FF commit to reducing waiting times and increasing bed capacity in health service

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Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has said his party will tackle soaring Emergency Department waiting times.

Deputy Smith said, “Under Fine Gael and Minister Harris there is a mounting crisis in bed capacity and wait times in Emergency Departments across the country. Unfortunately, in Cavan-Monaghan we are not immune from this nationwide problem.

“In Cavan General Hospital we are in need of an upgrade to our Emergency Department. It has seen a significant increase in visitors, with the number of visits to our Emergency Department increase by 3,158 in 2018 compared with 2012.

“Fianna Fáil have been clear. We will increase bed capacity in our hospitals, including Cavan General Hospital, to reduce Emergency Department waiting times to a target waiting time of four hours.  

“We will ensure there is an emergency medicine consultant present in Emergency Departments on a 24-hour basis. We aim to improve access to diagnostics for Emergency Departments and GPs with a new minor capital grant fund of €50m.

 “All the while we will lift the recruitment embargo Fine Gael have implemented to ensure vital roles are filled in our hospitals.

“It is clear under Fine Gael their health policy has failed. It is time for change,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Escalation of crime is a stark reminder that a new approach is needed

Under Garda1.pngFine Gael we have seen criminal activity rise to drastic levels. Last week we all read of the tragic and violent murders, lives thrown into disarray and families mourning loved ones.

In our neighbouring area of Drogheda we now know a teenager from the locality was violently murdered in a feuding gangland attack. This was a horrific incident which has no place in our communities. There is a real fear across communities as the nature of these murders ramps up.

In the border region, we have our own unique policing needs because of a long land-border with a neighbouring jurisdiction but Fine Gael do not get this. I introduced a Bill which would establish a Cross Border Crime Agency. This was introduced in the absence of any real political leadership from the outgoing government.

Gardaí can only do so much with the resources made available to them. The Force needs to stand at 16,000 Gardaí nationally. Gardaí must be resourced to operate 24-hour around the clock surveillance of the gang leaders that are controlling the sale and supply of drugs in our communities. They know who they are – they just need the resources to tackle them effectively.

Communities are being destroyed and families being left devastated by this epidemic. A new approach is needed as the Fine Gael approach to law and order has only allowed criminal activity to surge.

Minister shows his ambivalence to school secretaries – Smith

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Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, says that striking school secretaries are rightly incensed at the ambivalence shown to them by Education Minister Joe McHugh.

Deputy Smith joined with school secretaries on Friday to support their one-day strike to highlight their campaign for proper pay and conditions.

“The Minister needs to listen to striking school secretaries. From joining the picket line on Friday with school secretaries locally it’s abundantly clear that the Minister for Education isn’t listening to them.

“The ask is clear and totally reasonable – school secretaries want equal pay for equal work. At the moment, two people doing the same job, to the same quality, in the same workplace in County Cavan and County Monaghan, earn vastly different amounts.

“With work to rule action commencing this morning, schools are going to be under huge pressure. The day-to-day running of schools is coordinated by the school secretaries. They are expected to take on huge responsibilities, from assisting principals with complex administration and pay-roll, to organising fundraising for school events and assisting in student welfare.

“I have repeatedly raised in the Dáil the need for fairness and equality for our school secretaries.

“The Minister has recognised the problem, he has acknowledged the solution, it’s time for him to deliver it,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Decline in SUSI payments will limit access to education for many – Smith

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Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, says the Minister for Education needs to explain why the number of students receiving SUSI grants is declining, while the number of students attending third level institutions is increasing.

 Deputy Smith commented, “It seems illogical to me given that the number of students attending third level education has been rising steadily and will continue to rise further in the years ahead that SUSI grants paid out are decreasing.

 “Under this government underfunding on schemes in certain sectors has become the norm. This is unacceptable and must not be allowed to creep into the education sector too.

 “Many families find themselves just over the qualifying threshold. However, being just over the limit does in no way mean families can afford the fees universities expect without SUSI assistance. Rents are spiralling, the cost of living is increasing, and insurance costs are driving young people off the road.

 “€29 million has been wiped off government spending. This is not good enough and abandons thousands of students and their families across the country.

 “Fairness should be brought to the application process. Efforts should be made to ensure those from less well-off backgrounds have the same level of access to education. Sadly, every cent of that €29 million is no longer available for students who need it,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Still no action by Housing Minister on totally unrealistic income eligibility limits for social housing – Brendan Smith TD

–  Councils need to get adequate funding to upgrade vacant Council houses

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Many individuals and families continue to face serious housing difficulties due to lack of affordable housing and Council houses.

I have constantly raised with the Minister for Housing in Dáil Éireann the need to increase income eligibility limits for social housing.  At present these unrealistic limits deny people on limited incomes the chance to get Council housing.  At the same time these families have no chance of getting a house mortgage and they are still deprived of the opportunity of even going on to the Council housing list.

Despite repeated promises by successive Housing Ministers to review and increase the income limits nothing has happened.

It is very frustrating to see Council housing stock vacant which is in need of upgrading and again the Minister for Housing is not providing adequate funding to local authorities to ensure that vacant houses can be upgraded and allocated to tenants.  By providing a proper level of funding to the Councils in a timely manner these houses could be upgraded without undue delays and provide new homes for many applicants on long waiting lists and in many instances living in poor accommodation.

Below replies by the Minister to Parliamentary Questions I tabled in Dáil Éireann –

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 03/12/2019 21:25:11
Question Number(s): 633 Question Reference(s): 50180/19
Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if additional funding will be provided for the housing voids programme in 2020; if he will reduce the local contribution demand on local authorities to source such funding in view of the constrained financial circumstances for many local authorities; his plans to ensure that adequate funding is provided to local authorities to ensure that vacant council houses are brought back to habitable standards with the minimum delay in view of the demand for social housing and long waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The management and maintenance of local authority housing stock, including pre-letting repairs to vacant properties, the implementation of a planned maintenance programme and carrying out of responsive repairs, are matters for each individual local authority under the Housing Acts.

Exchequer funding is also provided through my Department’s Voids Programme to support local authorities in preparing vacant units for re-letting. This funding is to ensure that vacant units are actively targeted, with minimal turnaround and re-let time and to allow insulation retrofitting to be undertaken.

My Department will continue to support local authorities in their work in this area and, for example, in 2019 some €27.3 million has already been approved for the Voids Programme.  However, there is a commitment under Rebuilding Ireland that local authorities will introduce a preventative maintenance approach to the management of their housing stock and it is logical that this will be significantly funded by the rental income from that same housing stock.  My Department is in discussions on this with the City & County Management Association on behalf of the local authorities. In line with their statutory responsibilities, it is important that all local authorities, including elected Councillors, make appropriate funding provision for such work to their housing stock using their rental income which, alongside Voids Programme funding, will ensure quick re-letting of vacated housing and the adequate maintenance of all local authority housing stock.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 03/12/2019
Question Number(s): 631,632 Question Reference(s): 50178/19, 50179/19
Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

* To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government the timeline for the completion and publication of the review of income eligibility limits for social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 3 December, 2019.

* To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to increase substantially the income eligibility limits for social housing in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan in which the present limits are much too low and are denying persons and families the opportunity to apply for social housing (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 3 December, 2019.

REPLY

Applications for social housing support are assessed by the relevant local authority, in accordance with the eligibility and need criteria set down in section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and the associated Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011, as amended.

The 2011 Regulations prescribe maximum net income limits for each local authority, in different bands according to the area concerned, with income being defined and assessed according to a standard Household Means Policy. Under the Household Means Policy, which applies in all local authorities, net income for social housing assessment is defined as gross household income less income tax, PRSI and the universal social charge. The Policy provides for a range of income disregards, and local authorities also have discretion to decide to disregard income that is temporary, short-term or once off in nature.

The income bands and the authority area assigned to each band were based on an assessment of the income needed to provide for a household’s basic needs, plus a comparative analysis of the local rental cost of housing accommodation across the country. It is important to note that the limits introduced at that time also reflected a blanket increase of €5,000 introduced prior to the new system coming into operation, in order to broaden the base from which social housing tenants are drawn, both promoting sustainable communities and also providing a degree of future-proofing.

Given the cost to the State of providing social housing, it is considered prudent and fair to direct resources to those most in need of social housing support. The current income eligibility requirements generally achieve this, providing for a fair and equitable system of identifying those households facing the greatest challenge in meeting their accommodation needs from their own resources.

However, as part of the broader social housing reform agenda, a review of income eligibility for social housing supports in each local authority area is under way. The review will also have regard to current initiatives being brought forward in terms of affordability and cost rental and will be completed when the impacts of these parallel initiatives have been considered.

The Government has introduced a number of affordability measures to support people who wish to purchase their own homes. In particular, following a review of the previous two existing local authority home loan schemes, the House Purchase Loan and the Home Choice Loan, a new loan offering, known as the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, was introduced with effect from 1 February 2018. The loan enables credit worthy first time buyers to access sustainable mortgage lending to purchase new or second-hand properties in a suitable price range.  The low rate of fixed interest associated with the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides first time buyers  with access to mortgage finance that they may not have otherwise been able to afford at a higher interest rate.

As with previous local authority house purchase loan finance, the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available to first time buyers only. This is to ensure the effective targeting of limited resources.

 

OPW committed to Flood Relief Scheme for Cavan Town – Brendan Smith TD

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Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has been informed by the OPW that they have included a Flood Relief Scheme for Cavan Town in the initial phase of the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Programme which is the largest ever flood risk study carried out in this State.

Minister Moran in his reply to Deputy Brendan Smith in Dáil Éireann stated that Cavan County Council will act as lead agency on the management and delivery of the proposed flood relief scheme in Cavan Town, valued at €4.44 m.

“A project steering group has been set up comprising of members from Cavan County Council and from OPW administrative engineering and regional divisions. The OPW has also approved funding for Cavan County Council to recruit additional staff to work exclusively on progressing the flood relief scheme in County Cavan and will form part of the steering group once appointed.

OPW has set up frameworks of consultants, which Cavan County Council can also use to progress the design of the project, which will help to speed up the process to construction. Once consultants are appointed to progress the scheme, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies as well as the public will take place at the appropriate stages to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to input into the development of the scheme.

The next task for the steering group is to initiate the procurement of engineering design consultants and environmental consultants from the framework for such consultants, established by the OPW. It is expected that consultants will be appointed by the end Q1 2020”, stated Minister Moran in his reply to Deputy Brendan Smith’s Parliamentary Question.

Deputy Brendan Smith stated that this is a welcome and much needed development for Cavan Town and its environs as there has been a substantial number of flooding incidents in the town and on the Dublin Road in recent years. He added that it is essential that these projects are advanced to construction stage as soon as possible in view of the problems arising from increased rainfall and flooding.

PQ reply flooding

Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence offers deepest sympathies to Australian Ambassador on devastating impact of bush fires and condolences on loss of life

 

HOUSES OF THE OIREACHTAS
MEDIA RELEASE
Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence offers deepest sympathies to Australian Ambassador on devastating impact of bush fires and condolences on loss of life
8 January 2020

The Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence, Brendan Smith TD, has written to the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Mr Richard Andrews, to express deepest sympathies on the loss of life in the bush fires in Australia.

On behalf of the Joint Committee, Deputy Smith expressed the sadness and great concern felt here at the continuation of the bush fires and the devastating impact they are having across many communities in Australia.

Deputy Smith said: “We commend the work of your emergency services and particularly those members of the fire service who continue to battle so bravely to save people and communities. We send our deepest condolences to families and friends of those who have tragically lost their lives. The thoughts and prayers of the Members of the Joint Committee and the people of Ireland are with the people of Australia at this most difficult time.”
ENDS

€600,000 for Virginia Bypass planning – Brendan Smith TD

 

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Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has received confirmation from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that they have allocated €600,000 to Cavan County Council for 2020 for further pre-appraisal and early planning work on the proposed Virginia Bypass.

Deputy Brendan Smith in Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Transport outlined the need to progress as urgently as possible the provision of a much needed Bypass in Virginia and he called for substantial funding to be allocated. 

Transport Infrastructure Ireland in their reply to Brendan Smith stated –

“The proposed N3 Virginia Bypass is included in the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027 amongst a number of major national road schemes that were identified for progression through pre-appraisal and early planning during 2018. In this regard, the Project Pre-Appraisal for the scheme has been approved and Cavan County Council, which is the road authority for the area, has appointed technical advisory services to advance planning and design work on the scheme.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland has provided an allocation of €600,000 to Cavan County Council in 2020 to enable this work to progress” concluded Transport Infrastructure Ireland in their reply to Deputy Brendan Smith.

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Construction of Killeshandra Primary Care Centre to start in early 2020 – Brendan Smith TD

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Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has been informed by the HSE that construction of the new Primary Care Centre in Killeshandra is due to commence in the first quarter of 2020.

Deputy Brendan Smith stated that he had just received this confirmation from Senior HSE Officials after he had raised this matter again through written representations and at meetings.  He added that it is essential to have modern and up to date primary care facilities in Killeshandra which enhances the delivery of more health services at a local level.

30th December 2019

Delays in rolling out broadband continue – Smith

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There have been unacceptable delays in rolling out broadband infrastructure throughout the country.  People in their homes, at places of work and in community settings need to have proper telecommunications infrastructure.  It is obvious that it will be many years before such standards of communications are available to many communities particularly in rural Ireland.

This is not acceptable and the utmost urgency must be attached to the provision of modern and up to date telecommunications infrastructure for all areas regardless of their location.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 12/12/2019
Question Number(s): 304 Question Reference(s): 52370/19
Department: Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

[Ref No.: 52370/19]

*  To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the areas in counties Cavan and Monaghan that will benefit from the extension of broadband infrastructure in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2019.

(690  Received on 9th December, 2019.)

REPLY
The National Broadband Plan is the Government’s plan to rollout high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises including almost 100,000 businesses and farms, along with 695 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.

Following the contract signing on 19 November, work has already begun and a deployment plan will be made available by NBI shortly. All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

By the end of 2021, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises, with 70,000 – 100,000 passed each year thereafter until rollout is completed. NBI has indicated that the network rollout will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

The planned rollout will provide access to high speed broadband to 16,200 premises and 15,125 premises located in the Intervention Area in Cavan and Monaghan, respectively, through a combined investment of approximately €125m over 25 years.

Approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs), including schools, library hubs and local sports halls in every county in Ireland, including counties Cavan and Monaghan, will be connected to high speed broadband during 2020, to enable communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband. 11 BCPs are planned for deployment in Cavan and 12 for Monaghan. The BCP locations are available to view on the High Speed Broadband Map on the Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.

The BCPs have been specifically selected by the local authorities so that they can provide public Wi-Fi and other facilities to support mini digital/enterprise hubs to the local community in advance of the main NBP deployment. Broadband Officers in each Local Authority were tasked with consulting with local communities and business to find the appropriate mix of locations to reap the maximum benefits.

All BCPs will have a free public Wi-Fi connection, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised. The 23 BCPs planned for deployment in Cavan-Monaghan are:

Cavan

  • Bunnoe Community Centre, Bunnoe, Lisboduff, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, H16P031
    · Castlerahan Hall, Cormeen, Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan, A82NP99
    · Cornafean Community Centre, Corr, Cornafean, Co. Cavan, H12X8X0
    · Drumavaddy Community Centre, Drumavaddy, Carrickaboy, Co. Cavan, H12YF88
    · Killenkere GAA Club, Killenkere Leisure Centre, Beagh, Virginia, Co. Cavan, A82H9F6
    · Knocknalosset Orange Order Hall, Knocknalosset, Canningstown, Co. Cavan, H16XY10
    · Maudabawn Cultural Centre, Maudabawn, Cootehill, Co. Cavan, H16FH33
    · Mullahoran Community Centre, Grousehall, Loughduff, Co. Cavan, H12AF43
    · Saint Patrick’s Community Centre, Mully Upper, Glangevlin, Co. Cavan, N41Y661
    · Scouting Ireland, Castle Saunderson International Scouting Centre, Castlesaunderson, Belturbet, Co. Cavan, H14X650
    · Templeport Community Centre, Cloneary, Bawnboy, Co. Cavan, H14YX29

Monaghan

  • Ballybay Development Association, Clones Road, Derryvalley, Ballybay, Co. Monaghan, A75HF78
    · Carn Resource Centre, Carn, Smithborough, Co. Monaghan, H18YW40
    · Tanagh Outdoor Education & Training Centre, Dartrey, Cootehill, Co. Monaghan, H16HC83
    · Corcaghan Community Centre, Corcaghan, Stranooden, Co. Monaghan, H18PK31
    · Corduff Gaels G.F.C., Corduff, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, A81KA61
    · Drum School, Cortober, Drum, Co. Monaghan, H16AK79
    · Drumgossatt National School, Drumgossatt, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, A81X827
    · Drumhawan Community Centre, Drumhawan, Tullynahinnera, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, A75YV81
    · Latton Resource Centre, Latton, Co. Monaghan, A75E771
    · Mullyash Community Centre, Camaghty, Mullyash, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, A75W923
    · Saint Alphonsus Community Hall, Clontask, Drummully, Clones, Co. Monaghan, H23XV08
    · Tullycorbet Parish Hall, Patrician Hall, Corvoy, Ballybay, Co. Monaghan, A75YW53