The latest data shows that of 1,440,600 relevant households in Ireland, some 253,000 have no adult in employment – no income from employment in the household. This represents 17.6% of the total number of households within the country without an income from employment. The relatively high rate of jobless households in Ireland is deeply concerning. The figures underscore that significant problems remain to be overcome when you look beyond the main headline employment figures.
Pat the Cope while the Government did launch the ‘Action Plan on Jobless Households’ last September, the pace at which they are tackling this issue remains far too slow. There is no real sense of urgency from the Government in wanting to meet this challenge head on. The response has been far too sluggish to date and there is a failure to recognise the extent of the problem by some Government representatives who seem to be carried away with the headline figures rather than the broader underlying problems with rural employment.
Fine Gael have been in Government for seven years now and despite their constant spin on employment, the fact of the matter is that 253,000 of relevant households are deemed to be without a job. This tells a different story to the one continuously trotted out and spun out by Fine Gael Ministers on the airwaves. The household unemployment rate in Donegal is above the national average and I am awaiting further data from the department on this issue.
It is essential that the ‘Action Plan on Jobless Households’ delivers. The Government needs to prioritise this issue and deal with it accordingly. We can’t tolerate a situation where tens of thousands of households are effectively living on the margins of society. It’s clear that the Taoiseach’s ‘Republic of Opportunity’ is far from being realised when these statistics are considered in hard reality of 17.6% of household unemployment concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed confirmation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that steady progress is being made on the three N56 road projects, with Fox contractors appointed for the N56 Dungloe to Glenties to construct the road section between Kilkenny to Letterlily. The N56 project for Coolboy to Kilmacrennan, BAM construction has been appointed and the third project on the N56 Mountcharles to Drumbeigh a contractor will be appointed soon. I welcome the progress being made on these road projects at present and I will maintain the pressure on the TII and the Government in order to the N56 as a top priority for further investment.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has confirmed the following to me following my representations.
The Kilkenny to Letterlily N56 contract has been awarded by Donegal County Council to Fox Contracting. The planned improvement scheme covering from Kilkenny to Letterilly on the Glenties to Dungloe road will involve widening and realignment to Type 3 Single Carriageway (6.0m Carriageway with 0.5m hard strips). The project also includes a cycle track for its full length. The scheme is 3.6km long and has an estimated completion cost of €12 million euro. The TII expect the contract will take 18 months to complete and these works have already commenced.
The Coolboy to Kilmacrennan N56 contract has been awarded by Donegal County Council to BAM construction. The proposed N56 Coolboy Kilmacrennan scheme is located an approximate 5 km north of Letterkenny and is a continuation of the N56 Mountaintop to Illistrin project completed in 2009. The existing road is narrow (approximately 6m wide with neither shoulders nor verges) and has a substandard horizontal and vertical alignment. There are 5 local road junctions with restricted junction visibility on this section. The 3.15km long scheme will involve the widening and realignment to Type 2 Single Carriageway (7.0m Carriageway with hard strips) of the N56. The project will significantly improve safety for road users and will maintain consistency of cross-section between Letterkenny and Kilmacrennan. The construction works is expected to take 18 months and works are to commence shortly.
The N56 Mountcharles to Drumbeigh contract will shortly be awarded and the announcement of the contractor will be imminent. The proposed works will involve the design and construction of approximately 2.75km of new National Secondary Road to Type 1 Single Carriageway. This scheme commences at the tie-in with the Mountcharles Bypass and continues to Drumbeigh and when complete the project will cost an approximate €15 million. Works are to commence within weeks and will take 21 months to complete.
Pat the Cope added it is critical that we continue to invest in our roads within the county, especially in the context of the forthcoming Brexit and the very increasing rural – urban imbalance which exists in this country. Infrastructural investment in rural areas is essential to act as a catalyst for future growth and regional development. I expect that Donegal County Council and the TII will now put in place further plans for future investment in the N56 along with investment in the N13, N14 and the N15; all of these National roads provide critical access to our county and our regions and as such warrant sizeable investment by central Government. It is critical that we invest heavily in our county’s infrastructure in the years ahead, in order to safeguard and secure our competitiveness concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has raised the issue of minor flood mitigation works and the wider issue of coastal protection works with the OPW, in a reply to my representations the OPW have confirmed the following in relation to specific places throughout the west of the county.
Maghery – OPW recommends the Donegal County Council expand the scope and terms of reference of study undertaken by Professor Jackson in order to identify the optimum measures to be undertaken to protect that location, this study should be submitted and the revised proposals will be examined by the OPW. It is the view of the OPW that any scheme with only deals with part of the problem will not solve the underlying issues affecting the area and that a comprehensive solution must be found at Maghery.
Carrickfinn – The OPW recommends and agree that the Council should proceed with the commissioning of consultants to progress a coastal erosion risk management study on the basis of the approval of the OPW minor flood mitigation and coastal protection scheme. The OPW recommended that this project plan should proceed and be done without delay and in cognises of earlier proposals for the area.
Portnoo – OPW recommends and agrees that the Council should now proceed with the Gweebarra Coastal Flood and erosion Management study. It is a matter for the council to decide on procurement and whether to combine the Carrickfinn and Gweebarra studies into a single package.
Magheroarty – The OPW have since April 2017 have been waiting for further information from Donegal County Council, while this information has not been received by the OPW, it is evident the situation could change at Magheroarty due to the proposed extension of the pier – such a proposal of extending the pier would have to be taken into account before undertaking a Coastal Erosion risk management study. It is recommended that both the study and any plans for pier extension be cross examined before erosion risks are finally determined.
Pat the Cope added it is clear a great deal of work and further study is urgently required before we can begin to solve our flooding and coastal erosion risks at these specific locations. It is essential that the OPW, the Department and the Government work seamlessly together in order to progress these issue, it is equally important that when so many bodies are working on the one project that time delays do not occur in progressing these projects. Coordination and joint determination to solve these critical problems for our communities will be required by all partners and I am calling on the Government to impose a strict timeline on the completion of these required studies or proposals in order to bring these projects to implementation stage concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has said the Governments proposals for rural broadband are in tatters and that the writing was on the wall for the Government’s National Broadband Plan as soon as SIRO deciding to pull out from the tendering process last year. We have already witnessed deadlines being moved further out and delayed but today’s announcement puts the entire broadband strategy in a tail spin.
Pat the Cope added Eir has decided to withdraw from the process leaving just eNet left as the sole bidder. Some people believe that the Government has complicated the process so much that it has become next to impossible for potential bidders to respond in a commercially viable way. What is worse the Government have allowed the companies to cherry pick the easy broadband connections countrywide leaving the more difficult areas to connect last but, now with the Government depending solely on one bidder they find themselves in a position of considerable weakness.
Pat the Cope stated the real question which must be asked - how committed were the Government about rolling out broadband to rural communities, the record shows nothing only broken promises and ever moving deadlines. This represents an unmitigated failure on the part of government, and leaves over 540,000 households in serious limbo.
I do not believe that the current tender process can continue with just one bidder involved. Minister Naughten has presided 20 months of failure in terms of the National Broadband Plan since he became Minister. Tonight there’s hundreds of thousands of families, farmers and businesses wondering if they will ever get the broadband they need.
The Government should collectively hang their heads in shame over the shambles that the National Broadband Plan has become. Promised in 2011 for delivery in 2016, delayed until 2023, and now in doubt – the NBP is one of the greatest government failures in living memory concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the announcement that the State will step in and ensure outstanding claims associated with Setanta Insurance are paid in full. This is a matter which I raised consistently during this Dail term -
Pat the Cope stated for the past number of years, both I and my party have been highlighting the plight of those caught up in the collapse of Setanta Insurance in April 2014. Almost four years on, former policyholders have been left in the lurch, facing the prospect of being held personally liable for outstanding claims and claimants have been unable to secure 100% of their claim.
Pat the Cope added the human toll for some of those mired in this mess continues to be enormous and they will want to know when the nightmare will end. The announcement that the Government has agreed ‘in principle’ to pay the 35% shortfall in claims is welcome, but no timeline has been given whatsoever for this issue to be fully resolved. The statutory provision that the Insurance Compensation Fund can only issue payments every six months remains in place and is a further barrier to a swift resolution of the Setanta debacle.
The announcement is an important step forward but delivery is what really matters. I am raising the Setanta issue with the Department and our party spokesperson will be raising the matter as a Priority Question during Finance Oral Questions this week in the Dáil and will continue to raise this issue in the Dáil until all outstanding claims from the Setanta collapse are settled in full concluded Pat the Cope
Pat the Cope Gallagher
More needs to be done as roads surfaces deteriorate over the winter countywide
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle, has confirmed grants of €33 million for regional and county roads within Donegal for the year 2018; it was confirmed to Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher by Minister Shane Ross this afternoon – the Department of Transport announced the allocation which is an increase on 2017 and 2016 but only by €2 million, as €10 million of today’s allocation is ring-fenced for severe weather damage which is urgently required in areas badly hit by the destruction of floods and inclement weather. Overall the allocation will not meet the legacy needs of the county’s infrastructure which due to under investment, is coming under severe pressure. The real terms increase of just over €2 million, will still fall short of the needs of the county’s regional and county roads.
Pat the Cope added the road grants announced today cover all county and regional roads improvements and maintenance of all roads right throughout Donegal, further to that 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 minimal real term increase on 2017 out turn figures. Using today’s rate of increase of funding, it will take years in order to bring the majority of the roads in the county up to standard.
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 – further investment will be needed and an accelerated investment programme on our roads will be required on a multiannual basis and therefore I request the Department to make an additional announcement of resources for Donegal in the course of 2018 from internal savings.
I attach breakdown of the grant allocations.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann-Comhairle has been informed by the HSE following representations made by him, that work is still ongoing and progressing in relation to Community X-ray facilities in Donegal Town Community Hospital and Dungloe Hospital . The HSE informed me that work is progressing on Donegal Town and Dungloe with installation still ongoing for another 6 weeks and a further 2/3 weeks trialling required after that. Whilst I welcome the confirmation that works are ongoing on the two units – I feel that the repairs are taking longer than earlier indicated by the HSE when in reply to my query in September 2017 the HSE indicated the units would be operational by December 2017 or early 2018 at the latest. These further delays are leading to excessive periods whereby the services are no longer fully available in the community. I have been informed by the HSE that the following applies to the two units in question.
Donegal Town X-ray equipment has now been removed since late autumn 2017, with patient appointments transferred to Killybegs X-ray. The refurbishment of the X-ray department was to be complete and operational by December 2017 but it is now delayed until possibly early -March 2018 as per my recent reply from the HSE.
X-ray facilities in Dungloe Hospital are subject to a similar delay – the HSE had informed me in late 2017 that the unit was to be operational by January 2018, it is now apparent that the unit will not be open until mid-March 2018 at the earliest. It is regrettable that these delays occur, as these X-ray units provide a vital service within our communities and the non-availability of these services to their full potential, does seriously impact on our communities and the patients who need to access such services.
Pat the Cope added I do understand that part of the delay was due to the failure by EPA to issue a response for the Licensing of the x ray units, which accounted for some of the potential delay but the HSE nationally must put in place a protocol for repairing and replacing of X ray units without having such excessive delays as what we have witnessed here in Donegal town and Dungloe. It simply is not acceptable that units such as these X ray units can be out of commission for periods of time such as we have witnessed in 2017, with at one stage 4 different community x ray units out of commission. Such breakdowns in service provision is not acceptable and I am asking the Department and the HSE to put in place a better more sensible and practical way of dealing with service outages. It is important that these facilities are maintained and upgraded to the highest possible standard at all times. Community X-ray facilities are crucial to health service provisions in Donegal, as they provide services to patients in their own community and alleviate pressure from Letterkenny University Hospital concluded Pat the Cope.
-Pensions anomalies to be addressed but this is only first step-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed this initial step by the Government to address the pension’s anomalies which currently affect over 40,000 people since the Fine Gael Government brought in the new changes in 2012. These changes being introduced by the Government under pressure will benefit hundreds of Donegal pensioners who are in receipt of a lesser pension since 2012.
Pat the Cope added the Government announced significant improvements to pension calculations for post 2012 pensioners with contribution gaps for homemaking and caring who were assessed under the pension rate band changes in 2012 – the changes brought in in 2012 severely disadvantaged thousands of pensions in Donegal and over 40,000 pensioners nationwide. The changes introduced today
A Total Contributions Approach (TCA) including a new ‘Home Caring Credit’ of up to 20 years will address anomalies from the yearly averaging system
Over 40,000 pensioners assessed under the 2012 rate band changes will be contacted from Autumn 2018 and invited to have their pensions reviewed
Pensioners who qualified after 2012 will receive the higher of their current rate or the new TCA rate
Higher rates will commence from 30th March 2018
First payments at these higher rates and any arrears payable from 30th March 2018 will be made in Q1 2019
From now until the full implementation of the TCA, this option will be available to all new pension applicants
Pat the Cope stated these changes would not be introduced only for the massive pressure the Government were put under on this issue – it is essential now that these changes are implemented without delay and the transition to the new rate is seamless and that no one is left in any financial difficulty due to the changes. The Government must ensure that a full reimbursement is carried out for every recipient that was left disadvantaged due to the rule changes in 2012. I am delighted that this problem which was created by a previous Fine Gael Government is now at long last being corrected.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has said that the anomalies created by changes to the State Contributory Pension in 2012 must be addressed by the Government this year. In 2012 the then Fine Gael Government introduced changes to the band rates for entitlement to the State Pension. This resulted in thousands of people, and women in particular, receiving a reduced pension payment, leading to financial hardship in many cases.
Pat the Cope added in some instances people lost in the region of €30 per week or €1,500 per annum. This is a significant sum of money for most individuals but particularly for those solely reliant on the State pension. Fianna Fáil brought forward a motion on this very issue in October which was passed in the Dáil and now we want to see action being taken by the Government to address these anomalies.
Pat the Cope stated it can no longer be justified that these anomalies remain in place, the changes introduced by the previous Government were wrong and they continue to do gross injustices to those who are in receipt of a lesser pension. I believe that the Government must begin the process of reversing, on an incremental basis if necessary, the changes introduced in 2012. This should be prioritised by Minister Doherty in 2018 and measures introduced to help those disadvantaged by this political decision.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating “I am aware that a review of this issue is underway and is due to be brought before Cabinet shortly. Following this, I expect Minister Doherty to immediately begin the process of putting in place a pathway to correcting one of the most punitive and unfair policies introduced by her Party.”
Pat the Cope Gallagher
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation by Loganair – Scotland’s airline that they are to take over servicing the Donegal Airport to Glasgow flights, the transition from Stobart who presently operate the flights will be seamless, as Loganair will take over responsibility for the flights on the 25th of March 2018 – the day Stobart ceases their service to Glasgow. This is great news for the airport and for Donegal as this vital link is secured for the future.
Pat the Cope added I have been working extremely proactively and close with these airline companies and the airport management in order to insure that a service provider would be secure to provide these vital connections with Glasgow. Prior to Christmas, when it was confirmed that Stobart had secured the Donegal to Dublin PSO connections – it became evident to those of us who work closely with the airport on a routine basis that the Glasgow flights were in jeopardy. In the interim period a great deal of work has taken place in order to secure this important announcement by Loganair. The Glasgow flights provide a very important air connection for Donegal Airport and in the past two years in excess of 23,000 passengers used the service between Donegal and Glasgow. Historically west Donegal and Glasgow have had very close connections and these flights provide a tangible link to those connections and links over time. I wish to compliment the management, staff and airport authorities at Donegal airport who have worked tirelessly on this announcement which avoids the loss of these services and connections with Glasgow.
Pat the Cope stated that over the past two years Donegal Airport provided air connections for in excess of 89,000 passengers and indications are the passenger numbers are continuing to grow – it is in that context that the Glasgow flights are of critical importance for the Airport moving forward. It is excellent news that the transition from Stobart to Loganair will be seamless with no interruption to passengers. This is a great news story for Donegal airport and it brings the surety and certainty that it requires to provide for future growth of the airport and to provide the necessary services for the people of Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Details of the new flight schedules between Donegal Airport and Glasgow to be serviced by Loganair commencing on the 25th of March 2018.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that the 2018 roads allocation for National Primary and National Secondary roads in the county will be €40.4 million, an increase on the 2017 allocation but still short of the €44 million requested by the county council. The allocation for 2018 includes allocations for the commencement works on the N56 at Dungloe to Glenties, Mountcharles to Inver and the Coolboy Kilmacrennan. Over €7.2 million has been allocated to improve road surfaces on the national secondary road network within the county.
Pat the Cope stated this year’s allocation must only be viewed as a start to the level of investment which is required in order to improve the county’s road network. Significant further investment will be required in order to deal with the lack of investment in the road network since 2011, this will involve increased funding year on year to clear the backlog of road improvements needed on our roads. Additional works need to be carried out on the N15 Ballybofey to Lifford and the Letterkenny to Lifford N14 road needs to be prioritised in advance of the A5 works moving to construction – it is essential that preparatory work are done on these projects in order to progress the required improvements in the years ahead. The N56 also requires further investment in the coming years with the stage between Inver to Five Points in Killybegs requiring route selection and other preparatory works. If we as a county are to benefit from the improving levels of investment available for roads nationwide it will be imperative that we have projects ready which are ready to go to construction stage.
Pat the Cope added the National Primary and Secondary roads in Donegal are the backbone of our infrastructure in the county, in addition extra investment will be required for our regional and county roads network in order to deal with the infrastructural deficit.
County and Regional Roads - It is anticipated that an allocation for these roads will be made by the Department of Transport within a matter of weeks, it is critical that Donegal gets a sizeable portion which should be well in excess of the 2017 allocation of €20.2m.
See attached full list of allocations for the National Roads.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has condemned the manner in which SLM Connect Ireland has dealt with their employees in the recent closure of their base in Gaoth Dobhair with the loss of 32 jobs, moreover their failure even to convey or communicate the closure with Udaras na Gaeltachta shows the poor and contemptible attitude they had to the area and their workforce. The company which was announced with great fanfare and promise on the 19th of April 2016 has turned out to be a complete disappointment, initially promising 125 jobs for the area but as it now transpires their plans for the area were never realistic or genuine. The company’s conduct in how these job losses were made has been extremely poor and unprofessional – had they approached the Udaras perhaps some other assistance could have been given by them or time allowed for the employees of the company rather than the blunt manner in which it was delivered.
Pat the Cope added I have already called on Aire Stait na Gaeltachta Joe Mc Hugh to immediately meet with the workers on site in Gaoth Dobhair, and to further prioritise the area for replacement jobs. It is essential that the former employees realise that this closure is being taken seriously by the Government first hand. Priority must be given to those who have lost their jobs – it is a terrible blow to get for any household on the days leading up to Christmas. No time must be wasted by the Government in assisting those that have lost their employment and sources of income, I have also asked the Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty to appoint a liaison person to coordinate the rights and entitlements of those who have lost their incomes due to this closure, we are as you can appreciate leading into a period whereby many state offices are closed until the New Year. The holiday period over Christmas must not negatively impact on those who now must unfortunately access their social welfare benefits and entitlements in order to sustain their families and themselves. Every effort must be made to assist and help those who have lost their employment to have a seamless transition to social protection payments until such time as alternative employment can be sources for the area. The overarching priority must be to source replacement jobs for the area and this must be done without undue delay. I am also seeking a full reimbursement of the €171,000 subsidies given to the company by the Udaras, these monies must be sought from the parent company which is based in Manchester.
Pat the Cope stated it is clear that the overall budget of the Udaras na Gaeltachta must be reviewed in order to ensure the delivery of further jobs for west Donegal in addition to other parts of the Donegal Gaeltacht – in that regard no delay must occur in appointing the new Bord Udaras Na Gaeltachta so that a comprehensive strategy can be put in place for the area and replacement employment sourced. West Donegal has a great ability to rebound and recover from adversity and blows such as these but, in order to do that assistance has to be given from central Government and the relevant state agencies – I am publically calling on the Government to step up and to take the lead in coordinating a recovery strategy and employment drive for west Donegal. This has been terrible news for those who have lost their jobs and incomes but neither the Government nor the relevant state agencies can shirk their responsibilities in coming to the assistance of the former employees nor the area in sourcing alternative employment for those who have been left without a job on the days of Christmas concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval of funding of €667,900 for Donegal Airport which announced by the Transport Minister Shane Ross. The allocation of €667,900 is for the provision of safety and security measures at the airport and forms part of the overall Government capital plan for investments into regional airports. Donegal airport is steadily building on its success with over 89,000 passengers using the airport during the past two years – the figure show in 2016 -31,000 passengers and 2017 – 35,000 passengers using the flights to Dublin. While, the Glasgow flights recorded 11,600 passengers in 2016 and the figure for 2017 is expected to be around 11,500.
Pat the Cope added the Regional Airports Programme supports necessary safety and security investments and activities by these airports to enable them to continue to contribute to enhanced regional connectivity for businesses and tourism. The Review of the Capital Plan that was announced in September by the Government and it was clearly identified the need for continued support for this Programme and this is a matter which I raised in the Dáil on numerous occasions during the past two years. The review of the Capital Plan yielded over €17 million in additional capital funding for the Regional Airports Programme over the period 2019 to 2021, this level of investment is essential for the future of regional airports
Pat the Cope stated - this is welcome news for Donegal Airport but, more needs to be done in order to continue on the success of the airport in the years ahead. Earlier this week I received confirmation that the PSO was awarded to Stobart, but that the flights to Glasgow were in jeopardy - I am awaiting a meeting with Stobart in order to make the case of the importance of the Glasgow flights to the airport and the entire county. Every effort must be made in order to save and protect this air connection with Glasgow and Scotland. I will be raising this matter with the Department of Transport in addition to meeting with Stobart concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher
-Services must be protected and connectivity guaranteed for Donegal Airport –
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation by the Department of Transport of their intention to award the Donegal Airport Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract to Stobard Air for flights to Dublin, the contract to be awarded by the Department will cover the next four year period for the airport, with the contract starting on the 1st of February 2018 and running until 31st January 2022. But regrettably, the Glasgow flights from Donegal Airport are in jeopardy as Stobard Air expresses doubt regarding their future intentions for the flights to Glasgow. Donegal Airport has grown steadily over the last number of years and is now an integral part of the infrastructure of Donegal – providing efficient, reliable and affordable connectivity to Dublin and Glasgow by air. Stobard Air has being serving the airport in a very effective manner over the last number of years – delivering on commitments to their passengers and to the region. The loss of the Glasgow flights would be a severe blow to the airport and the entire county – I will be seeking a meeting with Stobard Air at the earliest possible convenience in order to make the case for the retention of the flight to Glasgow. It is critical for the future growth and expansion of the airport that these flights be retained stated Pat the Cope.
Pat he Cope added, the final sanctioning of the new contract for the Donegal Airport PSO will take place in early January by the Minister, after the required period for contract renewal expires. I have worked extremely close with Donegal Airport since its inception and today is another important step in that development and further expansion, the air services provided by Stobard Air are playing an important part in the ordinary day lives of so many at present – be that, business orientated, tourism related, to access medical appointments or for recreational purposes, these flights form an essential part of everyday life for Donegal passengers wishing to access other locations or connecting flights to elsewhere. I have being working closely with the Department on this matter for the past number of months and moreover have been making the case for increased investment in the airport since my re-election to the Dáil, Donegal Airport has been the engine for regional growth for the past number of years and is a major catalyst for growth in Donegal at present.
Pat the Cope stated it is essential moving forward over the next four years of this contract that the level of services and the connectivity to both Dublin and Glasgow are maintained and with additional marketing it is reasonable to allow for further growth in numbers over the next number of years at the airport. The potential loss of the Glasgow flights to the airport will seriously undermine the financial viability of the airport; in additional it removes an important link with Scotland and west Donegal. I am calling on the Government to recognise the further and future growth potential of regional airports and such a case in point is Donegal Airport at present and to provide additional investment for airports such as Donegal Airport in the next five year capital plan. Other state agencies such as Fáilte Ireland, IDA, Udaras na Gaeltachta, etc. must also recognise the future growth potential of regional airports. The services for local people wishing to access medical appointments in Dublin must be maintained at all costs and in that regard sensible timetabling must be guaranteed over the next period of the PSO. I wish to compliment the staff and management of the airport for their hard work and dedication to Donegal Airport through the years and the passenger numbers continue to grow. Regional air travel and connectivity of the regions has been extremely successful in Ireland and Donegal Airport has been a beacon for growth and efficient use of state investment, this must continue and allow even further expansion in the years ahead but, in order to secure that growth both Government and other state agencies must work as one to maximise the real potential for Donegal Airport. I am determined that a case be made at the highest level for the retention of the Glasgow flights to Donegal Airport as a great deal depends on it added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D.
19th of December 2017
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Marine & Fisheries, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has given a guarded welcome to the 2018 fishing quotas agreed last night in Brussels by EU fishing ministers.
Generally, the package delivered for the Irish fishing sector was positive with increased quota overall for some whitefish stocks.
However, some fishermen will be disappointed to see reductions to quotas for specific fish species next year. These include cuts to Mackerel (-20%) and Whiting (-19%).
These cuts will impact negatively on coastal communities who are dependent on these fish stocks for economic growth and jobs locally.
Overall, the looming threat to Irish fishing interests by Brexit hangs over the industry with great uncertainty ahead. It is vital that as negotiations move on to Phase 2, that fisheries and trade be inextricably linked in future Brexit negotiations.
Supreme Court Judgement must be received before any Statutory Instrument is placed before Dail –
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher and Fianna Fáil Marine Spokesperson has confirmed following his intervention on the proposed introduction of Penalty Points for fishing infringements, that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed will not introduce the points system until the Supreme Court makes its judgement and sufficient time is given in order to study the ruling of the court. I personally intervened with the Minister and made the case that is was a futile exercise and wrong to introduce a law, such as penalty points for fishing infringements especially in the context of the potential serious impacts the sanctions would have on the fishing sector until such time as we have all the facts at our disposal. I am seriously concerned that the draft Statutory Instrument prepared by the Minister, does not afford the fishermen and or the vessel owners the right to appeal to an Irish Court – which is completely contrary to Irish Common Law principles and as such would be repugnant to our constitutional rights of appeal in the case of criminal law.
Pat the Cope added “I became most concerned when I was made aware earlier last month, that it was the intention of the Minister to lay a new Statutory Instrument (SI) before the house to give effect to a penalty points system”. Having raised the matter in the Dáil on a number of occasions and directly contacted the Minister I made the case that the Statutory Instrument which was about to be introduced must be withdrawn until such time as the Supreme Court makes its ruling, to introduce any law in the absence of the judgement would be folly. I on behalf of my party conveyed our disquiet on the matter and asked for the process to be stopped - The Minister confirmed to me this week that the SI would now not be considered until such time as the Supreme Court make their ruling.
Pat the Cope stated that any attempts to introduce penalty points for fishing infringements in the future must afford vessel owners and fishermen the rights of appeal to the Irish court. The proposed system did not give them that right, it also in my view relied too heavily on the Sea Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPA), it does not afford the sector a voice on the board of determination and most serious of all it only gives the right to vessel owners and fishermen the right to appeal to the Irish courts on a point of law – which is contrary to our constitutional rights under common law principles. The Statutory Instrument fell well short of what I would consider fair, balanced or constitutionally correct – and as such it is a right and correct decision that the Statutory Instrument is now withdrawn.
I am urging the Minister not to proceed with a Statutory Instrument until the Supreme Court decision is available, to use the next number of weeks or months to properly sit down with the fishing sector and together study the impacts of the pending supreme court judgement – it is a futile exercise preparing laws in isolation of the sectoral interests and worse when you are not prepared to take on board the rulings of the Irish courts which are there to protect the rights of the individual. I will continue to raise this matter with the Minister but I am seeking a better approach in how we deal with this matter from here on in concluded Pat the Cope.
** I understand that the Supreme Court judgement has been issued and a written judgement on the decision is awaited. **
Pat the Cope Gallagher
-Intervention by Minister is needed to avoid a €33 million loss including the already €17 million cut in mackerel quota this year-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle and Fianna Fáil Marine spokesperson has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to face down the Commission draft proposals to cut certain stocks – it is essential for the fishing industry that these proposed cuts for cod, haddock, whiting herring and nephrops are reversed by the Council of Ministers when they meet this week in Brussels. These proposed cuts being considered by the Council in conjunction with the already announced 20 % cut in the mackerel quota will cost jobs in our coastal communities. At present it is estimated that if these cuts will be introduced it will cost almost 300 jobs in our coastal communities – these figures are supplied by the sector – and as such the Government must pay heed to the warnings of the fishing industry.
Pat the Cope added the Irish fishing sector is facing a combined €33 million cut in its Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for 2018 unless the Government can get an effective strategy to deal with these proposed cuts, this is going to have a devastating effect on our coastal communities and the disposal incomes of families which depend on the fishing sector for employment. I am urging the Minister to make a strong case to that The Hague principle applied in order to soften the impact on Ireland, and that he secondly demonstrate the massive socio economic impact these cuts will have on our fishing sector. In certain species the ICES advice is more accurate than the Commission’s recommendations and in such cases the Department must make a contrary agreement at the Council meeting.
Pat the Cope stated that the Irish fishing sector is facing very uncertain times due to these cuts and the possible impacts of Brexit on future access to UK waters and a possible decrease of our agreed share of the quotas, it is imperative that the Minister intervention at this week’s Council of Ministers deals with the realities of the fishing sector at present, the impacts of these cuts and the future uncertainties – in fact the Taoiseach should intervene at a higher level in advance of these negotiations such is the potential impact to our fishing industry. The Minister must insure that he retains what is best for the Irish fishing industry in order that Irish industry can have a sustainable and viable future- concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the Minister for justice and the Acting Garda Commissioner to intervene in order to bolster Garda numbers within the Donegal Division which presently stands at 384 as of the 31st October 2017. In reply to my Dáil questions on the matter the Minister indicated the following,
“The Garda strength of the Donegal Division on 31 October 2017 was 384 of whom 2 are Community Gardaí. There are also 18 Garda Reserves and 33 Garda civilian staff attached to the Division”.
Pat the Cope added in reply to my question to the Minister last year on the 31st August 2016, I was informed 387 Gardaí was based in the Donegal Division and that on the 1st January 2009 - 488 Gardaí were based in Donegal – it is shocking that in the past 8 years Garda numbers declined by 21% in total. What most concerning that in the entire county at present only 2 community posts exist. This Government has let Garda services and resources decline to new low and alarming levels – time and time again we have witnessed the anti-rural policy of this Government whereby services in rural areas are being continually and constantly withdrawn or underfunded.
Pat the Cope stated no effort is being made by the Government to direct new recruits to the Donegal Division – of the 1,400 new recruits attested since September 2014 – only 24 of them were posted to Donegal, even with our declining numbers priority is not being given to our county. I am calling on the Department and the Acting Commissioner to take immediate action and put in place a plan to rebuild Garda numbers within the county, and also asking the Commissioner to prioritise internal transferees wishing to return to Donegal in order to immediately replenish numbers within the Division. Many rural communities within Donegal feel isolated and vulnerable due to the reduction in Garda numbers - this is not right and something needs to be done by the Government concluded Pat the Cope.
For Oral Answer on : 05/12/2017
Question Number(s): 97 Question Reference(s): 51653/17
Department: Justice and Equality
To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in each Garda station in County Donegal as of 1 November 2017; the number of community gardaí in the division; the number of Garda Reserve and the gardaí in the division as a whole; and the number of Garda Reserve and the number of new recruits assigned to the division since recruitment resumed in 2014.
I should say at the outset that the distribution of Garda personnel is exclusively the statutory responsibility of the Garda Commissioner.
Notwithstanding the Commissioner's responsibility for the distribution of Gardaí, I have provided for the record a breakdown, in tabular form, of the detailed information requested by the Deputy as of 31 October 2017, the latest date for which information is readily available.
The Garda strength of the Donegal Division on 31 October 2017 was 384 of whom 2 are Community Gardaí. There are also 18 Garda Reserves and 33 Garda civilian staff attached to the Division. When appropriate, the work of local Gardaí is supported by a number of Garda national units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Armed Support Units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
As the Deputy will be aware this Government is committed to ensuring a strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress on achieving this goal.
I am informed by the Commissioner that since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014, close to 1,400 recruits have attested as members of An Garda Síochána and have been assigned to mainstream duties nationwide, 24 of whom have been assigned to the Donegal Division. I look forward to attending the graduation of another 200 trainee Garda on Friday which will see Garda numbers, taking account of projected retirements, increase to around the 13,500 mark by year end - a net increase of 500 since the end of 2016.
I am also pleased that Budget 2018 will maintains this high level of investment in the Garda workforce and ensure that the vision of an overall workforce of 21,000 by 2021 remains on track. A further 800 new Garda Recruits will enter the Garda College. This will see Garda numbers reach the 14,000 mark by the end of 2018 .
In addition, a further 500 civilians will also be recruited to fill critical skills gaps across the organisation and to facilitate the redeployment of Gardaí from administrative and technical duties to front-line operational duties. There are plans to strengthen the Garda Reserve with new Reserves expected to commence training early in 2018.
This focus on investment in personnel is critical. The moratorium on recruitment introduced in 2010 resulted in a significant reduction in the strength of An Garda Síochána. We are now rebuilding the organisation and providing the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of Gardaí across every Garda Division, including the Donegal Division, in the coming years.
The projects have been awarded funding under the 2017 Inland Fisheries Ireland Funding Call. They cover National Strategy for Angling Development Fund and Salmon Conservation Fund. Pat the Cope paid tribute to the Associations and the many volunteers involved in each association.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has challenged the Government to show some understanding and finally deal with the chronic problems facing part time and seasonal workers accessing their social welfare entitlements. It is now self-evident that the Government are clueless and just do not understand the problems and issues facing seasonal and part time workers on a daily basis in terms of their entitlements to social protection payments when their respective employment ceases. Last year the former Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar gave a cast iron guarantee that this matter would be reviewed but it now transpires the report has only now been completed, despite a commitment that it would be presented to the Social welfare committee by March of this year.
Pat the Cope stated the Government have shown complete incompetence in their handling of the problem, even in my debate in the Dáil this week with the Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty – it is clear that there is a complete failure to understand the extent of the problem and furthermore an absolute unwillingness to make any attempt to deal with the issues in a time effective manner. Earlier in the year, a delegation of seasonal and part time workers attended the Dáil and met with the Minister on this subject matter and I have on numerous occasions raised the matter directly with the Ministers in the Dáil. It is a sad indictment of a Government when the Minister in the Dáil during my debate with her stated “this affects only a small number of Donegal workers only and is unique to there “ – shocking approach that perhaps best expresses the clueless approach of this Government to rural life and living.
Pat the Cope speaking in the Dáil called on the Minister to stop the procrastination and end the discrimination for this sector of workers, many of whom have worked on a part time or seasonal basis for over twenty years. Over one year has expired since this issue was to be dealt with by way of a Departmental Report and it’s more than two years since I first highlighted the problems facing seasonal and part time workers. The Government need to wake up and deal with the problems that face this section of workers when they seek to access their entitlements after work ceases. This Government needs to pay attention to the plight of rural Ireland and the circumstances of employment of those who work on a part time or seasonal basis – action and solutions are urgently needed and the Government must step up to that challenge concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the Government’s belated announcement to provide essential funds to schools under the Minor Works Grants Scheme.
Earlier this week my party colleague Deputy Thomas Byrne had notified the Government and Minister for Education, Richard Bruton that he would be tabling a priority question in Dáil Éireann on the matter in the coming days.
Commenting this morning, Pat the Cope said, “The delay in the Minister making the announcement of these grants has caused huge stress for principals and management in schools nationwide. The grant is normally paid in early to mid- November but this year it was unusually and inexplicably delayed.
“I am relieved that the pressure we have put on the Government to pay this grant, has worked and forced the Government to deliver the necessary funding to the schools added Pat the Cope.
“There is a growing concern that the Minister's attitude on the payment on this grant stems from a belief that he considers such grants to be optional rather than essential.
“The reality is that many schools are forced to use the grant to supplement the inadequate capitation grants. For some smaller schools around the country, the Minor Works Grant can make up almost a third of their yearly budget.
Pat the Cope concluded, “Fianna Fáil believes that these grants should be compulsory and set down on a statutory basis rather than the haphazard funding mechanism which currently exists.”
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval from the Department of Education to provide funding for additional accommodation and ancillary works at Dunkineely National School, I have been working closely with the School community in getting the necessary approval from the Department of Education and, I welcome the sanctioning of the necessary grant today.
Pat the Cope added the works to be carried out will include the provision of two Resource rooms, 1 UA toilet, the removal of prefab building and other necessary ancillary works on the school site. I am keenly aware that the school have been actively working in seeking the necessary approval for some time and I am delighted to be in a position to confirm the necessary grant approvals today. The school authorities will now have to obtain planning permission for the extension and upon receipt of the planning a contractor will have to be appointed to carry out the necessary works.
Pat the Cope stated the additional room capacity and other improvements will be of huge benefit to the school and I am anticipating that no further delays will occur in bringing this project to completion. I wish to compliment the school authorities in persisting in getting this project delivered – it is essential that we continue to invest in our schools in order to maintain the highest standards in our school building stock concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has confirmed that the 2017 Sports Capital grants have been approved by the Minister for Transport and Sports. In total 71 different organisations within County Donegal, for various clubs and different organisations the Sports Capital grants announced today by the Department of Transport and Sports is extremely welcome news and will be of great benefit to their respective communities. While welcoming the grant announcements today and the very many communities which have been awarded funding throughout the county, I am aware there are many other communities which are disappointed that did not receive funding from this round of funding from sports capital. The grants today will be of huge benefit for the voluntary groups, clubs and community organisations which have been approved funding today.
Pat the Cope added I wish to compliment the organisations which were successful in securing the funding for their organisation and wider communities. Application such as these approved today , involve a great deal of work and effort on the part of the organisations and their voluntary members. Funding approved for sporting and recreational groups is money well invested and reaps great dividends for our communities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed confirmation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that steady progress is being made on the three N56 road projects, with a contractor appointed for the N56 Dungloe to Glenties to construct the road section between Kilkenny to Letterlily. The N56 project for Coolboy to Kilmacrennan a request to appoint a contractor is expected in the next few weeks and the third project the N56 Mountcharles to Drumbeigh ongoing assessment of the tenders is underway and a contractor is expected to be appointed by the end of December. I welcome the progress being made on these road projects at present and I will maintain the pressure on the TII and the Government in order to get actual road construction started.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has confirmed the following to me following my representations to them on the progress of current N56 projects within the county at present.
The Kilkenny to Letterlily N56 contract has been awarded by Donegal County Council to Fox contracting. The planned improvement scheme covering from Kilkenny to Letterilly on the Glenties to Dungloe road will involve widening and realignment to Type 3 Single Carriageway (6.0m Carriageway with 0.5m hard strips). The project also includes a cycle track for its full length. The scheme is 3.6km long and has an estimated completion cost of €12 million euro.
The Coolboy to Kilmacrennan N56 tender assessment is ongoing we expect to receive a request from Donegal County Council to award this contract in December 2017. The proposed N56 Coolboy Kilmacrennan scheme is located an approximate 5 km north of Letterkenny and is a continuation of the N56 Mountaintop to Illistrin project completed in 2009. The existing road is narrow (approximately 6m wide with neither shoulders nor verges) and has a substandard horizontal and vertical alignment. There are 5 local road junctions with restricted junction visibility on this section. The 3.15km long scheme will involve the widening and realignment to Type 2 Single Carriageway (7.0m Carriageway with hard strips) of the N56. The project will significantly improve safety for road users and will maintain consistency of cross-section between Letterkenny and Kilmacrennan.
Tenders were received on the Mountcharles to Drumbeigh N56 scheme last week and will be subject to assessment over the coming weeks. The proposed works will involve the design and construction of approximately 2.75km of new National Secondary Road to Type 1 Single Carriageway. This scheme commences at the tie-in with the Mountcharles Bypass and continues to Drumbeigh and when complete the project will cost an approximate €15 million.
Pat the Cope added it is critical that we continue to invest in our roads within the county, especially in the context of the forthcoming Brexit and the very increasing rural – urban imbalance which exists in this country. Infrastructural investment in rural areas is essential to act as a catalyst for future growth and regional development. I expect that Donegal County Council and the TII will now put in place further plans for future investment in the N56 along with investment in the N13, N14 and the N15 ; all of these National roads provide critical access to our county and our regions and as such warrant sizeable investment by central Government concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has lambasted the Government for their conduct regarding the long-term future of the Community Hospitals in Donegal, it has been shocking how this matter has been handled by the various Ministers for Health since 2016 when they announced their policy decision to downgrade the capacity of all three Hospitals – St Joseph’s Stranorlar, Ramelton and Lifford Community Hospital. It is clear following a series of Dáil questions placed by me to the Minister for Health over the past 6 months, that it remains the clear stated intent of the Government to remove long stay accommodation residency beds from these three hospitals, in line with the decision made by the previous Government in January 2016, this was reaffirmed to me on the 26th of July 2017, again on the 15th of November and again today 22nd of November 2017. It is shocking the extent to which some Government representatives have gone to in order to cover up or massage the truth on this matter since the original announcement was made in January 2016.
Pat the Cope stated in the reply to which I received today the Minister clearly states;
“The programme which was announced on 26 January 2016 included the development of a new 130 bed centre, centrally located in Letterkenny to ensure that bed capacity in the region, which includes Ramelton, Lifford and Stranorlar is secured on a sustainable basis”.
It is evident that on a sustainable basis the Government have taken the decision to replace the three Community hospitals residency beds capacity with one centralised unit in Letterkenny. In my Dáil question of the 15th of November the reply supplied to me from the Minister stated;
“This investment programme will see the provision of two new centres in Donegal, namely in Ballyshannon and also a 130 bed centre to be located in Letterkenny”.
Pat the Cope added what is clear from the numerous questions placed by me and the answers given by the Minister for Health that the Government have failed to reverse their current stated policy, which is to downgrade the three community hospitals in question. What is completely shocking was the intervention by Minister of State Jim Daly last July when he gave the impression - that the Dáil question of the 26th July placed by me to the Minister was incorrect and inaccurate but, afforded an opportunity by me in today’s question to correct the record of the Dáil - they have not corrected the record of the Dáil and therefore the decision made by the Government in January 2016 stands and the reply given to me by the Minister on the 26th of July remains the stated policy of the Government. What is to be absolutely clear now is the Government’s intention to remove the long stay accommodation (residency beds) from the Community hospitals in Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s Stranorlar. This is an increditable decision and a retrograde step in the provision of health care in our county.
Pat the Cope further added the Government’s reputation and creditability on this matter is in tatters and is completely shot, no one can have any further confidence in the process which they are engaged in – as I have previously stated the starting point in restoring confidence is a full reversal of the Government policy of January 2016, and secondly putting in place a capital plan for the long term future of all three hospitals which would include restoring staffing numbers in all three hospitals – anything less than that at this juncture would be unacceptable. What we have witnessed from the Government over the past two years almost has been a complete farce. I am demanding the Government come clean and admit there has been an attempt to mislead the general public and immediately initiate a policy change and to secure the future of the three hospitals in Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
For Oral Answer on : 15/11/2017
Question Number(s): 94 Question Reference(s): 48095/17 Oral
To ask the Minister for Health his strategy for the community hospitals in County Donegal and the future development of all community hospitals within the county; his plans for the long term bed accommodation of St Joseph's hospital, Stranorlar, Lifford community hospital and Ramelton community hospital in view of the conflicting information provided by his predecessor on 26 January 2016 and the various HSE statements on that matter of long stay beds within these three community hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
While the care delivered to residents in our community hospitals is generally of a very high standard, many of theses services are delivered in buildings that are less than ideal in the modern context. It is important therefore that we upgrade our public bed stock and this is the aim of the 5 year Capital Investment Programme for Community Nursing Units which was announced last year. This provides the framework to allow for an enhanced programme to replace, upgrade and refurbish these care facilities, as appropriate. Significant work was undertaken to determine the most optimum scheduling of projects within the phased provision of funding to achieve compliance with National Standards. announced last year. This provides the framework to allow for an enhanced programme to replace, upgrade and refurbish these care facilities, as appropriate. Significant work was undertaken to determine the most optimum scheduling of projects within the phased provision of funding to achieve compliance with National Standards.
This investment programme will see the provision of two new centres in Donegal, namely in Ballyshannon and also a 130 bed centre, centrally located in Letterkenny.
Since the announcement in 2016, and following discussions with public representatives, Health Forum members and local community groups, local HSE management in CHO 1 agreed to review overall requirements for the area. The Terms of Reference for the Rhatigan's review were as follows:
1. Assess current and future needs for short/long term bed capacity taking into account of up to date census data from the Central Statistics Office.
2. Based on current planning norms define scale of public/private provision required to meet this need up to 2026.
3. Assess the adequacy of existing facilities in St Joseph’s Hospital Stranorlar, Ramelton and Lifford, taking account of amended legislation governing residential care standards 2016. 4. Recommend changes to the approved capital programme, if appropriate, taking into account capital and revenue costs, geographical factors, integration of care with acute services and time frames for delivery.
5. Make specific recommendations regarding dementia care provision.
6. Based on the above to finalise brief and options appraisals for infrastructural developments proposed.
I understand that the review has been completed and a report is to be submitted to the HSE’s National Social Care Division in the first instance, and then the HSE’s National Capital Property Steering Group.
Any proposals for changes to the approved Capital Investment Programme for Community Nursing Units would have to be considered in the context of capital funding available to Health, potential revenue implications and compliance with the agreed capital approval process.
For Written Answer on : 21/11/2017
Question Number(s): 423 Question Reference(s): 49389/17 Written
* To ask the Minister for Health further to parliamentary question numbers 1004, 1005 and 1006 of 26 July 2017 and 94 of 15 November 2017, if he will clarify which of the statements is correct; his policy for hospitals (details supplied) long stay accommodation beds; if previous records on this issue will be corrected; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
Details Supplied: St Joseph's Community Hospital, Ramelton and Lifford Community Hospital, as the original statement of the former Minister of State on the 26th of January 2016 is clear in intent, subsequent replies are likewise
The State's Capital Programme “Building on Recovery: Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021” which was published on 30 September 2015 included an investment programme in health infrastructure. Based on this, the HSE prepared its programme of investment in public nursing home facilities.
The programme which was announced on 26 January 2016 included the development of a new 130 bed centre, centrally located in Letterkenny to ensure that bed capacity in the region, which includes Ramelton, Lifford and Stranorlar is secured on a sustainable basis.
As I confirmed in my recent Parliamentary reply to the Deputy that since this announcement in 2016, and following discussions with public representatives, Health Forum members and local community groups, local HSE management in CHO 1 agreed to review overall requirements for the area. This included an assessment of the current and future needs for both short and long term beds and an assessment of the adequacy of the three existing facilities referred to by the Deputy. I understand that the review has been completed and a report is to be submitted to the HSE’s National Social Care Division in the first instance, and then the HSE’s National Capital Property Steering Group.
QUESTION NOS: 1004 to 1006
DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister of State at the Department of Health (Jim Daly T.D.)
by Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 26/07/2017
* 1004. To ask the Minister for Health his plans for St Joseph’s hospital, Stranorlar; his further plans for keeping all 78 short and long term stay beds which are based in wards (details supplied) in the hospital; the timeframe for staff restoration in order to facilitate this commitment at the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 26th July, 2017.
Details Supplied: the barnes view, finn view and woodville wards
* 1005. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to retain the long term bed capacity at Lifford community hospital; his further plans to bring the hospital up to the required standards to ensure its future survival; the delivery of such proposals; the stage at which those plans are at; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 26th July, 2017.
* 1006. To ask the Minister for Health his plans for retaining all long term bed capacity at Ramelton community hospital; his further plans for the long term future of the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 26th July, 2017.
Many public units are housed in buildings that are less than ideal in the modern context, but notwithstanding this, the care delivered to residents is generally of a very high standard. It is important therefore that we upgrade our public bed stock and this is the aim of the 5 year Capital Investment Programme for Community Nursing Units which was announced last year. This provides the framework to allow for an enhanced programme to replace, upgrade and refurbish these care facilities, as appropriate. Significant work was undertaken to determine the most optimum scheduling of projects within the phased provision of funding to achieve compliance with National Standards. By the end of 2016 I understand that 14 projects were operational and a further 12 are expected to be operational by the end of this year.
Under this Programme it is proposed to build a new 130 bed community nursing unit in Letterkenny by the end of 2021, through a Public Private Partnership or alternative funding model, to replace existing long-stay accommodation including that provided at St Joseph's, Stranorlar and Ramelton and Lifford Community Hospitals.
Operational responsibility for delivering the programme is a matter for the HSE. The Executive has advised that the Letterkenny project is currently at Design Feasibility stage with a projected completion date of 2021. As part of the preparatory work for the development of the new community nursing unit, I understand that the HSE is undertaking a review of the three Community Hospitals, referred to by the Deputy with a view to identifying any options for their future use.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has labelled the decision by Donegal County Council to refuse planning permission for a new Cinema in Donegal Town as extremely disappointing and a shocking decision to take without fully exploring all options open to them as a local authority before flatly refusing the application. I have reviewed the planning file at length and I am shocked as to how this application was dealt with by our local authority, we all as public representatives and moreover in the general public appreciate fully that planning applications have to work through a process, but in this instance I personally feel that the full options open to the local authority were not fully utilised and explored before the application was refused by them – further information could have been sought or indeed an extension of time in order to deal more comprehensively with this application.
Pat the Cope further added that this development along with other ongoing developments in the general Donegal Town area- were acting as a catalyst for change and progress, but the decision reached by Donegal County Council this week in terms of this application is sending out the complete wrong signal of how we as a local authority are open to new developments and further progress in our region. It is pointless lobbying for development, rural rejuvenation and further growth, if we as a county are not open and forthcoming to working with new business interests and employment opportunities. This decision has the potential to set us back years as an area, that is progressive and forward thinking especially at a time when we are crying out for employment, providing growth within our regions and building on the social fabric of our towns and villages so that the quality of life for our residents improves.
Pat the Cope stated having visited Donegal Town over the weekend and spoken directly with the general public, I have witnessed first-hand the sense of anger and complete disappointment at this lost opportunity for the town, emotion and sentiment are running very high on this issue and I can understand why personally. I am calling on all parties to work together with a view to securing a positive outcome in the event of the developers reapplying to Donegal County Council, there was neither logic or reason to this decision of refusing permission and immediate steps need to be taken by all public representative in order to salvage this situation – firstly, we need to reassert that Donegal Town is open and welcoming for all new business, we need to immediately put in place a town plan that facilitates new business ventures and opportunities so that the entire town and surrounding areas can prosper. The current outdated town plan needs to be scrapped and the new plan which is under way needs to be fast tracked – we cannot allow another 10 to 15 years of lost opportunities to occur in Donegal Town as we have witnessed in the last period. The new town plan must reflect the needs of the community and then facilitate the delivery of requirements of areas such as Donegal Town – so that decision such as we have just witnessed can be avoided in the future. The local authority must become an active agent for development and progress, it must identify the needs of the community and facilitate their development when applications come before them rather than what we have just witnessed. Opportunities such these only arise on few occasions in rural Ireland, we must be careful we do not miss such opportunities and we must maximise their potential for our areas. I firmly believe that this is another example of how our local planning offices should never of been moved out of our local area offices, it is essential that planning functions be restored to Donegal Town public service centre as well as the other locations in the county. Planning services delivered in our own regions provide better decisions based on local knowledge and are more in touch with the local interests of the areas. The planning department of any local authority must be the vehicle that delivers growth and expansion but in this instance it has failed to do so, this cannot be allowed to be repeated - this decision, bad as it seems now to us all - must be the trigger for change that is badly needed in Donegal town concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the Government to take action and address the bed capacity issues at Letterkenny University Hospital, the matter was raised by me in the Dáil and the reply which I obtained clearly identifies that Saolta and the Government have failed to act and sanction the additional bed capacity for the Hospital. In a detailed response from the Hospital authority they state “a proposal has been sent under the Critical Unmet Need & Winter Surge Initiative for funding to re-open the beds which would increase bed capacity in the hospital from 330 beds to 350 beds”. The Government have failed to provide the additional €1.8 million needed to provide for the additional capacity at the hospital.
Pat the Cope stated the additional 20 beds and appropriate additional staffing levels would go a long way in dealing with the current capacity issues which we witness almost on a daily basis in Letterkenny. Shockingly, we have witnessed time and time again full capacity protocols exercised in the hospital all year round, now as we face into the critical winter period it is most concerning as it is clear the hospital cannot cope with the levels of service demands placed on it with the current existing capacity within the hospital. The hospital are awaiting approval for the additional capacity since October but no final approval has yet been given by the Minister and the Government, Meantime, the Government espouse their winter strategy but it does not seem to apply to Donegal as they continue to ignore the ongoing difficulties within Letterkenny University Hospital. The staff within the Hospital are doing their utmost and level best to provide full and complete services to the patients but, without additional capacity demands can never be met as extra beds and staff are urgently needed before the winter fully sets in. It is nothing short of reckless that the Government have not approved the additional capacity and staffing for Letterkenny.
Pat the Cope added I have previously asked the Government to conduct a full and complete review of services, staffing levels and capacity within the hospital, the current proposal before the Government is for an additional 20 bed capacity, an extra 14 staff nurses, additional care assistants and CNM posts plus ancillary staff .Had the Minister for health heeded that request we could have avoided the difficulties experienced by the hospital and the many patients over the past year. I am demanding the Government take immediate action in relation to Letterkenny, enough procrastination and time wasting has been allowed to occur under this Governments watch, approval needs to be given for the hospital to expand bed capacity and staffing levels in order to counter act the ongoing crises at the Hospital concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle, has welcomed the allocation of €130,000 sports funding from the dormant accounts fund and Sport Ireland, the allocations were made through the Donegal Sports Partnership, which has providing excellent leadership in providing sports facilities countywide in recent years. The Donegal Sports Partnership which were the lead group in this application have proven themselves again to be an excellent group in sourcing funding and promoting sports facilities within our county and all credit goes to the personnel in the Partnership for their work.
Pat the Cope added that the two projects who received funding approval were Maghery Coastal Adventures Project, Dungloe who were allocated €35,000 and the Bluestack Foundation which were allocated €73,000 for the provision of a sports hub. Both projects are extremely worthwhile and will serve their respective communities well and all credit is to go to the organising committees and promotors for leading out and obtaining this funding through this funding opportunity. The Maghery project previously received €113,000 in earlier rounds of funding, this recent allocation will support the continued employment of a local co coordinator, which in turn will build additional local capacity across the 6 identified sports and sustain the programme for the greater benefit of the local communities. The Bluestack foundation allocation will assist in developing a second sports hub in Donegal, the project seeks to provide children, young people, and adults with disabilities and their families with opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity. The overall programme will also provide opportunities for capacity building for sports clubs in south Donegal which is most welcome news.
Pat the Cope stated that the Sport Partnership Model of providing sporting facilities works extremely well throughout the county, and is an excellent model of delivering much need new sports facilities in our respective communities. But, more needs to be done by national government in providing additional resources , more and more national reports have indicated that more exercise and physical activities need to be engaged in by our youth and adult population but in order to provide the much need facilities more grant aid needs to be provided to our communities. The Government need to provide additional resources and use this existing model for project and programme delivery in the years ahead, what is urgently needs is a multi-annual programme of funding which would set out a road map for further delivery of facilities such as these throughout our rural communities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the decision of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to refuse an Aquaculture Licence and Foreshore Licence to Ms. Berdetta Cazzamali for an Oyster farm licence in Cruit Strand and Kincasslagh Bay, the application had caused huge concerns in the locality when initially made by the applicant and thousands of local submissions were made to the Department voicing their objection to the an application and several public meeting also took place on the matter such was the levels of concerns in the community.
Pat the Cope added the Minister and his Department took the only sensible action and refused the application out of hand, this is welcome news for the local residents and the overall community as the application for a 9.97 hectare site was going to cause huge damage to the natural beauty of the area, which depends so heavily on tourism. The Minister in making his determination stated “the application was not in the public interest and that the proposed location was not suitable for oyster culture due to high elevation relative to tide levels and that the exposure of oysters to open air for long periods due to open air was a potential risk in illness and accordingly the site was deemed unsuitable”. The applications made sometime ago under references T12/458A and T12/458B were both refused by the Department of the Marine. Unfortunately, the very same Minister for the Marine initially took a decision to grant these licences and were it not for the local objections and campaign to appeal this to ALAB the outcome would have been a disaster based on the Minister original decision on the application.
Pat the Cope stated now is the time for the Department to put in place new guidelines for dealing with Aquaculture Licences, as the current system is no longer fit for purpose, the current process leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the general public’s right to object to such applications and, furthermore the application process is open ended and can drag on for years without a decision being made. Today’s decision by the Department will be of huge relief to the campaigners who coordinated an excellent campaign against this application and development which was going to seriously to damage their community around Kincasslagh Bay and Cruit, especially the amenities and natural beauty of the area – which are known by tourists from far and wide as unique and special. I wish to compliment those who co-ordinated and managed the public meetings and campaign they have done the area huge service long term for their community concluded Pat the Cope
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas-Cheann Comhairle has branded the tenant purchase scheme introduced in 2016, by the last Fine Gael led Government, a total failure and a complete flop – fails to meets the needs of the tenants and is a rip off, truth be told. Since it was introduced just under two years ago, only 11 houses nationwide have been sold under the scheme.
Pat the Cope said, “This Government is great at announcing schemes, but the reality is that many of them fail to meet their targets and this one is particularly difficult for ordinary people to access. Despite the fact that there are over 70,000 homeowners in mortgage arrears, only a few hundred have been able to avail of the Mortgage to Rent scheme.
“The Tenant Purchase Scheme has been an even bigger disaster with only 11 homes sold since January last year. No house was sold in all of Co. Donegal, while nationwide only 11 houses have been transferred into the tenant’s ownership.
Pat the Cope added “The Government needs to revamp the current scheme to make it more attractive to tenants and to local authorities. If the scheme was improved, it would generate income for councils as well as securing home ownership for local authority tenants. The current scheme is deeply flawed because even if a family has enough money to buy their home, they are automatically excluded from applying if the majority of their income comes from social welfare payments.
“Many pensioners are now living into their 80s and 90s, however people in their 60s are precluded from the scheme if the State pension or payments made under participation schemes, such as the Rural Social Scheme makes up the bulk of their income.
“The terms of previous Tenant Purchase Schemes were not as restrictive, and in most cases people who bought their homes from the local authority took great pride in doing so and looked after them well on purchase. I am calling on the Government to review the current terms of the scheme and to make it workable, as I believe that home ownership is one of great stabilising characteristics of a decent society” concluded Pat the Cope .
-Current model no longer fit for purpose as wider and more diverse range is required-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle, urged the Government to accelerate the number and range of apprenticeship schemes available to young people at present, as the entire apprenticeship programme has ground to a halt over the past 6 years. The current model of apprenticeship is no longer fit for purpose, as a wider and more diverse range of choices is required to meet the needs of the economy moving forward.
Pat the Cope expressed concern about Ireland’s ability to compete with Britain in a post-Brexit era, because of the scale and diversity of apprenticeships on offer in the UK, there simply is no comparison between the choices in the UK system of apprenticeships than what is on offer in this country. The outstanding apprentices who represented Ireland in the WorldSkills event in Abu Dhabi in recent days, are testament to the impact apprentices can have among the Irish labour force.
Pat the Cope added however, our apprenticeship model is not fit for purpose. Minister Halligan must move faster to introduce new opportunities and occupations if we are to catch up with our competitors and help address skills shortages in key areas. The latest round of proposals was sent to the Apprenticeship Council on September 1st – and it is essential that they are considered as soon as possible. School-leavers should have access to a much greater range of career options, but this Government has come late to the table in terms of recognising the potential of apprenticeship schemes.
Pat the Cope stated apprenticeships must also be marketed as true and equivalent alternatives to college places for many, as it is correct to state college life does not suit ever individual. Apprenticeships are a mechanism for achieving the maximum potential of every individual – providing them with an opportunity to find their talents, gifts and niche in life. I would expect all Public bodies such as the HSE, RTÉ, ESB, local authorities and State departments would also create their own apprenticeships, in partnership with relevant education providers.
Irish-resident companies, which already offer apprenticeships in the UK, could replicate these models in Ireland, as could some of the global tech firms based here. Other companies involved in the airline, media, retail, public relations, pharmaceutical, child and social care sectors should also be encouraged to run relevant apprenticeships. We need to see the active promotion of apprenticeship programmes through public information campaigns. This would help mobilise support among potential employers, education providers and apprentices concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has publically questioned the intentions of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed to bring in a Statutory Instrument (SI) to give effect to Penalty Points System for fishermen, this is despite assurances given last year that such a system would not be implemented. It now transpires that the Minister is about to give effect to such a system of penalty points through a Statutory Instrument and what is furthermore it will not take into account the innocence or otherwise of the fishermen – such is the bluntness of the proposed legislation.
Pat the Cope added as outlined in the Statutory Instrument being considered at present regardless of how a court eventually fines the fishermen the penalty points will still apply, this defies logic and is contrary to the principles of common law – whereby an individual is innocent until proven guilty and when proven innocent no penalty or sanction remain on their character, but this is not the case with the proposed penalty points being considered under Statutory Instrument by the Government at present – as it in effect would not be able to remove the penalty points once issued regardless of what a subsequent court would determine.
Pat the Cope added this is a step backwards by the Minister and is disgraceful behaviour by those who are currently drafting such regulations especially in the context of last year’s commitments given not to precede which such a course of action. The Minister must immediately desist from proceeding with this course of action and honour the commitment given last year – the penalty points system does not work – it’s unfair in its approach and contrary to common law and as such must be scrapped. I would strongly advise the Minister to consult with the sector and I will be raising the matter in the Dáil as was the case last year I will have the full support of my party in dealing with this matter concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle, has welcomed the inclusion of two Donegal Schools in the trial Digital Learning Framework, which was recently announced by the Department of Education but added more needs to be done in our primary and secondary schools to enhance digital learning. We need to be maximising the full potential of digital technologies, enhancing how we use such technologies in the class rooms throughout our schools and using them as a resource for our teachers – this can only be done by investment in our schools and providing the necessary platform for such technologies in each of our schools.
Pat the Cope added he welcomed the inclusion of the two Donegal schools – St Joseph’s National School Rathmullen with an enrollment of 87 pupils and the Loreto Community School , Milford with an enrollment of 783 students, both schools we selected from over 300 schools nationwide which expressed and registered an interest in participating in this trial programme by the Department of Education. The Framework provides a roadmap to help schools manage the transformation of teaching and learning as a result of new digital technologies.
Help schools and individual teachers to plan how to upskill to realise the potential of digital technologies
Provide for internal and external evaluation of how digital technologies are being embedded across all aspects of school activity
Support planning in areas like literacy, numeracy and STEM which require a cross-curricular focus.
Pat the Cope stated, the results of this trial will help the Department understand what supports will be required by schools and teachers at all levels to embed digital technologies into teaching and learning. The trial will also help refine the Framework, so that it can best assist schools to realise the potential of digital technologies and will be used by the Department in formulating a national policy of technologies in the classroom. It is going to be important for the Department of Education to now formulate an national policy in order that all schools can directly benefit from the use of technologies in the class room – the present day fast moving technologies means, we cannot be disadvantaged by the lack of access to up-to-date technology and modern day resources in the classroom and there is a clear onus on the Government to act without delay and deliver a national programme on this concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the connection of the Fintown water supply to the Glenties supply to ensure improved water quality to the Fintown area. This matter I have raised on numerous occasions with both Irish Water and the Department, I am glad that the works are now fully completed and the scheme is operational.
Pat the Cope added the project Irish Water has constructed almost 5km of water mains in the Glenties, Fintown and Meenahalla areas as well as the construction of two booster pumping stations. The Fintown supply is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Remedial Action List (RAL) for high levels of THMs and these works were undertaken to reduce the risk posed by THMs for these customers. The works consisted of the construction of 1km of water mains in Fintown, 2.9km in Glenties and 800m in Meenahalla. Two booster pumping stations were also constructed at Shallogans and Straboy.
Pat the Cope stated this will greatly enhance the water quality and quantity to these areas which will benefit from this newly completed scheme, and will provide a much higher quality of water supply to the many effected households in the Glenties and Fintown areas. I wish to compliment the contractor and the engineering staff for delivering this project in a timely fashion, this is welcome news and will be of huge benefits to many households concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the commitment and reply from the Minister for Office of Public Works and Flooding Relief Deputy Kevin “ Boxer “ Moran , that measures are currently being actively examined in order to prevent future flooding in Killybegs, this confirmation comes following a number of phone calls, meeting with the Minister and a Dáil question on the matter in course of this week by me to the relevant Department.
Pat the Cope added it is important that we maintain the pressure at this critical time immediately after the recent flooding in Killybegs in order to secure the necessary flood protection measures for the town of Killybegs. I am satisfied after my intervention that the OPW and the Department are now giving flood prevention measures in Killybegs the necessary consideration it deserves, and are actively considering options at present. The CFRAM or catchment flood risk assessment programme has already been lodged and the Department have informed me that they are now in the process of finalising the action plan.
The measures being considered by the OPW include –
“the preferred measure for Killybegs consists of a series of floodwalls and road raising. These hard defences will provide a Standard of Protection of 1% AEP* for fluvial flood events and 0.5% for coastal flood events, at a total length of 1.3km and an average height of 1m. This option will provide protection to approximately 24 properties at risk of fluvial flooding, 40 properties at risk of coastal flooding and 5 properties at risk of wave overtopping, and it includes Bridge Street. The Killybegs Flood Relief Scheme will be subject to project-level public consultation and assessment before proceeding”
Pat the Cope stated I also welcome the commitment from Minister Kevin Boxer Moran to visit the area and to witness the urgent need of flood prevention measures first hand, and I expect that such a visit will take place shortly, in the meantime I will continue to maintain the pressure on the Government in order to deliver the necessary measures for the area and that the process moving forward will not be delayed by Government inaction on the issue concluded Pat the Cope.
Dáil Question – Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D. , Donegal.
For Written Answer on: 11/10/2017
Question Number(s): *93 Question Reference(s): 43070/17 Written
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform - OPW
* To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if flood prevention funding for Killybegs which was requested through the catchments flooding risk assessment will be approved; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that if funding had been approved the recent flooding of the Bridge street district could have been avoided; when these works will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Pat The Cope Gallagher TD
The core strategy for addressing areas at potentially significant risk from flooding is the Office of Public Works (OPW) Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme. The Programme, which is being undertaken by engineering consultants on behalf of the OPW working in partnership with the local authorities, involves the production of predictive flood mapping for each location, the development of preliminary flood risk management options and the production of Flood Risk Management Plans. The catchment area referred to is part of the North Western – Neagh Bann (NW-NB) CFRAM Study.
There has been extensive public consultation and people’s observations are helping to finalise the Flood Risk Management Plans for Killybegs. Consultation on the maps took place in March 2015, with a further consultation on the options in March 2016 and consultation on the draft plans in October 2016.
Subject to approval, the preferred measure for Killybegs consists of a series of floodwalls and road raising. These hard defences will provide a Standard of Protection of 1% AEP* for fluvial flood events and 0.5% for coastal flood events, at a total length of 1.3km and an average height of 1m. This option will provide protection to approximately 24 properties at risk of fluvial flooding, 40 properties at risk of coastal flooding and 5 properties at risk of wave overtopping, includes Bridge Street. The Killybegs Flood Relief Scheme will be subject to project-level public consultation and assessment before proceeding.
These final Plans are currently undergoing an independent review of the strategic level environmental assessments by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Once this independent review of all Plans is completed and observations addressed, the final Plans will be formally submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for approval, in accordance with the statutory requirements.
I would hope by the end of this year to seek approval for the final Plans developed under the CFRAM process and thereafter to announce the proposed structural measures contained within those Plans that will protect communities and properties assessed.
Following our conversation in recent days, and as part of my upcoming visit to Donegal, I would be happy to see the above areas for myself.
*AEP (Annual Exceedance Probability)
The probability, typically expressed as a percentage, of a flood event of a given magnitude being equalled or exceeded in any given year. For example, a 1% AEP flood event has a 1%, or 1 in a 100, chance of occurring or being exceeded in any given year.
Disaster for fishing sector as Government are out of their depth–
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has lambasted the Government for the reduction in the Mackerel quota – which in the forthcoming year will see a fall of 17,200 tonne or a full 20% reduction in their catch, this will have devastating effects on the sector and employment of the area. The recently announce quota as agreed by the coastal states will see a drop in monetary value of the Mackerel catch of in excess of €17 million to the sector.
Pat the Cope added “ I am shocked at the naivety of the Government Chief Whip who this morning has welcomed this measure and announcement – there is no disguising the fact it simply means less catch, less employment and less opportunity for the northwest, and for any Government representative to welcome this, demonstrates how out of touch they are with the sector”.
Killybegs based fishing fleet will be able to catch 60,000 in 2018, that is a full 20% reduction on the 2017 quota when our allocation was 74,000 tonnes, this is a very worrying reduction for the sector and allowing for the massive reduction will have massive implications on the sector in the year ahead. Any sector subject to such reduction will have difficulty in readjusting the business model in the course of one year – reductions of this magnitude should not be enforced on any business sector added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope stated only for the fishing sector having being prepared for the negotiations and were able to draw from scientific advice of their own this situation would have been worse such was the poor preparation work done by the Government in advance of the fisheries negotiations. This is the same Government who in the course of this year attempted a smash and grab of quota rights from the fishermen in the northwest, in redistributing the overall quota for the northwest to the southeast – despite the fact it was the fishermen of the northwest that developed this entire sector nationally. This is a bad news story for the sector and one which must be avoided in future years, the fishing sector is one of the few lifelines left at rural coastal communities and greater emphasises must be given to protecting this sector in the years ahead, and more measures need to be put in place in order to develop this sector moving forward concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope
-class sizes to be reduced as extra teachers are to be hired -
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the reduction in the pupil teacher ratio which his party has secured as part of the confidence and supply arrangement with the Minority Fine Gael lead Government, the decision to reduce the ratio is a significant step in tackling overcrowding in primary school classrooms. The level of investment means that the pupil teacher ratio is set to reach the lowest ever level recorded of 26:1. Pat the Cope stated, “When we entered into a Confidence and Supply Arrangement we demanded that the Government take action on reducing primary school class sizes. We have held the Government to account on this commitment and I am pleased to see that Budget 2018 contains significant additional funding to deal with overcrowding in primary school classrooms. The outcome of this is that average class sizes are set to reach 26:1, the lowest ever figure. Approximately 130,000 children are currently being taught in 'supersize' classes of 30 to 40 students. This is unacceptable considering it is well acknowledged that overcrowded classrooms have a detrimental impact on the quality of education that a pupil receives. This is why Fianna Fáil has sought to prioritise investment in Education amongst other priority areas. Pat the Cope added “This is a step in the right direction but more investment will be needed in the years ahead to help drive down the pupil teacher ratio. In the past, the Government has used schools with lower than average pupil teacher ratios to counteract those where students are suffering from a lack of teachers. “Today’s announcement must be followed up by real and significant actions to further reduce class sizes, and to further reduce pupil teacher ratios to 23:1. This investment was hard fought for by Fianna Fáil and we will be monitoring this issue in the months ahead to ensure the Government delivers on its commitment, in the meantime further capital investment is urgently required for the schools building programme as a large number of schools need upgrading and renewal ” concluded Pat the Cope.
-First new fire appliance delivered to the county since 2013-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed confirmation from the Department that a new fire appliance is to be delivered to Milford Fire station. This is the first new fire alliance purchased by Donegal since 2013, when Stranorlar was then delivered an appliance. The Department’s sanctioning of the purchase of a brand new appliance is welcome news, as in the interim period from 2013, a practise of purchasing second hand equipment had been adopted by the Department and Local Authorities, a practise I am most critical of.
Pat the Cope added that this is very welcome news for the Milford Fire Station catchment area and the personnel who service in that district; the new piece of fire equipment, a 2017 Scania fire tender, is to be delivered today Friday and will be operational within a number of weeks. This new equipment will ensure that the station is equipped to the highest possible standards in the years ahead. I am a firm advocate of investing heavily in the fire service, having previously served as a Minister with responsibility for fire services nationally.
Pat the Cope stated the fact, that this is the first appliance purchased as new since 2013 is worrying, we must continue always to ensure our fire service equipment is up to the highest possible standard – and that can only be guaranteed by investing in new and state of the art equipment at all times. The fire services role is critical as front line responders in times of fires, accidents and even flooding – there is an onus of responsibility on the Government of the day, to ring-fence and guarantee funding is provided and to further guarantee equipment is of the highest standard. I will be raising the matter directly again with Department officials to ensure that the fire services remain a top priority moving forward concluded Pat the Cope.
-Unit closed since May while over 160 patients on waiting list-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the reopening of the Cardiology Unit at Letterkenny University Hospital after a 5 month delay, in which services were no longer available to out-patients – the unit reopens on Monday 2nd October. The unit has not been operational since May, when a piece of crucial equipment suffered a breakdown and had not been replaced until recently. I personally, raised the issue of the closure of the Telemetry Clinic and the Cardiology Rehab Unit in Letterkenny by way of special motion debate in the Dáil, the matter was brought into the house as a Topical motion in an attempt to get the HSE, Department of Health and the Minister for Health to deal with the matter as a priority. The situation since the breakdown was unbelievable with no Cardiac Rehab services available to outpatients since May of this year and a reduced service available only to those who remain as inpatients – the Donegal patients are being offer a sub-standard service and one which would not be tolerated anywhere else.
Pat the Cope highlighted the great work that was being carried out in the Cardiac Rehab Unit even with the reduced staff numbers since 2011 and the removal of the community cardiac rehab service in 2010 which covered the towns of Dungloe and Ballyliffen. The current crises has existed since the 31st May when the Telemetry monitoring equipment broke down, since then all outpatients services have been suspended and with an ever growing waiting list for Cardiac rehab the situation has greatly worsened. The Irish Cardiac Rehab Guideline state that following heart procedures, operations or a Heart attack, that Cardiac Rehab must be made available on at least twice a week basis in order to underpin a full and lasting recovery. It is medically proven that those who avail of cardiac rehab have a 30% less likely chance of being readmitted with cardio trouble in subsequent years. Prior to the cardiac monitor breaking down over 40 patients were being seen on a weekly basis by the rehab unit and the true scandal in relation to this service being suspended is that a budget of circa €50,000 was all that was required to solve the problem. It took 5 months and one Dáil motion in order to solve this problem.
Pat the Cope added that with over one third of all deaths in Ireland being cardio vascular, related it is imperative that the HSE, Department of Health and the Minister for Health continue to invest in Cardiac Rehab services. The reopening of the Cardiac Rehab Services is a welcome first step, it is regrettable that it took five months in order to repair the necessary equipment; this seems to be an extremely lengthy delay and one which should have been avoided. I propose that in future the HSE should have in place protocols for the speedy replacement of essential equipment in Hospitals rather than the situation which we have just witnessed whereby we had to wait 5 months to get equipment operational again, such was the case in the cardiac rehab unit in Letterkenny. I am also calling on the Minister for Health to reinstate the staffing levels to its full complement and that the required service levels of rehabilitation as per the Irish Association of Cardiac Rehab are afforded to every patient using the unit in Letterkenny and that community cardiac services be restored as a priority. I expect that the HSE will now give the necessary supports and funding for this most critical service at Letterkenny University Hospital so that the people of Donegal are no longer disadvantaged due to their location concluded Pat the Cope.
-Latest N56 upgrade to cost an estimated €12m and to be complete in 18months-
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII ) that a contractor is to be appointed to carry out the latest phase of upgrading of the N56 at Kilkenny- Maas-Letterilly – a 3.6km of roadway connecting Dungloe to Glenties. This is welcome news and will significantly improve the travel time and journey on this particular road and will be of huge benefit to the local communities and the region overall.
Deputy Gallagher confirmed that the N56 Dungloe to Glenties project is being developed in sections and this 3rd section of the N56 Dungloe to Glenties Scheme is 3.6km long road improvement project and is located on the N56 between approximately 5km north of Glenties to the recently finished Boyoughter to Kilkenny scheme south of Lettermacaward. The existing road is narrow (approx. 5.5m, no shoulders/ verges) and the horizontal and vertical alignments are poor over the majority of this section. There is one regional and three local road junctions, all with restricted junction visibility. The improvements works are extremely necessary as the N56 services the entire west and southwest of Donegal therefore it is a road of strategic importance for the entire county. The N56 is road which requires even further investment right throughout its entire route from Donegal Town right through to Letterkenny and it is critically important that Donegal County Council and the TII in place further plans for improving the N56 so that further progress can be made in improving the N56.
Pat the Cope stated the planned improvement scheme covering from Kilkenny-Maas- Letterilly will involve widening and realignment to Type 3 Single Carriageway (6.0m Carriageway with 0.5m hard strips). The project also includes a cycle track for its full length. The scheme is 3.6km long and has an estimated completion cost of €12 million euro.
Pat the Cope added the project will significantly improve the level of service for road users and is critical to delivering the tourism potential of the locality. It will also enhance accessibility to West Donegal including to the Regional Airport at Carrickfinn and Gaeltacht areas. The latest phase of the N56 improvement works from Kilkenny-Maas- Letterilly is expected to be complete in 18 months and the contractor is expected to be onsite before the end of 2017 based on the information supplied by TII concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher T.D., An Leas Cheann-Comhairle, following representations made by him to the HSE, is pleased to confirm that progress has been made in relation to Community X-ray facilities in Donegal Community Hospitals.
Construction works are complete and the X-ray installation is complete. Killybegs is now fully operational and will also be used to provide an X-ray service for the Donegal Town Catchment area during the works at Donegal Town.
Donegal Town X-ray equipment has now been removed, with patient appointments transferred to Killybegs X-ray. Construction tenders are being assessed with construction works due to start in 2-3 weeks. The refurbished X-ray department will be operational in Dec 17.
The X-ray department in Carndonagh is to remain operational throughout, with an adjacent clinic room being developed as a new X-ray facility.
The construction works are currently out to tender. The new X-ray department will be completed in Dec 17, with construction works to the waiting area and refurbishment of the existing X-ray room to a clinic room being completed in Jan 2018.
X-ray facilities in Dungloe are to remain open throughout; the new X-ray room will be prioritised in the construction works and completed in Dec 17. The overall construction works will be completed in Jan/Feb 2018. The finer detail of the construction programme, dates from transfer to the new X-ray room etc. are currently being determined as part of the tender package. The project is to be issued for tender in approx. 2 weeks.
All the above dates are subject to a timely response from EPA for Licensing, which has the potential to delay the dates in which the rooms become operational. Licensing for the Killybegs project was granted immediately, no delays were encountered.
Pat The Cope added that it is important that these facilities are maintained and upgraded to the highest possible standard. I am glad to see that no interruption of serivce will occur during the period of upgrading of the four facilities. Community X-ray facilities are crucial to health service provisions in Donegal, as they provide services to patients in their own community and alleviate pressure from Letterkenny University Hospital.
I have been lobbying the HSE and Department of Health for some time, to maintain these facilities to the highest standards and I am glad that the appropiate investment is being made into these facilities following today’s confirmation from the HSE, concluded PTC.
TII project to cost an estimated €15.4 million when the two phases are complete
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that the N56 improvement works at Mountcharles covering from Turris Hill to Drumbeigh are now out for public tender, the phase from Turris Hill to Drumbeigh is currently out for tender and tenders are to be returned by the end of October. The proposed works will involve the design and construction of approximately 2.75km of new National Secondary Road to Type 1 Single Carriageway. This scheme commences at the tie-in with the Mountcharles Bypass and continues to Drumbeigh. Deputy Gallagher was advised by TII that, it is intended a contractor for the new road project will be appointed shortly after the October deadline and that road construction commence immediately thereafter.
Pat the Cope added the project will significantly improve the level of service for road users and enhance the accessibility of South West Donegal including the port of Killybegs and Gaeltacht areas. Appraisal was done as part of the main scheme (N56 Mountcharles to Inver) and a great deal of preparatory works has been carried out over the past number of years for this project. The construction timeframe outlined by the TII is estimated to take 18 months with the project to commence in the last quarter of 2017 and completion in early 2019. It is therefore essential that both the TII and Government l now give immediate focus to this project and ensure its timely delivery, without any further delays and that the Government ring fence the necessary funding for the project in order to deliver it in line with the outlined timeframe.
Pat the Cope stated the N56 Mountcharles to Drumbeigh is an essential project for improving access to Southwest Donegal and the Port of Killybegs, but more improvement works need to be done to the N56 right throughout Donegal .It must now be a priority for TII, the Government and Donegal County Council to put in place further plans for improving the remaining sections of the N56, so that a proper roadway of acceptable standards is constructed to the Southwest of Donegal and the port of Killybegs . I wish to compliment those who have worked on this phase of the N56 project in TII and Donegal Co Council. It is essential though that we redouble our efforts and focus on the remaining sections of the N56 which need to be improved, it is necessary for the TII to prepare plans for these sections now in order to carry out other improvement works in the future . Work on the N56 will never be complete until all of west Donegal through which the N56 services is fully upgraded ; and in order to ensure complete delivery of the N56 we need to be setting in place the future plans to deliver those necessary improvements in the years ahead concluded Pat the Cope.
- Only 93 additional staff recruited to date in 2017 and previous two years show underspend- -
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has stated that almost 2,000 new staff need to be recruited in mental health services if the Government is to provide the level of care envisaged in the national “A Vision for Change “policy. The new figures were released to me by Fianna Fáil Mental Health Spokesperson James Browne, who revealed that while 1,963 additional posts need to be filled to comply with the 2006 strategy, only 93 additional staff have been hired in 2017 to date which is well short of what is required by the service. This is at a time when Mental Health services are under considerable pressure due to demands placed on them, with many other patients waiting to be seen for prolonged periods or others just not being referred at all due to staff shortages.
Pat the Cope added “When launched in 2006, A Vision for Change marked a radical break from the previous approach to mental health care. At its heart is a recovery based model, which promotes a partnership approach and one centred on the person's capacity to lead a fulfilling life and normal life ”. But, in order to deliver on that commitment extra staff and resources will be required but thus far the Government has failed to provide the necessary investment and additional staffing which are necessary to deliver the desired service level required by the patients.
However, eleven years on, the number of staff in the system is falling well short of what is recommended. The HSE estimates that some 12,778 posts are required; however, there are only 10,815 currently in the system – leaving a shortfall of 1,963. I am seriously concerned with the slow pace at which the HSE is recruiting. Just 93 new posts have been filled so far in 2017. Furthermore, the new positions filled this year were clearly approved in previous years. Not one position has been filled on the basis of the €15 million allocation for 2017, and in the context of the under spend in Mental Health in 2016’s budget there is a clear failure to adequately provide and manage the Mental health Budget, this matter I have raised on previous occasions with the Department.
The fact is that at this rate of increase it will take another 11 years for “A Vision for Change” to be implemented in full and that is a totally farcical situation. The Government and the HSE need to up their game on this to tackle the issues head on. Over the past three budgets there has been a failure to ring-fence the mental health budget, to prioritise staff recruitment and the securing of additional resources concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has stated that the failure of Minister Shane Ross to develop a national mitigation plan for the tourism industry in light of Brexit is a dereliction of his duties as Minister and moreover a failure on the part of the Government to prepare and protect the Irish Tourism market for post Brexit shocks. Speaking following the release of the latest overseas visitor numbers by the CSO, which showed that while overall visitor numbers continue to rise, numbers from the UK are down 6.4% on last year, I have raised this matter earlier this year when I highlighted the potential dangers of the decline in sterling and the dynamic from the fallout of the Brexit decision.
Pat the Cope added rapidly falling tourism visitors from the UK due to Brexit and sterling devaluation is now becoming a reality. I fear that the decline this year could herald an even more substantial drop-off in UK visitors over the next two years, as Brexit chips away at consumer confidence among British would-be tourists. This is most concerning for the border counties and especially Donegal as we benefit directly from the UK market and have a heavy dependence on the UK visitors.
Pat the Cope stated that Minister Ross has been an absentee Minister for Tourism so far in this Government focusing only on PR events but totally absent in terms of policy formation or progressing the sector and what is deeply concerning for me is that the Government did not see this coming and put in place preventive measures – there is a clear sense from Minister Ross and the Government in general, of self-satisfaction with the Tourism numbers which were published recently. Minister Ross just does not seem to get just how dangerous these trends could be for the Irish tourism sector. While overall tourism numbers are still marginally up on last year, the reality is that UK visitors are the bedrock of the tourism sector, accounting for 41% of the total number of overseas visitors to Ireland. Given the sheer number of visitors from the UK, they cannot be replaced quickly or easily by visitors from other countries. Many smaller tourism businesses in particular will feel the pinch if numbers from the UK continue to decline at this rate especially in the years ahead.
Pat the Cope further added the tourism sector is crying out for a national mitigation plan to reduce the impact of Brexit and global uncertainty. Yet Minister Ross has done nothing to assure the sector that he has a plan that can protect jobs. The strategy of the Minister seems to be to hold endless conferences and press gatherings to boast of our success, gleefully ignoring the looming threat hanging over the sector. The Government in the forthcoming budget must prioritise Tourism investment, with special emphasis on the UK market in terms of promotion and marketing, now is the time to invest in protecting the UK market for Irish Tourism and the hospitality sector. We need a new overarching tourism policy to reassure the industry that there is a strategy in place for the consequences of Brexit and we need a support fund for areas that will be hit especially hard from a sharp decline in visitors from Britain,” concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the progress on Scoil na gCeithre Maistrí new build for the Donegal Town School. Following a reply from the Minister for Education and Skills to a Dáil question, in which the Department confirmed the project, was now progressing to Architectural and Design stage.
Pat the Cope added the Ministers reply confirmed that he had authorised the Design Team to commence Stage 1 of architectural planning as per the Department Team Procedures 2012, this stage will allow the project to prepare design options for the proposed site, with a view to delivering the most optimum delivery for the project on the site in question. The project is also included in the six year capital programme for the Construction Programme of the Department of Education projects and the school is scheduled for construction in 2019 to 2021.
Pat the Cope further added that whilst this welcome news that the school is progressing through the design stages and to eventual planning for the project, efforts must be made by the Minister and his Department to speed up the delivery of this project, it is clearly not acceptable to wait until 2019 for construction of this project to commence. There is a clear and urgent need for this School building in Donegal Town, as currently the entire school is housed in temporary accommodation and on an annual basis the school continues to grow in numbers.
I am calling on the Department and Minister Burton to accelerate the speed of delivery of this project, and obtain planning for the new building and quickly more the project to tender stage rather than delaying the project until 2019, I believe with enough goodwill and commitment on the part of the Government this can be delivered earlier than what is currently envisaged concluded Pat the Cope.
- Remaining cost competitive is essential to mitigate impact of declining visitor numbers from UK -
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has warned that the tourism industry faces significant challenges as a result of Brexit and has called for the retention of the 9% VAT rate to help overcome these difficulties. The number of UK tourists visiting Ireland has dropped by 6.8% over the last year which highlights the importance of cost competitiveness for the tourism industry.
Pat the Cope added with the rapidly falling tourism visitors from the UK due to Brexit and sterling falling in value which makes it more expensive for them to travel to Ireland. The current speculation that the incentivised VAT rate is under consideration is not helpful for tourism in border counties at present, the tourism sector is a major employer in rural Ireland and in Donegal in particular. While overall tourism numbers may be up, the numbers visiting from the UK is rapidly declining. This is extremely worrying as UK tourists are the bedrock of the Irish tourism industry. The reality is that UK visitors account for 41% of total overseas visitors to Ireland.
Pat the Cope stated now is not the right time to increase VAT in the hospitality sector. In order to remain competitive in the global tourism market, Ireland must ensure that the quality of our services remain high, that prices remain reasonable and that access to our ports and airports increases. The savings created by the retention of the 9% VAT rate for the tourist sector must be passed on to the consumer. Given the sheer number of visitors from the UK, they cannot be replaced by visitors from other countries. Many smaller tourism businesses in particular will feel the pinch if numbers from the UK continue to decline at this rate.
The Tourism sector is crying out for a national mitigation plan to reduce the impact of Brexit and global uncertainty on our sector and this is especially the case in the border counties. It’s disappointing that Minister Ross and the Government have failed to act and bring in such supporting measures. We need a new overarching tourism policy, to reassure the industry that there is a strategy in place for the consequences of Brexit and we need a support fund for areas that will be hit especially hard from a sharp decline in visitors from Britain and that will include the retention of the incentivised Vat rate for the hospitality sector concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the response to political pressure exerted by me since original announcement by the Government which omitted all Donegal Islands from the Capital Islands funding programme.
Pat the Cope raised the matter in the Dáil and by way of written question to the Minister and Roinn na Gaeltachta, the original decision by the Government was an outrage when almost €1 million was announced for Islands nationwide but not one single cent for the Donegal Islands. Today’s announcement allocates €450,000 to three Donegal Islands namely Arranmore Island an allocation of €244,000 , Tory Island €107,000 and Roy Island €25,000 – the balance of funding comes from Donegal Co Co to make a full allocation of €450,000.
Pat the Cope is glad to confirm that the Roinn are in a position to confirm funding for the Donegal Island roads, this I am requesting the do without further delay as this entire debacle has been an embarrassment to the Government thus far.
I am expecting that the Island roads confirmed as priority by the Council will be funded in the subsequent years as todays allocation is only first step in dealing with the legacy of under investment on the Donegal islands since 2011 and I will be maintaining pressure on the Roinn to introduce a multi annual rolling programme of roads funding for all Donegal islands in order to deal with the back log of infrastructural needs on our Islands.
I am delighted that on this occasion the Government have yielded to political pressure and reversed their original decision not to fund Donegal Island roads concluded Pat the Cope.
The interests of motor insurance customers must be paramount in the ongoing probe into alleged price fixing in the motor insurance industry, according to Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher.
Pat the Cope was responding to the news that insurance companies, brokers and representative bodies for the industry were raided this morning by officers from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the European Competition Directorate as part of an ongoing investigation. The number one priority of this investigation has to be, to ensure that consumers are protected from any potential anti-competitive behaviour in the insurance industry. It is imperative that the probe reaches a clear conclusion as to whether there are anti-competitive practices across the insurance industry, that are having a detrimental impact on consumers.
Pat the Cope added given the dramatic hike in motor insurance premiums in recent years, motorists deserve to know whether coordination across the industry has been a factor. The insurance hikes over the past 3 years have been totally unsustainable in the medium to long term and despite the insurance working group recommendations, we have thus far, failed to witness any visible signs of insurance premiums falling, in fact some evidence indicates prices are still increasing. It is undoubtedly the case, that many consumers have seen little sign of competition between insurance companies when they have been trying to get a better quote for their own policy. It is important now that the investigation is allowed to take its course and that the direction it takes is evidence-led, but meantime the Government needs to be implementing the recommendations of the insurance working group, in order to deal with the ever growing crisis of insurance premium hikes, which every household has experienced over the past number of years.
From our point of view, Fianna Fáil will continue to put pressure on the Government and the insurance industry, to introduce the necessary reforms identified in the Cost of Insurance Working Group Report to help bring about a more normal market and reasonable premiums, it is not acceptable that Irish motorist continue to be fleeced when it comes to insurance premiums and action needs to be taken by the Government concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has criticised Minister Katherine Zappone for her failure to provide a 24-hour social service during her first year in office as was committed to by the Government. The recommendation to have 24 hour social services available was contained in an audit of the legislation which currently allows Gardaí to remove children from their homes in emergency situations due to the lack of alternative 24 hour social care services being available.
Pat the Cope added, “I am shocked and disappointed by Minister Zappone’s lack of action in response to the disturbing findings of Geoffrey Shannon’s audit. This report highlighted serious gaps in Ireland’s child protection system, perhaps most obviously the lack of an out-of-hours social service for children in need. We are all well aware of the fact that social care emergencies are not confined to office hours and it is appalling to think that vulnerable and at-risk children are unable to access social care services after 5pm on weekdays or at weekends or bank holidays. I wish to complement the trojan work carried out in this section by our Party’s spokesperson Anne Rabbitte
Pat the Cope stated that the current flawed system sees Gardaí taking on responsibility for child protection issues outside of current “working hours”, and the lack of progress in providing 24 hour service will see this situation continue. Many Gardaí have expressed concern that they are not properly trained in this area and do not feel prepared in dealing with these cases. This is an unacceptable situation for both the Gardaí and the children concerned.
The Minister’s and Governments response to this audit has been to ask Tusla to examine the “demand” for an out-of-hours service – this is an exercise in time wasting and it goes without saying that determining demand is completely missing the point, for as long as one needs or requires the service there is a duty on the state to provide such services. There are several cases examined as part of the audit which conclude that children were repeatedly placed back in abusive homes and situations due to the lack of an out-of-hours social work service. It is obvious that a 24 hour social work service is needed in this state and in fact it is long overdue.
The Minister cannot continue to delay this necessary measure – vulnerable children are being put at risk because of the gaps in our system and these are gaps which are well known about and previously highlighted. So many instances of the need for 24 hour care have been highlighted but yet we have seen no commitment from the Government despite the evidence urgently requiring such a service. I am calling on the Government to immediately act without further delay and put in place a 24 hour service which is properly resourced and staffed concluded Pat the Cope
Pat the Cope Gallagher
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle welcomes the introduction by Fianna Fáil of the Local Government( Establishment of Town Councils Commission) Bill 2017 ; the purpose and intent of the Bill is to reintroduce Town Councils which were abolished by the previous Government – in what was an unprecedented attack on Local Democracy. The Local Government Bill which was published by Fianna Fáil will establish a commission to set out the Towns eligible for inclusion or designation as Town Councils, it would furthermore determine the powers to be divested to the Town Councils in question and examine their fund raising ability and budgetary matters.
Pat the Cope added the abolition of Town Councils was a retrograde step in our rural towns’ right throughout the country, it removed democracy from the people and it seriously impacted on development in many areas. The process which we now propose to establish will allow for fair and equal opportunities for towns to seek and obtain Town Council status throughout the country, it will provide for even greater opportunity for development in our towns and will focus on urban renewal in the towns which will avail of Town Council status. It will also look at the reform of the Local Authority sector, providing for greater community input and focus, the much needed reform of the commercial rates system, usage of vacant sites and greater efficiencies in the spending of public money by Local Authorities.
Pat the Cope stated it is essential that a comprehensive reform of Local Government Sector take place without delay, this Bill proposed by Fianna Fáil is a first step in a multi-aspect approach to making local Government more relevant to the people and closer to the communities which they serve and provide services for. In re-establishing Town Councils on a properly structured and in a fully planned out manner we can offer real reform of the Local Government sector but equally as important effective service delivery to our towns and communities right throughout the country. If adopted by the Dáil the Bill envisages a process whereby all the new designations of Town Councils to be in place for the Local Government Election of 2019, as the Commission will have 6 months only to publish their recommendations and a further 12 months to effect the changes in Legislation required to establish the new Town Councils concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the HSE and the Department of Health to immediately fund the repair and restoration of the Telemetry Monitor service at Letterkenny University Hospital. The Cardiology Rehab service was providing excellent service to all the patients who availed of it over the past number of years , but due to the lack of Telemetry Monitoring service as a result equipment breakages, which the HSE have thus far failed to provide a budget to repair the services are no longer available in the Hospital.
Pat the Cope added that the Cardiology Rehab Unit is essential for the patients of Donegal who wish and who have to avail of this service. In light of the fact that this was an excellent service , with the unit providing service of highest possible standards to all its patients – it is critical that the HSE and the Department of Health immediately source funding to restore the services and the necessary equipment and provide adequate staff for the unit. The current situation whereby a position for a second Cardio nurse is vacant for the past 4 years or more is just not acceptable. It is equally as unacceptable that due to equipment issues that the service is no longer available – in instances such as the provision of these critical services required for Cardio related issues no interruption in services should occur either due to equipment or staff shortages. The HSE as a policy should have contingencies in place to cater for every eventuality so that services to the patients in need are always provided for and catered for at all times.
Pat the Cope stated I am calling on the HSE, Department of Health and the Minister for Health to immediately address the issue of the lack of telemetry monitoring and the Cardiology Rehab service at Letterkenny University Hospital – and to guarantee the immediate restoration of full service capacity without further delay. In addition to that a second Cardio nurse must be employed to fill the vacancy left for the past 4 years. This is an essential service for those in Donegal who need to avail of the Cardiology Rehab Unit – and the current disruption to the availability of the service should never been allowed to happen. I am also calling on the HSE and the Minister for Health to also put in place a critical baseline service level whereby essential services in every Hospital cannot be interrupted due to equipment outages or staff shortages – this is necessary in order that patients can always rely on accessing services which are critical to the conditions they have – we cannot have a situation where services which are critical to patients wellbeing and survival are dependent on equipment being in a working condition on a day to day basis nor for that matter on staff availability or staff shortages. In providing essential services to patients there is no room for error or chance and the HSE and the Department of Health must put in place systems which meet the patients’ needs at all time and the necessary contingencies for this eventualities must be provided for concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the confirmation by Saolta of the appointment of a second Breast Surgeon for Letterkenny University Hospital, this comes following considerable delays in making the appointment. The matter was raised by me on numerous occasions in the Dáil in recent months and was subject to a special debate in order to secure the appointment.
Pat the Cope quoting directly from the Saolta confirmation “I am now in a position to confirm that we have completed the process of appointing a second Breast Surgeon and the Breast Surgeon appointed will commence working at LUH on 24th July 2017.” The appointment will be on a locum basis with the option of becoming permanent, and the position will work closely with Altnagelvin Hospital on a cross border basis.
Pat the Cope stated this is welcome news and is an important next step in improving the services available for patients at Letterkenny and the people of the county. I hope now to see improvements in waiting times and patients experience at Letterkenny University Hospital, it is essential that the HSE and Department of Health continue to increase funding for LUH , and increase the staff available at the Hospital concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the commitment from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to give the immediate go ahead for the N56 improvement works at Mountcharles to Drumbeigh, with the first phase from Turris Hill to Drumbeigh going to tender by July and tenders to be returned by the end of August. The proposed works will involve the design and construction of approximately 2.75km of new National Secondary Road to Type 1 Single Carriageway. This scheme commences at the tie-in with the Mountcharles Bypass. Deputy Gallagher welcomed the commitment to tender for the new road within the next two weeks, his comments following his raising of the matter with TII on numerous occasions since his election to Dáil Eireann, in their reply the TII committed to starting the project by autumn of 2017 and that the project would be tendered for by end of June or early July at the latest.
Pat the Cope added the project will significantly improve the level of service for road users and enhance the accessibility of South West Donegal including the port of Killybegs and Gaeltacht areas. Appraisal was done as part of the main scheme (N56 Mountcharles to Inver) and a great deal of preparatory works have been carried out. The construction timeframe outlined by the TII is estimated to take 18 months with commencement in the last quarter of 2017 and completion in early 2019. It is therefore essential that both the TII and Donegal County Council now give immediate focus to this project and ensure its timely delivery, without any further delays and that the Government ring fence the necessary funding for the project. This first phase which is now due to go to tender must be followed swiftly by the remaining section, which is Drumbeigh to Inver Bridge, so that this entire section of road is brought up to the appropriate standards and is fit for the purpose of the traffic using it on a daily basis .
Pat the Cope stated the N56 Mountcharles to Drumbeigh is an essential project for improving access to Southwest Donegal and the Port of Killybegs but more needs to be done to the N56 – especially the remaining section between Drumbeigh to Inver ridge and then onwards from Inver Bridge to the Five Points Junction Killybegs – it must now be a priority for TII and Donegal County Council to put in place further plans for improving this remaining section of the N56, so that a roadway of proper and acceptable standards is constructed to Southwest of Donegal and the premier fishing Harbour and Port of the entire island of Ireland in Killybegs. I wish to acknowledge this commitment by TII as real progress and another important step to improving the infrastructure within Donegal, in that regard I compliment those who have worked on this project in TII Donegal but we must now redouble our efforts and focus to the sections of the N56 which need to more to planning stage so that in the future improvement works can be carried out – work on the N56 will never be complete until all of west Donegal through which the N56 serves is fully upgraded and in order to ensure that we need to be setting in place the plans to deliver that in the years ahead concluded Pat the Cope.
6th of June 2017
Pat the Cope Gallagher
My thoughts and best wishes are with all the students across Donegal and their families as the State Exams get underway.
It’s a particularly important time for all Leaving Cert students who after these exams will make the transition from school to either working life or further Education, be that in third level, further Education or through apprenticeships. The hard work and preparation is done – now you just need to put your best foot forward, remain calm and collect, drawing from all the hard work which you have done over the past number of years. Exams are difficult at the best of times but they are also a showcase for you to demonstrate all that you have learnt, the information and knowledge you have accumulated in your school years – your exam paper is an invitation for you flourish and the writing script a blank canvass for you to fill with your knowledge and personality.
To the Junior Certs who will be sitting their first state exam, the experience you will gather from that will be invaluable for future years.
Going through State exams is a stressful for both the students and their parents, but it’s important to keep stress at a minimum by staying healthy, eating well and getting enough sleep. When each exam is done it’s best not to engage in post mortems’ and over analysis, it’s best to just focus on your next exam and always keep a calm atmosphere at home and a quiet place for study.
Always remember our Educational system provides many pathways to further advancement and progression – whilst one route may not open to you, there are other pathways in which you can excel and reach your desired destination.
Good Luck one and all and do your best, for that is all that can be asked of any one of us.
“Over 14,000 are still on the Waiting Lists and 2,957 patients waiting over 12 months or more”
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has questioned the Minister for Health on the matter of the length and duration of the waiting lists in Letterkenny University Hospital for Day patients, Inpatients and Outpatients appointments. The figures released showed over 14,000 people waiting to be seen or assessed by medical staff across the various Departments of the Hospital, with over 2,957 waiting for over 12 months to be seen ; these figures are alarming and unfortunately are steadily growing in number. Deputy Gallagher was making the comments as Fianna Fáil put forward a Private Members Motion on Hospital waiting lists.
Pat the Cope added it’s deplorable that overcrowding continues to be experienced in our Hospital Emergency Departments, and record numbers of patients are waiting on trolleys as we have witnessed almost on a daily basis in Letterkenny since the beginning of 2017. I am also concerned that the trends for waiting lists across the majority of the Departments within the Hospital is showing increasing waiting times and larger number of people waiting to be seen, this is despite numerous attempts to get the Government and the Minister for Health to address the matter. I believe the Government are in denial of the seriousness of the problems facing Letterkenny University Hospital at present, it is evident that additional resources, extra staff and a commitment from the Minister to conduct a full review of existing services, staffing numbers and the vacancies within the various hospital services and staffing levels. The situation in the hospital at present is critical and the staff at present are working under the most difficult of circumstances and in the most challenging of working conditions as it is evident that there are serious capacity issues within the hospital – and extra beds and staff are urgently required otherwise the problems will only worsen.
Pat the Cope stated that our District and Community Hospitals could also play a role in both averting admission to and enabling discharge from acute hospitals and this would on part alleviate some of the pressures on our Hospitals, but in order to do that we need better joint up thinking and intra Hospital co-operation, but in addition our community Hospitals will need upgrading in order to meet the increased demands placed on them. I am again calling on Minister Simon Harris or indeed whom so ever that will be Health Minister next week to immediately put in place a strategy for dealing with this ongoing crisis, that will involve additional resources , extra staff and extra bed capacity but most significantly of all it will involve a commitment from the Government that urgent attention needs to be given to the ongoing crises at Letterkenny University Hospital as opposed to the policy of ignoring and failing to deal with the ongoing problems at Letterkenny in dealing with the increased service demands placed on it by the growing and increasing demands concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval of interim improvement works at Dunfanaghy health centre while a final decision for a new centre is expected in next two weeks.
Following my recent representations to the HSE, I am glad I can confirm approval for remedial and improvement works to be carried out at Dunfanaghy Health Centre, the works are ongoing and will bring the existing centre up to an appropriate standard while final approval will be given for a new centre, which the HSE lead me to believe, will be in the next 2/3 weeks.
Pat the Cope added that it is welcomed news, as the current situation was far from satisfactory and I have been lobbying the HSE on the matter in conjunction with the local action group. It will be of critical importance that the HSE now complete the appraisal on the new building and proceed to allow for a new health centre at Dunfanaghy without undue delay.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating that this is progress but the task is not complete until such time as the new centre is sanctioned and delivered for the people and community of Dunfanaghy.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has expressed concern at the current levels of resourcing and funding of the Donegal Ambulance service, his comments come following a reply to a Dáil question on the matter. The HSE National Ambulance Service informed Deputy Gallagher that currently there are 16 day ambulances and 12 night ambulance on call in Donegal, that is a full 16% less coverage than what was available in 2008 and 2012, this is despite growth in activity levels and new guidelines from HIQA which clearly requires additional services and capacity for ambulance call out. The current requirement of an ambulance arriving at the patient within 20 minutes as per the directive will not be attained due to the failure to invest in the service, the lack of operational ambulances and the lack of staff. This is another example of how this Government has allowed services in rural Ireland decline to critical levels, despite all the plans and strategies of the Government for rural development there is not tangible evidence of service improvements on the ground in rural Ireland.
Pat the Cope added the HSE and the Government need to prioritise the ambulance services and that will involve considerable investment on their part, not alone is it now evident that the number of ambulances available for call out are less than what it was in 2012 – when 19 ambulances were available for daytime callout, that figure fell to 16 ambulances in 2016 a fall of 16%. The situation for night-time call out has improved slightly with 11 ambulances available in 2012 and 12 night ambulances available in 2016 to provide countywide cover. The reduction in ambulance numbers and availability of crews will result in the service failing to meet the required call out times as set by HIQA and the Department, currently due to the cutbacks and the failure to invest in the ambulance service we have one of the lowest response times, which will lead to further difficulties when we will be compelled to meet the national guidelines for call out time of 20 minutes wait for an ambulance.
Pat the Cope called on the Minister for Health, the HSE and the National Ambulance Service to put in place one single cohesive strategic plan for ambulance service and to immediately implement the recommendations necessary to bring the ambulance service in Donegal to the appropriate levels of call out times, it has already being highlighted that nationwide 620 additional ambulance staff will be required. In the case of providing ambulance services in counties the size, scale and geography type of Donegal, serious investment and resources are required. The Government need to get serious in relation to establishing an ambulance service for rural areas that is the equivalent of any such service in urban areas, there cannot be a differential between town/city residents and rural dwellers – but unfortunately it seems this Government is failing to provide for rural areas such as Donegal.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating that “the Minister needs to become proactive and concentrate his time on fixing the serious problems in the ambulance service of understaffing and lack of resources he needs to target his investment in order to deliver the necessary results”. I am calling on him to ensure that our ambulance service is fit for purpose and has the necessary resources to carry out its duties and in particular deliver the service levels for rural areas – in terms of call out times, ambulance availability and geographical coverage within Donegal.
There are still long delays in the processing of Passport applications by Passport Express and current indications are the situation is worsening. I strongly advise constituents that require Passports at short notice to contact me or my office – Telephone 074 9521276 before you take any action , and we will advise you of the best approach for renewal depending on your circumstances for Passport renewal. Under no circumstance should you post your Passport application by Express Post before you contact my Office, as the delays in issuing your new Passport can average anything up to 6 weeks at present for renewing your Passport.
Passport renewals and replacement Passports can now also be obtained online and my office can make the necessary application on behalf of constituents. The current waiting time for electronic applications is on average 2 weeks.
A Passport card can be used by Irish Citizens for use within Europe, the card can be obtained electronically by all citizens over 18 years of age and in receipt of a current valid Passport, again my office can assist you in applying for your Passport card.
If in doubt regarding any aspect of renewing your Passport either in an emergency situation or on short notice please feel free to contact me or my Office and we will only be too glad to help and advise you.
Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas-Cheann Comhairle is urging the Government to prioritise the roll out and expansion of Mobile Phone services in rural Ireland - particularly the areas that currently do not have any mobile phone service. His comments come following the decision of the Government to sell the 5G spectrum to the different mobile phone operators, the sale of the 5G spectrum licence is welcome news as it will allow for expansion of capacity for all mobile phone users in areas where you have an existing signal but the Government’s announcement will offer nothing to the areas that currently do not have a signal from any of the mobile phone operators.
Pat the Cope added that this Government has already published its strategy for increasing mobile phone services in rural areas but there has been no follow on action, there is a total lack of commitment to deliver the changes necessary in order to compel the mobile phone operators to deliver a countrywide mobile phone service. The situation at present is totally intolerable with many areas having no mobile phone service, other areas having a service which is decreasing in quality of signal or with a recurring service interruption. The Government should of used the opportunity of issuing the 5G spectrum licences to pressurise the mobile phone operators to expand their existing phone signals in order that a greater mobile phone signal would be available nationwide, I believe the Government have missed an opportunity to comprehensively deal with the shocking lack of and poor signals available in many areas throughout the country but particularly in Donegal.
Pat the Cope stated that the Government needs to do more than just publish strategies on mobile phone services – it needs to have the backbone to take these companies on and pressurise them to fulfil their existing commitments of delivering a mobile phone service to all areas regardless of location and a service that guarantees a top quality signal to every resident in the country, not just the more populated areas or the lucrative areas for service provision. The technologies for improving and providing full coverage mobile phone service exists , what is lacking is the commitment by the mobile phone operators to provide services to less populated and less financially lucrative areas and the Government has a duty to deal with this. Many communities throughout rural area are seriously disadvantaged by the failure of the Government to take real action on increasing the availability of mobile phone services, mobile phone are an essential part of ordinary day living, so much are daily routine revolves around our mobiles and mobiles are so interconnected to our employment. I am calling on the Minister for Communications and the Government to stop procrastinating and to tackle the issue of mobile phone signals in a comprehensive manner and one which will see real results for rural communities rather than publishing strategies outlining how they intend to do improve signals – no more intensions are required by the Government just real and tangible actions with results that will improve the services for all our citizens concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the announcement of over €82,200.00 for different Heritage and Conservation projects throughout the county. The grants will go some way into helping and assisting these projects reach their ultimate goal of conservation and protecting the various heritage sites and projects in their respective communities. For too long we as a country have neglected protecting our heritage projects and for many years very little funding opportunity was provided for their conservation or protection, the amounts announced in these grants will assist projects in moving forward and maintaining the heritage and archaeological importance of these sites for future generations. In total 18 Donegal projects were approved funding and are listed below in list form concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle along with the staff and members of the Board of Management of Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí Donegal Town met with Minister Richard Bruton and Officials of the Department of Education. The meeting which I arranged was in order to move the project of a new build for the Gaelscoil ahead, the Gaelscoil is a long time lobbying for a new building for their growing school and there is a clear and urgent need for the Department to prioritise this project. Currently there are 98 pupils attending the Gaelscoil and the lack of a permanent building is totally unfair and should not be tolerated in modern times, each school and their pupils deserves to have the best of facilities available to them whist they are in the educational system This project of a new build for the Gaelscoil in Donegal Town, the Department of Education need to get proactive in making it happen and ensure its time effective delivery without further delay.
Pat the Cope added the delegation which made their case to the Minister and the Department comprised of Roisin Ni Cumhaill, Imelda Ni Mhuiri, Seosamh Mac Suibhne, Sean ó Domhnaill, Catherine James, Marcas Flannery and also joined by Deputy Thomas Pringle. The deputation put forward a powerful argument for the Department of Education support for a new School building; they highlighted the success of the school and its growing numbers. The frustration though is the slow moving pace of the Departments procedures and how time consuming it is to move from one stage to the next stage, with speedy progress almost impossible to make – it is clear when there is an urgent and tangible need for a new school building that the Department needs to prioritise a more rapid build in the case of the Gaelscoil in Donegal.
Pat the Cope stated it is going to be important now that the momentum which is gained from this meeting with the Minister and the Department is sustained and that the Gaelscoil is progressed to planning stage and ultimately to building stage. In order to attain that goal the Department will have to buy in to the project in a much more serious manner than hitherto, I will be calling on the Government to guarantee this project as part of the Capital plan and to place immediate emphasis on fast tracking the project to construction. There is an imperative on the Department and the Minister to step up and deliver this project in a timely and effective manner without the usual time stalling delays which you encounter moving from one stage to the next – this project needs to lead out in a seamless manner with complete emphasis on delivery concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle along with members of the Staff and Board of Management of St Mary’s National School, Stranorlar met with Minister Richard Bruton and senior Department of Education Officials when they went on a deputation to Dáil Eireann on Thursday 18th of May. The deputation met with the Minister and his officials in order to prioritise and progress the urgent need for a new School at St Mary’s in Stranorlar.
Pat the Cope added it was a critically important face to face meeting with the Minister for Education and his Officials, in that all the issues which are currently holding up the final sanction of the new school building for St Mary’s were discussed and debated. When I arranged this deputation I was conscious of the urgent need to progress this new school project and how the rate of progress for the last number of years has slowed down. The current situation at St Mary’s NS is totally unacceptable by modern day standards and particularly in the context that a new School site is already purchased with full planning permission for a new School. I wish to compliment the deputation who attended the meeting with the Minister and put the case for seamless and accelerated progress for the new school in the months ahead. The deputation comprised of Fr John Joe Duffy, School Principal Fintan Keating, Board of Management members Frankie Quinn and Jolie Mc Mullan and local Councillor Patrick Mc Gowan, also attending the meeting was Deputy Pearse Doherty and Deputy Thomas Pringle.
Pat the Cope stated it is now essential that the Minister and his Department Officials bring on board the concerns and views expressed by the deputation from St Mary’s National School in order to rapidly move this project forward, it is within the power of the Minister for Education to immediately move this project to tender stage and thereafter to appoint a contractor. It is only with that degree of commitment from the Government, will this project move to construction stage and finally solve the problem of accommodation and space for St Mary’s Stranorlar. I am confident that as a direct result of the case made by the deputation and the clear urgent need there is for a new school building that both the Minister for Education and the Department of Education will shortly sanction the construction of a new school for Stranorlar, meantime I will maintain the pressure on both Minister and Officials from Dáil Eireann in order this project keeps the momentum it has now gained from this meeting with the Department and Minister concluded Pat the Cope.
Concerns are so grave that the 3 school groups travel to Dublin to make their case.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has organised 3 different Donegal School deputations to visit Dáil Eireann and the Minister for Education in an effort to progress their respective building projects. The Schools on the deputations to the Dáil today the 18th of May are; Scoil Adhamhnain, Luinnaigh, St Marys National School, Stranorlar and Gaelscoil Na gCeithre Maistrí, Donegal Town.
Pat the Cope who was joined on the deputations by Deputy Pearse Doherty along with representatives of the various Schools and their Boards of Management – the different deputations will meet directly with the Minister for Education Richard Bruton. It is of critical importance that the Minister and the Department of Education officials know first-hand the urgent need for works to commence on these schools. In the case of St Marys NS of Stranorlar an entire new build is required – the site has been secured and planning permission is already obtained for the urgently needed new school building. The Minister will be told directly by the parents and representatives of the school who are on the deputation - that the current conditions of the school fail to meet health and safety standards and is grossly inadequate for the school needs. In the case of the Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí, Donegal Town the school needs an entire new building – the Gaelscoil has experienced great growth in numbers over the past decade and the school is a huge success. It is essential that the Department of Education and the Minister progress this project in order to fast track a new build for this project. In the case of Scoil Adhamhnain in Luinnaigh, Gweedore additional capacity is required at the school for general purposes, also the school requires improvement works on energy rating. Structural works need to be carried out at the school also. The case of Scoil Adhamhnain is well documented with the Department over the past number of years.
Pat the Cope complimented the parents, Teachers and Board of Management representative who gave up their time voluntarily in order to make their trip to the Dáil so that the cases of all three schools can be advanced – it is going to be imperative that the Department of Education Officials and the Minister for Education give these groups a fair hearing and commit to delivering these projects in a time efficient manner and avoid any further delay urged Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has directly challenged Minister Leo Varadkar while on his visit to the constituency on the issue of the rights and entitlements of seasonal and part time workers. This follows an earlier commitment obtained by Deputy Gallagher during the Social Welfare Bill that a full review of the terms, conditions and entitlements of seasonal and part time workers have to accessing Social Protection payments - when their seasonal work ends. The current situation is farcical with hundreds of seasonal and part time workers unable to access their Social welfare entitlements once their seasonal work ends, traditionally these workers would be able to access their social protection entitlements as seasonal workers. The numerous changes brought in since 2011 have now made it impossible for these workers to access any payment by enlarge once their seasonal work ends.
Pat the Cope added that hundreds of these workers have been working on a seasonal and part time basis for many years especially in the fish processing sector, Hospitality businesses or other seasonally related employment, some in excess of 20 years or more. It is further leading to skills shortage as people are no longer willing to go through the hassle of trying to access social welfare once their job ends on a traditional seasonal basis. These changes have been causing real hardships in numerous families’ right throughout Donegal as many workers in west and southwest Donegal would traditional augment their farming or fishing income by having a seasonal job at off peak times. The Minister gave an absolute commitment to the Dáil in December that the review of entitlements would be complete by mid-March or first week of April – but he has failed to meet that commitment. I am challenging the Minister to honour that commitment and to be accountable for his assurance to the Dáil – and deliver the report. It is scandalous that the Minister allowed a delay in publishing the report, it is worse that he continues to fail to understand the plight and circumstances of seasonal and part time workers, many of whom are on low to middle income jobs and traditionally rely heavily on this additional income from their seasonal employment.
Minister Varadkar is too much distracted in advancing his own personal career to focus on what is essential and critical to seasonal and part time workers. I am aware the Minister is to meet the seasonal workers while on his tour of the constituency but let that just not be a listening exercise only by him he needs to be proactive and solve the issue – the Minister has numerous submissions on this matter including a lengthy document from myself showing him the possible solutions to the ongoing problems for seasonal workers. It is overdue and imperative that the Minster now solve this issue before he leaves the county – he has had the review carried out, he has received the solutions and has previously met the seasonal workers – all is now required from him is action and a decision. This Government and this Minister in particular go to lengths to prove their rural credentials and try to convince us all of how pro rural life they are – let’s see a tangible demonstration of that and improve the plight and entitlements of the hundreds of seasonal and part time workers right throughout Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the commitment by ESB to upgrade the Clady station, the announcement of the €1.8 million euro investment into the facility will ensure the facility is brought up to the highest possible standards.
Pat the Cope added that the Clady Hydro station is to undergo this refurbishment before the end of 2017; it will involve improvement works on the intake gate, the 500m long penstock, generator and electrical components and replacement of the turbine governor. The finding commitment will guarantee the future of the Clady Hydroelectric generation station well into the future, the station first came into operation in 1959 and has a current capacity of generating electricity for the equivalent of 3,000 houses. The improvement works will on part commence immediately but overall will be complete by October.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating that the refurbishment works will create activity in the general area but more importantly it will secure the facility for the future generations and provide cheap clean electricity for the national grid.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle stated that the Government providing an update on the cost of motor insurance will do nothing to appease drivers who are forking out hundreds and in some cases thousands of euros on premiums. The Quarter 1 Update on the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance was published this week, although many of the recommendations will not be implemented until later in the year.
Pat the Cope added the publication of this update is nothing more than a PR exercise from a Government which is obsessed with spin but the cold hard reality of the situation is that this document will do nothing to curb costs for motorists who are already paying well over the odds for insurance. Despite the fact that premiums have risen by 11% in 2014, 30% in 2015 and a further 12% in 2016, Fine Gael had to be forced to acknowledge that there was a problem within the motor insurance industry before any action was taken by them and then only after much delay did they address the issue. The publication of this week’s update was not only surprising, it was also questionable as many of the recommendations of the report will not be implemented until later in the year, or possibly not until 2018.
Pat the Cope stated too many people are being asked to pay more and more for their motor insurance. These are costs that are eating away at people’s disposable income, leaving many families, older people and business owners questioning whether maintaining a car is a worth it or in some case they simply can no longer afford it. At least three of the Working Group’s recommendations have yet to be completed despite agreed timeframes being put in place, especially those which would have a real effect on reducing premiums, such as establishing a national claims information database, which won’t be completed until Quarter 2 of 2018.
Minister Eoghan Murphy needs to get his priorities right and ensure that these measures are implemented in full and without delay. Motorists cannot afford to be facing into larger premium increases over the coming years – it’s deeply unfair and must be tackled by the Government without further delay, concluded Pat the Cope.
- Current limitations prevent many participants from continuing on schemes -
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle is calling on the Minister for Social Protection, to review the current model for staffing community schemes to ensure that vital community projects are properly staffed on a long-term basis. The existing system places restrictive time limits on programmes such as the CE, Tús and the Rural Social Schemes.
Pat the Cope added this Government does not appear to fully understand the value of community schemes in towns and villages across the country. In fact, the work undertaken by these schemes and the services provided are often overlooked and there seems to be a failure to appreciate that if these programmes ceased to exist, many essential services would no longer be available. Some of the restrictions which must be lifted are the length and duration which participants can remain on the scheme; more flexibility is required on income limits of participants and their spouses.
Many basic services in rural Ireland, as well as community services in towns and cities are provided through the Community Employment Scheme, the Tús Scheme and the Rural Social Scheme. However, the Government is making it increasingly difficult for people to access employment on these schemes by placing prohibitive restrictions on them. Even in cases whereby a person has been unable to find alternative employment or has very little prospect of securing alternative employment the amount of time they can spend on these schemes is very limited. There is a very important social dimension to Community Employment schemes stated Pat the Cope.
Minister Varadkar and the Government must look at a renewed model for these schemes to enable participants to remain on them on a more long-term basis, especially in cases where there are no other job opportunities available. It’s imperative that the Government comes up with an alternative scheme to provide funding so that people can be employed full time to carry out this work in their communities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has raised the matter of the Governments stated intention to transfer the Nursing Home Support Office – Fair Deal from its current location at St Joseph’s Hospital, Stranorlar to Tullamore, addressing the matter in the Dáil under promised legislation Deputy Gallagher called on the Taoiseach to intervene and support the case for Donegal’s office to be retained. The Government and the HSE are currently rationalising the current 17 Nursing Home Support offices nationwide into 5 centralised offices based in Limerick, Naas, Tullamore, Ballymun Dublin and Cork city, what is shocking about this Government rationalising programme is that no support office will be located any further north than the line from Tullamore to Ballymun.
Pat the Cope added it is another blow to St Joseph’s Hospital, Stranorlar as the current service is being delivered from the offices located at the Hospital; it is also another poor indictment of the Governments so called rural development policy. The current proposals being considered by the HSE leave the West and Northwest of Ireland again without direct access to services, it is further damaging in the context of BREXIT as it will result in the removal of services and it also forfeits an opportunity to create further employment should the office in Stranorlar be given additional extra responsibility to cover other areas of the country.
Pat the Cope called on An Taoiseach to personally intervene and add an additional Nursing Home Support Office – Fair Deal so that the area of the country north of Tullamore to Ballymun will not be deprived of local access to the fair deal services. The current office in Stranorlar both has the skills set and expertise to roll out similar services to surrounding counties but what is required is the support of the Government and the Department of Health in order that Donegal retain the current and existing services at St Joseph’s Home Support Office concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the approval by the Department of Housing for Community Group Houses project, consisting of 3 housing units of 4 individual self-contained bedrooms at Fair Hill Dungloe, the approval was granted to the Parents and Friends of Donegal Housing Association to move to stage two planning for the three units of sheltered living accommodation. Each unit will consist of 4 individual living accommodation – made up of ensuite room up to current HIQA standards and each unit then will have a communal sitting room, quiet room, visitor room and dining room.
Pat the Cope welcomed the approval which will move this development to the next stage, it is expected that planning permission will be sought within months as a great deal of the preparatory work has already been carried out for this development. I expect tenders to be sought for the 3 Units in late 2017, with construction to commence immediately afterwards. When completed it is anticipated that the 3 units will provided assisted living accommodation for 12 people. This development will replace the existing unit on the Church Road at Dungloe. The proposed new development is expected to cost around €1.4 million euro and will be funded by the Department of Housing.
Pat the Cope added I wish to pay tribute to the Parents and Friends of the Donegal Housing Association project, who have worked tirelessly and have brought this project to fruition. They have dedicated a great deal of time and planning into making this project a success. I wish also to pay tribute to the officials of the Housing Section of Donegal County Council for their excellent work on this project. I will maintain the pressure on the Department of Housing; in order this project moves seamlessly into construction stage and with the co-operation of Donegal County Council I expect this project to be underway without any further delay after tender stage. The new development will be an immense benefit for the broader community and west Donegal concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has asked Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII ) to give the immediate go ahead for the N56 improvement works at Mountcharles to Inver. The proposed works will involve the design and construction of approximately 2.75km of new National Secondary Road to Type 1 Single Carriageway. This scheme commences at the tie-in with the Mountcharles Bypass. Deputy Gallagher was making his comments following his raising of the matter with TII, in their reply the TII committed to starting the project by autumn of 2017.
Pat the Cope added the project would significantly improve the level of service for road users and enhance the accessibility of South West Donegal including the port of Killybegs and Gaeltacht areas. Appraisal was done as part of the main scheme (N56 Mountcharles to Inver) and a great deal of preparatory works have been carried out. The construction timeframe outlined by the TII is estimated to take 18 months with commencement in the last quarter of 2017 and completion in mid-2019. It is therefore essential that both the TII and Donegal County Council give an immediate go ahead for this project to move to tender stage in order the project commences by the end of 2017, I acknowledge that the project is at an advanced stage but it now requires final sanction so that the funding can be approved for the 2018 TII budget and that the project is completed by mid-2019 as indicated in the TII reply to me.
Pat the Cope stated that the N56 is of critical importance to the south and west of Donegal as it is the main route for connecting those areas to the county roads network and as N56 it is also the main route to Killybegs Port it is critical for employment and investment to the area. I am also calling on the TII to carry out further improvement works on the N56 Inver Bridge to Killybegs road, as the current state of repair of the road is extremely poor with deteriorating road surface and poor driving conditions in parts of the road. It will also be necessary in the medium term for the TII and Donegal County Council to proceed to plan the final stage of the N56 – from Inver Bridge to Five Points in order that the final section of the N56 to Killybegs can form part of the next Capital plan 2021- 2027.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating “ it is now imperative that the TII and Donegal County Council stick to the timeline for delivering the N56 Turris Hill to Inver and allow the project to start by the end of this year and to have the project completed by mid-2019 as committed to in their on plans ”.
Number of patients waiting on trollies increases - 1,676 was left waiting for a bed in LUH in first 4 months of 2017.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has reinstated his earlier call for a full review of all service levels, current staffing numbers and the overall budget for Letterkenny University Hospital, to be carried out independently and in consultation with frontline staff and management of the hospital but to report directly back to the Minister for Health and the Department. His comments come following the publishing by the INMO – nurses’ organisation of the alarming growth in patients waiting on trolleys at the hospital before they are seen to. Earlier this year in a Dáil debate on the issue of under resourcing of the LUH, I called on Minister Harris to appoint a full review team to the Hospital.
Pat the Cope added it is more obvious now than ever before that current and existing strategies by both the HSE and the Minister are failing to deal with the crises at Letterkenny Hospital. The INMO figures for Trolley watch showed 320 patients waiting to be seen in the month of April that compared to 41 for the same period in 2016 or 32 for the same period in 2011 – this is an alarming growth in numbers. Similar analysis of the accumulative figures for the period January to April for this year’s shows that 1,676 patients waiting for beds, while in 2016 the figure was 496 or 178 in 2011. These are alarming figures, which show continual growth in waiting times for beds and services at the Hospital and the problem is worsening – this is despite the best efforts of the frontline staff and medical professionals who are working under considerable pressure on a daily basis – but the problem is one of underfunding, inadequate staffing levels and lack of bed capacity in the hospital. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions with the Department and the Minister – the ongoing crises at the hospital is one which requires special intervention by the HSE and the Government in order to deal with the legacy issues – of underfunding of hospital budgets, under staffing of frontline services, failure to make the necessary appointments of additional medical staff and consultants and the complete failure to recognise the need for additional bed capacity.
Pat the Cope stated that what we have witnessed so far from Minister Simon Harris has only been tinkering around the edges, half-hearted initiatives and not additional funding; the Minister of Health is in complete denial of the extent of the problem ad this is despite his visits to the hospital but on the last two occasions in which a debate on the Hospital took place in Dáil Eireann the Minister failed to turn up for the debate. I am publically challenging Minister Harris to address this crises in an urgent manner and to take leadership on the matter, so far his response has been a complete failure, with nothing only spin and empty rhetoric meanwhile the problems are worsening. Letterkenny University Hospital requires extra nursing staff, extra bed capacity and the immediate appointment of a second Breast Surgeon, endocrinologist, extra diabetes support staff to mention but a few of the outstanding appointments. The Minister’s failure to appoint a full review team to the Hospital when I urged him to do so earlier is now having a negative impact on the Hospital and on service availability for the patients who solely depend on it for access to medical services. The hospital staff are working in very challenging circumstances and require additional support the Government needs to provide the additional resources and staff to improve their work environment.
The Minister needs to take action but he needs to know the full extent of the problems, that can only be done by carrying out an immediate full and complete capacity review of the Hospital , its services, it’s current staffing levels, it’s bed capacity, the current vacancies within the Hospital – all of this needs to be carried out independently and their recommendations made to the HSE so that a comprehensive solution and plan for the entire hospital can be put in place and be properly funded by the Department of Health and the Government concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has welcomed Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant aid of €584,548 for countywide energy saving projects, and in particular the energy innovation project for Arranmore Island, a project worth over €879,959 to the county. Energy efficiency schemes are going to be essential for communities in the years ahead, with increased energy costs and scarcity of natural resources becoming a real problem – therefore investment in energy saving measures is an investment in all of our futures, it saves on omissions and the environment generally.
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 funding announced by SEAI will directly benefit homeowners on Arranmore Island, with 50 homes already benefiting from the scheme and a further 49 houses to benefit from upgrades this year, this demonstrates the degree to which 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 and will have a significant positive impact on the lives of those who live on the island of Arranmore”.
In addition to Arranmore Island other beneficiaries will be Ballyliiffin Golf Club, Cranford Community Centre, White Oaks Rehabilitation Centre and Co Forbacha Cnoc Fola Community Hall.
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.
First step taken over 25 years ago when initial grant was approved.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle will attend the sod turning for final phase of the South West Donegal Regional Water Scheme – covering the Parishes Glencolumbkille and Kilcar, parts of the parishes of Killybegs and Ardara. The final step in a water scheme which originally started as group water scheme over 25 years ago, when I then as Aire Stait na Gaeltachta approved its original funding and in subsequent years the scheme has expanded to become one of the largest Group schemes within the county, and from 2006 through a partnership with Donegal County Council which incorporated the amalgamation of over 9 other Group water schemes in the overall area created what is now known as the South West Donegal Regional water Scheme
Pat the Cope added I must pay compliment to the original promotors of the scheme, who through voluntary effort and their hard work put together the plan to bring water from Lough na Lughraman to Meenaneary, Meenacharvey, Straleel and Crove, it was an ambitious plan but one which has made a huge contribution to those communities. The original promotors of this plan invested time and funding in order to get it off the ground, the template that those communities put together has allowed many other communities now to directly benefit from the excellent source of water and from it initial beginning it has now become the most efficient and reliable source of water within south west Donegal.
Pat the Cope added that this final step in investment for treatment works for the South West Donegal water plan will complete a water scheme which has had over €14 million in investment since it originally started and I have had a long association with the community and promotors of this scheme. The treatment works when complete will guarantee high quality water for south west Donegal for the many generations ahead concluded Pat the Cope.
“No visible sign of rural policy in Festival funding”
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has labelled the combined allocation of €49,750 for twenty different festivals within the county by Minister of State Patrick Donovan and Fáilte Ireland as minimalist and derisory. It is a shocking poor level of support for volunteerism and the voluntary efforts of the various communities and committees which run festivals and gatherings right throughout Donegal, it is further testament that this Government simply does not support rural communities and the efforts of voluntary groups working to improve and enhance their respective areas in Donegal.
Pat the Cope added the running of festivals, rural gatherings, cultural events and other summer activities are the bedrock for visitor activity and are the focus for tourism on a local basis in many of our towns and villages within Donegal, all of these activities and festivals are ran on a voluntary basis but in an effort to enhance their communities attractiveness for visitors and for retaining visitors for longer durations within their respective areas. The current allocation of €49,750 is totally inadequate in the context of Donegal as a county, it cannot adequately cater for the amount of demand from the numerous communities and groups seeking funding to run their town or village festival, secondly for existing festivals within the county it is leading to difficulties, as the costs of running festivals is ever increasing with insurance costs rising etc., the chronic under funding of festivals through this grant scheme is having adverse effects on the annual running of many festivals.
Pat the Cope stated that it is particularly disappointing to note the level of grant aid approved for the Mary from Dungloe Festival of € 3,000 especially as this is the 50th year of the Festival, similarly many other festivals throughout Donegal which received lesser amounts of funding that what their applied for. It is also evident the numerous festivals failed to be funded at all. The entire funding level for festivals needs to be reviewed by Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Tourism, as it is my contention that resources and money invested in local festivals reaps a greater dividend for rural communities and for business activity than any other tourism measure, it is a proven way of creating tourism activity right throughout Donegal but in order to do that it requires credible funding levels. The allocations made by the Department of Tourism are grossly inadequate, fail to make the necessary impact, are minimalist in approach and fail to deliver for rural Ireland despite the plethora of Government assurances on how there are prioritising regional growth and addressing rural decline. I am seeking a meeting with Minister Shane Ross to express my disappointment regarding the levels of funding and to directly impress upon him the necessity to properly fund and support festivals in rural areas and especially in rural Donegal concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle expresses his sincere sympathy to the family of the Late Sean Mc Eniff, Sean was both a friend and a colleague for many years and an individual who dedicated his entire life to Public Service and the betterment of his area through Politics and the development of the Tourism sector. The longest serving Councillor at present in Ireland having served 57 years on Local Authorities between Town Council and County Council.
The late Cllr Sean Mc Eniff was first elected to Bundoran Town District Council in 1960 and in the subsequent County Council election of 1967 he secured a seat on Donegal County Council, winning the first Fianna Fáil seat ever held in the Bundoran area, he successfully retained his seat in every subsequent county council election. He served as Chairperson of Donegal County Council on two separate occasions, was Vice Chairperson of Donegal County Council on numerous occasions having last occupied that position in 2015- 2016 and he holds the record for the number of times he served as Chairperson of Bundoran Town Council - twenty four separate occasions he had been elected to that position. Sean Mc Eniff was a pioneer in the Irish Tourism industry and devoted his life to developing tourism in the northwest of Ireland and in Bundoran in particular, he was a former Director of Fáilte Ireland and previously served as Chairperson of Tourism Northwest. He was named Donegal Person of the year in 1996. A former member of the Board of Letterkenny Regional College, what is now LYIT. Sean played a key and instrumental role in the establishing of Magh Ene College in Bundoran. She was also an active member of the the NWHB.
Sean was a proud Donegal man but an even prouder Bundoran man , a true Gael and fervourant supporter of Donegal GAA at Club and County level.
I express my deepest sympathy to his wife Elish, to his family his Sons, Daughter, his Daughters in law, Son in Law, his 21 Grandchildren, Brothers and Sister and extended Family. Their bereavement and loss will be comforted by the level of esteem and respect Sean was held in by so many and the pride they can take from the successes he attained in his life and the public duty he gave to his community of Bundoran and south Donegal since 1960.
Eternal rest grand onto him O Lord and may he Rest in Peace.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has branded the last number of days surrounding the future of and a funding announcement for two out of the three Donegal Community Hospitals as a complete debacle of the Governments own creating - it is now clear and evident that there was no funding announcement and what is more concerning it now transpires that the plan for all three Hospitals will not be complete for another 6 to 8 weeks.
This is a shameful episode in cynical political electioneering on the part of the Government
Pat the Cope added that I have spoken directly over the past number of days with Officials from the HSE concerning this what can only be called a " ghost grant announcement " by the Minister of State Joe Mc Hugh. I met with the HSE , along with all other Donegal Oireachtas members just two weeks ago - it was always clear that no funding was even applied for by the HSE, nor had HIQA been consulted on the matter of the future of the three Hospitals - Stranorlar, Ramelton and Lifford.
Pat the Cope stated " What we have seen and witnessed over the past number of days has been nothing short of scandalous and an embarrassment , a Government Minister of State announcing funding for two Hospitals ; Stranorlar and Ramelton which was a non existent grant approval and furthermore the effective closure of a third Hospital in Lifford ,all based on a plan which is not even completed by the HSE or even lodged for funding approval nor has it obtained HIQA sanction. The Donegal Deputies were informed recently by the HSE that "preliminary reports were being prepared and that drawing and sketches were not finalised". The Minister of State's actions have completely eroded confidence in the process which is still underway. The current situation stems from a Government announcement of January 2016 , and until such time as that decision to close the long term bed capacity of all three Hospitals is reversed then no certainty can be assured on the long term future of these Hospitals especially in a post 2018 context.
Pat the Cope called on the Minister for Health to intervene and restore confidence to this process and immediately guarantee the long term future of long term stay beds and a complete restoration of full services to all three community Hospitals . I am particularly calling on the HSE to clarify the situation regarding Lifford as the last number of days has completely destroyed the future prospects of their Hospital and left them in limbo.Community Hospitals play a key and essential role in the medical care and well being of the citizens of Donegal and nothing short of full restoration of Staff levels, services within the Hospitals and the retention of long stay beds will satisfy the communities effected . I am impressing on the HSE to immediately bring clarity on their intentions regarding Lifford Community Hospital- as the Mc Hugh announcement has been totally destructive of their future hopes for their Community Hospital.
I remain fully committed to the complete and full restoration of all three Hospitals and their full services to be restored for their respective communities. I will be calling on the Health Minister to address and clarify the issue on the resumption of the Dail concluded Pat the Cope.
Government perform u turn on second Breast Cancer Surgeon
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has accused the Government of blocking the appointment of a second Breast Surgeon by their own inaction and total lack of commitment, his comments came following a motion which he brought before the Dáil regarding the urgent need to appoint a Breast Surgeon and ancillary staff for the Breast Clinic Unit at Letterkenny University Hospital. I am shocked for the second time Minister Simon Harris snubbed a debate on Breast Cancer Services in Donegal by failing to turn up for the Dáil debate. The current situation is scandalous with almost 700 on the waiting list, many of whom are on the list for over a year. It is further outrageous in the context that the previous Government announced the appointment in January 2016 on the eve of the last General Election – which turned out to be nothing more than cynical electioneering on the part of Minister Joe Mc Hugh.
Pat the Cope added the failure of the Government and the HSE to conclusively deal with the need for a second Breast Surgeon is at a critical stage at present – the view is that the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP ) are now actively blocking the appointment of the additional staff for Letterkenny. The reality is the Breast Clinic Unit is being left in limbo, with no additional staff or resources, this is despite the huge demand there is at present for the service with almost 3,000 patients being seen last year between initial referral or subsequent visits. All of these patients had to be seen by the one Consultant based in the Hospital or on occasion using locum Consultants – this situation cannot be allowed to continue.
Pat the Cope further added that having consulted directly with medical staff and patients alike, there are genuine concerns that unless the current waiting lists are dealt with, patients run the risk of having delayed diagnosis of cancer as a result of the length of time, some waiting in excess of one year. The only way the waiting times and waiting lists can be dealt with is additional staff especially a second Breast Surgeon, Breast Radiologist and Radiographer – this is what we are waiting for the Government to appoint for almost two years now. I do not accept the argument put forward by Minister Harris that “ clear evidence that patients who are operated on by surgeons who carry out higher volumes of surgery achieve better outcomes “ - this is now being used by NCCP and the HSE as a rationale for delaying the appointment of a second surgeon for Letterkenny. I wish to state on the record that Letterkenny Hospital is extremely fortunate to have a Surgeon of the calibre of Michael Sugrue – who has for years performed Trojan work in Letterkenny as many, many patients know too well.
Pat the Cope stated this entire debacle is a disgrace for the Government of the day, as it now appears they are preforming a U-turn on the appointment of Permanent second Breast Surgeon despite their pre-election commitment as announced by Minister of State Joe Mc Hugh , it’s an embarrassment for the HSE who clearly now have no strategy for Breast service in Donegal and the NCCP who have completely failed in their duty of care for the Women of Donegal and those who now seek the Breast Care services of Letterkenny University Hospital – Action is urgently needed rather than more fake announcements, false news stories and the complete inaction we have witnessed from the Minister of Health concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher TD has welcomed the news that the ban on the export of Live Brown Crab from Ireland has been lifted and that exports will recommence at an early date.
There had been issues in relation to certification of Irish crab.
This seriously hampered the sector.The news came after a meeting in Ireland to day between the Irish Minister Michael Creed and Chinese Minister Zhi Shuping
Pat the Cope discussed the matter with the Chineese Ambassador and with Minister Creed when he impressed upon them the urgency of lifting the ban as the Irish Crab compared favourably with similar type European crabs being accepted in China.
"The news has come, however late, as a relief for the sector in Donegal which depend on the important Chineese Market" concluded Pat the Cope
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the HSE, Minister for Health and the Government to speed up the process of filling the position of Paediatric Endocrinologist for Letterkenny University Hospital. His comments come following a reply to a Dáil question on the issue of the removal of Paediatric Diabetes services due to staff changes Sligo and the consequential service removal at Letterkenny.
Pat the Cope added in the reply to the Dáil question, the Minister stated that a Consultant Paediatrician was appointed on a temporary basis to the Hospital as an interim measure, but that a permanent post will be advertised for Paediatric Endocrinologist through Public Appointments Service but no firm commitment on timing or appointment was given as to when this would happen. Meantime 160 Children with Diabetes from across Donegal and who avail of the outreach pump therapy clinic are no longer certain of what level of service they will obtain, nor where they will gain access to the services they require on a regular basis. This is totally unacceptable and the HSE and Government should have anticipated this, as there were earlier suggestions in 2016 that this could occur with personnel leaving the service at Sligo – we are now left in a situation whereby potentially no service will exist and that a seamless transition may not be possible. This is a very anxious time for many parents who frequent this clinic on a routine basis, as they simply do not know what the future holds for them.
Pat the Cope stated that the overall the staffing of Diabetes services in Letterkenny University Hospital needs to be urgently addressed, in reply to an earlier Dáil question the HSE confirmed that the application for the second adult Endocrinologist, additional Diabetic Nurse Specialist and Diabetic Dietician has still not being finalised nor made to the Department for funding, this is a very worrying position as over 7,200 adult patients (700 people with Type 1 diabetes and 6,500 with Type 2 ) in Donegal avail of this service which is currently staffed by one consultant at present. There are serious failures on the part of the Minister and the Government in how, they have permitted these services at Letterkenny Hospital to deteriorate and decline. I again reiterate my proposal that the Minister needs to appoint a full Review Team to the Hospital to review all services, staffing levels, funding levels and the waiting times for patients and put in place a comprehensive plan to effectively deal with the underlying issues of resourcing and staffing the Hospital. The Diabetes services are at critical levels within the Hospital at present and the existing staff are performing excellent work under considerable pressure but the HSE and Department need to commit extra staffing and resources without delay concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle stated the Government needs to get to grips with the growing crisis in waiting lists for services for children with disabilities, as currently the waiting lists are growing and time delays lengthening .
Pat the Cope added that he fully supports the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign which is highlighting the excessive delays that children with disabilities are forced to endure in accessing essential services such as Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy. In January of this year there were over 4,600 children waiting for more than a year before they are even assessed for access to occupational therapy. This represents an increase of over 60% in the space of a single year. This means that one in three children needing an assessment for occupational therapy are actually waiting for more than one year. It’s an appalling indictment of the way this Government treats children with disabilities. It’s well acknowledged that the earlier intervention occurs in terms of the provision of services for children with disabilities the better the outcome for the child over the course of their life. The delay in accessing children for Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy is delaying their access to services, which in turn is impacting on their quality of life. Children with autism and with disabilities need to be assessed as quickly as possible to ensure they get access to the services they need to aid their development.
Pat the Cope stated there are shortages of therapists to fulfil demands and in some areas those on maternity or sick leave are not replaced. This is giving rise to excessive waiting lists which is the root cause of the problem. The problem can be easily fixed by hiring more therapists and ensuring services are adequately resourced. Without assessment some children cannot access additional support services at school. This has huge ramifications on their overall development and causes huge stress for families. The Government needs to get to grips with this crisis instead of just ignoring it, action is required and the Government need to prioritise Services for Children with Disabilities without delay concluded Deputy Gallagher.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has called on the Minister for Social Protection, to stand by his commitment to publish the Report into Seasonal and Part Time workers’ rights and entitlements to obtain Social Welfare payments, a full report was sought by me at Social Welfare Bill stage last December and the Minister gave an undertaking then that the Report would be furnished to the Social Protection Committee by end of March or early April – following a series of Dáil questions by me to the Minister, it now appears that delays will occur in issuing the report to the committee and this will lead to further delays in bringing about solutions for the hundreds of seasonal and part time workers right through out Donegal and rural Ireland.
Pat the Cope added that hundreds of traditionally seasonal and part time workers have been denied their social welfare payments since their employment ceased due to the changes brought about in the various social welfare bills since 2011. It is now virtually impossible for seasonal and part time workers to access a social welfare payment based on the contributions made, due to the changes in number of necessary contributions and subsidiary income thresholds. Minister Varadkar must honour his commitment and proactively work with us in solving these problems facing seasonal and part time workers, the current situation is grossly unfair and is actively discriminating against Seasonal Workers and it is further removing the incentive to work which is counterproductive and will lead to a skills shortage in certain sectors of employment. The Department had since last December, to bring about solutions which would help workers and their families, help sustain rural communities but they have failed to deliver thus far despite having ample time.
Pat the Cope stated that perhaps the Minister is overly distracted in trying to become leader of Fine Gael to bother about workers’ rights and entitlements but commitments will have to be honoured and fulfilled. There is no getting away from the fact that hundreds of workers who have traditionally worked on a seasonal and traditional basis now can no longer access their social welfare payments upon ceasing work – this is leading to hardship and difficulties in sustaining families and income levels within the homes. It is completely wrong that there is a failure to address this ongoing problem for seasonal and part time workers. This matter should not require a special report - all it requires is the commitment and priority of the Government to solve the problem but that is not forthcoming so far. I am challenging the Government and the Minister to intervene and work on the proposals submitted to the Department by the workers and myself and solve this matter - this matter cannot drag on further, it is time to get real and serious about the plight of seasonal and part time workers and restore their rights and entitlements to Social Protection payments concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has expressed concern over the level of service available for children with Diabetes at Letterkenny University Hospital, his comments come following Diabetes Ireland writing to the Minister for Health Simon Harris regarding the availability of a Paediatric Diabetes Endocrinologist for Letterkenny – which currently was being serviced on a part time basis from Sligo Hospital, it now appears that this level of service is being withdrawn due to a vacancy occurring.
Pat the Cope stated that from the 7th of April that a Paediatric Endocrinologist will no longer be available in Sligo, and therefore the monthly outreach clinics will no longer be available in Letterkenny. This will directly affect over 160 children across Donegal, this evolving situation cannot be allowed to continue and the Minister for Health and the HSE must now step in and prioritise an immediate replacement. In addition to the immediate need of a Paediatric Endocrinologist - extra resources are required for the Diabetes Service including a full complement of staff, appropriately funded and staffed in order to deliver a service in Donegal , that is equal to the service available elsewhere in the country. The ineffective level of service available to children with Diabetes in Donegal is total geographical discrimination and is completely wrong. The children of Donegal with Diabetes deserve a service equal to the services available elsewhere within the state.
Pat the Cope added that he publically supported the request made by Donegal Diabetes Branch to the Minister for Health for improvements to the service and guarantee that a basic level of service would be provided for Paediatric Diabetes, this is a matter I raised last year but on that occasion I received assurances from the HSE that they were prioritising the service requirement in Letterkenny - that is obviously no longer the case. I am calling on the Minister for Health to personally intervene and solve these ongoing problems for Diabetes services in Letterkenny. The Hospital is also currently awaiting Departmental approval for an adult Endocrinologist and Specialist Nursing support, all of these vacancies are now negatively impacting on the services available to the people of Donegal. We have numerous examples of staffing shortages and vacant positions within Letterkenny Hospital but unfortunately no one within the HSE or the Government seem to be listening, meantime services deteriorate and waiting lists lengthen in Letterkenny University Hospital and concerns amongst the public grow due to the inaction of the Government in addressing the real issues facing Letterkenny University Hospital concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle says the restoration of postgraduate grants is a positive development which will help strengthen third level education. It will provide many students with a new opportunity to progress through the third level sector; it will also be an added incentive for those considering re-entering the education system, as it will financially assist them in their studies.
Deputy Gallagher made the comments after SUSI re-opened its application process for third level grants. Fianna Fáil insisted on the restoration of postgraduate grants as part of the Confidence and Supply Arrangement to facilitate a minority Government. The previous Fine Gael - Labour Government abolished almost all postgraduate grants when Budget 2012 was unveiled. The removal of the postgraduate grant was a cruel cutback which only made a miniscule saving for the State. It had a profoundly negative effect on third level education and made it virtually impossible for mature students on low incomes, or those with young children, to return to third level-education. This criticism has proven well-based as there has been a reduction of 5% in overall new postgraduate entrants since 2013. The removal of grants for postgraduate education was inconsistent with the Government’s stated policy of building a high skilled ‘smart’ economy. This is why we made the restoration of postgraduate grants a key demand in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement to facilitate a minority Government.
Pat the Cope added it’s encouraging to see the restoration of postgraduate grants and it will have a significant impact for those wishing to progress or re-enter the Education system. This is the beginning of the process of undoing the damaging third level cutbacks introduced by the previous Fine Gael led Government. The Government needs to continue investing in third level education to ensure Ireland remains competitive on the global stage concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher has questioned the Department of Social Protection logic in omitting certain Schools from the newly announced Schools Meals Programme, some of those same schools were earlier omitted from the DEIS programme by the Minister for Education. It is very disturbing how this Government are approaching and attempting to tackle disadvantage in our Education system, while some schools have received their DEIS designation and now others obtain the Meals Programme – there is equally a considerable number of schools within our communities, which have failed to be designated for either programme by this Government. The complete failure initially by the Minister for Education to fairly designate DEIS schools throughout Donegal and most recently by the Minister for Social Protection to deal with the Schools Meals Programme is a shocking demonstration of how incompetent the Government’s strategy is in dealing with Educational Disadvantage in rural areas.
Pat the Cope stated that it is welcome news for the 18 schools which have received their invitation to join the Meals Programme, the meals initiative will of course make a huge contribution to those schools , but what of the dozen or more schools which have not received this invitation?. Since the DEIS designations in February we have witnessed a policy of exclusion rather than inclusion – certain schools continuously being omitted from inclusion programmes such as DEIS or the Meals Programme. Again, we have examples of the increditable situation whereby within similar areas or Parishes we have certain schools in the programme while others with similar or identical socio economic indicators are left out. This haphazard approach by the Government in tackling Educational Disadvantage is creating a two tier approach to our schools and is causing educational segregation within our communities, and the schools management or authorities have very little or no direct input into either applying for or appealing the decisions as in both cases neither exist.
Pat the Cope added, that these issues could all of been avoided if the Government would seek the advice or direct input from the schools rather than solely relying on desk top analysis or computer inputs of disadvantage - there is no substitute for raw data from those that work in the coal face of the sector, the Teachers, Principals, Parent Associations and School Managers. The Government need urgently to reassess and re-evaluate their current policy direction in tackling complete educational disadvantage, the current piecemeal approach is only further creating new levels of disadvantage and isolation within our communities. There is no excuse for omitting any school from a Social Inclusion or Educational Disadvantage Programme – every effort must be made to guarantee that those programmes will provide a free, fair and equal access for all our children to the various educational opportunities which our system provides but again this Government has failed to deliver that for all our schools. The Government need urgently to re-open the DEIS programme in order to deal with the earlier omissions of schools right throughout Donegal and furthermore the Schools Meals Programme should be re-opened by the Minister for Social Protection to all schools for their application especially for those schools recently omitted. The application process should be open, fair, transparent and based on information provided by the schools rather than on an invitation basis from Departmental of Social Protection concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas Cheann Chomhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher has welcomed a grant of €35,879 for Coláiste na Carraige for the development of a sports track and facilities in conjunction with Donegal ETB and Tír Chonaill.
Pat the Cope added the Board of Management of Coláiste na Carraige have worked tirelessly on this project for the last number of years and have prepared plans for a top class running track, athletics facility and sports area within the grounds of the Coláiste, the grant announced today will be the first phase of this project and further assistance will be required to see this project to its completion. Coláiste na Carraige has for many years been associated with the best of Athletics and Gaelic footballs winning numerous Ulster titles, it is only fitting therefore that Roinn na Gaeltacht recognise the great legacy of this school by supporting the upgrade of their facilities. It is anticipated the works will be carried out and completed over the summer months and that further assistance for phase 2 will be sought from Sports Capital funding in the interim concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on Irish Water to meet with representatives of the Glencolmcille community seeking to be included in the sewerage scheme which is currently under construction. The area of Lower Dooey and including the Fr Mc Dyer Museum are as present not included in the original tender or contract, which in itself was a bad decision as the Museum is located next to Glencolmcille Beach, and as the Museum is the top attraction for the entire Glencolmcille area it defies logic why it was not included in the original scheme. The plans for the Glencolmcille sewerage scheme which originally went to public consultation showed clearly the inclusion of the Fr Mc Dyer Museum but in the interim this area was dropped – that decision needs to be revisited as I previously stated. The projected costing provided by Irish water are nonsensical, the required extension is 340 meters approximately and Irish water now estimate those works to cost €250,000 or €735.30 per linear meter – crazy costings.
Pat the Cope added Irish Water are not helping themselves by issuing bills of the amount of €220,000 to a Voluntary and Community based organisation such as the Fr Mc Dyer Museum , as it demonstrates to the entire general public- how out of touch Irish Water are with rural Ireland. Earlier estimates for these works were in the region of €50,000 in total or €147.00 per linear meter which are a lot more creditable; I am not seeking an explanation and meeting with Irish water to progress this matter. It is pointless constructing a sewerage scheme when large parts of the catchment area are excluded, similarly I believe the scheme which is currently under construction will have under capacity problems and will fail to meet the self-cleaning velocity standards for a network of that size due to its low capacity input of the overall scheme connected.
Pat the Cope concluded by stating I believe that the issues surrounding Glencolmcille Sewerage Scheme can be resolved in a cost effective manner by Irish water, but in order to do that Irish Water need to get real in their dealing with communities and people and begin to work to help and assist areas rather than the nonsense we have witnessed over the past 48 hours.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has urged the HSE and the Minister for Health to prioritise the appointment of permanent second Breast Surgeon for Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH); his comments come following a reply to a Dáil question to the Minister for Health.
Pat the Cope quoting directly from the Minister’s reply” A second breast surgeon has not been appointed on a permanent basis at Letterkenny University Hospital. At present, efforts are being made to recruit a full-time locum consultant surgeon to deal with current demands on the service. Consideration continues to be given to longer-term measures to meet the future requirements of the service and staffing at consultant and other levels will be among the issues to be considered”. It is extremely disappointing that after many public commitments from the Government and their representatives, that no permanent appointment has been made and this is totally unacceptable by any standards - as the service is under huge pressure from service demands, there is a failure on the part of the Government to act and prioritise the service need for a second Breast Surgeon at Letterkenny University Hospital added Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope stated he wished to compliment the cancer action groups and the support groups who continue their campaign for increased and better services at Letterkenny as they have for many years. What is required is for the Government and the HSE to make the appointment without further delay, to properly resource the service within Letterkenny and provide the necessary staff in order to deliver a top class, properly staffed and resourced service equal to any other service available elsewhere within the state . All we have seen thus far is fake news by way of empty commitments, imminent appointments which never realised and further delays while meantime the service continues to operate under considerable pressure. We demand immediate action on the part of the HSE and the Minister for Health and make the necessary appointments for Letterkenny University Hospital concluded Pat the Cope Gallagher.
ON NO: 377
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health (Simon Harris T.D.)
by Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 28/03/2017
* To ask the Minister for Health if he will confirm that a second breast surgeon has been appointed on a permanent basis at Letterkenny University Hospital; if all necessary medical staff are in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Pat The Cope Gallagher T.D.
The Breast Cancer Service at Letterkenny University Hospital operates as a satellite centre of University Hospital Galway. The service is run by a single consultant who also undertakes general surgery at the hospital, and it is augmented by locum consultants and by Galway-based Saolta consultants who travel to carry out clinics in Letterkenny to meet needs arising.
A second breast surgeon has not been appointed on a permanent basis at Letterkenny University Hospital. At present, efforts are being made to recruit a full-time locum consultant surgeon to deal with current demands on the service. Consideration continues to be given to longer-term measures to meet the future requirements of the service and staffing at consultant and other levels will be among the issues to be considered.
I recently met with cancer support groups from the area and I can confirm that the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme, my Department and the Saolta Group are actively engaged in ensuring that a quality breast cancer service will be available in Letterkenny. A further meeting of the involved parties will be held shortly in Letterkenny.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has expressed his concerns over the intended bank closures in Ardara and Raphoe, as part of the Ulster Bank recent rationalisation of branches by senior management which sees 22 bank branches close before the year end throughout the country. This is a very concerning development for the two towns of Ardara and Raphoe, as both communities depended solely on the Ulster Bank for all their banking services, as the closure will leave the two towns and their wider communities without any bank.
Pat the Cope added this is another tangible sign of how much rural Ireland is being allowed to decline before the Government shouts stop , despite published action plans on rural development and strategies for jobs - nothing is actually happening on the ground to combat rural decline by this Government. I believe that the Ulster Bank have taken the easy option and have failed to consider the long term implications of their decision, whereby in the case of Raphoe; the entire border region from Carrigans to Lifford is now left without a Bank other than travelling to Ballybofey or Letterkenny. The entire border region of the Finn Valley area is left without a bank as a result of the Ulster Bank closure and that makes no economic or strategic sense and it is leaving a vast area and population of people without access to a bank. Similarly in the case of Ardara with the closure of the last remaining Bank in the town, it leaves the town without any banking service other than an ATM. The Ulster Bank in Ardara was very strategically located covering a vast rural area from Glencolumbkille to Glenties, and in the context of Ardara being a premier tourist destination notwithstanding the number of businesses in the area the closure is very difficult to comprehend. Personal and Business customers need in branch access in order to deal with requests, but most affected by this decision will be the older or elderly people within our communities as many always prefer to go in to branches to conduct their business – online or phone banking certainly is not an option by enlarge for them.
Pat the Cope has called on Ulster Bank to publish the rationale behind the decision to close both Ardara and Raphoe and to reconsider the move, to allow for a period of consultation with the two respective communities and during that period to place a stay on the closures. I will also be seeking a meeting with senior management of the Ulster Bank in order to put the local case for both banks as I personally believe that this is a very retrograde step and one which will have serious consequences for the future progress and development of both towns. Entire swathes of the county cannot be left without access to a bank branch or personal banking services. It’s unfair, and deeply debilitating to communities who rely so heavily on their services concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has urged the Government to prioritise Guidance Counselling Services in our Secondary Schools, his comments come following a Dáil debate by Fianna Fáil on the issue of the commitment in the programme for Government on restoring full Guidance Services to all our Secondary Schools .
Pat the Cope added its well acknowledged that guidance counselling services play an important role in supporting students as they set about deciding what path they will take after they finish school. Despite this the previous Fine Gael led Government slashed guidance counselling funding to such an extent that many schools were left without any support service for students. Fianna Fáil insisted on increased investment in guidance counselling services in order to facilitate the current minority Government. The Confidence and Supply Arrangement contains a guarantee to ensure that every secondary school in the country is given access to guidance counselling services. Budget 2017 was the start of this process and it is expected that 66% of the original funding will have been restored by this coming September but more needs to be done. The Minister made very clear that the resources announced in the budget are a separate resource and that schools who do not comply will be subject to inspection.
Pat the Cope stated this issue remains a top priority for Fianna Fáil and we will be insisting that further funding is made available for guidance counselling services in Budget 2018. We remain fully committed to achieving the guarantee made in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement to introduce guidance counselling in every secondary school. I am determined to ensure that this commitment is fully delivered on by the time the Government and that no school will be left disadvantaged by not having Guidance Counselling Services available within their schools concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton to reopen the DEIS Scheme for both primary and secondary schools, this comes following weeks of confusion on the process and methodology used, misinformation by government representatives on a non-existent appeals mechanism and total mismanagement by the Government handling of the latest round of DEIS designations.
Pat the Cope added the new scheme of schools appraisal for DEIS brought in by the Government was flawed from the outset as it failed to adequately collate the data necessary for a fair and complete appraisal of all schools. The new appraisal scheme which was much lauded by the Government relies solely on the Department of Education’s Primary and Post Primary online databases, data from the census and statistics from Pobal Deprivation index as the method for measuring affluence or disadvantage of a particular area. The previous system used for DEIS measured on a school per schools basis; using information provided by the school authorities directly- indicator markers such as number of students in receipt of medical cards, the number of unemployed parents, number residing in local authority housing, those availing of free books, percentage in large families etc. The new system adopted by this Government failed to distil the information provided on a global basis through their new system of appraisal to clearly identify and source the real disadvantage there is in certain areas, as we have witnessed by the complete inconsistency of designations right throughout Donegal with some schools being designated while others in close proximity failing to be designated. This entire DEIS debacle is of the Governments own making – in attempting to deal with Education disadvantage they have created even further educational disadvantage for those they failed to designate.
Pat the Cope stated that on the 29th of May 2015 the majority of Teaching Unions in their submissions to the Department backed the old system of appraisal whereby information would be provided by the School authorities directly but adding further selection criteria such as the number foreign nationals, those with behavioural needs and those in direct provision, etc. It was highlighted by numerous Educationalists that relying solely on Data from general based surveys, census statistics or more broadly based deprivation indexes would result in some schools missing out in receiving DEIS status and this has proven to be the case with a number of school omissions from the scheme. The Government must now as a priority source and fund an immediate further round of DEIS in order to clear up this mess which they have created themselves – it is totally unfair that pupils and certain schools are left out of DEIS due to the procedures used in the appraising of schools. I am calling on the Government to re-open DEIS and to review the newly adopted system of appraisal for DEIS in order to allow direct information from the schools to be part of the process- it is illogical not to seek the views of Teachers and the Managers of schools in the first instance. The Government can no longer fail to take action on DEIS - fairness and equality must apply to all schools and children equally across the board concluded Pat the Cope.
Leas Cheann Comhairle of Dáil Eireann Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher expresses his deepest sympathy on the death of former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland the late Martin Mc Guinness. The role played by the late Martin Mc Guinness in the Peace Process was both pivotal and critical in bringing it to its final conclusion, his leadership and conviction that peace was the path to progress and the future helped guide and deliver peace to Northern Ireland. His exceptional Leadership skills and affable personality made the journey to power sharing in Northern Ireland that much easier for others to join with him in reaching that ultimate goal- Martin was the first to reach out to others and always the one to bring others with him in the journey of peace. Martin Mc Guinness was an exceptional man of our time who leaves a legacy that history will judge kindly and all future generations will directly benefit from - The Peace Process, Devolved Government, growth and prosperity across all communities within Northern Ireland. He was a committed Irish man and a true Gael with a deep love of GAA, coming from a family which had deep roots within the Derry GAA his brother Tom played for Derry.
I wish to convey my condolences to his wife Bernie, his two Sons and two Daughters and Grandchildren for them they lose a Husband, Father and Grandfather but they can draw comfort and solas from the fact of the huge contribution Martin has made in his lifetime and the respect his contribution is held in. To his wider circle of family, friends and his colleagues within the Sinn Fein party they have lost a friend and colleague of the highest calibre and of true loyalty to all that you shared and believed in. In our lifetimes we witness but a few who make our community and world we live in a better place but such was Martin Mc Guinness – he has left Northern Ireland a much better place for all to live in and to share in the years ahead.
Solas Mhic Dé ar a nAnam
Pat the Cope Gallagher
Leas Cheann Comhairle
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has called on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton to reopen the DEIS Scheme for both primary and secondary schools, this comes following weeks of confusion on the process and methodology used, misinformation by government representatives on a non-existent appeals mechanism and total mismanagement by the Government handling of the latest round of DEIS designations.
Pat the Cope added the new scheme of schools appraisal for DEIS brought in by the Government was flawed from the outset as it failed to adequately collate the data necessary for a fair and complete appraisal of all schools. The new appraisal scheme which was much lauded by the Government relies solely on the Department of Education’s Primary and Post Primary online databases, data from the census and statistics from Pobal Deprivation index as the method for measuring affluence or disadvantage of a particular area. The previous system used for DEIS measured on a school per schools basis; using information provided by the school authorities directly- indicator markers such as number of students in receipt of medical cards, the number of unemployed parents, number residing in local authority housing, those availing of free books, percentage in large families etc. The new system adopted by this Government failed to distil the information provided on a global basis through their new system of appraisal to clearly identify and source the real disadvantage there is in certain areas, as we have witnessed by the complete inconsistency of designations right throughout Donegal with some schools being designated while others in close proximity failing to be designated. This entire DEIS debacle is of the Governments own making – in attempting to deal with Education disadvantage they have created even further educational disadvantage for those they failed to designate.
Pat the Cope stated that on the 29th of May 2015 the majority of Teaching Unions in their submissions to the Department backed the old system of appraisal whereby information would be provided by the School authorities directly but adding further selection criteria such as the number foreign nationals, those with behavioural needs and those in direct provision, etc. It was highlighted by numerous Educationalists that relying solely on Data from general based surveys, census statistics or more broadly based deprivation indexes would result in some schools missing out in receiving DEIS status and this has proven to be the case with a number of school omissions from the scheme. The Government must now as a priority source and fund an immediate further round of DEIS in order to clear up this mess which they have created themselves – it is totally unfair that pupils and certain schools are left out of DEIS due to the procedures used in the appraising of schools. I am calling on the Government to re-open DEIS and to review the newly adopted system of appraisal for DEIS in order to allow direct information from the schools to be part of the process- it is illogical not to seek the views of Teachers and the Managers of schools in the first instance. The Government can no longer fail to take action on DEIS - fairness and equality must apply to all schools and children equally across the board concluded Pat the Cope.
Gairmscoil Mhic Dhiarmada Arranmore has received approval to extend the Woodwork room as the present room is not adequate to cater for the increased number of students. New furniture for the room has also been approved as has the necessary electrical works
Scoil Phadraig Dore has been given approval for emergency works to the Heating system including works to the boiler and electrical system.
Pat the Cope in welcoming the news hopes that tenders will shortly be invited by Dore Board of Management and Donegal ETB on behalf of Gairmscoil Mhic It is hoped that works could commence shortly after tenders have been received in respect of each school
I personally believe that the consultation on this matter was unnecessary as we are interfering and tampering with a process which is long established and is based on precedent, investment over time on the part of the boat owners and a natural expectation on their part having built up the quota over prolonged period of time.
As you’re aware, many of my constituents in Donegal are deeply concerned that this review was ever undertaken in the first instance given it contravenes an explicit commitment by way of a Ministerial Policy decision of 2009 which was reviewed and confirmed in 2010.
Of even greater import and concern is the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recent revised advice which confirms a large mistake in its original advice. Therefore, instead of the original advice for 2017 which was for a 14% increase on 2016, the updated advice is 9% lower than the initial advice.
I am deeply concerned regarding the inaccuracies within the ICES advice in the first instance, and what began as a deeply flawed process now has the potential to spread contagion throughout the sector by undermining RSW vessels owners’ confidence and certainty. I’ve made the point to you in the Dail that this reduction sets a dangerous precedent in law and indeed departmental authority. Fishermen will not be able to take anything for granted when planning in the future. As you well know, they risk life and limb to make a living while committing to significant investments and creating jobs, both at sea as well as ashore. Thereby they need certainty to engage with financial institutions and grow their businesses.
Even if there is an “increase” this year, it will be deducted twice over next year. I should also emphasise the point that these fishermen endured a 15% cut in mackerel quota last year. Minister, you must appreciate that this mackerel quota has been built up by RSW vessel owners who have made major investments in their boats and companies. We both know that without the excellent track record of the RSW fleet, Ireland’s current 21.2% share of the western TAC would probably be in the region of 1% or 2%. What your review is probing is the possibility of punishing these fishermen for their vision, belief, commitment and determination to develop an industry where few saw any opportunity back in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, the polyvalent fleet who were not interested in creating this track record have already been boosted by a mackerel tonnage increase of 750% since the year 2000.
To allow any change to the existing system of quota distribution, to introduce any new system which is not based solely on precedence of catch history and record will have far reaching and potential negative impact on the sector. In the case of RSW vessels/pelagic sector these owners have invested heavily into the sector, on a gradual and phased way over time, they have invested on the basis they were accruing quota rights and would have drawn loans on that basis. The certainty the current system brings is one which helped the overall sector, as many owners of RSW vessels owners invested on the basis of that certainty of the quota and catch notwithstanding the annual changes to TAC – but there was never a situation whereby the national Government would re allocate the TAC
Caithfidh An Post seirbhísí breise a chur ar fáil don phobal le hinmharthanacht oifigí poist tuaithe a chinntiú, a dúirt Teachta Dála Fhianna Fáil Pat The Cope Ó Gallchóir.
Dúirt an Teachta Ó Gallchóir go bhfuil sé de dhualgas ar An bPost agus ar an Rialtas seirbhísí poist a choinneáil i gceantair tuaithe.
Tá eolas á lorg ar An bPost aige maidir leis na hoifigí poist a bhfuil sé i gceist ag an gcomhlacht a dhruid mar pháirt dá n-iarrachtaí airgead a shábháil.
Dúirt sé gur cúis mhór imní an staid ina bhfuil An Post faoi láthair agus go gcaithfear gach iarracht a dhéanamh oifigí poist tuaithe a thabhairt slán.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has confirmed a grant of €1.1 million euro for the upgrading of the Fintown water supply, the approval will see significant improvements to the quality of the water supply to the Fintown area. The project announced by Irish Water will see 5Km of water mains being laid in the Glenties, Fintown and Meenahalla areas. The works to be carried out under this scheme will include replacement of 1 Km of water mains at Fintown, 2.9 Km mains in Glenties and 800 meters in Meenahalla – a further two booster pumping stations will be constructed at Shallogans and at Strabouy. It is expected that all works will be completed by Irish Water within 4 months and the system made operational by then.
Pat the Cope added that when the upgrade works on the Glenties – Fintown water network will be completed, it will bring the water supply to these areas to the highest required standards. This is welcome news as I had being lobbying for these improvement works since I was re-elected to the Dáil in 2016. The grant approved by Irish water will solve the ongoing problems with the water supply and water quality in the Fintown area and the standard of water can now be guaranteed and a consistency of supply for all users which is essential nowadays. I would like to thank the officials who prepared and brought this plan for final approval – the improvement works on the water supply for the Fintown- Glenties area will be of huge benefit to all these communities and local residents in the years ahead , today’s announcement will see 450 consumers directly benefit from these improvement works concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle, has criticised the Government for failing to intervene on the ongoing crisis facing rural Post Offices. There is a complete level of inaction on the part of the Ministers and the Government, in failing to put forward any proposals to deal with and solve ongoing closures of rural Post Offices and the removal of services from our communities. The recently published Kerr Report is most concerning in the context of the future of rural Post Office services but it still has failed to prompt the Government into action.
Pat the Cope added, under the Kerr Report, it is possible up to 200 Post Offices could face closure – with 80 Post Offices facing immediate closure and a further 120 Post Offices facing subsequent closure. The Irish Post Master’s Union in a recent statement, indicated that unless the Government intervened and take decisive action, there would be an even greater number of closures than the 200 indicated under the Kerr Report. There is a real crisis of management and of support by this Government for the Post Offices in our rural areas, commissioning a report is not solving the problem but taking on board the recommendations of the sector and communities would contribute to solving the issues effecting Post Offices but the Government have failed to take direction. The more time delay that occurs, the greater the problem will become and the more the sector’s confidence is undermined and eroded.
Pat the Cope stated the Government need to urgently prioritise rural Post Offices and rural services. It once and for all must realise that providing services to rural communities cannot be simply ran on a strictly profit and loss obligation – rural communities deserve the same services as larger more populated urban areas, but no rural service should be removed on the basis that through lesser population the service is no longer profitable. Service provision and the obligation of social need has to be an equal determining factor to that of profitability in providing and maintaining services in our rural communities, otherwise we are going to allow our rural communities to die within our lifetime concluded Pat the Cope.
Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has labelled the Government’s handling of the National Broadband Plan roll out as being completely shambolic, with further delays, missed deadlines and an overall disastrous planned approach Department. The roll-out is well behind schedule, the speeds being offered in certain areas are already out of date and the areas to be covered by commercial operators have still not been finalised. The lack of any certainty of the future plans for broadband is concerning and what is more concerning is the Governments belief that the plan is working, as judged by the plethora of press releases hailing success on their part.
Pat the Cope explained the roll out of the National Broadband Scheme has been slow and disorganised with the original deadline of 2020 now being pushed back to 2023. Service maps have had to be re-drawn, some areas due to be covered by the State are now falling under the remit of commercial operators, and other parts of the country due to be served by these companies are now left in limbo- the entire strategy is lacking coordination on the part of the Government. ComReg in their recent report stated only 7,623 households in all of Ireland were benefiting from pure fibre Broadband connections, the figures for lesser speed broadband connections are inflated and are not based on actual connections, and the report by ComReg covered the period up to the end of 2016. ComReg stated “I can understand why consumers are frustrated one would of thought that Ireland was floating on a bed of fibre such as the frequency and verbosity of press releases on fibre broadband connections, speeds and availability”
Pat the Cope added the lack of information in relation to the process, as well as the uncertainty over the timeframe is very concerning. ComReg has also commented on the disparity in Broadband quality across Ireland, with different levels and degree of services available depending on where you reside – this digital apartheid is great cause for concern and one which the Government must introduce regulations in order to avoid. Consistency of service must be guaranteed across the country regardless of where you live. It is evident that some households will be waiting for more than 6 years for the roll-out of fibre across the country and there is a failure on the part of the Government to properly co-ordinate and to prioritise the broadband rollout in rural Ireland. It is a ridiculous situation that over 900,000 premises will have to wait up until 2023 for the NBP to be fully rolled out, but the Government does not seem to understand the urgency of broadband delivery nor are they capable of managing its introduction in a timely fashion or consistent across the country.
Pat the Cope stated it one of the single biggest issues that is holding rural Ireland back – the lack of proper Broadband, without broadband the full potential of rural Ireland will never be realised. I support the assertion of ComReg in their report when they state “Companies typically conflate premises passed by the technology with those actually connected to it – which gives a very misleading impression”. What is needed here is less Government high speed spin and just more high speed Broadband for our communities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas-Cheann Comhairle has labelled the Government’s handling of the recent DEIS programme as chaotic and shambolic, his comments come following media reporting that the Department of Education’s designation of some schools was inaccurate due to the data used. This matter has been raised by me on a continual basis with the Minister in the Dáil and I have cautioned the Department that with the absence of a proper appeals mechanism that errors would occur and problems would arise with certain school designations and the failure to designate other schools. This has been a disaster for the Government and it is further testament of the Governments poor approach to rural Ireland.
Pat the Cope added I have already challenged publically, Government representative within the county and in the Dáil to come clean over the mess they have created with DEIS but the reply was silence, so many schools within our county clearly fulfil the DEIS criteria but were not designated by the Minister and that is completely wrong. In a recent reply to my Dáil question, to my shock, the Minister agreed that numerous schools meet the criteria but were not designated by the Department – it seems the Department were accepting the principle that there is a two tier DEIS approach - those who are DEIS and fully designated and those who fulfil DEIS criteria but are not designated by the Department and have no supports and extra resources even though they are clearly entitled to them. The Government now by their own actions have created even greater inequality within the Education system, the only possible solution is that DEIS must be immediately reopened and a further run of DEIS designations be made – based on the principles of fairness and equality to all. The new system of designations brought in by this Government has been a disaster from the outset, schools had little or no input, no appeals available to them and the data used by the Department was out of date from the start as the most recent census was not used in the process. The recent admission by the Government that there are issues surrounding Eircodes is a red herring and a cover off for a flawed process adopted by the Government.
Pat the Cope challenged the Government to immediately fund a further round of DEIS and re open to it to all schools which currently have not received DEIS designation, nothing short of a new DEIS programme will restore confidence in this scheme. The Government should of moved to solve this crises with DEIS status sooner, it has been clear from the day of the initial announcement that there were serious issues and problems with this new Government initiative on DEIS. The Government must now take immediate action and correct the inequality they have created by their own incompetence on this matter – no school should be disadvantaged as a result of poor political decision making and we have multiple examples of schools within our communities which have been disadvantaged because of this flawed process concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, Leas-Cheann Comhairle has welcomed the decision by the Department of Health and the HSE to grant full medical cards to all children who are currently in receipt of a Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA), this decision by the Department of Health will directly help 9,800 children who currently receive a DCA payment but do not currently hold a medical card.
Pat the Cope made his comments following receipt of a reply to his Dáil question to the Minister for Health, in the Ministers reply to Deputy Gallagher he stated “legislation will be placed before the Dáil in the coming weeks and it is hoped to complete all stages by end of March, meantime the HSE will commence the implementation of the administration of issuing the card in an efficient manner”. Deputy Gallagher had brought this matter to the Departments attention on numerous occasions in the course of the past year, the current anomaly whereby nearly 10,000 DCA recipients were not in receipt of a medical card was very difficult to understand and defied logic, I am delighted the Department has finally recognised these children’s entitlement to a full medical card. This announcement will be of immense benefit to all those who are currently getting a Domiciliary Payment , as a majority of them also have considerable weekly and monthly medical costs and now being able to avail of medical card will eliminate these costs and the worry of any future medical procedures.
Pat the Cope stated I sincerely hope that there are no further undue delays in issuing the medical cards to the all who receive a DCA payment, I expect the HSE to give full attention to the issuing of these cards once legislation is passed in the Dáil, this is welcome news for all those who have waited for a full medical card to be issue with their DCA payment. The Department of Health must now address the issue of those who fail to receive a medical card despite suffering from long term illnesses, as the current list of eligible long term illnesses needs to be expanded in order to cater for other illnesses which are costly on people to administer drugs for. This announcement for DCA recipients is good news but a great deal more works requires attention in the administration of medical cards concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Leas-Cheann Comhairle has accused the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government of dragging his heels for failing to progress plans for reforming the Commercial Rates – the Department had given a commitment to develop proposals to modernise and to make the current system more fairer and equitable for all those who currently pay Commercial Rates throughout the country. Having raised this matter last year with the Department, I now find that the current position has progressed very little over the past 12 months and the prospects are no proposals will be made imminently by the Minister either.
Pat the Cope added the current Commercial Rate system is grossly unfair and is becoming a burden on many businesses especially in rural areas throughout Donegal. The current system is outdated and blunt in its approach - whereby properties are commercially rated and are levied thereafter at that value, regardless of turnover or business activity in the premises. The current system does not take in to consideration the seasonality of businesses either nor does it take cognises of business location. Commercial Rates are a grossly unfair tax on business and are an inhibitor to job creation especially in rural parts of Donegal – the time is long overdue to reform and restructure this business tax in the interests of progressing job creation and business activity.
Pat the Cope has called on Minister Simon Coveney to prioritise the drafting of a Rates Consolidated Bill 2017, to further focus on fairness in levying of future rates allowing for the circumstances of the relevant businesses – referring to their location, seasonality of business and there business activity levels before putting in place any new taxes on business and employment. Small businesses and Enterprises are by far the biggest employers in our small towns and villages right throughout Donegal – it is clear these employers need a break from the burden of commercial rates as they are currently constituted, a new system needs to be put in place based on the principles of fairness, business activity levels and seasonality of certain commercial activities concluded Pat the Cope.
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has given a general welcome to the new proposals for Gweedore Sewerage scheme after a briefing by Irish Water, the proposed system which is utilised very successfully elsewhere seems to be the best engineering solution for delivering a comprehensive sewerage scheme to the Gweedore area, that been said, it is imperative that Irish Water maintain and keep to their deadlines for full delivery of this sewerage scheme as there has been thus far inordinate delays in bringing this scheme forward to construction stage.
Pat the Cope added the Gweedore Sewerage scheme is long overdue and every effort by both Irish Water and the Government must be made in delivering this project. I am also anxious that the final proposals for the sewerage scheme involve a comprehensive coverage for the entire Gweedore sewerage catchment area and that the staff of Irish water focus in providing maximum coverage to the various townlands and areas within Gweedore – that regardless of location that all existing properties be afforded the opportunity to be part of this scheme, it is equally important that the scheme provide for the future growth and expansion within the Gweedore area. The present plans for delivering the scheme must ensure the delivery of a full and complete scheme for Gweedore, and that the scheme is to the highest standards.
Pat the Cope further stated whilst I fully appreciate the complexity of the engineering required in delivering this sewerage scheme, I do not want it to be used as an excuse for further delays in its delivery – this must remain top priority for Irish Water and that the Government must fully commit resources to the project. I welcome that Irish water commitment to further engage with the local community, community groups and public representatives – particularly in terms of the proposed trial demonstrative project area intended to be in place by 2018, regarding the delivery of the overall scheme I will be calling on Irish Water to shorten the proposed end date for full completion from 2021 to an earlier delivery date. The new proposed scheme delivery will involve a lot less pipework and road disruption when the project moves to construction stage that is to be welcomed.
Today’s consultation on the Gweedore sewerage scheme had a great deal of positives, but it is evident a lot more work needs to be done in order to bring the sewerage scheme to completion. It is now a matter for all state agencies to work together and bring this to fruition, it is also essential Irish Water remain engaged with the Community and local public in order that everyone remains fully informed of progress on this scheme. I am also calling on the Government, the Department and Irish Water to waiver the connection fee for each household in view of the substantial savings involved by using this new technology which is now proposed for the sewerage scheme. I for my part will maintain the pressure on Irish water and the Department in order to get this long overdue project delivered for the benefit of the Gweedore area, the community and to facilitate future expansion and growth of the area concluded Pat the Cope.
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.