About Brendan Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence, Member of the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, Member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Member of the North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association.

Maternity Units

Below are comments by An Taoiseach and the Minister for Health in relation to attendance in Maternity Units –

Tuesday, 11th May

Micheál Martin  ‘I agree 100% that there is no need for these restrictions now at all. I said that last week in this House. The Chief Medical Officer has said that, given the success of the vaccination programme, particularly within healthcare settings, the suppression of the virus among front-line healthcare workers and the high level of vaccination across the country, women’s partners should be with them, with proper precautions’.

Minister Donnelly tweeted the following yesterday Thursday, 13th May

I’ve received the report from the HSE on visits, etc. in our maternity units. The assessment yesterday by the HSE finds 14 of the 19 units are “fully compliant” with the national policy – 20 week scan, birth and neonatal. The five that are not compliant all have at least issues with daily visitation and all five are part of a general hospital, rather than being a standalone maternity unit. These will be engaged with further by the HSE to work through solutions’.

ENDS 14/05/2021

Brendan Smith welcomes approval of Fair Deal reform legislation

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed legislation which will introduce a three-year cap on financial contributions to the Fair Deal Scheme based on farm and business assets. 

The legislation, which was approved at Cabinet today and will be brought to the Dáil by party colleague and Mental Health & Older People, Mary Butler TD, is expected to receive broad, cross-party support. 

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “We have all seen just how important public investment in long-term care services is for those who need it, certainly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“It has brought into startling focus the vulnerabilities of many older people, especially those living in long-term residential care. We must ensure that care must remain accessible and affordable, including for those families with a farm or a business. 

“This is a vital Bill which brings forward an amendment to the Fair Deal Scheme, which will place a cap at three years on the financial contributions of family owned and operated farms or businesses when calculating the cost for nursing home care. This will occur where a family successor commits to working the farm or business.” 


Currently the three-year cap on the financial assessment of a person’s income and assets applies to family farms or businesses only in the case of sudden illness or disability. This situation may place unnecessary financial pressures on these families and could challenge the future viability of the farm or business. 


Deputy Smith added: “Updating Fair Deal legislation to enhance protections for farmers and business owners has been and remains an absolute priority for me and my Fianna Fáil colleagues.  


“I am very pleased that Cabinet has now approved the publication of the Bill, and I look forward to seeing this legislation before my colleagues in both Houses at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Brendan Smith welcomes €40m in expanded summer provision for primary and post-primary pupils

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan/Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed the expanded summer provision for pupils with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage. 

Deputy Brendan Smith’s party colleague, Minister for Education, Norma Foley T.D., announced the provision of expanded summer education programmes as a Covid-19 pandemic response measure for summer 2021. 

Deputy Smith commented, “The total funding available for this important programme will be up to €40m, which is a one hundred percent increase on the allocation for provision last summer. 

“We are all very aware that school students did not have full access to in-school learning for a long time in the past year. Despite the best efforts of all concerned this has had many adverse consequences, in particular for children with complex special educational needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage.” 

The Cavan/Monaghan TD added: “This programme aims to support pupils to re-engage with education, to build their confidence and increase their motivation, promote well-being and for some who are at key transition stages, help to ensure they can move on to their planned educational placement next September along with their peers.” 

For the first time ever, all schools (primary and-post primary) are encouraged to provide summer programmes and the eligibility criteria have been extended to include post-primary children with complex needs and children at risk of educational disadvantage. Prior to this expansion summer programmes were only available to special schools and pupils in special classes in primary schools and in DEIS schools. Today’s announcement marks a recognition of the value of such school based programmes for children with complex needs and those at risk of educational disadvantage in all schools. 

 A home-based summer programme will continue to be available for children with complex needs where their schools are not providing a school based programme. 

The five key strands of the programme will run, as follows: 

·         Numeracy and literacy camps in DEIS primary schools 

·         School based summer programme in primary schools with special classes and special schools. 

·         Home based provision for children with complex needs where no school based programme is available; 

·         All primary schools (DEIS and non DEIS) have the opportunity to provide a two-week summer programme for mainstream pupils with complex needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage. 

·         All post-primary schools (DEIS and non DEIS) have the opportunity to provide a two-week summer programme for mainstream students with complex needs and those at greatest risk of educational disadvantage 

The programmes for mainstream students in primary and post-primary schools are new programmes for 2021, building upon previous summer programmes in DEIS schools and the programmes for pupils with special educational needs last year. 

Enhanced measures have been put in place to encourage participation of schools in this process, including reducing the administrative process, provision of funding to schools towards preparation and overseeing of the programmes, earlier payment of school staff and provision to recruit final year student teachers graduating this summer. 

Further details on the schemes and how schools can apply will be made available over the coming period at gov.ie/summerprovision

Pupils with complex needs who have transport provided on the Special Educational Needs School Transport Scheme during the school year and are attending the school based programme in either a primary or a special school will be provided with transport. 

Following a Government decision today, the Department of Education will also confirm to schools that for the 2021/22 school year there will be no change to the model of allocation of special needs assistants. 

The introduction of the front-loaded model for the allocation of special needs assistants will be deferred to the commencement of the 2022/23 school year. 

This has occurred as during the pandemic period it has not been possible to provide the necessary information and training to support the implementation of the new model in schools.  

SNA allocations for 2021/22 school year will be based on the actual number of SNAs employed by a school on 30 April 2021 and the allocation on that date will be rolled over into 2021/22. No school will receive a reduced allocation and there will be scope for additionality under an exceptional review process to be delivered by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).  

ENDS 

€831,000 for improvement works to local authority houses in Cavan/Monaghan

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has welcomed the approval by his colleague Darragh O’Brien T.D., Minister for Housing of funding of €831,317 to Cavan and Monaghan Councils in respect of improvement works to local authority houses. Grant aid of almost €490,000 is being allocated to Cavan County Council and €260,000 to Monaghan County Council and each Council has to provide a top up of 10% from their own resources.

“This welcome funding will enable the provision of extensions and adaptations to existing Council housing stock for older people and people with a disability under the Disabled Persons Grant Scheme.

This grant aid will also fund the scheme of Improvement Works in Lieu of Social Housing where works can be carried out in respect of overcrowding in existing social housing stock.

These are important schemes and the Housing Minister has increased the level of funding to both Councils which will facilitate much needed improvement works to many homes throughout Cavan and Monaghan”, stated Brendan Smith TD.

Ends 07/05/2021

Need to implement the New Decade, New Approach Agreement – Brendan Smith TD

Below are replies by An Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Parliamentary Questions I tabled in Dáil Éireann regarding the need to implement the New Decade, New Approach Agreement.

Reports in British Newspapers today in relation to the possible introduction of an amnesty for people who committed very serious crimes is very disturbing and breaches the Stormont House Agreement.

Again no consideration for the victims and this is not acceptable.

ENDS 6/05/2021

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 22/04/2021
Question Number(s): 67 Question Reference(s): 21029/21
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to strengthen North-South and British-Irish political institutions following the commitments made in the New Decade, New Approach agreement and following Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


It is vital that we continue to work closely on a North/South and East-West basis in support of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and successor agreements.

North/South cooperation is a central part of the Good Friday Agreement and will remain a core priority for the Government. We welcome that meetings of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) resumed last year.  Regular Ministerial meetings are now taking place across the Council’s twelve policy sectors, advancing areas of practical cooperation to our mutual benefit. The most recent plenary meeting of the NSMC took place 18 December 2020.

We are engaging within the NSMC to find new ways of working in the areas where the underlying EU law no longer applies in Northern Ireland. We are committed to this work, and will be taking it forward with urgency.

In implementing the Protocol, the conditions necessary for continued North South Cooperation will be maintained in a range of areas.  The Protocol also recognises that new arrangements building on the Good Friday Agreement, and other areas of North South cooperation, can continue to be made on the island of Ireland.

The Government commitments that were made at the time of the NDNA are focused on working with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council to deliver projects that benefit people across the island. The first implementation review meeting took place in January of this year. We reaffirmed our shared commitment to the implementation of the NDNA and it is hoped that a second meeting will take place in the period ahead.

The Shared Island Initiative and Shared Island Fund are also very important new dimensions of our work here, with a focus on how we can work together, North and South, to meet major strategic challenges and further develop our shared island economy.

In terms of East-West cooperation, we look forward to enhanced roles for the British Irish Council and British Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC), as set out in the Programme for Government.

During last week’s programme of bilateral engagements in London, I reaffirmed the importance of the role of the BIIGC, and my officials are now engaging with the British Government with a view to setting an early date in the period ahead for its next meeting.  I joined the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste at the British Irish Council Summit last autumn which was hosted by Scotland, and I look forward to the next Summit meeting to be hosted by Northern Ireland in June.  

We are also taking new steps to strengthen the East-West relationship in the post-Brexit context. We are implementing joint action plans with the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland, and will open a Consulate General for the North of England in July.

We will continue to engage intensively with the British Government and all parties in Northern Ireland, as we work in support of the full implementation of the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 01/04/2021
Question Number(s): 193 Question Reference(s): 18049/21
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress to date in implementing New Decade, New Approach; if he has had any recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with members of the Northern Ireland Executive in relation to outstanding issues pertaining to the agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


The New Decade, New Approach  (NDNA) agreement was a significant shared achievement by the parties in Northern Ireland together with the two Governments, and its full implementation is a key priority for the Irish Government.

The important work of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) has resumed, to develop cooperation on an all-island basis. Two successful NSMC plenary meetings have now taken place, as well as the full range of Sectoral meetings at Ministerial level, and progress continues across the breadth of North-South areas of cooperation.

The Irish Government commitments that were made at the time of the NDNA are focused on working with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council to deliver projects that benefit people across the island, including greater connectivity between North and South; investing in the North West region and in border communities; supporting the Irish language in Northern Ireland; and supporting reconciliation as an integral part of the Peace Process.

As part of the NDNA, it was also agreed that there would be regular review meetings involving the two Governments at Ministerial level and the parties to monitor progress on its implementation, and the delivery of commitments by each Government.  On Monday 11 January, I participated by video-conference in the first Implementation Review Meeting alongside the First Minister, deputy First Minister, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and party leaders in Northern Ireland.

During that meeting, we discussed the progress that has been made over the past year on the implementation of our respective commitments, and the shared challenges we face in the context of both the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. We reaffirmed our collective commitment to the ongoing implementation of the NDNA. It is hoped that we can arrange a second implementation review meeting in the period ahead.

I will continue to engage closely with the Secretary of State, and the Executive, as we work in support of the full implementation of the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

______________________________________________
For Oral (Taois.) Answer on : 31/03/2021
Question Number(s): *39 Question Reference(s): 13244/21
Department: Taoiseach
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


QUESTION NO:  *39
To ask the Taoiseach the arrangements to have further discussions with the UK Prime Minister and members of the Northern Ireland Executive on the need to implement the New Decade, New Approach in full.

REPLY


The New Decade, New Approach Agreement reached in January 2020 was a very significant shared achievement, for the British and Irish governments and for the political parties in Northern Ireland  in restoring the power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to operation.  

The New Decade New Approach agreement sets out priorities on health, education, infrastructure, welfare, language and culture and aims to address the issues that are of importance to the people in Northern Ireland.

For our part, the Government published a series of commitments, at the time of NDNA, focused on working with the Executive through the North South Ministerial Council to deliver projects that benefit people across the island, including greater connectivity between North and South; investing in the North West region and in border communities; supporting the Irish language in Northern Ireland; and supporting reconciliation as an integral part of the Peace Process.

The second plenary of the North South Ministerial Council took place on 18 December, and progress is underway with respect to these commitments that come under its remit – we look forward to this progress being continued and seeing these commitments implemented in full.


In January, the first Implementation Review meeting of the NDNA took place virtually, attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of State, the First and deputy First Ministers and the leaders of the parties in the Executive. All the participants reaffirmed their shared commitment to the ongoing implementation of the New Decade, New Approach agreement.

The Government continues to work with the UK Government, with the Northern Ireland Executive and through the North South Ministerial Council to ensure that the New Decade, New Approach  agreement is implemented in full.

Walk-In Test Centre in Cavan

“I am glad that the Minister for Health has approved the proposal by the HSE for a walk-in self referral covid-19 Testing Centre in Cavan Town.

This Centre, to be located at the Swimming Pool and Leisure Complex, Drumalee, Cavan Town will be open from this Friday, 7th May until Monday, 10th May from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can get a free covid-19 test at a walk in Test Centre if you do not have symptoms. You do not need an appointment or a referral from a GP.

A person will need to bring photo ID and provide a mobile phone number in order to provide test results.

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19 DO NOT GO TO A WALK-IN CENTRE. SELF ISOLATE AND PHONE A GP STRAIGHT AWAY”, stated Brendan Smith TD.

5th May 2021

HSE Media Release

HSE COVID-19 ‘Walk-in’ Test Centre to open in Cavan Town

A ‘walk-in, no appointment necessary’ COVID-19 test centre for people with no symptoms will open at Cavan Swimming Pool & Leisure Centre, Drumalee, Cavan, Co. Cavan (Eircode: H12 Y9W4) on Friday (May 7) for four days.

The free service is located at a central and accessible location in the town, and will operate from 11am to 7pm daily, from Friday May 7 to Monday May 10 inclusive.

The HSE’s Department of Public Health North East and Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) Area 1 are working with the National Ambulance Service to identity asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 and reduce further transmission in the community.

The temporary walk-in test centre will allow people, who don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, to get a free COVID-19 test.We urge members of the public who have symptoms of COVID-19 to consult with their GP to arrange a COVID-19 test, and to not avail of the walk-in facility. Anyone who has already scheduled a COVID-19 test is asked not to attend the walk-in centre.

You should use this free, walk-in COVID-19 testing service if you:
• are aged 16 years and over
• do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but would like to be tested
• have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last six months

Members of the public will need to bring photo ID and provide a mobile phone number in order to provide test results.

Dr Augustine Pereira, Director of Public Health North East said, “Increased community testing is vital to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the virus. We want to make testing as accessible as possible and I would urge local people to get a free test and help us take control of this situation.”

Mr John Hayes, Chief Officer, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) Area 1, explained “Testing people with no symptoms will help find positive cases earlier and allow these people take the necessary action to protect others. This will help us break chains of transmission.”

Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, Councillor Sarah O’Reilly added “We are pleased to cooperate with the HSE on the opening of this walk-in test centre which will allow people in Cavan Town and surrounding areas to get a free COVID-19 test without an appointment. I want to thank everyone for playing their part in tackling the spread of the virus and would urge you to continue to follow public health advice and adhere to the government guidelines.”  

Up to date information on the location and opening days and times of COVID -19 walk-in test centres is available at COVID-19 walk-in test centres: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/testing/covid-19-walk-in-test-centres.html

ENDS

Brendan Smith welcomes commitment to reopen third level education

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed the Government’s commitment to reopen third level education. 

As announced last week, a plan is to be published in June for an enhanced campus experience for third level students for the next academic year, starting in September. 

Deputy Smith commented, “Students and parents need this commitment so they can plan for the upcoming academic year. As we know, there are very substantial costs involved for parents when it comes to renting accommodation and other important expenses as part of their child’s third level education.” 

Under Level 5, third level has remained online with exceptions made for practical and time critical work. As part of the Government announcement, it was confirmed there would be a significant increase in on-site third level activity in September. 

Deputy Smith added, “While we know that due to the pandemic, most learning had to be done online, we simply cannot have an academic year like the last one. It is so important now that we plan to get our students back on campus in September. This has been an incredibly tough year for all students, but there will be better days on the horizon, and the planning for that starts now.” 

ENDS

Please see statement below by Dr. Tony Holohan

An open letter to those who’ve been vaccinated on what comes next – from Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer

This pandemic has dealt each and every person in Ireland an unfair hand, in many different and diverse ways. Everyone has made difficult sacrifices; everyone has had one of the most uniquely challenging years of their lives. In that sense, we are all in this together.

However, there are some of us who were faced with more difficulties than others: firstly, those of you who have been bereaved by this disease and have experienced loss in a way that has been cruelly constrained by this disease and the restrictions it imposes on us. I would like to express my sincere condolences to each of you.

There are also those of you who at the outset were told you were medically vulnerable to the severe effects of this virus, either due to your underlying condition or your age. This pandemic has asked significant sacrifices from you and you have risen to this unprecedented challenge.  By protecting yourselves and staying at home, you also undoubtedly helped to suppress this disease which protected other people and saved many lives.

Those of you who are at lower risk of the disease have also followed the public health advice to a very high standard to keep the spread of cases low and to get cases numbers back under control quickly when necessary.  

We all know the impact that living life to the full – in terms of socialising, exercise, family, work and travel – has on our physical and mental health. It is important to remember that basic individual behaviours that protect us all, individually and as a community, remain the most important and effective contribution that we can all make to preventing transmission of the disease, even when vaccinated. These behaviours will continue to be a core feature of our ongoing response to COVID-19 as we begin to socialise more and look forward to seeing loved ones who we may not have seen for a very long time.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Programme offers great hope. Vaccination has enabled those most at risk to regain many freedoms that were taken from you by this virus. As more people are vaccinated, we are in a position to recommend some increases in lower risk social opportunities including family visits, personal services, non-essential retail and a return to religious services, in a safe and controlled manner.

Those of you who are vaccinated thus far are mostly those we recommended to cocoon at the outset of the pandemic. You can now get back out there and restart many things you used to do, once restrictions ease from May 10th. That might be visiting the seaside, a trip to a museum, a visit with a friend, or a trip to see your grandchildren at long last. It’s important that you look out for the public health advice that is relevant to you and to plan to do it safely – but it’s important to get on and do it!

I know that those of you who remained indoors, cut social contacts and continue to do everything to protect yourself from COVID-19 may be anxious at the idea of re-opening your social circle, even in a safe and controlled way and even though you have been vaccinated. While this anxiety is understandable, you can have confidence in your vaccine, no matter which one you received. And you can have confidence that the simple measures we recommend really do help to reduce your risk of picking up this disease.

A way to help manage anxiety is to plan your trip including what transport you will use, ensure you have a mask and hand sanitiser available to you, leave yourself additional time so you can avoid crowds, practise social distancing and make your way to and from your destination safely and comfortably. Risk assess your choices and your environments – if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, feel empowered to walk away and come back another time. Encourage loved ones to feel similarly about prioritising their own safety.

For many people, the last year will not have allowed you to be as active as you were previously. This has likely negatively impacted on mobility and fitness, as well as on confidence. It is important to be aware of this and give your body time to readjust to being more active.

Now is the time to move forward, to go outdoors and to see one another again. As spring turns to summer, we should all take advantage of the bright evenings and warmer weather. Exercising outdoors is an important tool to protect our mental and physical health.

This is not a signal that the pandemic is over. We have all come a long way and things will improve further but there remains a risk that too much social mixing especially indoors, in houses and other settings will lead to a further surge of this disease. It is important that we keep up compliance with the restrictions and the public health advice. The more we do so the more we can avoid a dangerous surge in cases, which would require us to slow down the progress of easing of measures that is planned for the coming weeks and months. 

ENDS

Contract for Bawnboy Garda Station – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has been informed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, T.D., that a contract for refurbishment and upgrading works to facilitate the re-opening of Bawnboy Garda Station will be placed shortly.

The Minister in his reply to Deputy Brendan Smith stated that the programme for the works will take about 12 weeks to complete.

“For some-time I had called on the Minster for Justice & Equality to have this Station reopened and I asked the Minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works to ensure that there are no undue delays in having this Station re-opened”, stated Deputy Brendan Smith.

Reply to my Parliamentary Question below –

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 28/04/2021
Question Number(s): 319 Question Reference(s): 21894/21
Department: Public Expenditure and Reform
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the projected timeline for the commencement and completion of refurbishment and upgrading of Bawnboy Garda station, County Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


It is expected that a contract for works to facilitate the re-opening of Bawnboy Garda Station will be placed shortly. The programme for the works will take about 12 weeks to complete.

Brendan Smith urges Tourism Minister to make Shannon Pot project a funding priority

The Shannon Pot – part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Brendan Smith is calling on the Minister for Tourism to prioritise funding for the development of a Shannon Pot Discovery Centre at the source of the River Shannon at Derrylahan, near Glangevlin.  

Speaking to Minister Catherine Martin, Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “This project, when delivered, will be a key tourism attraction for the Upper Shannon region. I am very anxious for this project to be advanced without delay as it will add considerably to the tourism product in the Upper Shannon region.  

“This is right in the heart of the UNESCO-recognised Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark and in the Cavan Burren area”.

The project is currently being considered under Fáilte Ireland’s Platforms for Growth programme. Deputy Smith was informed by the Minister that Fáilte Ireland is evaluating applications which made it through to stage 3 of the five-stage overall assessment process and the successful projects are likely to be notified of a decision before June.  

The Cavan Monaghan TD continued: “Cavan County Council did excellent work in preparing this application. Councillor John Paul Feeley has strongly advocated for the development of such facilities, and I am glad to have supported his work on this project.   

“The overall cost of the project is €6.6 million, with the Council providing €1.7 million of that cost. This Discovery/Interpretative Centre will promote history and culture and, notably, the importance of the River Shannon, the country’s longest river at 360 km.   

“Visitor displays, walking trails through the forest and a major viewing point will all dovetail very well with the amenities developed already as part of Cavan Burren Park”.

Deputy Smith concluded by urging the Tourism Minister to see the overwhelming merits in getting this project greenlit.  

“The source of the River Shannon, a river that is central to so much of our national tourism industry, needs this amenity. I sincerely hope the Martin will be able to speak to the officials in Fáilte Ireland, who are assessing the application, about its merits and the need for such investment in this part of the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland”.

See attached Dáil debate on issue –