Better supports needed for Parkinson’s patients – Brendan Smith


Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has appealed to the Health Minister to provide the necessary resources to ensure that the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland can carry out its important work.

Deputy Smith has called on the Minister to allocate a national funding stream to the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland to enable them to provide services to patients and families right across the country.

“The local branches of the Parkinson’s Association do extremely important work in assisting people with Parkinson’s.  If this funding was scaled up to a national level it would allow the Association to expand its range of services”, explained Deputy Smith.

“The Association is currently campaigning for funding for a nationwide Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist as well as an increase in funding for neurological services.  Currently patients are expected to travel abroad for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery – this is simply unacceptable and is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Minister.

“I was very disappointed that Minister Harris failed to answer my Parliamentary Question, claiming that as it was a “service issue” it should be directed to the HSE.  The Minister needs to stop passing the buck – at the end of the day he is responsible for the running of the health service – and he needs to start stepping up to the mark.

“There are more than 8,000 people in Ireland that are living with Parkinson’s disease.  They deserve to be treated in their own country and to have access to the services they need.  I am calling on Minister Harris to allocate the necessary funds to secure the additional services that are required”.

For Written Answer on : 20/03/2018

Question Number(s): 533 Question Reference(s): 12334/18

Department: Health



To ask the Minister for Health if funding will be provided to assist the work of an association (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) The need to provide funding for the Parkinsons Association of Ireland – BRENDAN SMITH TD


The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy’s question relates to a service issue, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.



Unacceptable delays in assessments for children – Brendan Smith


Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has described as “totally unacceptable” the fact that 128 children across the two counties are waiting for a first assessment from the HSE under the Disability Act 2005.

He also expressed concern at the high numbers waiting in Cavan and Monaghan, compared to neighbouring counties – in fact over 70% of children waiting in the HSE North West Region, which includes Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim, were in the two counties.

Deputy Smith commented, “I am extremely worried about the high number of children with disabilities being forced to wait for a first assessment with the HSE.  We are all too aware of the importance of early intervention and here we have a situation where there are 128 children waiting for a first assessment.

“The latest figures from the HSE reveal that there are 178 children waiting across its North West region – that fact that 128 of these are in Cavan and Monaghan raises serious questions about delays in assessments across the two counties.

“The 2005 Disability Act provides for an assessment for any child born on or after 1st June 2002, who is suspected of having a disability.  They have a right to an assessment of their health and education needs, an assessment report; and a statement of the services they will receive.  They are also entitled to make a complaint if they are not happy with any element of the process.

“The number of children waiting for an assessment is completely unacceptable.  I have repeatedly called on the Minister for Disabilities to allocate the necessary resources to ensure that our local disability services can cater for the demand that is being placed on them.  Assessment must be made a priority – any delays result in children not receiving the services they need at the appropriate time – and this must be urgently addressed”, concluded Deputy Smith.


Brexit could see return of mobile phone roaming charges – Brendan Smith

– British decision to leave Single Market may see roaming charges reintroduced –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith is warning that mobile phone users in Ireland could see the return of roaming charges as a result of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.  He made the stark comments following a speech by the British Prime Minister where she indicated that mobile roaming charges and geo-blocking could be part of the post Brexit reality.

“Roaming charges had long been an issue for people living in border counties.  Many people who regularly travelled north and south were hit with high phone bills as a result of the excess charges and it took years of negotiations before the EU finally brokered a deal with telecoms companies to end these extraordinarily high tariffs”, explained Deputy Smith.

“Thanks to the tenacity of the EU, which was on the side of consumers, people living in the European Union can travel to other EU countries and not face additional call and data charges.

“This is a particularly important issue for people in Cavan and Monaghan as many people cross the border into Northern Ireland on a daily basis – for work, for education, medical appointments or to visit friends or family.  The reintroduction of roaming costs would be an extremely regressive step.

“I have called on the Communications Minister to engage immediately with the European Union and the British Government to ensure that specific measures are put in place to prevent the return of these  prohibitive costs”, concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.


Local Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has again called on the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to improve the criteria for the Tenant Purchase Scheme.

Deputy Smith reiterated that it is unfair that an individual or family who are dependent on a Social Welfare payment, such as pensioners, are deprived of the opportunity to purchase their Council home under the Tenant Purchase Scheme.

“In many instances pensioners on their own or with the assistance of family members are in a position to buy their Council house. The Minister must change the criteria to eliminate this anomaly.

Many families living in a Council-owned property, maybe for decades, are anxious to purchase the house to retain in family ownership.

Through Parliamentary Questions I urged successive Housing Ministers to review the Scheme and I am glad that this review is now complete. I urge the Minister to publish the outcome of that review at an early date.  An amended Scheme must not exclude persons such as pensioners or other social welfare recipients from availing of the benefits of this Scheme” stated Brendan Smith TD.


For Oral Answer on : 27/02/2018

Question Number(s): 46,63 Question Reference(s): 9716/18, 9717/18

Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government



* To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to enable persons avail of the tenant purchase scheme that may not have a weekly income apart from a social welfare payment but are in a position from their own means or through family financial support to purchase their council family home; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the criteria of the scheme is denying such families the opportunity to retain their homes in family ownership; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.


For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 27 February, 2018.

* To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to improve the criteria for the tenant purchase scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith T.D.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 27 February, 2018.


 The Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme came into operation on 1 January 2016.  The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The minimum reckonable income for eligibility under the scheme is determined by the relevant local authority in accordance with the detailed provisions of the Ministerial Direction issued under Sections 24(3) and (4) of the 2014 Act. In the determination of the minimum reckonable income, local authorities can include income from a number of different sources and classes, such as from employment, private pensions, maintenance payments and certain social welfare payments, including pensions, where the social welfare payment is secondary to employment income.


The minimum income criterion was introduced in order to ensuring the sustainability of the scheme.  Applicants must demonstrate that they have an income that is long-term and sustainable in nature. This ensures that the tenant purchasing the house is in a financial position, as the owner, to maintain and insure the property for the duration of the charged period, in compliance with the conditions of the order transferring the ownership of, and responsibility for, the house from the local authority to the tenant.

In line with the commitment given in Rebuilding Ireland, a review of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase Scheme’s operation, including the income eligibility criteria referred to by the Deputy,  has been undertaken. The review has incorporated analysis of comprehensive data received from local authorities regarding the operation of the scheme during 2016 and a wide-ranging public consultation process which took place in 2017 and saw submissions received from individuals, elected representatives and organisations.

The review is now complete and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations including one relating to the issue of the minimum reckonable income criterion which the Deputy has referred to. In finalising the report some further inter-Departmental consultation was necessary and due consideration had to be given to possible implementation arrangements. These matters are now almost completed and I expect to be in a position to publish the outcome of the review shortly.



Launch of Review of Irish Aid Programme – Brendan Smith TD


Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Report Launch: ‘Review of Irish Aid Programme’

Introductory Remarks by Chair


    • Good Morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome you all and thank you for coming to the launch of this important report.
    • I am particularly pleased that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciarán Cannon, TD, has been able to join us here today. I will call on him to make some brief remarks shortly.
    • I also wish to acknowledge the presence of the many stakeholders who made important contributions to this report.
    • Before proceeding I wish to notify Members that privilege does not extend to the AV Room.
    • At the outset I wish to refer to the overwhelmingly positive assessment of the Irish Aid programme which was made by the vast majority of stakeholders consulted as part of this review. The high quality of the programme and its strong focus on poverty reduction was emphasised time and again. Ireland has a good story to tell.
    • Indeed I had the opportunity to witness this at first hand, when I and two other Committee members visited Malawi and northern Mozambique last November. The visit highlighted the life-changing impact Irish taxpayers’ money is having on some of the poorest people in the world. It demonstrated to me that results are being achieved through the implementation of a broad range of programmes, working hand in hand in a spirit of partnership with local communities and authorities.
    • Deputy O’Sullivan will refer to our visit in further detail.
    • But the visit also highlighted to me the extent of need that continues to exist and the obligation we all have, at national, European and international level to respond to that need.
    • The challenge for the Government now is to identify how to protect and build upon the high quality of the aid programme, at a time when global challenges are intensifying in areas such as climate change, in rising inequalities and population growth, in growing migration flows throughout the world, in politically isolationist trends in the west, and not least in humanitarian crises.
    • I would like to take this opportunity to state on behalf of the Committee our utmost outrage at the latest news from Syria. To echo the blank statement issued by UNICEF on Tuesday, there are just no words.
    • So there can be no doubt as to the scale of need that exists. The Government’s response, through the Irish Aid programme, and indeed through our broader foreign policy, must address that need as comprehensively as possible, taking into account current challenges and the changed global context.
    • The Irish people are known for their empathy and generosity. The aid programme in Ireland has consistently been supported by citizens. I was heartened by the results of a poll last year which showed that 80% of those surveyed believe we should increase our support to efforts to eradicate poverty.
  • Yet in our detailed discussions with stakeholders and in the many written submissions we received as part of this review, it became clear that much more remains to be done.


    • We must match our REPUTATION with RESOURCES; we must match our AMBITION with ACTION.
    • This report contains a number of recommendations to address those issues. I will refer to a few of these:
    • To begin with the Irish Aid programme must be clearly framed in the context of the ground breaking Sustainable Development Goals.
    • We are proud that those Goals were brokered by Ireland but now we must focus on implementation and ensure that Ireland continues to be at the forefront at both national and international levels. This must be a whole of Government endeavour.
    • Ireland’s policies across a wide range of sectors can potentially have an effect on developing countries and can consequently make our aid less impactful. This is an issue in the area of trade, environment and climate, agriculture, education, immigration and tax policy among others.
    • The OECD noted in 2014 that Ireland needed to address such issues and develop a more coherent approach to development across Government.
    • Regrettably that has not happened and the Committee calls on the Government to develop a clear cross- Government plan of action on international development policy as well as to establish a cross-Departmental body to ensure better coordination and coherence. This could be a sub-group of the existing cross- departmental coordination mechanisms on the SDGs.
    • We had much discussion at our meetings on the importance of bilateral and multilateral channels of aid delivery.
    • It is clear that greater oversight is required of aid channelled through multilateral bodies (such as the UN and the EU). The Committee calls on the Government to enhance oversight and accountability mechanisms in that regard. This applies to humanitarian aid also, where the value for money in channelling aid to pooled funds with other donors rather than funding NGOs directly, must be assessed.
    • The Committee supports the continued focus of the Irish Aid programme on reducing poverty and vulnerability and its strong focus on working with fragile states and Least Developed Countries. However the Committee was disappointed to learn Ireland is no longer meeting the UN target of spending 0.15% of ODA on the Least Developed Countries and call on the Government to make a commitment not to fall below the UN target in the future.
    • There is also an opportunity now for Ireland to step up in ensuring a strong voice at the table on international development issues with the UK set to leave the EU.
    • On reaching our now very long standing commitment of achieving ODA expenditure of 0.7% of GNI – the Committee is unanimously of the view that if Ireland is to maintain its positive reputation in international development, we must reach that target.
    • The Committee calls for a multiannual plan to increase the aid budget on an incremental, phased basis and proposes that the Government submits such a clear, multiannual plan to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight for consideration.
    • Finally, a strong case for the importance of strengthening our aid programme also needs to be made to the Irish public.
    • This report contains important recommendations on scaling up resources and commitments to working with the education and youth sectors. It is so important that the taxpayers of the future have awareness, understanding and ownership of the Irish Aid programme.
    • The Government must also communicate better the results of the Irish Aid programme to all citizens.
  • I cannot emphasise enough how important it is that taxpayers are aware of how their money is being spent and moreover, why it is being spent in the way that it is being spent. This is not just the Government’s aid programme; it belongs to the Irish people and their understanding of it is vital.


  • I welcome the announcement, made after our own review process was underway, that the Government intends to publish a White Paper on Ireland’s international development policy in the coming months. We, as a Committee, request the Minister to ensure that the evidence-based findings and recommendations contained in this report will be carefully considered as part of that process.
  • We need to do more. But not just do more. We need to do more, better.
  • This report, its positive overview and its clear recommendations, is indicative of broader cross-party support and consensus about the importance of and support for Official Development Assistance.
  • Parliamentary scrutiny is not just about finding problems, it is also about recognising good work and making recommendations to ensure that good work continues and improves. I believe we can be proud of the good work that the Irish Aid programme represents and with the implementation of the recommendations made in the Committee’s report further improvements can be made. Because we must not forget, this work is done on behalf of the Irish people who we all represent and, the Irish people must have ownership over it.
  • I believe this is a subject of such national importance, at such a critical time as the Government embarks on preparation of a new White Paper on Ireland’s international development policy, that there should be full Dáil and Seanad debates on the subject. I commend this report to Dáil and Seanad Éireann and I look forward to further discussions on it with all stakeholders.
  • I would now like to invite Minister Cannon to make some remarks.(When Minister has concluded)
  • Vice Chair of the Committee, Maureen O’Sullivan, will make some further comments before we open to the floor to questions.

PTSB loans should not be sold to unregulated funds – Brendan Smith T.D.

permanent-tsb-1024x576Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says the latest statement from Permanent TSB relating to its proposed loan portfolio sale does not address the core issue of unregulated vulture funds.  Deputy Smith says the sale should not be allowed to proceed.

“The situation whereby a bank can sell on loan to a vulture fund which is not accountable to the Central Bank and is completely unregulated in this country is completely unacceptable”, said Deputy Smith.

“It is evident that banks have shown very little willingness to work through their non-performing loan book. Instead of selling their loan book and outsourcing their dirty work to vulture funds, the banks should be providing sustainable and reasonable solutions for customers willing to cooperate with them.

“It is clear now that vulture funds are lining up to buy portfolios of loans from the main banks in Ireland – mostly because the Government has allowed these funds to go completely unregulated in Ireland.

“These vulture funds are accountable to nobody and are completely beyond the reach of the Central Bank. There are many families across Cavan and Monaghan who have fallen behind in their mortgage and are living in fear of losing their homes because they say it is almost impossible to engage with these firms. These funds’ sole interest is in the property, they take no account of social concerns.

“AIB and Permanent TSB are now taking steps to sell large swathes of their mortgage loan books to unregulated vulture funds. The Government has the power to stop this from occurring considering the Irish State has a majority stake holding in both banks.

“Fianna Fáil is opposed to the banks selling their loans to unregulated vulture funds. The banks should not be selling Irish loans to unregulated vulture funds. We will be bringing forward legislation to ensure these sales do not take place,” concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.

CAP budget cuts would spell disaster for rural Ireland – Brendan Smith TD

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith is warning Minister Michael Creed that any cut to the CAP budget will have a devastating impact on small family farmers.  Budget discussions are due to begin shortly to address the expected shortfall arising out of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Deputy Smith raised the issue with the Agriculture Minister in the Dáil earlier this week.

“CAP payments are critical to the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers across Cavan, Monaghan and the wider rural community.  This funding is support our agrifood sector and is a key driver of economic activity throughout the country.

“We need to get the message out that CAP is not just critical for farmers but that it is good for consumers and the environment as well. We want to get away from the lazy narrative that CAP is a transfer of funds to farmers. It is not. It is of huge importance for the environment, for consumers and for the agrifood industry.

“Any reduction in the CAP budget would have serious implications for Irish farmers.  It’s expected that Brexit will result in a €3bn shortfall once the UK stops paying into the fund.  That money must be replenished.  Extra funding must be raised through additional payments by the remaining 27 EU countries.

“CAP is critically important to ensure the secure supply of safe food for citizens across Europe.  Despite its success, funding in recent years has been reduced.  We cannot allow that to happen again.  Minister Creed has a responsibility to protect Irish farmers – he will have to work even harder to build stronger alliances to secure additional funding from our European counterparts”.


Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

35. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if indications have been given at the EU Council of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers in relation to funding level for CAP post 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7113/18]

Deputy Brendan Smith: Ireland must send out a clear message it cannot countenance any reduction in the CAP budget post 2020. We all know CAP is of critical importance to farmers through direct payments. We also know those compensatory payments support our agrifood sector which has 174,000 people employed throughout the country. It is a key driver of economic activity throughout the country.

We need to get the message out that CAP is not just critical for farmers but that it is good for consumers and the environment as well. We want to get away from the lazy narrative that CAP is a transfer of funds to farmers. It is not. It is of huge importance for the environment, for consumers and for the agrifood sector.

Deputy Michael Creed: I thank Deputy Smith for his question. The future of CAP is an issue of enormous importance for the European and Irish agrifood sectors. The CAP has demonstrated its capacity to evolve effectively in response to changing market, consumer and environmental demands in recent years, to the point where it now plays a central role in delivering the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth sought under the Europe 2020 strategy.

The European Commission published its communication on the future of food and farming on 29 November 2017. It proposes a simpler CAP, with significantly more flexibility for member states, and a sharper focus on objectives and results, particularly in the environmental area. The communication covers many of the key issues and challenges for CAP post 2020.

However, the communication does not pre-empt the outcome of the multi-annual financial framework for the period 2020 to 2027. Initial proposals on this are expected to be published in May 2018. While no figures have been published at this point, the budget Commissioner, Mr. Oettinger, has indicated he sees future budgetary requirements being funded by a combination of additional contributions from member states and cuts in existing areas, including CAP. I recognise there will be pressure on the CAP budget post 2020, both as a result of the impact of Brexit and because of emerging funding priorities in areas such as security and migration. Nonetheless, I will continue to argue that a strong CAP budget is more important than ever against the background of Brexit and having regard to increasing global population and demand for food.

Of course ultimately the CAP is funded by taxpayers across EU member states. It is critically important against that background to reinforce the legitimacy and importance of the CAP, and its role in achieving European priorities and objectives in areas such as employment creation and retention, food security, food safety and quality, the protection and enhancement of the environment, the development of the rural economy and the prevention of land abandonment and rural depopulation.

I assure the Deputy that Ireland will continue to do that, and to work with other member states and the Commission to ensure that the CAP continues to be funded appropriately from 2020 onwards.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Will the Minister outline what work is under way in maintaining and growing the strong alliances with like-minded member states that were there over the years and decades in protecting CAP and its budget. The Minister referred to the budget Commissioner’s comments in respect of the multi-annual financial framework. Some detail will be available in May of this year. He also referred to the fact that at least 30% of the overall EU budget would be for CAP.

If that was realised, it would be of very serious concern to us. The budget from 2014 to 2020 is between 38% and 40% of the overall EU budget. In 2016, I think it was 38% of the total budget and by 2020 it is expected to be at 34%. For the budget Commissioner to state, even at this early stage, that it could be down to 30% has to be a source of concern to all of us who are interested in seeing CAP being protected and who realise the importance of CAP for the agrifood sector throughout Europe and for the rural economies as well.

Deputy Michael Creed: I thank Deputy Smith for his insights and analysis. We can have all of the ambition we want in respect of generational renewal and greater sustainability but if we do not have the budget, to which the Deputy referred, that is all wishful thinking. I see securing an adequate budget as the fundamental prerequisite to any of the rest. Commissioner Oettinger’s commentary on CAP and the beady eyes of other Commissioners around the table looking at the other challenges the EU faces are a cause of concern. However, the Government would say Europe faces other challenges and security and migration come to mind. They could well learn from our experience that common problems could well do with a common approach. However, that is not a reason to raise the budget of the Common Agricultural Policy which has been spectacularly successful. The public consultation showed there is continuing public support for a Common Agricultural Policy provided we embrace the bigger challenges now around sustainability. We are working hard with member states for that reason.

France has always been an ally in CAP negotiations and recent soundings from President Macron are a bit more reassuring in respect of France’s commitment to an adequately funded CAP. Recent soundings coming from the Germans have also been positive. We work closely with what might be described loosely as the older member states of the European Union in the context of these matters and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure that is resolved satisfactorily.

Deputy Brendan Smith: I would re-echo what the Minister has stated. There are new demands in the areas of defence and migration. Extra funding has to be raised to provide for those endeavours. CAP is of critical importance for a secure supply of safe food for the citizens of Europe. It has been spectacularly successful but it has been reduced. Unfortunately, the last reform of CAP was the first time the budget was reduced as a percentage of the EU budget. We cannot allow that to happen again. There are particular challenges. However, the European economy is improving and there is no reason additional funds cannot be raised across Europe for the overall EU budget. Some of the countries that joined the European Union most recently would have huge interests in agriculture as well. However, they also have a concern about defence issues. We have to bear that in mind. The

Minister will have to work even harder to build stronger alliances with the traditional countries that have always been on the same wavelength as ourselves in regard to CAP.

Deputy Michael Creed: Those states Deputy Smith mentioned would equally be adamant that now is their time for a greater or, as they would see it, a fairer share of the CAP budget. There are a lot of moving parts in this. We are certainly vigilant in the area of ensuring there is an adequate budget. The direction of travel is interesting. If we go back to the Treaty of Rome and the early 1970s, the level of the budget for the Common Agricultural Policy was in the region of 70% and above. It is down now to under 40%. I share Deputy Smith’s concern and much of his analysis as well. The most critical objective we have to meet is sustainability. I refer to not just environmental sustainability but to social and economic sustainability for the agriculture sector. An adequate budget is critical for that. We are committed to making sure that before we start talking about all the things we would like to do, that we are sure we have the money in the bag to do it.