About Brendan Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan Monaghan, Chairman of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. Co-Chair British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, Executive Member North/South Inter-Parliamentary Association, Member Oireachtas Committee on Implementation of Good Friday Agreement

Brendan Smith brands UK government immunity proposals on Troubles murders as ‘absolutely deplorable’ 

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has branded current British Government legislation on the legacy of the Troubles, which would allow murderers to give themselves immunity from prosecution, as “absolutely deplorable”.

Speaking with Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Dáil Eireann this week, Deputy Brendan Smith stated: “I hope that in his first opportunity to engage with Boris Johnson’s successor, the Taoiseach will prioritise legacy issues and remind the British Government strongly that it must take on board the concerns of victims and survivors.

“As all of us in this House know, the current British Government legislation would allow murderers to give themselves immunity from prosecution. It is absolutely deplorable.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “Of course, there is the total lack of co-operation by the British Government in regard to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the Belturbet bombing. It is deplorable that the government of a democratic country would not co-operate with a sovereign government and parliament in a neighbouring state where we know state forces were involved in the murder of innocent people.

In response, the Taoiseach stated: “Deputy Smith will be aware of my view that the proposals that emerged in terms of amnesties or qualified amnesties are unacceptable. The Deputy is correct in saying that the views of victims and the families of victims should be uppermost and paramount in any legacy policy or scheme. 

“I do not want to get involved in what is happening in the UK in regard to an election of a successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Suffice to say that we would like this to be an opportunity for a resetting of relationships but also a return to adherence to the agreements that have been entered into between two sovereign states, between Europe and the UK, and in respect of legacy agreements that have been entered into by the families of victims, political parties in Northern Ireland and governments of the UK. In other words, what has been agreed should be adhered to unless we collectively agree to change.”

ENDS

14/07/2022

13th July 2022

HSE Media Release

Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo

Pop up COVID-19 vaccination clinics to be held across Cavan and Monaghan this week

Dose 1, Dose 2, first and second booster vaccinations will be available in a number of locations across Cavan and Monaghan this week.

In Monaghan, a walk-in vaccination clinic is being held at the New Primary Health Care Oriel Rd Carrickmacross  from 2pm to 5pm on Thursday July 14th.

Vaccines available are:

  • Dose 1, Dose 2 and Booster Doses for those aged 12 years and over.


A second clinic will be held at Monaghan Primary Care Centre, St Davnet’s Campus, Monaghan on Friday July 15th from 10.30am to 1pm and 1.30pm to 4pm.

Vaccines available are:

  • Dose 1, Dose 2 and Booster Doses will be available for those aged 12 years and over.

In Cavan COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be held at Gowna Health Centre, Cavan on Wednesday July 13th and Thursday July 14th from 1pm to 4pm on both days.

Vaccines available are:

  • Dose 1, Dose 2 and Booster Doses will be available for those aged 12 years and over.

On Friday July 15th two clinics will be held in Ballinagh Health Centre Cavan.

The first takes place between 1pm and 2pm and offers Dose 1 and Dose 2 vaccinations for those aged 5-11 years.

A second clinic will take place inBallinagh Health Centre from 2.30pm – 4pm offering

  • Dose 1, Dose 2 and Booster Doses for those aged 12 years and over.
  • 2nd booster for those aged 65 and over.

Paula Loughran, Operational Manager, Cavan and Monaghan Covid-19 Vaccination Service said “We are operating a number of pop up clinics across Cavan and Monaghan this week, to make getting your COVID-19 primary and booster vaccinations as accessible as possible. We would ask anyone who is due their booster vaccines to come along and avail of the service in any of the pop up clinics. Walk ins are welcome.”

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine please log on to www.hse.ie

Please note that those aged 5-15 years must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

ENDS

13/07/2022

Gamechanger First Home Scheme can make homeownership a reality for first-time buyers – Brendan Smith 

Brand new €400 million First Home Scheme to Make Home Ownership a Reality for First-Time Buyers  

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has said the First Home Scheme can be a gamechanger for first-time buyers.  

The Fianna Fáil TD said, “The First Home Scheme has the potential to be a real gamechanger for those attempting to get on the property ladder.  

“First Home is a Government-backed shared equity scheme which will see the state provide part of the price of a new home alongside the buyer’s mortgage and deposit.  

“This can bridge the gap between the price of a home and the current maximum a person or couple can rent depending on their income.  

“The Help to Buy Scheme (HTB) can also be used alongside this scheme and could provide 20% of the price of the property going towards the buyer’s deposit.  

“The maximum stake the state can take as equity under the First Home Scheme is 30% without the HTB, and 20% if the HTB is being used.  

“The scheme is available to first-time buyers and also gives fresh start exceptions to those who may have previously purchased a property if they have separated or experienced insolvency.  

“Government are working under the Housing For All plan to make homeownership a reality for everyone and this scheme is proof of momentum building behind the Housing For All programme.”  


Applications can be made today online at www.firsthomescheme.ie. The First Home Scheme application process runs in parallel with the mortgage application process (i.e. mortgage applications should continue to be made separately through participating lenders).  

The scheme is available initially to First-Time Buyers and other qualifying homebuyers who are taking out mortgages from AIB (including its EBS and Haven Mortgages businesses), Bank of Ireland or Permanent TSB. Other lenders may join the scheme in the coming months. 

How the First Home Scheme works:

The scheme will increase the spending power of borrowers by facilitating them to pay more than the combined amount of their mortgage and deposit, which would otherwise act as a ceiling on what they can pay.  

This will increase the choice of home available to borrowers and allow them to buy a home at a higher price point than the maximum mortgage that they qualify for.  

The scheme is making €400 million available in its first phase, to facilitate the purchase of up to 8,000 homes over a 5-year period, subject to demand.  

Brendan Smith welcomes €100 increase on back-to-school allowance, suspension of school transport fees and an additional 60,000 school meals

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed a €100 increase on the current rates of back-to-school allowance. 

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “I’m delighted to see this significant €100 increase in the back-to-school allowance for each eligible child. 

“The back-to-school allowance is an important payment to support parents and children as they prepare for their return to school. 

“In addition to this, the school meals programme will also be expanded which will see a further 60’000 children covered under the programme.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “Importantly, Government has also decided to suspend school transport fees for one year to help support parents which will see a saving of up to €500 for families. 

“Government is cognisant of the pressures facing people and Fianna Fáil are committed to finding solutions to alleviate those cost-of-living pressures. 

Brendan Smith: Everything needs to be done to ensure children with special needs have appropriate school placements

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has welcomed Government commitments to ensure that children with special needs have an appropriate school placement.

Depuy Brendan Smith, speaking in Dáil Eireann, commented, “The Minister for Education has brought forward legislation to put in place the structures to ensure no child is denied a place in an appropriate setting in school. I welcome the comments of the Minister of State that it is intended this legislation will work to support children with special educational needs to gain access to specialist class placements that can meet their needs.

“Having interacted over the years with the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, I welcome the recent appointment of the new chief executive, John Kearney, who I knew as chief executive of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board and who served as a school principal.” 

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “I know that public representatives and Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board have worked together over the years to ensure we got those additional autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units, special classes and additional resources. Mr. Kearney has been in the classroom and has led an education and training board.

“The schools under the remit of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board show a great attachment to equality and diversity in their provision to ensure children who need that additional support are given it to the best extent possible. Over the years, we have seen a very significant growth in the number of units and special needs classes at different schools.”

Deputy Smith added: “I welcome the comments of the Minister for Education, Norma Foley that she, her Department, and the Minister of State, Deputy Madigan, “recognise the importance of inclusive education for all children”. She stated it is a primary objective of hers as Minister for Education “to promote and support actions that will ensure the school setting is a welcoming and inclusive environment for all”. She also stated that “providing for an appropriate school placement for every child with special educational needs in a timely and supported manner is a key priority for the Department and the National Council for Special Education”. It is very important that key priority and strategy is implemented.”

European Convention on Human Rights

In Dáil debates and at Committees I have consistently highlighted the absolute importance of the European Convention on Human Rights as outlined in Good Friday Agreement.
Below is reply by Minister for Foreign Affairs to my recent Dáil Question.

For Written Answer on : 28/06/2022
Question Number(s): 568 Question Reference(s): 34582/22
Department: Foreign Affairs
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had any recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in relation to the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights for Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


The Good Friday Agreement cites the European Convention on Human Rights as a vital safeguard that ensures the successful operation of the Agreement’s institutions and the protection of Northern Ireland’s communities.

The British Government has now published legislation to introduce a UK Bill of Rights which, if enacted, would repeal and replace the Human Rights Act. The Bill requires serious and detailed consideration now.

It is important, at this early stage, to make clear that the full incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law, with the ability to obtain remedies for breaches of the Convention in domestic courts, was a fundamental commitment under the Good Friday Agreement, which was implemented by adopting the Human Rights Act.  The incorporation of the ECHR into Northern Ireland law by way of the Human Rights Act has been essential in creating confidence in Northern Ireland’s political, policing and judicial structures over the past 24 years. It has proved to be a profoundly important safeguard.

We are very concerned at any potential diminution of human rights protection in Northern Ireland, including any restriction of the ability to obtain remedies for breaches of the Convention in domestic courts. 

Following the introduction of a ‘command paper’ last December that set out the British Government’s intention to introduce this legislation, I set out my serious concerns very clearly to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in writing. I also raised these concerns at the most recent meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in March. I and the officials in my Department will continue to do so, following close scrutiny of the Bill itself.

In this context, it is worth recalling here our real concern that the British Government has chosen to introduce legislation on the legacy of the past unilaterally, moving away from the process agreed in the Stormont House Agreement. We have profound concerns both on the substance of the ‘Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill’ and the process of its introduction, and are deeply conscious that it has been strongly opposed by victims, by the Northern Ireland parties, and by civil society groups.

We have serious questions with regard to the Bill’s compliance with international human rights obligations. In particular, we have serious doubts as to whether the Bill complies with the positive obligation on states to carry out effective investigations into unlawful deaths required by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government is firmly committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement; this includes working with the British Government to ensure that all international human rights obligations are fully respected. We will continue to communicate to the British Government our deep unease at the potential negative consequences of the UK Bill of Rights Bill for the operation of the ECHR in Northern Ireland, and the potential non-compliance of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill with the ECHR.

Funding for Childcare Sector

________

In meetings with childcare providers and their staff strong views were expressed in relation to the need to improve the core funding model.

Below is the reply by the Minister for Children to my most recent Dáil Question on this issue of great importance to the early education sector:

______________________________________
For Written Answer on : 29/06/2022
Question Number(s): 125 Question Reference(s): 34683/22
Department: Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth if contracts in relation to core funding will issue to childcare providers without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


The key conditions to be associated with Core Funding were outlined in the report of the Expert Group, Partnership for the Public Good: A New Funding Model for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare. This was published on 7th December 2021 and states that providers who sign up to Core Funding should be required to:

– Follow the fee management system – in 2022/23 this will be a requirement not to increase fees above September 2021 levels;
– Implement the quality improvement measures under the Nurturing Skills, the workforce plan for ELC and SAC;
– Implement the relevant practice frameworks;
– Develop, implement, and report on an annual quality development plan;
– Provide transparent financial reports and participate as required in cost surveys and other necessary data-collection exercises; and
– Offer the NCS and ECCE programme to all eligible children/parents, including children accessing the NCS through sponsorship arrangements. The full Funding Agreement for Core Funding was published on 28th June. The Core Funding application process will open in late July.  The Funding Agreement will be available to sign through the Early Years Hive in mid August. Payments will be made monthly in advance with the first payment in respect of September to be paid at the end of August.
The new funding model being implemented aims to transform the sector to one that is increasingly publicly funded and publicly managed, delivering a service for the public good, through a partnership between the State and providers, to the benefit of children, parents, those who work in the sector, and society overall.

This transformation starts with Core Funding and the new approach will entail a shift in the relationship between the State and providers in relation to delivering ELC and SAC, with new responsibilities on both sides. It is my ambition that the maximum number providers choose to participate in this partnership to deliver ELC and SAC for the public good and come into contract for Core Funding. Core Funding however is optional for providers.

I look forward to working together in partnership with providers to deliver ELC and SAC services for the public good.

Leaving Certificate Results

Some parents, and students who hope to study abroad, had raised with me concerns about the date this year’s Leaving Certificate results will issue.
Below is the reply by Minister for Education to my Parliamentary Question in Dáil Éireann

Question Number(s): 108 Question Reference(s): 34966/22
Department: Education
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION


To ask the Minister for Education the advice that will be provided to Leaving Certificate students who hope to study abroad when entry requirements for such colleges need to be finalised before the end of August 2022; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY


The SEC has announced that it intends to issue Leaving Certificate results this year on September 2 which is in line with the date results issued in both 2020 and 2021.

In similar fashion to the last two years, contacts with international counterparts will take place and will continue over the Summer to ensure Irish students continue to have all options available to them. However, at this stage, it is important that applicants to Institutions outside the State advise the Admissions Office of that institution of the results date. Further information can be found on www.gov.ie – Leaving Certificate 2022.

Specifically in relation to applications to UK colleges, officials from my Department have had contact with their counterparts in the UK and I understand this year’s results will allow students who are seeking places in the UK and elsewhere to meet the relevant admission requirements.

Brendan Smith: €40m for Ulster Canal restoration a major boost for local tourism

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed the announcement by Taoiseach Micheál Martin  that €40 million is being provided under his Department’s Shared Island Initiative for phase 3 of the restoration of the Ulster Canal, stating that the finished canal will be a major boost for local tourism.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “This is an extremely important and welcome decision and this part of the project will connect Castle Saunderson and Clonfad and will link by navigable waterway Clones to the Erne System and onwards to the Shannon/Erne waterway.

“Funding provided in December 2020 under the Shared Island Initiative enabled preparatory work to be undertaken and now it will be possible to undertake the following sections of the overall project: Castle Saunderson to Gortnacarrow; Gortnacarrow to the border and new canal navigation between the border at Derrynure and the border at Clonfad

“These are very substantial restoration works and moves this project on to a very exciting development stage.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “The restoration of the Ulster Canal is a major cross border project which will considerably enhance our tourism product at a local level, providing a new amenity for local residents and visitors, will generate economic activity and assist in job creation. This waterway will also be an integral part of our All Ireland navigable inland waterways network which is a powerful natural resource and such a key part of our national tourism infrastructure and attraction.

“In this area we have all seen the benefits of developing the Erne/Shannon Waterway which was an extremely forward looking project and undertaken at a very difficult time on our island in the early 1990s. Linking up these waterways will be a further welcome tourism attraction bringing benefits to many parts of our island. This funding being allocated under the Shared Island Fund, initiated by An Taoiseach, demonstrates clearly the potential of this initiative to develop cross-border and All Ireland projects for the benefit of all the people of this country. The border region will be a major beneficiary of such investment,” added Deputy Brendan Smith.

Brendan Smith: Dáil Éireann debate – Friday, 1 Jul 2022Education (Provision in Respect of Children with Special Educational Needs)

Like other speakers, I welcome this legislation. To a certain extent, it is unfortunate we need it but I must compliment the Minister and Minister of State on bringing forward legislation to enable them to put in place the structures to ensure no child is denied a place in an appropriate setting in school. I welcome the comments of the Minister of State that it is intended this legislation will work to support children with special educational needs to gain access to specialist class placements that can meet their needs. She also stated she looks forward to working with colleagues on all sides of both Houses to ensure this legislation is passed and put in place before the Dáil and Seanad terms end. It is welcome in that respect.

Having interacted over the years with the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, I welcome the recent appointment of the new chief executive, John Kearney, who I knew as chief executive of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board and who served as a school principal. I know that public representatives and Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board have worked together over the years to ensure we got those additional autism spectrum disorder, ASD, units, special classes and additional resources. Mr. Kearney has been in the classroom and has led an education and training board.

The schools under the remit of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board show a great attachment to equality and diversity in their provision to ensure children who need that additional support are given it to the best extent possible. Over the years, we have seen a very significant growth in the number of units and special needs classes at different schools.

I saw a figure recently where, since this Government has taken office, something like 1,165 additional special needs assistants have been appointed. That is a very welcome development. There are almost 20,000 special needs assistants in our education system at present, and they are necessary.

I remember my early days as a Member of this House where the big campaign for all public representatives at that time was to have special needs assistants appointed. It was a rare school that had even one. Thankfully, there have been much-needed improvements and all of us, regardless of what side of the House we sit on, endeavour to ensure every child gets that necessary support.

Only a few weeks ago we had the privilege of having the Minister, Deputy Foley, in Cootehill, County Cavan, performing the official opening of the Holy Family School there. That school was established on a voluntary basis back in the 1960s to serve the needs of Cavan and Monaghan children. One of the former distinguished Members of this House, my friend and former Dáil colleague, Dr. Rory O’Hanlon, was one of the half-dozen people who set about establishing that school and had it then put then under the remit of the Department of Education. It is now a model school in the delivery of special education and is a great source of pride to all of us who have worked along with the boards of management and with successive parents’ associations to have that new school in place. Thankfully, that school has marvellous facilities today. The Minister, in an inspirational speech that day, spoke about the need and the value of special education and what it does for children, families and communities.

Often in this House, through parliamentary questions and Topical Issue debates, I have raised the need to put those new facilities in place because we had seen a growth in the level of temporary accommodation over the years. Thankfully, we have that school in place today with the most modern and up-to-date facilities, which are good for the children and for the teachers delivering the service.

I welcome the comments of the Minister that she, her Department, and the Minister of State, Deputy Madigan, “recognise the importance of inclusive education for all children”. She stated it is a primary objective of hers as Minister for Education “to promote and support actions that will ensure the school setting is a welcoming and inclusive environment for all”. She also stated that “providing for an appropriate school placement for every child with special educational needs in a timely and supported manner is a key priority for the Department and the National Council for Special Education”. It is very important that key priority and strategy is implemented.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire referred to the shortage of therapists. Only yesterday I raised questions with the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science on the need to ensure we increase the number of places in universities and institutes of technology to train more therapists. We have all been campaigning with parents to have assessments carried out for children who need them before they can get a place in a special school or special class. I have schools in my area of Cavan-Monaghan that are looking for special classes and an autism spectrum disorder, ASD, unit.

I have one case where I have been in contact with both the Minister and the Minister of State where an early intervention class has been approved for a school but the school does not have the follow-on ASD class. Some parents who may have intended to send their child to the early intervention class may consider that, if there is no follow-on class, they are perhaps better going to the school that has both the early intervention and ASD classes. From that point of view, it is important children can attend a school as much as is possible within their local community and that siblings, where possible, attend the same school. This is a case where I met the principal, the staff, and some of the parents and it is one where we have the additional accommodation that is needed to establish the class. In such instances where a principal has a particular knowledge of special education, there are very supportive staff who want the class, and there is the extra accommodation, we should ensure such classes are approved without delay.

On the issue of DEIS schools and additional support for children, I welcome that €32 million extra has been allocated to the Department for the extension of the programme. I also welcome the inclusion of a number of schools in my constituency in the extended programme, but again, like others, I am disappointed with the appeals process. I do not know how this algorithm, which the Department and the officials quote, works. We have schools that are drawing pupils from the same community where one school in the town or parish has DEIS status and the other does not. One principal wrote to me and made the point very succinctly:

Disappointingly we have not been accepted to the DEIS scheme. We must not be regarded as having equal disadvantage as the other primary schools in the centre of town.

We have schools drawing pupils from the same catchment area but having different status. I say to the Ministers that whatever algorithm or model is used, it needs to be revised. The DEIS programme is particularly beneficial to many children and families. I sincerely hope in the context of the new census figures being available that index that is often quoted can be revised somewhat, that we have the Pobal HP deprivation index revised, and that we have a different model put in place.

I welcome today’s legislation. Like other Deputies, we all represent children who need access to special classes, and the more classes and units that are established, the better to meet the needs of those children.