Brendan Smith: Peat supplies for horticulture sector must be resolved

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan Brendan Smith has renewed his call on the Minister of State for Heritage and the Minister for Agriculture to address, as a matter of urgency, issues affecting the harvesting and supply of peat for the horticulture sector.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “It is long past time that measures should have been implemented to ensure that the horticulture and mushroom sectors have adequate stocks of peat.  At present there is no viable alternative to peat for the commercial horticulture sector.  A major part of the Irish horticulture industry depends on peat and peat availability is now a major challenge.

“The Minister of State for Heritage, in reply to my Dáil Question, states that a draft interim report has been prepared by a working group which he established sometime ago to examine the current issues and the group continues its deliberations.” 

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “Minister Noonan must insist that the final Report of the group is complete by the 20th October and follow up action dealing with issues in a practical manner must happen without further delay.

“In Dáil Éireann the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine informed me that his Department is actively looking at alternatives to peat and has funded two research projects to date.  He states that he continues to engage directly with the sector including a recent meeting with the Mushroom Industry.

Producers in the mushroom sector, which is a very substantial enterprise in the Cavan/Monaghan area, face serious challenges for their businesses and relying on the importation of peat will bring additional heavy costs and cause difficulties for the sector,” added Brendan Smith.

ENDS – 18th October 2021

Note to Editors

See Parliamentary Questions attached

Cross-border Healthcare Scheme to continue – Brendan Smith TD

Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has received confirmation from the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, T.D., that the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme, which replaced the EU Cross-border Health Directive following Britain’s exit from the European Union, will continue on an administrative basis beyond the end of this year pending enactment of legislation.

“Through Questions in Dáil Éireann on Promised Legislation I had asked An Tánaiste if he would confirm that this Scheme would continue beyond the end of 2021 on an administrative basis if the necessary legislation was not in place by that time.

An Tánaiste replied –

“I confirm that is the intention of Government but we need primary legislation to put a new scheme on a statutory footing. If we cannot get that done in time we intend to continue the existing arrangements on an administrative basis if possible.  I will ask the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, to confirm that but that is my understanding of the position”, stated An Tánaiste.

In his comments in Dáil Éireann Deputy Brendan Smith stated that the present Scheme and its predecessors enabled large numbers of patients to access treatment and surgery, or both, in Northern Ireland paid for by this State.  He added that these were typically patients on long hospital waiting lists and that access to spare hospital capacity in Northern Ireland is an important part of our healthcare delivery, particularly in orthopaedics and cataracts.

I welcome confirmation from the Office of the Minister for Health that this Scheme will continue on an administrative basis pending enactment of the necessary legislation, concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.

Extracts from Dáil Debate below –

debate Thursday, 14 Oct 2021

Vol. 1012 No. 6

Dáil Éireann debate –
Thursday, 14 Oct 2021

Vol. 1012 No. 6

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh – Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Brendan Smith

The Northern Ireland planned healthcare scheme was put in place earlier this year to replace the EU cross-Border directive following Britain’s exit from the European Union. The scheme and its predecessors enable large numbers of patients to access treatment and surgery, or both, in Northern Ireland, paid for by this State. These were typically patients on long hospital waiting lists. I understand the scheme is due to finish at the end of this year. Could an Tánaiste give me a categorical assurance that this scheme will continue beyond the end of 2021 on an administrative basis if the necessary legislation is not in place by that time? Access to spare hospital capacity in Northern Ireland is an important part of our healthcare delivery, particularly in orthopaedics and cataracts.

The Tánaiste

I confirm that is the intention of Government but we need primary legislation to put a new scheme on a statutory footing. If we cannot get that done in time we intend to continue the existing arrangements on an administrative basis if possible. I will ask the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, to confirm that but that is my understanding of the position.

ENDS 19th October 2021

Brendan Smith urges immediate action on refuge centre for Cavan and Monaghan

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has reiterated his call for the urgent establishment of a refuge centre for victims of domestic abuse in counties Cavan and Monaghan.

Deputy Brendan Smith has sought confirmation on this serious issue numerous times and has regularly engaged with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth on it.

The Cavan and Monaghan TD commented, “At present, there still remains no dedicated Refuge Centre in Cavan or Monaghan. I have urged Tusla along with the Department to ensure the provision of such a Centre with additional supports and services at local level as soon as possible. This is an urgent and pressing issue which can no longer face any further delay. Unfortunately, as in other parts of the country, there are too many people in need of this vital service in our region.

“At present, supports for victims of domestic abuse in counties Cavan and Monaghan are available through the services of Tearmann which is based in Monaghan and also provides outreach services in both counties.”

According to the Minister, Tusla’s ‘Review of the Provision of Accommodation for Victims of Domestic Violence’ has been completed and is undergoing final edits before publication. The Minister for Children received a presentation of the Review from Tusla in late July in relation to the approach taken in its review, its analysis and conclusion. 

On 23rd September, Tusla gave a presentation to all stakeholders attending the Monitoring Committee for the 2nd National Strategy on DSGBV, with a view to achieving a national consensus within the sector on the proposed response to these needs.

The Minister added that it is anticipated that the publication of the review will arrive in the coming weeks.

The National Development Plan published this week confirms this Government’s commitment to address the need for greater domestic violence refuge accommodation to meet the needs of victims throughout the country.

ENDS 11 October 2021

Official launch of the Regional Armed Support Unit in Cavan Gards Station

A lovely occasion to mark the official launch of the Regional Armed Support Unit at the Garda Station in Cavan. Good to see the very modern equipment this Unit use in their important work. Since the end of 2019 this Unit has been a welcome addition to Garda operations in this region.I wish all the Members in this highly trained Unit good health and safety in their challenging work alongside their Garda colleagues in all units.

16th October 2021

ADDITIONAL ACCOMMODATION FOR CORLISS NATIONAL SCHOOL – BRENDAN SMITH TD

Cavan’/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith welcomes the approval by his colleague, Norma Foley TD, Minister for Education of additional permanent accommodation for Corliss National School, Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

The new accommodation will consist of an additional classroom with en-suite toilet and a special education teaching room with en-suite bathroom facilities.

Deputy Brendan Smith compliment the Principal and staff and the Board of Management on progressing this application and this new accommodation will enhance considerably the school facilities.

I wish all the school community well with this project.

ENDS

OCTOBER 1 2021

MESSAGE FROM BIPA CO-CHAIRS FOLLOWING SIR DAVID AMESS TRAGEDY

16 OCTOBER 2021 

Sir David Amess was an esteemed colleague, Associate Member and friend of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and his loss has deeply shocked all of us. Our thoughts are with him and with his family for whom the tragedy is orders of magnitude more intense.

We must not let such awful events stop business in our democracies, but out of respect for David and his family we have made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel Monday’s BIPA plenary.”

 – Andrew Rosindell MP & Brendan Smith TD, British and Irish Co-Chairs of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA).

ENDS//

Brendan Smith welcomes cross-border approval of €1.1 billion 2021-27 PEACE PLUS EU Programme

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed approval by the North South Ministerial Council of the draft PEACE PLUS cross-border EU programme.

Following approval last week by the Government, the draft programme was this week approved by the Northern Ireland Executive and by the North South Ministerial Council. The programme will now be reviewed by the European Commission for final consideration and approval, ahead of a formal launch in 2022.

PEACE PLUS is a new North South programme for the 2021-27 period which will combine the previous PEACE and INTERREG EU funding strands into one cohesive cross-border programme. This new programme will support peace and prosperity across an eligible area of Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland (Counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo).

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “With a total funding package of over €1.1 billion, PEACE PLUS is set to be an ambitious and impactful cross-border programme, which will benefit counties Cavan and Monaghan, and which will build on the strong legacy of the PEACE and INTERREG EU programmes. I believe that the scale of the support which PEACE PLUS will provide for shared peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland is especially timely as we look ahead to recovery from the COVID pandemic and as we adapt to the challenges of Brexit.” 

The Cavan and Monaghan TD continued: “I would like in particular to acknowledge the shared commitment of the EU, the UK, the Northern Ireland Executive and our Government to PEACE PLUS. The development of this programme since 2018 is a strong signal of our continued joint commitment to support peace and reconciliation and cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland.

“I would also like to thank the Special EU Programmes Body for their exhaustive work on programme development for PEACE PLUS, as well as the stakeholders represented on the PEACE PLUS Programme Development Steering Group.”

Deputy Brendan Smith concluded: “I look forward to European Commission approval of the draft programme over the coming months, and to a formal launch of PEACE PLUS in 2022.”

ENDS

Brendan Smith calls on Minister to effectively support tourism sector in wake of pandemic

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan has urged the Minister for Tourism to prioritise effective supports for the tourist industry in the wake of the devastating impact of the pandemic, as part of pre-Budget submissions this week.

In a Parliamentary Question to the Minister, Deputy Brendan Smith called for adequate Government financial support to aid the sector now, adding: “Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on the tourism industry. There are many small businesses in the sector that have struggled to keep the doors open and the lights on over the past 18 months.

“The Minister must do everything to ensure that there are robust and effective financial supports available for these tourist businesses to not just survive, but thrive following the pandemic.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “This sector also plays a huge role in our economy, and in how Ireland is perceived by the outside world and has done so much to advertise Ireland as being attractive to international investment. Now is the time to put in place whatever further supports are needed so the sector has a successful future.”

ENDS

8/10/2021

Brendan Smith welcomes €22m in financial and mental health and wellbeing supports for students

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan, Brendan Smith has welcomed €17.2 million in student supports and €5 million to support students’ mental health and wellbeing, announced today.

The supports are being provided as part of a €105 million package for Further and Higher Education provided by Government.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “It has been an incredibly difficult 18 months for students due to the pandemic. We now have students back on campus across the country and they still need significant support – financial and other. The Student Assistance Fund is a fund that is in place for students who might be financially struggling and today, €17 million has been confirmed in support.

“Right now, we are still not sure what the long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health might be. The additional €5 million also announced today, will go towards student counselling services and the roll-out of innovative mental health and wellbeing supports for students and training for staff.”

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “The health and wellbeing of students is paramount as they settle back into the academic year. I would like students to know that if they are experiencing mental health difficulties the supports are there. Students can text TALK to 50808 to avail of a free 24/7 text service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support. My Mind provide free counselling online in 17 different languages. www.belongto.org provides support, information and groups for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland also.” 

The Student Assistance Fund provides financial support to full or part-time students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending college. Students can apply for the Student Assistance Fund to help with either temporary or ongoing financial difficulties. 

The Student Assistance Fund is available to help with costs such as books and class materials, rent and other utility bills, food, essential travel, childcare costs, medical costs.

The mental health funding will be used to:

o   recruit additional Student Counsellors

o   recruit additional Assistant Psychologists

o   recruit Head of Service posts for those HEIs employing more than 2 FTEs

o   train HEI staff to enable them to support and refer students to appropriate services

o   raise awareness among students of mental health and wellbeing services available, including through student outreach activities;

o   support implementation of the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework

o   support implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions

ENDS

Brendan Smith welcomes additional current funding of €65m for Sports Sector

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan and Monaghan Brendan Smith has welcomed additional current funding of up to €65 million that will be available to support the sports sector this year.

Allied to the additional current expenditure of €26.3 million already provided to Sport Ireland, a total of €91.3 million will have been allocated in additional current funding to support the sports sector in 2021.

This package is intended to support National Governing Bodies of Sport and sports clubs arising from the significant impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the sports sector, by providing specific funding support for the following sectors;

·       Field Sport funding to support the main field sports, i.e. the FAI, the GAA and the IRFU;

·       A Resilience Fund to support the other National Governing Bodies of Sport;

·       A Sports Club Resilience Fund to support clubs from all sports;

·       A Swimming Pools/Facilities Fund;

·       A Resumption of Sport & Physical Activity Fund.

The above schemes will be run by Sport Ireland and the funding will be distributed through the National Governing Bodies of Sport.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “I am very pleased that the Government is able to continue to support our sporting bodies. Last year, our Covid-19 support funding helped ensure that our sporting bodies were in a position to maintain operations, avoid insolvency and prepare for a return to activity. The funding also provided support with Covid-19 related costs and losses in 166 Rugby clubs, over 400 grassroots and League of Ireland Clubs along with 33,271 Gaelic Games teams.  In addition, support was provided to 1,637 clubs throughout the country through small grants operated by Local Sports Partnerships.” 

The Cavan and Monaghan TD added: “We have seen the positive impact that the return of sporting fixtures has had across the country these past few months. However, there is a lot more work to be done. Many organisations and clubs have lost huge amounts of revenue, as their activities have been severely curtailed. The indoor sports sector has been particularly badly hit, with indoor sports only set to resume their activities this month. I hope that this funding will go a long way to assisting our sporting organisations and clubs and enable them to recover fully as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Deputy Smith concluded: “Great credit is due to all the volunteers in all our clubs throughout the country who do so much to enable participation in sports and the holding of competitions.”

ENDS