Category Archives: Uncategorized

HSE must provide additional Respite Services in Co. Cavan – Brendan Smith TD

HSE briefing pic

PQ 2602118 Brendan Smith Re Respite Services, Lisdarn Unit, Cavan 27.06.2018

“In a briefing by the HSE for local public representatives on June 29 I raised the need to provide respite services in Cavan Town, Belturbet or Ballyconnell following the decision to discontinue such services in the Lisdarn Unit.

The HSE outlined their decision to reconfigure the Lisdarn Unit for transitional care for patients discharged from acute hospitals. I specifically referenced the need for the HSE to have respite care facilities in the Breffni Care Unit, Ballyconnell or in one of the private nursing homes.

The HSE undertook to revert to me in relation to the development of respite services for the Cavan Town and West of Cavan Town area of the County.

Among the many other issues discussed at that meeting were primary care, home care supports, mental health services, disability services, delays in assessment of need for children and the health capital programme for Cavan/Monaghan.

This meeting enabled us to outline again in detail the many health issues of concern to constituents” stated Brendan Smith TD.

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Annual Presentation of Certificates at Drumlin House Training Centre

pic 1 drumlinpic2 drumlin

Delighted to attend again the Annual Presentation of Certificates at Drumlin House Training Centre.

It is great to see so many trainees received their Awards and it was, as usual, a real celebratory occasion. Congratulations to all trainees, their parents, families and staff of Drumlin House.

Continued success to all associated with Drumlin House.

 

Good discussions with Italian Ambassador re Brexit, Irish/Italian relations and migration – Brendan Smith TD

Italian Ambassador

As Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence Oireachtas Committee I had further detailed discussions in relation to a number of issues with Mr Paola Serpi, Ambassador of Italy to Ireland.

The Ambassador assured me of Italy’s continued support for the Irish position in relation to Brexit and the need to ensure no return to borders of the past on this island. There are very substantial bilateral trade relations between both countries and major Italian companies have substantial enterprises here. Similarly many leading Irish companies have major business interests in Italy.

There is a great deal of mutual cultural interest between Ireland and Italy and Irish literature is studied in many Italian Universities. Approximately 32,000 Italian students come to Ireland to learn English each year. Of course our own Conor O’Shea manages the Italian Rugby Team.

We also discussed the very serious migration issues and the terrible loss of life in the Mediterranean and the need for a comprehensive European wide response.

 

 

 

Procurement process for North-South Interconnector should be stopped – Brendan Smith

Meath protest

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Communications Minister to halt all procurement related activities in relation to the proposed North-South Interconnector pending the outcome of a Supreme Court appeal here and a Court of Appeal decision in Northern Ireland.

Deputy Brendan Smith explained, “I am at a loss to understand how Minister Denis Naughten can allow the procurement works to continue while the matter is still before the courts.  The Supreme Court in Dublin and the Court of Appeal in Belfast have yet to deliver judgements on the cases before them, and I believe that until those decisions have been reached, no procurement related activities should be carried out.

“We are also still waiting for the Minister to publish the two independent reports, which examined the cost of undergrounding the project, and which were commissioned after two Fianna Fáil motions were passed in the Dáil and Seanad.

“It is clear that this Government is not willing to listen to the concerns of local communities in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath.  Fianna Fáil fully supports the undergrounding of the interconnector – it is the only safe and secure option.  Costs have fallen significantly over the past decade and there is no valid reason why Fine Gael is continuing to press forward with the pylon option”, concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.

_____________________________________________

For Written Answer on : 12/07/2018

Question Number(s): 599,612 Question Reference(s): 31858/18, 32248/18

Department: Communications, Climate Action and Environment

Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.

______________________________________________

QUESTION

[Ref No.: 31858/18] * To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if all procurement related activities in relation to the North-South Interconnector, and the Supreme Court appeal will be halted pending determination of court cases (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. in light of the recent incinerator decision in Northern Ireland and the impending Judicial Review * For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th July, 2018.

Ref No: 32248/18

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will request that all procurement related activities be halted pending determination in both cases in view of the recent incinerator decision in Northern Ireland and the impending judicial review of the North-South Interconnector and the Supreme Court appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th July, 2018.

(726 Received on 9th July, 2018.)

REPLY

I propose to take Questions Nos 599 and 612 together.

There are a number of legal issues ongoing in Ireland and Northern Ireland in relation to the North South Interconnector project. My Department was involved in a High Court appeal against the planning decision in 2017. The planning decision was upheld in the High Court and subsequently in the Court of Appeal. This is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.

The legal issues in Northern Ireland are ultimately a matter for the authorities there. The judgement made by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland on 6 July relates to a different project, although it has been acknowledged that it could have wider implications for decision making in Northern Ireland. It is to be expected that the judgement will be studied over the coming weeks by authorities on both sides of the border for any implications for the North South Interconnector project.

I respect the process of the courts system in both Ireland and Northern Ireland and it is important to let these processes reach their appropriate conclusions.

The Interconnector, as proposed as an overhead line, has full planning permission in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The construction of the project, and all related procurement activities, is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks and one in which I have no function.

 

Government needs to listen to concerns of local communities in Cavan/Monaghan/Meath

Below is a reply by Minister Naughten to the most recent parliamentary questions I tabled in Dáil Eireann regarding the proposed North/South Interconnector

Meath protest

For Written Answer on : 12/07/2018
Question Number(s)599,612 Question Reference(s): 31858/18, 32248/18
Department: Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________
QUESTION

[Ref No.: 31858/18]

* To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if all procurement related activities in relation to the North-South Interconnector, and the Supreme Court appeal will be halted pending determination of court cases (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.

in light of the recent incinerator decision in Northern Ireland and the impending Judicial Review

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th July, 2018.

Ref No:  32248/18

To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will request that all procurement related activities be halted pending determination in both cases in view of the recent incinerator decision in Northern Ireland and the impending judicial review of the North-South Interconnector and the Supreme Court appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th July, 2018.

(726 Received on 9th July, 2018.)

REPLY

I propose to take Questions Nos 599 and 612 together.There are a number of legal issues ongoing in Ireland and Northern Ireland in relation to the North South Interconnector project. My Department was involved in a High Court appeal against the planning decision in 2017. The planning decision was upheld in the High Court and subsequently in the Court of Appeal. This is now being appealed to the Supreme Court.

The legal issues in Northern Ireland are ultimately a matter for the authorities there. The judgement made by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland on 6 July relates to a different project, although it has been acknowledged that it could have wider implications for decision making in Northern Ireland. It is to be expected that the judgement will be studied over the coming weeks by authorities on both sides of the border for any implications for the North South Interconnector project.

I respect the process of the courts system in both Ireland and Northern Ireland and it is important to let these processes reach their appropriate conclusions.

The need to have Bawnboy Garda Station reopen

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this matter for discussion and I am pleased that the Minister for Justice and Equality is here to respond. I declare my interest in this subject as Bawnboy is my home village. I do not live there any more but that was where I was born and reared and I still have strong family connections there. In 2013 Bawnboy Garda station was one of a number of small rural stations closed in Cavan-Monaghan and throughout the country. Over the years, the members of An Garda Síochána assigned to the Bawnboy station gave a great policing service to the local community. There was, and still is, a great community spirit in that area and the work of the Garda was always very strongly supported by the local community.

As the Minister is aware, that area is part of the Border region. If one goes west of Belturbet and Ballyconnell to Bawnboy, Corlough, Swanlinbar, Glangevlin, Dowra and Blacklion, it is a large rural area all along the Border. As we know and as we discussed in this House previously, there are particular policing demands on An Garda Síochána in the Border area. I was pleased that the Minister some time ago announced that six Garda stations would reopen as a result of the commitment given in the programme for Government. Bawnboy Garda station is in good order and is a relatively new building and I am anxious that it should be reopened and Garda personnel assigned to it at an early date.

One of the most striking comments I heard came from the last Garda who served in Bawnboy station, Garda Imelda Gallagher. She stated at her retirement function that she regretted the closure of small rural Garda stations. One sentence she uttered that night has stuck with me. She said that she got to know the local people and the people got to know the local garda on the ground. No means of communications can ever equal that knowledge between An Garda Síochána and the members of the public. I implore the Minister to ask the Garda authorities to have this station reopened as soon as possible.

He is well aware, and we discussed this previously in this House, of the anxieties and concerns in Border communities in respect of crime levels. We know that not all of the criminality emanates from outside of our jurisdiction and plenty of it is from people residing here. The added dimension to criminality in the Border area, however, is that some of the culprits, criminals and thugs can get away very quickly out of our jurisdiction when they commit a crime along that corridor, as they can elsewhere along the Border as well. I emphasise again the particular additional policing demands on the Garda in the Border region. We need the station reopened in Bawnboy and we need gardaí assigned to it as soon as possible. I hope the Minster will convey to the Garda Commissioner and the senior management of An Garda Síochána the need for this station to be reopened quickly. From a layperson’s point of view, the Garda station is modern, in good condition and it would cost very little to have it reopened.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan)

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. He has raised it with me on a number of occasions. The Deputy will appreciate that the programme of replacement and refurbishment of Garda accommodation is progressed by the Garda authorities working in close cooperation with the Office of Public Works, OPW. The OPW has the responsibility for the provision and maintenance of Garda accommodation. This includes identifying and progressing any necessary remedial or refurbishment works required at individual stations. As Minister, I do not have a direct role in these matters. The Programme for a Partnership Government, however, commits to a pilot scheme to reopen six Garda stations, both urban and rural, to determine possible positive impacts that such openings will have on criminal activity, with special emphasis on burglaries, theft and public order.

The Garda Commissioner’s final report, which is available on the Department of Justice and Equality’s website, recommends that Bawnboy Garda station be reopened, along with stations in Ballinspittle, County Cork, Donard, County Wicklow, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Rush in north County Dublin and Stepaside in south County Dublin. I am informed by the Garda authorities that a brief of requirements was provided to the OPW in respect of the reopening of these stations, including Bawnboy Garda station.

The Garda authorities requested the OPW to undertake technical surveys to determine the works required to enable the stations to reopen and the estimated costings involved. I am further informed that this key stage is complete. The OPW has conducted the necessary technical surveys of all stations involved and has written to the Commissioner advising him of the works involved accordingly. I understand that based on those reports, An Garda Síochána and the OPW continue to liaise closely to progress the pilot reopening.

I understand that at this stage it is not possible to provide a detailed timeframe for reopening of the station concerned, which is dependent on a number of factors, including, for example, the extent of the required refurbishment, based on current building regulations. There are also agreed standards and specifications for Garda cell areas and custody suites which would have to be incorporated into the refurbishment. The works required vary across the stations, including at Bawnboy. After the specification has been agreed, the works will commence once the appropriate procurement process has been finalised. I assure the Deputy that the OPW and An Garda Síochána continue to work closely to progress the pilot project. My officials are engaging with them on an ongoing basis, and I am keen that this issue is resolved at the earliest opportunity, having regard to the strong representations made to me by the Deputy.

Deputy Brendan Smith

I thank the Minister for his reply, and I want to put on record my appreciation of the fact that he facilitated me with a meeting to discuss this matter some time ago. It would be a great message for rural communities if a Garda station was to open up again in a small village. There has been a serious increase in crime levels and criminality in rural areas, including that part of west Cavan and, therefore, a message from the Minister that a Garda station will open shortly would be positive and would be well received.

I did not think, after 1998, that I would be talking about Border crossings in this House again, but unfortunately it is very much a part of the political narrative again, with Brexit on the way. In the west Cavan area there are a huge number of Border crossings. We know the implications of Brexit and the difficulties that may arise for communities on both sides of the Border. Gardaí with local knowledge will be important to ensure that the best service continues to be provided to the public. I again ask the Minister to ask that the Garda authorities to speed up the reopening of this station. I appreciate his assistance to date in this matter.

Deputy Charles Flanagan

The Deputy is correct about policing the Border area. I look forward to ensuring that progress on the Garda workforce is reported on a regular basis. The stated aim of the Government is to ensure that we have 21,000 Garda personnel by 2021, and we are moving progressively towards that objective. In terms of numbers in the Border area, Bawnboy Garda station will be reopened on a pilot basis. The timeframe for the reopening of Bawnboy, as with the other five stations, is dependent on a number of factors, but I am keen to ensure these factors are dealt with efficiently and speedily. I confirm to the Deputy that there has been considerable progress in the assessment and agreement on the building works required in respect of Bawnboy. I am not at this stage able to provide a definitive timeframe, but I am happy to keep him informed over the summer months while the House is not sitting. I can confirm that the detailed work on this issue is very much ongoing. The OPW has completed the technical surveys based on the briefing requirements of An Garda Síochána, which is an important step. It has written to the Garda Commissioner outlining the works involved, and based on those reports, the Garda and the OPW are working steadily to ensure the reopening of the stations can take place as soon as possible.

Need to restore Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland – Brendan Smith T.D.

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There was violence again in recent nights in Derry and Belfast. It is most regrettable that a small minority is still involved in thuggery and violence. It is sectarian violence and it must be stopped. Like previous speakers, I welcome the fact that the six political parties represented in Stormont signed a strong agreement denouncing that violence. It is good that there is cross-community opposition to this thuggery and violence.

In the second half of 2018 – 20 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement – the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland are not functioning. It is most regrettable that at a time when there are huge political issues such as housing, welfare and health, as there are here, those day-to-day issues are not being dealt with because there is no executive in Northern Ireland, nor is there an assembly where the people’s voice can be heard. I welcome that the Intergovernmental Conference is being convened before the end of the month. It is an important aspect of strand three of the Good Friday Agreement. The convening of the conference is belated but welcome.

I tabled parliamentary questions to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier this week regarding some of the issues that might be raised at the Intergovernmental Conference and I am glad that the legacy issues are part of the business of the conference. Progress must be made on the legacy issues. The Stormont House Agreement has to be implemented. Some of us have taken the time to meet the victims of violence from both traditions. Many of the victims and their families have been waiting for justice and hoping that at least the truth will be found about the murder, mayhem and the taking of life by paramilitaries, as well as by some state forces. However, as time goes by memories fade as people get older. Unfortunately, people who lost family members and never got the truth about it are passing away. I appeal to the Tánaiste to ensure that this forms a central part of the negotiations with the British Government. It should be part of the Department’s daily work. I am glad the Tánaiste referred to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 and the fact that the British Government has ignored the unanimous request of this House on three different occasions. The least the British Government can do is give access to those papers and files to an international eminent independent legal person.

On Brexit, I was discussing Border policing with the Minister for Justice and Equality earlier. I told him that, after 1998, I did not think I would be back in the House talking about Border crossings. Unfortunately, that is a big part of the political narrative in the two counties I represent and along the central Border area. Deputy Breathnach referred to work done by ICBAN. Dr. Katy Hayward of Queen’s University Belfast carried out further survey work on behalf of ICBAN in regard to people’s awareness of and concern about Brexit. Some of the findings are quite stark with regard to the concerns about the negative aspects of Brexit already. Almost 600 people from the Border area took part in the study. Three quarters of them stated that Brexit has already impacted negatively on their daily lives, in terms of their living standards, their planning for education and planning to access services across the Border. Brexit is a huge issue and we must ensure there is no return to the Border of the past on our island. The uncertainty since the British referendum is causing economic hardship.

It is having a negative economic impact on the Border region. The Tánaiste will be aware from his time as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the interdependence of the economy North and South. Thankfully, over the past 20 years there has been huge growth in business on an all-Ireland basis but these are the businesses that will be most impacted, unfortunately, by Brexit.