Oireachtas Insurance Report must be acted on without delay – Smith

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says the recommendations of the Oireachtas report on motor insurance must be acted upon as a matter of urgency.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, which was charged with investigating the spiralling costs of motor insurance, accused the insurance industry of “cartel-like” behaviour and it published 71 recommendations to make the process more transparent.

Deputy Smith commented, “The findings of this report will not come as any surprise to drivers in Cavan and Monaghan who are forking out extortionate amounts for car insurance premiums, which have been rising year on year.  For many it has become a major financial burden and source of increased anxiety and worry.  These increases not only impact personal customers, but small businesses have been pushed to breaking point as the cost of premiums for their fleets soar.  This is putting jobs and livelihoods at risk.

“This report is hard hitting and calls into question the behaviour of insurance companies over the last number of years.

“One of the recommendations is that the Central Bank should take a more hands-on role in regulating the insurance sector to ensure greater transparency.  It’s unfair that customers have been left in the dark over rising premiums and just expected to pay out.

“It is important that these recommendations are acted on without delay so that consumers are protected against these rip-off motor insurance costs.  I along with my party colleagues will continue to push for the speedy implementation of these measures so that drivers and businesses can finally avail of affordable insurance premiums”.

Border farmers under pressure as vital farm funding still not paid – Smith

– Only half of RDP payments made in the first 10 months of the year –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says hundreds of farmers across Cavan and Monaghan are being placed under increased financial pressure because essential farm payments have not been paid.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal that only 52% of Rural Development Plan payments have been made in the first 10 months of this year.

Deputy Smith commented, “Many farmers in Cavan and Monaghan rely on funding from schemes in the Rural Development Programme to keep their farms profitable. However new figures obtained by Fianna Fáil show that only half of this year’s funding for agri-schemes has been paid to date.  This will result in serious financial hardship for farmers in the border region.

“The fact that less than 4% of GLAS payments and fewer than 13% of TAMS payments have been made to date is particularly worrying and will add to the financial pressure already being experienced by small family farmers.  Payments under the Beef Genomics scheme and AEOS are also seriously delayed.  This is completely unacceptable and is very unfair to local farmers.

“Many farmers have had to take out loans to keep their businesses going while they wait for their payments to come through, and these delays will exacerbate an already difficult situation.  Farmers should not have to rely on banks and other financial institutions to cover the cost of works, which these agri-schemes cover. This is creating a major cash flow crisis, which is completely preventable.

“Farm families in Cavan and Monaghan have already faced a difficult year, with significant price cuts and the collapse of Sterling following the British Brexit vote.  The delays in these important payments will exacerbate an already difficult situation for farmers.  Minister Creed needs to examine what is leading to these delays and ensure that these payments are made before the end of the year”.

FF tables amendments to tackle pension inequality – Smith

– Measures will also reverse changes to the One Parent Family Payment –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith says his party has tabled amendments to the Social Welfare Bill that will see the eligibility criteria for the State pension reviewed to ensure that women, who took time out of work to look after children or to care for a loved one, are not penalised.

Under the current system workers must make a minimum of 520 paid contributions before they qualify for the State pension.  This is not always possible for women who have stepped out of the workplace to care for children.

Deputy Smith commented, “The last government introduced a range of punitive changes which discriminated against women.  It raised the number of paid contributions needed to qualify for a State pension increased from 260 to 520, making it more difficult for women who took career breaks, to reach this target.

“This is a deeply unfair situation and fails to recognise the important contribution that these women have made to the workplace, but also to their families and to society.  My Party Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has submitted a number of amendments to the Social Welfare Bill to address this discrimination.

“Measures which were brought in under Fine Gael and Labour have plunged many one parent families into poverty and they must be reversed. The evidence is clear on this matter- social exclusion is increasing in lone parent households and more and more families are falling below the breadline.  This needs to be urgently addressed.

“The amendments that Fianna Fáil has tabled are aimed at addressing these imbalances and improving the effectiveness of the social welfare system to ensure that it’s fit for purpose and serving those who need it the most”.

Smith calls for All-Island industrial promotion agency

– Cross-border strategy must be bolstered to ensure post-Brexit prosperity –

– Trade missions are key to opening new markets –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan and Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade Brendan Smith has called for an all-island industrial promotion agency to ensure that key investment opportunities in Ireland are secured and developed.

Northern Irish companies have been involved in a number of trade promotion visits organised by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA over the past 6 years.  Extensive links have also been forged between Irish State agencies and Invest Northern Ireland to further develop relations into the future and the establishment of an all-island agency would bolster those opportunities.

Deputy Smith commented, “I was extremely disappointed by the disparaging and untrue remarks made by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster a fortnight ago when she accused the Irish government of talking down the Northern Irish economy.  It has never been the case that an Irish government has had an agenda to sully the reputation of Northern Ireland in order to compete for jobs.

“In fact, the over the last 6 years, companies from Northern Ireland have been involved in at least 12 Enterprise Ireland trade promotion visits and 3 IDA missions.  I have always been a strong advocate for intensifying relations between the various business and economic agencies North and South to enable them to sell an all-island product.  This was something I was particularly conscious of during my time as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Over many years there has been a close working relationship between the Agriculture Departments North and South of the Border.

“First Minister Foster’s comments were designed to drive a wedge between economic and business relations on either side of the border, when what we need to attract investment to the island is a stronger bond between the various agencies and bodies.  This approach will build on the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement and has the potential to reap huge rewards for the entire island”, concluded Deputy Smith.

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– Cross-border strategy must be bolstered to ensure post-Brexit prosperity –

– Trade missions are key to opening new markets –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan and Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade Brendan Smith has called for an all-island industrial promotion agency to ensure that key investment opportunities in Ireland are secured and developed.

Northern Irish companies have been involved in a number of trade promotion visits organised by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA over the past 6 years.  Extensive links have also been forged between Irish State agencies and Invest Northern Ireland to further develop relations into the future and the establishment of an all-island agency would bolster those opportunities.

Deputy Smith commented, “I was extremely disappointed by the disparaging and untrue remarks made by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster a fortnight ago when she accused the Irish government of talking down the Northern Irish economy.  It has never been the case that an Irish government has had an agenda to sully the reputation of Northern Ireland in order to compete for jobs.

“In fact, the over the last 6 years, companies from Northern Ireland have been involved in at least 12 Enterprise Ireland trade promotion visits and 3 IDA missions.  I have always been a strong advocate for intensifying relations between the various business and economic agencies North and South to enable them to sell an all-island product.  This was something I was particularly conscious of during my time as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Over many years there has been a close working relationship between the Agriculture Departments North and South of the Border.

“First Minister Foster’s comments were designed to drive a wedge between economic and business relations on either side of the border, when what we need to attract investment to the island is a stronger bond between the various agencies and bodies.  This approach will build on the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement and has the potential to reap huge rewards for the entire island”, concluded Deputy Smith.

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QUESTION NO: 446

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed)

by Deputy Brendan Smith

for WRITTEN ANSWER on 08/11/2016

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the number of trade promotion visits organised by agencies under the remit of his department, such as Bord Bia and Bord Iascaigh Mhara, which had representation from Northern Ireland on such missions in each of the years 2010 to 2015 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY.

My Department, with the assistance of its agencies (Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Iascaigh Mhara), has organised nine trade promotional visits during the period referred to. These missions have been to a range of destinations, such as China, United States, Africa and the Gulf region, which are of strategic importance in the development of the agri-food sector.

Opening new markets, and building on successful trading relationships, are key to the continued growth of the agri-food sector. Indeed, the development of new markets is a central component of Food Wise 2015, the sector’s strategy for development over the coming decade. This work has taken on renewed importance in light of the decision of the UK to leave the EU.

During these trade missions all areas of the Irish Agri-food sector have been represented, including companies that operate in both jurisdictions on this island. However, there has been no specific representation from Northern Ireland companies on these missions.

                                                DAIL QUESTION NO: 506

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of trade promotion visits organised by agencies under the remit of her department such as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland which had representation from Northern Ireland on such missions for each of the years 2010 to 2015 inclusive; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Brendan Smith.

*   For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 8th November, 2016.

Ref No:   33694/16

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Ms Mitchell O’Connor)

Both agencies under the aegis of my Department, Enterprise Ireland (EI) and IDA Ireland, engage with relevant bodies in Northern Ireland to pursue areas of mutual advantage. Developing all-island initiatives and cooperation can, in certain circumstances, better build our competitive advantage internationally.

In the period 2010 to 2015, Enterprise Ireland had representation from Northern Ireland on 12 trade promotion visits while IDA involved companies from Northern Ireland on 3 occasions.

Extensive links have been forged by EI with various agencies and bodies in Northern Ireland. In particular there is close co-operation between Invest Northern Ireland (INI) and EI. A Memorandum of Understanding is in place between EI and INI to enable clients of both agencies to access market services, trade missions/fairs, seminars and to provide INI clients with access to EI management development programmes such as Leadership 4 Growth and the International Selling Programme. There is also close collaboration between EI, INI and InterTrade Ireland (ITI) on the specific Cross Border programmes which are run by the latter body, in order to ensure effective operation and non-duplication.
Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Invest Northern Ireland cooperated in relation to a Trade Mission to Singapore in December 2013 which was specifically targeted at companies from both jurisdictions who are active in the aerospace sector.

In 2015 and 2016 IDA Ireland in co-operation with EI, Department of Foreign Affairs and INI hosted a dinner in the Irish Embassy in London to coincide with the Irish Aviation Purchasing and Management Exhibition.

 

Information vital to locating the remains of the Disappeared

– Govt commitment to resources welcome but information will provide the missing links –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has reiterated his appeal for people who may have information about the location of the remains of the four people referred to as the “Disappeared” to come forward and contact the Gardaí or the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.
Deputy Smith commented, “The work of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is founded on information and to date it has been able to reunite the remains of 12 victims with their families and afford them a respectful and decent burial.  However, there are still four families whose loved ones are missing and I once again appeal to anyone who may have information about any of these cases to get in touch with the Gardaí or the Independent Commission.
“The families of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Ruddy – are living with the daily heartbreak of not knowing where their loved ones are buried.  All they are asking for is to be reunited with their remains so that they can give them the burial they deserve and have a grave to visit.
“I welcome Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s commitment to provide the ICLVR with the resources it needs to support its work and I sincerely hope that these families will have their heartbreak, hurt and anguish eased, and that this dark chapter in our history can be closed”.

QUESTION NO: 101

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald)

by Deputy Brendan Smith

for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 8th November, 2016.

* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality if she will ensure that adequate resources are provided to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains to enable the greatest possible level of investigations to be carried out to try and recover the remains of the four persons who are referred to as the disappeared; and if she will make a statement on the matter.                                                              – Brendan Smith

REPLY.

The families of the Disappeared, people who were killed and buried secretly by paramilitary organisations during the troubles, have had to face a very particular tragedy in not only having lost a loved one, but having been denied for so long information about the burial places of their loved ones. I acknowledge the Deputy’s long-standing interest in this issue.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) was established by the Irish and British Governments in 1999 as one among the actions to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation in the context of the Peace Process. The ICLVR’s task is to facilitate the location of the remains of the Disappeared.

To date, 12 of the victims on the ICLVR’s list of the Disappeared have been located and the ICLVR is continuing its inquiries in relation to the remaining four cases – Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac and Seamus Ruddy – and I can assure the families of my and the Government’s continued full support for this ongoing humanitarian work.

I can assure the Deputy and, indeed, the families of the Disappeared that the ICLVR’s investigation team has had and will continue to have the resources it needs to conduct its work. However, as the Deputy will know the ICLVR’s work is fundamentally driven by information. This is the key resource to support its efforts and anyone who has any information on any of the outstanding cases should bring it to the ICLVR without delay.

With the support of the two Governments, the ICLVR will continue its work tirelessly. Its only aim is to locate the victims’ remains in order that they may be returned to their families to receive a decent burial. In this way the families will then have a grave at which to grieve and to remember.

Smith challenges comments made by FM, Arlene Foster on Irish industrial policy

– Need for all-island industrial development agency has never been greater –

The Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brendan Smith TD has reacted to the comments made by the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster MLA regarding the Irish Government’s trade policies and activities.
“While, of course, we need to be aware that the First Minister was speaking to her political base, it is absolutely incorrect for her to suggest that the Irish Government talks down the Northern Irish economy, and that Ireland seeks to poach investors away from Northern Ireland.”
“No Irish Government, irrespective of who is in office, talks down the Northern Irish economy. In fact, the opposite happens,” said the Cavan Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD.
“When I was Minister for Agriculture and Food, every opportunity to speak about the all-island economy was taken, and to attract investors to the island.”
“For years, I have called for greater and deeper cooperation between the industrial development agencies in both jurisdictions to promote all-island economic development.”
“I would hope that the First Minister would join with all of us who want increased cooperation to maximise foreign investment on the island, and especially in the border region.”
“A single all-Ireland industrial promotion agency would have huge benefits for the entire island.  We need to build further to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement. The First Minister can show leadership on this matter, and work with the Irish Government to make this a reality. I hope she takes the opportunity,” concluded Smith.

Dairy farmers in crisis as only 1% of TAMS payments processed – Smith

– Only 8 applications have been approved to date –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Agriculture Minister to take immediate action to address serious issues that have arisen with the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS).
Deputy Smith was reacting to new information supplied to Fianna Fáil, which shows that 99% of applications under the scheme for dairy equipment are yet to be processed.
“The TAMS scheme is an important support for farmers which assist them in modernising equipment and buildings on their farms. The scheme helps improve farm productivity and safety,” explained Deputy Smith.
“The scheme is structured in such a way that farmers undertake the modernisation works first, and then a payment is made once the process is complete. This means that many farmers have secured credit from banks on the understanding that the TAMS payment would be made within a reasonable period of time.
“However, the bulk of the applications have still to be processed. This is despite farmers having submitted all the necessary documentation months ago.
“We have already raised this issue in the Dáil and Minister Creed confirmed that while the number of applications for dairy equipment under scheme stands at 2,218, only 8 claims have been cleared for payment. However not a single payment has been made to date.
“This is simply shocking and points to a major problem with the administration of the scheme. Farmers in the Border region are facing a cash flow crisis as a result of the delay in processing claims as banks are now approaching them demanding payment for loans they have received. This is simply not good enough. I’m calling on Minister Creed to sort out the logjam in his Department that is causing this problem.”