17 July 2022
This is the last update for this Dáil term as it went into recess on Thursday.
I will be working in Cork South West for the rest of the Summer. I’m excited to get to spend more time here and less time in the car for a few weeks and to able to get to events like this one
Minister refuses to clarify position on cost of disability payment
After the Dáil passed our Social Democrat motion for a €20 cost of disability payment and an increase in disability allowance of €15, I asked the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humpheries TD (Fine Gael) to outline her plans to implement these changes in the budget.
She did not answer my questions. In fact, her answers completely ignored the motion that she and her government allowed to pass just last week.
This is deeply disappointing and will only serve to increase cynicism in politics.
I had hoped that for once the government would honour one of their commitments.
Where are the trees we so desperately need?
For the second week in a row, I raised Ireland’s disastrous forestry system in the Dail.
Our afforestation rates are currently at 25% of planned targets, the licensing system is still not fit for purpose and tree planting incentives are not competitive with other farm subsidies.
Forestry is vitally needed as a carbon sequestration measure to counteract other agricultural areas. It has multiple economic, environmental, and climate action benefits. I still cannot understand why this is not a priority for the Green Party.
The response from the Minister for Forestry, Senator Pippa Hacket (Green Party) was disappointing and showed no signs of the radical change needed.
Unplanned pregnancy and abortion care report released
The report showed that while the needs of many indivduals and families are being met, there are still significant barriers and delays that disproportionately impact more vulnerable women and girls.
The report outlines the challenges that women and families still face deling with the most heartbreaking news and being forced to travel for healthcare.
The government needs to act on the findings of this report:
Read the report: https://www.sexualwellbeing.ie/…/research…/unpac.pdf
Disability Matters Committee:
The Disability Matters Committee submits a pre-budget report based on all the witnessess and information we receive over the year.
The Committee tries to prioritise lived experience as the basis for policy interventions.
We have made recommendations on areas such as increased disability allowance, reform of medical card testing criteria, additional payments for carers, and improvement in the Summer Provision.
Read our report: https://hollycairns.ie/…/2022-07-06_aligning-disability…
When the government initially announced their proposed redress scheme for the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes, I was highly critical of the low payments, the restrictions on who can apply, and the disregarding of the wishes of survivors.
The Children’s Committee launched our pre-legislative scrutiny report on the scheme this week which has clear recommendations such as recognising ‘all rights violations and all harms perpetrated in the institutional and family separation system’ and the ‘payment amounts under the scheme should be increased’.
Read our report:
IN OTHER NEWS
Human trafficking is in the headlines at the moment after British Olympian Mo Farah spoke publicly about being trafficked to the UK as a child. I raised issues around Ireland’s response to human trafficking in the Dáil this week: https://youtu.be/J_1Imf2Rd-E
With ongoing staff shortages in our health services, the government should be increasing the number of graduates in therapies and clinical areas: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-07-07/29/question/29/
The West Cork Fit-Up Theatre Festival is back: http://westcorkislands.com/west-cork-fitup-theatre-festival/
The Department of Agriculture has issued a Forest Fire Danger Rating Notice
due to the hot weather: https://twitter.com/MetEireann/status/1547882827844182017
Submissions are open on the Proposed Safe Routes to School Zone, Casement Road, Bandon, including upgrade to existing controlled pedestrian crossing and new footpaths: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/section-38-proposed-safe…
The public consultation on a Referendum on Housing in Ireland closes Sept 2: https://www.gov.ie/…/a0d03-public-consultation-on-a…/
10 July 2022
Dáil passes our Cost of Disability motion
Our motion on the cost of disability was a major focus this week.
It was passed by the Dáil, but we must make sure the government sticks to its word and provides a €20 per week cost of disability payment in Budget 2023 and increases disability allowance by €15.
Here is some media coverage of the motion
Listen back to Drivetime from 1:13 https://www.rte.ie/…/1308834-drivetime-wednesday-6…//
We need more trees
The Programme for Government sets out a target of 8,000 hectares of new forests per year, we are planting only 2,000 hectares.
The licensing system is still not fit for purpose and afforestation incentives are not competitive with other farm subsidies.
Forestry has multiple economic, environmental, and climate action benefits, yet it is not being prioritised by the government.
Afforestation rates have actually decreased since the Green Party went into government.
I pushed Minister Eamon Ryan (Green Party) for immediate action.
What is the government doing about the cost of childcare?
I again raised the issue of incredibly high childcare costs with the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman (Green Party).
These costs are prohibitively high and can trap families, and lone parents in particular, in poverty.
In the middle of a cost of living crisis, this is one area where the government could make a substantial difference for ordinary families.
IN OTHER NEWS
I am continuing to push for an end to direct provision. We now have had twenty-one years of this inhumane system, and the government needs to move children and families from these draconian congregated centres into the community to live, work, and contribute: https://youtu.be/LQ-l-V1vYnE
At the Disability Matters Committee this week, we heard about the inadequacy of support for people with mobility challenges, from the fact that few people meet the strict criteria to access schemes, to the dire lack of public transport and the discontinued Motorised Transport Grant. I asked about how we can move away from a one-size-fits-all model and focus on individualised supports: https://youtu.be/KOV4TKlqdYU
Since September, parents have been worried about places for their children in special classes. I am continuing to push for more places as well as increased SNA and resource hours in local schools. I was delighted to welcome members of the West Cork Special School campaign to the Dáil on Wednesday, and made specific mention of them during our disability motion: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-06-30/78/…
The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) annual report highlighted the growing demand for their services. Families and individuals in enormous stress are seeking assistance in many areas. I pushed the Minister for Justice to adequately resource FLAC. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/que…/2022-07-05/5/question/5
I am especially delighted that the West Cork Literary Festival is back in person in Bantry this week as my father, Clem, is one of the founders. I have really fond memories of helping out at the festival growing up: https://www.westcorkmusic.ie/…/West-Cork-Literary…
It is great to see that Bere Island Projects Group CLG have secured funding for an electric wheelchair accessible bus with PV charging panels on the community centre.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre has a beginner’s guide to discovering and recording wildlife and biodiversity: https://biodiversityireland.ie/…/NBDC-Beginners-Guide…
There will be an e-waste collection in Dunmanway on Sat 16 July, 10am – 4pm where you can recycle your e-waste including fridges, lawnmowers, toys, power tools and more.
Cork County Council are seeking observations on the development of the Gallanes Amenity Area, Clonaklity, including installing lighting and linking the Joe Walsh Walkway with pathways in the West Cork Technology Park. Submission close on Monday 25 July: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/part-8-proposed-gallanes…
Public consultation on the phase in of the living wage closes 27 July 2022: https://www.gov.ie/…/1b2c5-public-consultation-on-the…/
3 July 2022
Email your TDs about the Cost of Disability
This Wednesday, the Social Democrats are using our limited Dáil time to put forward a motion for action on disability.
We are calling on the government to:
– include a cost of disability payment in Budget 2023 of at least €20 per week
– fill the 732 vacant posts for therapists providing services for children with disabilities
– guarantee an appropriate school place for every child with a disability
We believe these are key steps to help address the larger systematic issues. Increased disability payments and vastly improved state education and health services will make a significant difference in the lives of ordinary people with disabilities.
The only way the government will act on these points is if there is enough public pressure. I am encouraging everyone to contact their TDs, especially members of the government parties, to support this motion.
All details on the motion and a sample email is available here: https://hollycairns.ie/?p=275
Bandon Relief Road
I pushed the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Micheal McGrath (Fianna Fáil) to accelerate the much needed improvements to the Bandon Relief Road.
The planning and design phase of the new road is due to be finished by late 2024.
At the current pace, it will be years before the project is completed:
Cork County Council has a public consultation on the preliminary options open until July 22. I would encourage Bandon residents and people who use the N71 to add their views: https://www.corkrdo.ie/…/N71-bandon-southern-relief…/
Assisted Decision Making Bill
We had the final discussion of this important legislation in the Dáil this week. I put forward several amendments to protect individuals’ rights – the government opposed all of them.
One amendment focused on ensuring that the bill was compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities around what is called a ‘functional test of capacity’ which has been found to be subjective and inaccurate by the UN Committee. The government rejected this amendment: https://youtu.be/UTfs4lQFVBU
Another amendment focused on respecting the rights of people who are held in hospital under the Mental Health Act to have their preference for what type of treatment they receive or do not receive. The government also rejected this: https://youtu.be/3QWZmQDd1-c
At a private sitting of the Children’s Committee this week, we discussed European directives on childcare and completed our report on the proposed redress scheme for the survivors of Mother and Baby Homes.
At a private meeting Disability Matters Committee this week, we discussed our pre-budget submission.
IN OTHER NEWS
Earlier this week I posted an extract from my speech on the need for a properly resourced autism strategy to address the lack of educational and care services. You can watch the full speech here: https://youtu.be/dnoj79p57CE
I attended a briefing this week by Independent Living Movement Ireland on the importance of personal assistance as vital support for independent living.
I also attended a meeting with representatives of the forestry sector where I heard about obstacles the industry faces in planting and felling forests. I am continually raising these issues with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
I am continuing to push the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to provide investment for wastewater infrastructure in places such as Shannonvale. There are still many areas of Ireland weere untreated sewage is discharged into rivers and the sea: : https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-06-23/18/question/18/
Kinsale Arts Weekend is on this weekend. It’s so great to see the return of this jam-packed festival with theatre, music, comedy, visual art, crafts, dance, literature, film and children’s activities: https://www.kinsaleartsweekend.com/
Would you like to be part of Culture Night 2022 in September? Apply here (deadline July 15): http://culturenightcorkcounty.ie/…
The Beach Lifeguard service is now on duty every day until the end of August in Garrylucas, Garretstown, Inchydoney East and West, Owenahincha, The Warren, Tragumna and Barleycove Beaches.
Well done to all Schools who participated in the Cork Schools’ Garden Competition, especially Ballymoney National School Ballineen who were the Cork County Overall Winners and Skibbereen for winning a gold medal.
26 June 2022
This week I spoke strongly in favour of a motion calling for greater respite for carers.
The inadequacy in the provision of respite care is a symptom of a much larger issue.
Carers are absolutely essential and provide incredible support every day with disgracefully little state assistance in terms of payments and respite.
If the Government were to address this particular issue, it would empower more people with disabilities and their families to make choices that work for them.
This is about their rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It is about receiving the necessary support to live as full and independent a life as possible.
Gender based violence up for debate
We discussed Ireland opting into an EU Directive of Gender Based Violence in the Dáil this week.
I raised the massive gap between our international commitments and provision of domestic violence services, especially refuge spaces.
I also highlighted the important report from West Cork Women Against Violence ‘Listening to Survivors of Sexual Violence and their Supporters in West Cork’ which has recommendations based on the lived experience of survivors and their supporters.
You can read the report here: https://www.westcorkwomensproject.ie/…/listen-to-me…
Arts and hospitality sector need more support
I once again raised the issues of rising costs for business and the need for timely supports for the arts and hospitality sector with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin (Green Party).
Rising energy, insurance, and other costs is making everything more expensive for restaurants and hotels across West Cork. I pushed the Minister to act on this pressing matter: https://youtu.be/b3C6JueZ0n4
I also highlighted the ongoing problem of delays in businesses getting promised support which puts additional stress on owners and local suppliers. https://youtu.be/shY6BNMFGCE
At the Children’s Committee this week:
We had a final discussion on the Birth Information and Tracing Bill which is designed to enable adopted people to eventually access their personal information, a basic right which has been denied to them for decades.
While I support the intent of the bill there are major defects which adopted people and human rights experts have highlighted. It is deeply disappointing that the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman (Green Party) refused to listen to key points.
I also called for a full and proper apology from the Taoiseach to adopted people and their families who endured some of the worst human rights abuses at the hands of the state: https://youtu.be/ef_V5zTRX4I
At the Disability Matters Committee this week:
We discussed the many barriers people with disabilities face when accessing justice and the failure of the justice and penal system to recognise and respond to individuals with disabilities.
I asked the Mental Health Commission about the law we’ll be discussing in the Dáil next week which will impact on how disabled people and others can make their own decisions: https://youtu.be/3igNubKRGlc
19 June 2022
This week I got the opportunity to travel to the UN for the 15th Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It was a very interesting and educational few days.
One of the stand-out sessions discussed the impact the invasion of Ukraine has had on people with disabilities, and how we can help people with disabilities prepare for future crises, like the climate crisis.
It really brought it home that we can’t let it get to that point. We simply cannot let the planet heat up by a further two degrees. So many people will be forced to flee, leading to mass migration and people with disabilities will be hardest hit as many won’t have the ability or resources to leave.
I had hoped there would be sessions dedicated to ratifying the optional protocol, as clearly, Ireland needs some help in that area. Unfortunately there were no scheduled sessions on this subject so I focused on talking to individual representatives to find out how they went about it.
I spoke to a representative from Denmark who told me that their government ratified it on the back of public pressure leading up to a general election.
He told me that this doesn’t mean that life is perfect for people in Denmark with disabilities, but that the ratification is seen by everyone as a statement of real intent and it paves the way for the government to do better.
I used to work as a disability support worker in Malta so I was so happy to meet their delegation at the convention and I was amazed to find out that they knew my old client, Seby.
Seby is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about disability rights. Working with him opened my eyes to the lived experience of people with disabilities and their families.
IN OTHER NEWS
I am continuing to push for publicly funded childcare to alleviate these significant costs for families. The measures proposed by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman (Green Party) will have limited impact. The truth is we need a radical policy shift to make a real difference: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-06-02/13/…
I am deeply concerned, but not surprised, to learn that the government’s commitment to ending direct provision by end of 2024 is in doubt: https://www.independent.ie/…/ending-direct-provision-by…
While the government has outlined a plan, little progress has been made since it was published 16 months ago. I cam continuing to push the Minister to act: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-06-02/58/question/58/
Access to the internet remains a major rural issue. I continually follow up with the Minister responsible, Ossian Smyth (Green Party) who usually gives me the same stock answer, in this case rolling Cork South West and mid-Cork into one when I specifically asked about this constituency: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-06-02/126/question/126/
Several people have contacted us in regards to recent decisions by An Bord Pleanála due to the controversy surrounding the board. I asked the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien (FF) to clarify the state or recent decisions. He informed me that ‘the status of such decisions which has already been made by the Board remains unchanged.’ https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-06-02/232/question/232/
I’m happy to see that the reform of the Farm Assist Means Test introduces a new income disregard so that farmers on Agri-Environmental Schemes don’t have their social welfare payments impacted: https://www.agriland.ie/…/major-changes-to-farm-assist…/
Cork County Council are seeking expressions of Interest from community, business, & development groups for the Town and Village Renewal Scheme 2022. Closing date July 1: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/community-input-sought-town…
The West Cork Chamber Music Festival returns next weekend: https://www.westcorkmusic.ie/chamber-music-festival/
Children across County Cork can take part in the Summer Stars Reading programme : https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/summer-stars-reading-2022…
Draft Regulations for Providers of Home Support Services set out the minimum requirements that public, private and not-for-profit providers of home support services will be required to meet to obtain a license to operate. Closing date for public consultation: Thursday, July 28: https://www.gov.ie/…/81506-public-consultation-on…/
12 June 2022
Kicking up a FUSS at the GPO
I attended the Families Unite for Services and Support (FUSS Ireland) protest at the GPO in Dublin on Saturday.
The protest highlighted the disgraceful ongoing waiting lists for children and young adults with disabilities.
Yet again, exhausted and frustrated parents and young carers had to share their stories and take to the streets seeking basic services for their children and siblings.
Families are sick and tired of the same excuses from the government at the lack of action.
When is enough, enough?
Social Democrats Party Conference
We held our first in-person conference in two years in Dublin on Friday and Saturday and it was so lovely to catch up with everyone.
It’s easy to feel disillusioned when it comes to politics, but gatherings like these always give me hope for the future.
I got to chair a really interesting discussion with Faye Hayden, co-chairwoman of the ‘Not OK IN Schools Ireland’ (NOISI) which supports and advocates for the thousands of children in Ireland who are experiencing a School Placement Breakdown of some kind. (Faye also spoke at the FUSS protest a few hours later.)
I contributed to a discussion of Cost of Living on RTÉ News Now highlighting rising food costs, additional expense of living in rural areas, and the substantial extra cost of living with a disability in Ireland.
I also gave a speech introducing the party co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall on RTÉ 1. I emphasised the need for a fairer and more progressive Ireland that supports the most vulnerable and gives a fair chance for all.
Meeting with Council staff in Kinsale area
I had a very productive meeting with Council staff in the Kinsale area on issues which have been raised with me on the doors and through my office including issues with footpaths and other infrastructure, the need for improved amenities, blocked drains, and problems with speeding.
We discussed key issues such as the lack of pedestrian/cycling infrastructure in Belgooly, access to Ballymartle Woods in Riverstick, and the need for more amenities in Kinsale town and at local beaches.
If you’re aware of any issues that need to be addressed, please log it with the Council first, then send us the reference number of your query so that we can follow up.
Meeting at United Nations Headquarters
I’m travelling to New York tomorrow to represent the Oireachtas at the UN Conference of State Parties to the UN CRPD along with two other members of the Disability Matters Committee.
This meeting will discuss the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The CRPD is a key to addressing significant issues in education, therapeutic support and employment for people with disabilities in Ireland.
It is an honour to represent Ireland at this meeting as well as a great opportunity to learn from other countries and disability organisations about how to ratify the important optional protocol which can hold the state to account for its failures.
IN OTHER NEWS
The Horticulture Exceptional Payment Scheme is now open until June 7:
Bandon Environmental Action Group (BEAG) are holding an open forum on their Biodiversity Action Plan on Saturday in Bandon Library, 2-4pm Sat June 18: https://twitter.com/corkcol…/status/1533132934504402945…
Irish Water are seeking feedback on their Regional Water Resources Plan South West (RWRP-SW) to review water supply needs. If your household or community is affected, please make your voice heard. All details can be found here: www.water.ie/rwrp/southwest
The Retail Banking Review public consultation is open until July 8: https://www.gov.ie/…/8bbea-retail-banking-review…/
5 June 2022
Cost of living gets higher and higher
This week I joined other opposition TDs in calling for an additional payment for hard-pressed households.
The immediate crisis felt in energy, food, and other costs, is made much worse by the underlying failures of successive Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil governments to tackle childcare costs, skyrocketing rents, healthcare and much more.
Unless these fundamental issues are resolved more and more families will pay the price.
I also spoke about our imbalanced food system where retailers and large-scale producers make most of the profit, while farmers, fishers and artisan producers are barely getting by: https://youtu.be/rubzS9iMo2w
Separately, I have highlighted the need for a food regulator with the powers to address power imbalances in the sector: https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/arid-40880912.html
Emissions targets a load of hot air
This week we learned from the EPA that in the (unlikely) event that all of the government’s climate action plans are successful, emissions will fall by only 28% by 2030, just over half of the supposedly legally binding target of 51%.
I challenged Minister Eamon Ryan on the inadequacy of the government’s plans.
I was not at all reassured by his answer.
The next eight years are the most significant if we are to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and give future generations some hope.
Read the report: https://www.epa.ie/…/irelands-greenhouse-gas-emissions…
Housing Adaptation Grants Not Fit for Purpose
Housing Adaptation Grants are designed to help older people and people with disabilities to live independently in their communities.
Unfortunately, these schemes are significantly under-funded, the grants themselves fall far short in many cases, the system is too bureaucratic and there are major delays.
This week in the Dáil, I highlighted a recent case from the Jack and Jill Foundation.
A family with a child with spina bifida had to raise €50,000 and get a Credit Union loan of €30,000 to pay for essential renovations to their home despite availing of the Housing Adaptation Grant scheme.
Circular Economy Bill and a Just Transition
I spoke in support of an amendment to add a definition of a Just Transition to the Circular Economy Bill to ensure that our climate and sustainability actions are carried out in a fair way that does not negatively affect the most vulnerable
Minister Ryan and the Green Party voted against the Just Transition amendment despite being champions of the idea in opposition: https://youtu.be/PjMJz1Rovcg
You can read the debate and see the voting record here: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/debate/dail/2022-06-01/17/…
MONTHLY CLIMATE UPDATE
The impact of global heating on the Alps is visible from space with previously snow-capped peaks being taken over by vegetation: https://www.theguardian.com/…/global-heating-is-turning…
Here’s a summary of the EPA’s report on the actions necessary to reduce our emissions by 51 in the next eight years: https://www.rte.ie/…/2022/0531/1302341-emissions-ireland/
A powerful and unseasonal tidal surge flipped and battered the pontoon in Barleycove recently: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/barleycove-victim-of…
IN OTHER NEWS
Frustratingly, the Government voted down my colleague Cian O’Callaghan TD’s Land Price Register Bill. This Bill would help prevent land hoarding, land speculation and land price inflation. Read more: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=679554873134379&set=a.602298014193399
The Draft Cork County Council new speed limits are now available for inspection in council offices or online until Monday June 13. Traffic speed is a major safety issue, especially in villages, and I would everyone to make submissions highlighting the need for longer reductions approaching villages and lower limits in built up areas: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/draft-cork-county-council…
There are water safety events in West Cork across the summer. You will need to contact the Local Area Contact to book a course: https://drive.google.com/…/1Qkhd65ms5Sna2NuolHB…/view…
The launch ceremony of Allihies Men’s Shed traditional fishing boat will take place on June 12 at 2pm at Garnish Pier.
Vacancies are currently open for relief school wardens in Banon, Innishannon, and Castletownbere: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/cork-county-council-vancancies
Consultation on the review of the Action Plan on Bullying and the Review of the Anti-bullying Procedures in schools closes June 21: https://www.gov.ie/…/483de-consultation-on-the-review…/
29 May 2022
The very real danger of radon
A report from the EPA has highlighted that the number of homes at risk from radon is significantly higher than previously thought.
Parts of Cork South West have been identified as high risk.
Check to see if your house is in a high-risk area here https://gis.epa.ie/EPAMaps/Radon?&lid=EPA:RadonRiskMapofIreland
Exposure to radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and is responsible for approximately 350 lung cancer deaths every year.
Back in 2020, I asked Minister Eamon Ryan to subsidise radon testing services to encourage more household testing.
I am now repeating that call to make testing cheaply and easily available. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2020-11-12/102/question/102/
The Social Democrats are also calling for the government to act now to mitigate the radon risk by mandating testing whenever homes are being sold or rented
We need mortgage protection reform
Most people have to get mortgage protection insurance when they get a mortgage.
This can be a complicated and expensive process where mortgage providers have all the power.
There needs to be a rebalancing of responsibility.
This system is also a major barrier to many people with disabilities ever being able to buy their own home.
I asked the Minister for Finance to reform this area to prevent financial institutions putting excessive and unreasonable stipulations on home buyers.
Unfortunately, from his response he doesn’t seem to be aware of the hoops ordinary families are forced to jump through to get a home:
What’s going on with the domiciliary care allowance?
The domiciliary care allowance is a monthly payment for a child under 16 with a disability.
It is not means-tested but it can be difficult to access due to the complicated application process and strict eligibility criteria.
I am pushing for a reform of this allowance to reflect the reality of the cost of living with a disability in Ireland.
According to a response to a Parliamentary Question we submitted, up to one third of appeals against a rejected application were granted.
This suggests that the confusing complicated nature of the application process is preventing children and families from getting the support they need: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-19/307/question/307/
More info on the allowance: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/domiciliary_care…
IN OTHER NEWS
The long awaited funding for the endoscopy unit in Bantry Hospital is especially good news this week. It is also great to see much needed investment in the hospitals in Cork South West including refurbishment and extension of Castletownbere, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, and Kinsale Community hospitals.
I so happy about the announced funding for our offshore islands. West Cork has an extremely long tradition of vibrant island culture that needs to be supported. Infrastructure investment such as the pontoon at East Pier on Heir Island, the new helipad light on Cléire, and upgrading public toilets on Bere Island are all important for accessibility and safety. The Middle Battery feasibility study for Whiddy is important to develop the island as a destination, and coastal defences on Sherkin are an important mitigation measure. However it needs to be said that basic infrastructure work like this should be part of the everyday work of the Council.
I have asked the Oireachtas Library and Research Service to examine how stillbirths are registered in other jurisdictions which will help inform my push for reform in this area. You can access the research here: https://hollycairns.ie/…/final-Briefing-Paper-Enquiry…
The Irish Examiner covered my recent Dáil comment calling for support and mechanisms to help farmers install solar panels on farm buildings, while also highlighting that less than 2% of dairy farms have solar PV system installed: https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/arid-40875386.html
Do you have a story to tell about your town or village or old photos to share? The County Heritage office are seeking submissions for their latest publication on the Towns and Villages of County Cork. Submissions are open until Monday, June 27. For more info email email@example.com or phone 021 428 5905/5935.
Check out this year’s programme for Cruinniú na nÓg, a national day of free events and workshops to support creativity in children and young people: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/cruinniu-na-nog-programme…
The Local Authority Pollinator Award in the national Tidy Towns competition is open for entries until Friday, June 10: https://pollinators.ie/…/enter-the-2021-local…/…
Applications are open for the Bandon/Kinsale Municipal District Streetscape Painting, Signage & Improvement Scheme 2022. Closing date Friday, June 24: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/streetscape-painting-signage…
Consultation on proposed R585 Dromdeegy, Dunmanway – Road Realignment and Improvement Scheme:
22 May 2022
National Maternity Hospital vote and abstentions
This week was dominated by the government’s decision to push ahead with their flawed National Maternity Hospital plan despite the genuine concerns of ordinary people and warnings from medics and legal experts.
All government TDs, except two principled Green party members, abstained on a key vote regarding public ownership of the National Maternity Hospital.
The least we could have expected is for government TDs to back their own Cabinet’s decision, but they did not even do that. They abstained.
It’s also concerning that the most vocal anti-choice TDs were the ones arguing in favour of the current deal.
Watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/LIX_NPROj4I
Half-a-billion bonanza for developers
The government’s latest attempt to solve the housing crisis is to gift housing developers up to €144,000 per apartment, without securing any reduction whatsoever in the sales price.
The Social Democrats tabled a motion this week to oppose this nearly half-a-billion euro bonanza for developers.
Why doesn’t the government spend this money on converting vacant homes and derelict buildings for families instead?
When I checked on Daft on Tuesday there were just 11 properties for rent in Cork South West and fewer than 80 homes under €250,000 to buy between all the major towns in West Cork.
There are abandoned and vacant buildings in almost all towns and villages across Cork South West, not to mention countless farmhouses scattered across the countryside that are being left to decay and collapse.
If the government is serious about supporting rural Ireland, the scourge of dereliction needs to be tackled.
So far their policies to address this major issue have proven to be ineffectual and inadequate.
Watch my full speech here: https://youtu.be/hUzbPpt5O6g
Summer Programme access issues
The Summer Programme (also known as July Provision) provides educational support during the summer to children with special needs and those at most risk of educational disadvantage.
Only a minority of schools are running the Summer Programme, which will leave many children who desperately need it without educational and developmental support for two months.
On Monday, I met with families of children with complex needs who are very worried that their children will be unable to access the programme this year.
On Tuesday, I raised the issue directly with the Taoiseach who was unwilling to acknowledge there was an issue with the government’s approach: https://youtu.be/V-iWXVO3jhs
At the Disability Matters Committee we agreed to write to the Minister for Educational, Norma Foley TD to address the problems.
Unfortunately, she will not be appearing at the Committee until June when it will be too late to solve the issues for this year, leaving thousands of children without suitable education and forcing hard-pressed families into coming up with and paying for alternative arrangements.
We discussed the response to the Ukraine crisis. I asked the Minister about concerns regarding the emergence of a two-tiered refugee system, with some groups being treated very differently to others. Unfortunately he referred to regulations in his response rather than the larger point of inequity: https://youtu.be/ZJSLK9IA1k0
Our interaction was covered on Morning Ireland the following day: https://youtu.be/CXcbCGmOjfA
The Red Cross also appeared at the Committee. I thanked them for their incredible work and asked about the types of social and psychological support that will be needed for both Ukrainian refugees and host families: https://youtu.be/V7Ml6uSl5cM
Disability Matters Committee:
I was delighted to arrange for the National Learning Network (Bantry) to attend the Committee this week to discuss the work they do training people with disabilities, and those who have an illness or mental health difficulty, to gain employment. Manager Pat Murphy and student Alan Porter outlined how they operate and the importance of links with employers and public transport: https://youtu.be/Gb8Vk-_H_a4
I asked Independent Living Movement Ireland about the systematic barriers faced by people with disabilities in getting employment and having careers: https://youtu.be/H_MyvIawUJc
I also asked Solas about their practical plans to increase the number of disabled people undertaking apprenticeships and participating in further education and training: https://youtu.be/s75ky6Gzwgw
IN OTHER NEWS
I am continuing to push the government to increase the number of places in primary and secondary schools for young people with disabilities: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-12/91/question/91/
The likely closure of the Goleen post office is due to lack of government investment. Postmasters have been warning of this for years. We need proper investment in this vital infrastructure especially for rural Ireland: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/loss-of-goleen-po-a-big…
I have been continually calling for the government to implement an annual public service obligation to address the post office network funding shortfall, but I keep getting told by Ministers Eamon Ryan and Hildegarde Naughton that “Government policy is that postal services will not be directly subsidised by the taxpayer.” https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-10/220/question/220/
I have asked the Minister for Finance to reform the criteria of the Incapacitated Child Tax Credit to greater reflect the realities and costs experienced by families with a child with additional needs:
Also, all families in this situation should look at applying for the Domiciliary Care Allowance: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/domiciliary_care…
The Minister for Communications updated me on the pending survey of the Dunmanway area under the National Broadband Plan:
The Irish Heart Foundation is seeking the removal of VAT on defibrillators to help make these life-saving devices more affordable for communities and organisations. Unfortunately, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe gave me a stock answer when I put this request to him: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-17/258/question/258/
On Tuesday, I met the board of One in Four who provide support and counselling to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. They do invaluable work in helping survivors and in campaigning for a society where children are safe from the threat of sexual harm.
I attended the Migrant Fishers protest outside Leinster House this week. These workers, who are a vital part of our fishing sector, are seeking progress on reform of work permit schemes.
The Farm Environmental Study scheme allows farmers to learn more about farmland habitats and to have the habitats and biodiversity held on their land recorded, mapped and assessed. Closing date is May 27 and applications must be submitted through the Department of Ag’s online application portal: www.agfood.ie
Cork’s Pride in Our Community competition is open for entries. Closing date is June 1: https://www.muintircork.com/compet…/pride-in-our-community
Well done to Ballinadee Community Hall Development Association Pride of Place Awards for their ‘very strong community spirit’.
It is great to see the Fastnet Film festival back this year showcasing Irish and international creators: https://www.fastnetfilmfestival.com/
As part of Biodiversity Week, there is a photography competition to celebrate wildlife found across Ireland. Closing date is May 31: www.biodiversityweek.ie
The Draft Cork County Council Road Traffic Special Speed Limit Bye-Laws 2022 are now available for inspection in council offices or online: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/draft-cork-county-council…
Cork County Council are looking for the public’s help to identify bathing waters to ensure they meet water quality standards: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/public-participation…
15 May 2022
Dáil discussion on agriculture, fisheries and food security
I raised several issues during this debate including:
Food security and sustainability
Ireland is a net importer of many crops and vegetables we could easily grow ourselves, sheep farmers are throwing away wool because prices are so low, and our organic sector is tiny compared to other countries. We need policies that encourage diversity in farming and ensure that farmers and producers get fair prices for their work.
I highlighted the inequity in the fishing industry with the inshore sector, which make up the vast majority of fishers, getting only 2% of the mackerel quota. I also called for more sustained investment in small piers and harbours which are vital to the viability of coastal and island communities. Our foreshore licensing needs to be reformed to help support marine infrastructure.
I separately asked the Minister on the steps he is taking to prevent the closure of the line caught mackerel fishery in 2022: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-11/284/speech/454
Farm building solar panels
I also pushed for progress on grants to help install energy micro-generation on farms and sell power back to the national grid. This is a win-win for individual farmers with rising energy costs and for addressing Ireland’s climate targets.
Housing schemes in Skibbereen and Clonakilty
I was delighted to attend the opening of housing schemes in Skibbereen and Clonakilty this week.
This is the type of investment we need to make rural communities more sustainable.
Unfortunately we also learned this week that the average new rents across the country are now nearly €1,600 – more than twice their Celtic Tiger peak. Meanwhile, rental supply has fallen by an unprecedented 77pc year-on-year.
The housing crisis is clearly getting worse under this government, not better. Renters are now in despair.
The Minister’s plan is demonstrably not working. The question now is, what is he going to do about it?
Bantry Flood Relief Scheme – public participation day
On Wednesday May 18, from 4 – 8pm there is a public process for the Bantry Flood Relief Scheme in Áras Beanntraí, Wolfe Tone Square, Bantry.
The consultants developing the scheme want to hear from local people and businesses impacted by flooding and to hear your solutions to the flooding problem.
The much-needed flood relief scheme will have a major impact on Bantry and it is essential that the voice of residents and business is heard.
If you are unable to attend, submit your comments in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Bantry Flood Relief Scheme, JBA Consulting, Unit 24 Grove Island, Corbally, Limerick.
More info: www.bantryfrs.ie
The Summer Programme, often called the July Provision, provides educational support during the summer to children with special needs and those at most risk of educational disadvantage.
There are major concerns from families about the number of schools who run the programme and the support for home programmes.
I have asked the Minister for Education to ensure that this is available to as many young people as possible: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-10/527/question/527/
(We have also discussed this matter at the Disability Matters Committee and I am extremely disappointed that the Minister for Education has not made the time to appear at this Committee.)
We focused on fostering this week, examining the incredible work done by foster carers and the support they need. I asked about the challenges foster families face and the difficulties in recruiting carers for adolescents: https://youtu.be/16Ko2g-azBU
Disability Matters Committee:
Ireland has the lowest employment rate of persons with disabilities in the EU. This week we talked about ways of improving employment prospects and the positive impact that can have with Central Remedial Clinic and Social Farming: https://youtu.be/p5h9Z0H3kLY
IN OTHER NEWS
The riverside park at the heart of the village of Shannovale is unusable due to the inadequate wastewater systems. I am glad that the Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage visited Shannonvale this week to witness first hand the need to address the wastewater situation. Locals have been campaigning for years on this matter, and it must be addressed.
I spoke on the need to reform our defamation laws which currently favour people with very deep pockets and threaten transparency. We need laws that properly balance freedom of expression and the protection of journalism as well as the constitutional right to a good name. https://youtu.be/kwKB77kcU6A
I am continuing to call for an increase in EV charging points. Iif we are serious about encouraging people to transition to e-vehicles, there must be special provision for people with on-street parking outside their homes: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-10/235/question/235/
I asked the Minister for Defence to ensure that proper recognition is given to the contribution of the members of the Defence Forces in response to the Covid-19 pandemic: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-05-10/464/question/464/
I participated in a briefing by the Irish Men’s Sheds Association on their pre-budget submission discussing the brilliant work of their organisation and the importance of government support.
I also attended an LNG briefing meeting with an international group of grassroots activists discussing the importation of fracked gas and the review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems.
Bantry Age Friendly is running a Dementia Awareness Information Evening on Monday May 23 at 7pm in the Maritime Hotel.
The HSE is offering free mental health training to individuals and groups who are interested in learning skills that will contribute to reducing incidents of self-harm and suicide in our community. There are online events and upcoming training in Bantry and Clonakilty: https://bookwhen.com/suicidepreventiontrainingcork…
There is an incredible range of activities taking place at Cork Bike Week for people of all ages and abilities, including events across West Cork: https://www.corksports.ie/corkbikeweekevents2022/
It is great to see progress being made towards more water refill stations across West Cork, something Councillor Ross O’Connell has being pushing: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/cllrs-float-idea-of-water…
Well done to everyone involved in developing Creative Places: West Cork Islands, a project supporting creative community engagement with climate adaptation and digital technology including Bere Island Projects Group, Sherkin Island Development Society, Comharchumann Chléire and Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre.
Cork County Council are offering a free Rainbow Library course for Young LGBTQIA+ people (13-23) to collaborate with each other and have their work published: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/county-libraries-launch…
Art workshops for 9-12 year olds will take place from 3:30–5pm on May 21, 28 & June 11 at Dunmanway Library. To book, call 023 8855411 or email email@example.com
There will be an information session on the application process for the Community Centres Investment Fund on Wed May 18 and Wed June 1: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/fec91-community-centres-investment-fund/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/communitycentresfund/
The “Sharing Knowledge” Fund is a funding stream for professionals working in children, youth, and family services to organise learning/training sessions. Closing date for applications May 27: https://whatworks.gov.ie/resources/funding/
Public consultation on EV charging infrastructure strategy: https://www.gov.ie/…/0a579-public-consultation-on-the…/
8 May 2022
Institutional Burials Bill amendments rejected
The Insitutional Burials Bill is designed to enable interventions at mass graves. I proposed several amendments at the Children’s Committee this week.
I focused on removing the many restrictions added by the government which limit the circumstances in which interventions can occur.
For example, I argued for the bill to require the Government to examine sites which meet the criteria for a suspected mass grave (Watch: https://youtu.be/I5qeAB9f4q8 )
Currently, the legislation makes it optional for the government to act.
If we are serious about justice for the deceased and survivors then the law must compel the Minister to do the right thing.
Another issue I raised was the need to follow international human rights law.
Several witnesses at the committee called for the use of the UN Special Rapporteur’s definition of mass grave sites including any burial site where the “circumstances surrounding the death and/or body-disposal method warrant an investigation as to their lawfulness.”
But the government is insisting that they will only intervene in cases of “manifestly inappropriate burials”.
This means that even though young women or children may have died in unnatural, unknown or suspicious circumstances, that is not in itself a reason for an intervention:
The Minister refused to accept any of my amendments despite the fact that I was representing the views of survivor groups, relatives, and human rights experts who made submissions on the bill.
Make the National Maternity Hospital ours
While I welcome the fact that the Cabinet has decided to postpone its decision to sign off on the NMH deal for two weeks, many questions remain unanswered.
The overarching one being – why is the State proposing to spend €1 billion on a public hospital that it will hand over to a private entity, St Vincent’s Holdings, the successor to the Sisters of Charity?
There are very real and genuine concerns about the deal in its current guise and if the Government goes ahead with it, I believe they will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
It is absolutely essential, in the interests of Irish women now and into the future, that the new National Maternity Hospital is fully State owned and free of any religious control or influence.
As well as raising this matter at the Children’s Committee this week, I discussed it on RTÉ Radio 1’s Late Debate. You can listen to a clip here: https://youtu.be/T7LCn88mhkk
Households left in limbo
Many families in West Cork and across Ireland are being left in limbo because neither the developer nor the local authority are taking responsibility for the infrastructure in their housing estate.
Footpaths, lighting, and sewers are either deficient or deteriorating and the Council is refusing to take responsibility for these estates until existing issues, which would cost tens of thousands to rectify, are resolved.
I pushed the Minister for Housing to intervene to help these families. He insisted the current system is working, when it clearly is not.
Watch: : https://youtu.be/EbjzNUoq56E
IN OTHER NEWS
Government support for the live performance sector misses the mark. Smaller venues hosting summer gigs and festivals need to plan ahead and be in receipt of funds months in advance, however, in some cases, applications for support schemes have just closed. I pushed this matter with the junior Minister on Thursday: https://youtu.be/i204D1VjdvI
I have been raising the issue of rising insurance costs for the hospitality sector with the Minister for Finance: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-04-28/50/question/50/
At the Disability Matters Committee this week, we had a very insightful and important discussion on the best ways to support refugees with disabilities when they arrive in Ireland: https://youtu.be/mEx8xRd9hgg
On Friday, I visited Drimoleague to discuss infrastructure and traffic calming needs. I will be working with my Social Democrats colleague Cllr. Ross O’Connell to secure funding for important infrastructure and improved biodiversity through tree planting and landscaping.
HRT shortages remain a major issue for women across Ireland. The Government needs to look into buying HRT to ensure availability, as well as upskilling GPs and launching a public awareness campaign around the menopause and available treatments.
There is a shortage of Safe Pass courses and I am encouraging the Minister for Further and Higher Education to rectify this: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-04-28/244/question/244/
The announced funding for safety measures in Glandore Harbour has caused concern locally. I am working on understanding the issues involved and moving towards an amicable solution.
Many communities and sports clubs now have life-saving defibrillators. All government departments and public bodies should have them too:
CSO figures reveal that data centres (which add very little by way of jobs) are using more electricity than all rural homes combined: https://www.irishtimes.com/…/data-centres-now-consuming…
There are lots of interesting events and programmes on across the country for Biodiversity Week (13-22 May): https://biodiversityweek.ie/
The West Cork Literary Festival is back, in person, in beautiful Bantry, 8-15 July 2022, with a wonderful line up of Irish and international writers: https://www.westcorkmusic.ie/…/west-cork-literary…/
Cork County Council is hosting a 6-week online Film Club for older people based in Co. Cork starting on Tuesday. Sign up at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know that Skibbereen woman, Marian Barry, played an important role in the development and growth of the trade union movement in Britain and Ireland? https://skibbereenhistorical.ie/marian-barry-1871-1921…/
The National Outdoor Recreation Strategy is now open for submissions until 17 May: https://bit.ly/3vEFs3L
1 May 2022
Hands off our National Maternity Hospital
“Alarm bells keep ringing at the Maternity Hospital” is the headline of Justine McCarthy’s column in the Sunday Times today and if you care about the future of women’s healthcare, it’s essential reading.
Two female HSE board members voted against board approval on the National Maternity Hospital this week due to governance concerns.
Professor Deirdre Madden and Dr. Sarah McLoughlin said they did not feel their outstanding concerns were adequately addressed and they dissented from the decision.
Our National Maternity Hospital must be free from religious influence.
Irish women simply won’t stand for anything else.
Read more: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/…/alarm-bells-keep-ringing… (PAYWALL)
Birth Information and Tracing Bill final stages
The final stages of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill came before the Dáil this week.
The Bill is such important legislation as it intends to give adopted people and their relatives access to vital personal information which has been denied to them by state bodies for decades.
The Minister made some positive changes to the legislation during the review process, which should be acknowledged, but several problematic aspects remain.
Support for Ukranians in Ireland
I have sought clarification from government departments on support available to Ukrainian refugees.
Here are the updates for anyone supporting or in contact with families in West Cork:
Enterprise, Trade and Employment supports: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-04-07/181/…
Cork County Council also has a dedicated centre: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/cork-county-councils-response…
At the Children’s Committee this week:
We discussed domestic violence leave. West Cork Women Against Violence Project CEO Marie Mulholland made a powerful contribution where she described the odyssey of obstacles women experiencing domestic violence need to overcome to access support In West Cork. I will post a video of her speech early next week.
At the Disability Matters Committee this week:
We discussed how disabled people are disproportionately affected by humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an especially stark reminder of this reality. I asked how governments and emergency services can work with disabled people to provide effective assistance.
MONTHLY CLIMATE UPDATE
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlights the current impacts of climate change and warns about severe events if there isn’t a substantial reduction in greenhouse gasses. The report is the latest warning of the need for immediate action: https://www.theguardian.com/…/ipcc-report-now-or-never…
The Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity started recently. It will examine the incredibly important role of biodiversity to sustaining life and the best was to protect and restore recent significant biodiversity loss: https://www.citizensassembly.ie/…/assembly-on…/about/
Well done to all in Bantry who marked Earth Day last week with art, workshops and information stalls on sustainable living: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10166577542820413&set=pcb.10166577542975413
IN OTHER NEWS
The government is not doing enough for hard-pressed businesses in the hospitality sector who are experiencing significant insurance costs. I raised the matter with the Minister for Finance and I have questions submitted to the Minister for Tourism this week: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-04-07/247/question/247/
I am continuing to push the HSE to provide more rural GP services, including greater resourcing of out-of-hours services in places like Castletownbere: https://hollycairns.ie/…/PQ-ref-19158-22-SouthDoc…
It’s great to see the addition of bus shelters in towns and villages in Cork South West, including Baltimore, Bandon, Bantry, Dunmanway, and Riverstick. Bus shelters are an important piece of infrastructure that helps make public transport more accessible: https://hollycairns.ie/…/uploads/2022/04/BusShelters22.pdf
Additional staff have finally been recruited to Dunmanway Swimming Pool and will begin their induction next week.
I’m looking forward to reading Karen Minihan’s book “Extraordinary, Ordinary Women: Untold Stories From the Founding of the State” about the forgotten stories of West Cork women: https://roaringwaterjournal.com/…/drying-gelignite…/…
Over 100 people die from drowning every year in Ireland. Ringbuoys save lives. If you notice a missing or damaged ringbuoy, please report it to watersafety.ie/ringbuoys
Well done to all the local heritage projects in Cork South West that were awarded heritage funding recently. Bandon was awarded funding under the Irish Walled Town Network Grant and the Allihies Copper Mines Museum and the Church of the Ascension in Timoleague were awarded funding under the Community Heritage Grant Scheme: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/cork-county-awarded-nearly…
The Community Centres Investment Fund supports the upgrading and development of Community Centre facilities. The Department of Rural and Community Development are running online information events in May and June to provide guidance on how to apply: https://www.gov.ie/…/fec91-community-centres…/
Cork ETB are now welcoming applications under the 2022 Youth Club Grant Scheme. More details here: https://www.corketb.ie/…/youth-services/youth-club-grants/
24 April 2022
Easter Recess Events Round-up
One of the upsides of the Dáil being on Easter recess is that I have more time to spend in our beautiful constituency.
I got to pop into Skibbereen Rowing Club earlier this week and had the best time. When you consider the world-class rowers this Club has produced, it is remarkable that they don’t even have a pontoon to launch from. Shout-out to the amazing community of volunteers who are making such a difference.
I was also honoured to be a judge for the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing Bantry. My dancing experience is limited to set-dancing classes at the Cosy Cabin so I was completely blown away by everyone involved. It must have taken such a huge amount of work to stage such a stunning show. Most importantly, lots of money was raised for the ASD class and Cancer Connect. It is infuriating, however, that communities are forced to fundraise for such vital services.
Broadband access update
Access to broadband remains a major issue for many rural areas.
I regularly seek updates from the Minister for Communications on the overall rollout in Cork South West and on when specific premises will be connected.
This week the Department confirmed to me that surveys on Beara will be completed by May, while the Kinsale area survey will begin in the latter half of this year but that the Sheep’s Head survey will not commence until at least next year.
When will Direct Provision end?
The government intends to move to a new system replacing direct provision by 2024, but at the current rate of progress it is not clear if that target will be met.
There are still over 7,000 people trapped in hotels, guesthouses, nursing homes, and mobile homes across the country, including nearly 1,800 children, due to Ireland’s inhumane direct provision system.
In many cases rooms are shared with entire families in small spaces or even multiple strangers housed together, and then over half of them do not have access to cooking facilities.
Their lives are in limbo as they navigate Ireland’s hostile immigration system, with no clear timelines for applications or certainty for their fate.
Most Irish people are rightly horrified by the system which not only is incompatible with human rights but is run for profit and paid for with public money. Private companies and individuals have made millions off of direct provision.
I am continuing to push the Minister responsible, Roderic O’Gorman to end this inhumane system: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-24/33/question/33/
IN OTHER NEWS
I recently met with staff from The Bandon Family Resource Centre and the Skibbereen Family Resource Centre, both of which are doing incredible work in their communities.
I also met with the Irish Grain Growers. It’s hard to know what to say about this meeting. Grain growers have been undervalued for so long and even a likely shortage of grain hasn’t resulted in the necessary acknowledgment.
Cork Credit Unions are doing such great work providing community banking, especially in rural areas. I have submitted questions to the Minister for Finance on the progress of promised support for Credit Unions: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40850633.html
I am continuing to push for changes to be made to the Bike to Work and other schemes to allow people with disabilities access adapted bikes and e-bikes
The South-West Regional Enterprise Plan to 2024 will be a driver of local economic development. Its progession needs to be accelerated to support the rural economy:
Cork County Library will hold an online workshop on Wednesday April 27 that will explore using stories to help develop children’s thinking and improve their language skills: https://t.co/5Arsq7IEIw
The Aarhus Convention establishes the right of people to access information about the environment. The consultation on the draft Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee Plan of Action closes Tuesday May 10: https://www.gov.ie/…/c4eee-consultation-on-the-draft…/
Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, has established a Common Fisheries Policy Review Group. The Group now welcomes written submissions and observations from industry and the general public. Closes April 29: https://bim.ie/…/common-fisheries-policy-review-group…/
10 April 2022
President Zelensky’s historic address
President Zelensky made a historic address to both houses of the Oireachtas this week. His inspiring and humbling speech expressed gratitude to the people of Ireland for their immediate response to the invasion and called on the government and EU to do more.
Just before his address, I met a group of Ukrainian children outside Leinster House. Their fathers are still in Ukraine, fighting against the Russian invasion.
The strength, courage and resilience of these children, and their parents, is just staggering, particularly in a week where more details of horrific war crimes against Ukrainians have come to light.
The international community needs to hold Putin to account for his despicable actions and the EU must wean itself off Russian oil and gas, Putin’s last economic lifeline.
Watered-down healthcare reform
The government’s proposed new regional health areas plan is a severely watered-down version of Sláintecare.
Instead of advancing the much needed reforms to ensure the provision of affordable care at point of need, the government is allowing institutional aversion in the Department of Health and HSE to prevent real change.
I went on C103 to discuss this as well as the failures of the Progressing Disability Services programme which is leaving children without interventions for years.
You can listen here: https://youtu.be/KB6ESIwkpVU
Where is the support for island communities?
The last-minute solution to the Dursey Island situation has left many communities concerned about government priorities in this area.
Many piers and harbours on the islands and coast need greater investment to ensure that these communities are fully accessible and socially and economically viable.
I put these issues directly to the Minister for Rural and Community Development this week: https://youtu.be/6mt3x5Us9qw
Communities are still waiting to see the government’s island development plan, something I raised with the Minister: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-04-05/128/question/128/
I also pushed the Minister for Transport to provide more funding for island infrastructure: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-04-05/217/question/217/
Safe Access Zones Bill update
This Bill, which protects women and families from being harassed outside hospitals and GP surgeries, has passed the Seanad thanks to broad cross-party support and the hard work of the Together for Safety group.
While the Minister for Health sat on his hands on this issue, a group of activists took it upon themselves to develop the legislation. I was delighted to meet the Together for Safety group again before the debate and when the Bill comes before the Dáil, I will be pushing for its progression.
At the Children’s Committee this week:
We finalised the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Assisted Decision Making Bill and officially launched it. This Bill will have a significant impact on how decision making capacities are supported, or in other cases, limited, for groups such as disabled people or people with dementia. The Committee has strong recommendations for the government to improve aspects of the proposed law, most of which I proposed.
At the Disability Matters Committee this week:
People with disabilities should be able to have their say on any policy or law that impacts them. Unfortunately, this right is not being realised, so I asked representatives from the Irish Deaf Society, Voice of Vision Impairment and the DPO Network about what we can do to change this: https://youtu.be/whCDMy2RKZg
IN OTHER NEWS
I am disappointed that the Minister for Agriculture is not doing more to restrict the use of glyphosate. It is an incredibly harmful substance that needs to be highly restricted for limited use. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-31/191/question/191 /
We need to do more to prevent and reduce pregnancy and infant loss and support the parents and families affected by these tragedies. I met with the charity Féileacáin to discuss the work that can be done in this important and sensitive area.
I met with the Vice President and Foreign Minister of Colombia, Mrs. Marta Lucía Ramírez, and the Ambassador to Ireland, Mrs. Patricia Cortés Ortiz, to discuss gender equality and female leadership.
The West Cork Chamber Music Festival is back June 24-July 3 in Bantry. Check out the programme here: https://www.westcorkmusic.ie/chamber-music-festival
The West Cork Rainbow Folx LGBTI+ YouthSpace is returning with meetings every Tuesday 4-5.30pm for 15-18 year olds and 5.30-7pm for 19-25 year olds: https://www.instagram.com/rainbowfolxwestcork/
Cork Bike Week will take place from May 14-22 and applications for community, workplace and school event funding are now being accepted: http://corkbikeweek.ie
Cancer Rehab Ireland are inviting those who have had a cancer diagnosis, or who are living with cancer, to get out and enjoy the water in West Cork with their Ladies Who Launch initiative: https://cancerrehabilitationireland.ie/ladies-who-launch/
Did you know? You can report faulty public lighting directly to Enerveo on https://enerveo.com/report-a-fault/ or 0818 372 772
Dunmanway Family Support Centre is currently recruiting for a family support worker, 10 hours per week: www.dfrc.ie
The Public Collection Days for electronic waste, including all appliances, batteries and bulbs are Thursday April 14, 9am-1pm at the Drimoleague Bring Site and Thursday April 14, 3pm-7pm at Bantry Skip Hire.
The public consultation on the ‘Reasonable Accommodation Fund’, which assisted people with disabilities in getting employment, closes 5pm Friday, April 29: https://www.gov.ie/…/97ed1-public-consultation-on-the…/
3 April 2022
10,000 children underwent unlawful assessment of need
A recent High Court judgement found that the HSE were using unlawful assessments of need under the 2005 Disability Act.
Thousands of children have been utterly let down by the state and this will add even more pressure onto stressed families and under-staffed disability teams.
I again called on the Minister for Health to address the disgraceful waiting lists for assessments and therapies, and the geographical variation in services
Hands off our National Maternity Hospital
The Social Democrats stand against the government plans to build the new National Maternity Hospital on a site controlled by the religious Sisters of Charity.
As Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall put it: Handing over a €1bn asset to a private entity is wrong, but to hand it over to a religious body is obnoxious. Have the Minister and government learned nothing from this country’s history?
How can we make Ireland more food secure?
Our agricultural sector is very vulnerable to disruption in international supply chains.
We are net importers of many vegetables and we are highly reliant on industrial fertiliser, which is now in short supply.
I asked the Minister for Agriculture about the steps he is taking to address the current shortages of fertiliser and impending grain shortages.
I reiterated my long-standing request that the Department shifts policy towards a more secure and sustainable food system built on a diversified range of crops and shorter supply chains.
Impacts of unintended pregnancies and Repeal Review
On Wednesday, I chaired the launch of the United Nations Population Fund State of the
World Population Report 2022. This report highlighted the global crisis of unintended pregnancies at the impacts they have on the lives of girls and women.
In Ireland and internationally we need to continue to provide free access to healthcare and contraceptives, proper sex education, and free, safe and legal abortion care.
I also made a submission to the review of our abortion legislation this week highlighting the many barriers women still face. We know that in 2020 at least ten people a week were forced to travel abroad for care. Families facing a complex foetal diagnosis cannot get care because their situation doesn’t tick the right legal boxes. There are large regions of the country where care is still not being provided.
It is essential that the government act to provide full and proper reproductive healthcare in line with the will of the Irish people.
At the Children’s Committee this week:
We had a private meeting finalising the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Assisted Decision Making Bill. I submitted several amendments to the final report to help improve protections for people who might be affected by the bill and to ensure that the Bill is developed in conjunction with disabled people’s organisations. All of my amendments were accepted.
At the Disability Matters Committee this week:
We looked at issues of independent living and safeguarding. I asked representatives from HIQA, The Irish Association of Social Workers and Sage Advocacy about issues such as domestic violence and disability, improving mental health services, and the need for greater accountability in congregated settings. Watch: https://youtu.be/pV6CiC-PNGg
I welcome the last minute decision from the Minister for Rural & Community Development to provide funding for temporary replacement service to Dursey Island. However, it is totally unacceptable that locals were left in limbo for so long. It took practically every elected representative in West Cork to intervene for the Department to eventually act.
Here are some links to important information for Ukrainian refugees: https://www.gov.ie/…/bc537-irelands-response-to-the…/
I also asked the Minister for Justice about the systems in place to protect refugees after a recent case of family who tried to exploit the situation of a refugee from Ukraine:
It was recently raised at the Disability Matters Committee that very few ATMs are fully accessible. I’ve asked the Minister for Finance to act on this:
Well done to the McCarthy family of Ballinadee who have painted a mural in the village dedicated to those affected by suicide: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40839554.html…
Kinsale Arts Weekend returns in July and they are looking for participants: https://www.kinsaleartsweekend.com
West Cork Women Against Violence Project run a programme for teenagers called Know Your Worth which explores issues around understanding abuse in relationships. They recently gave a workshop at Sacred Heart Secondary School Clonakilty: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=155320546866176&id=100071646930295
Bantry native Rebecca Coen, director of research at the Law Reform Commission, is driving a major piece of work to reduce unnecessary barriers and procedural hurdles for victims of crime to access compensation: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/a-fresh-opportunity-for…
Cork County Council are seeking Retained Firefighters for Kinsale and Carrigaline. Closing date: 4pm on Friday April 22. Further details and application forms: https://www.corkcoco.ie/en/your-county-council/careers
You can nominate people from your community who volunteered their time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: http://www.volunteer.ie/…/covid-19-volunteer-recognition/
Have your say: An independent review of the allocation of National Lottery funding is open until 22 April: https://www.gov.ie/…/9248d-public-consultation-on…/
Have your say: A review of the Regulations governing Early Learning and Care is now open until 06 May 2022: https://www.gov.ie/…/bef61-public-consultation-on-a…/
27 March 2022
Sex For Rent
The practice of landlords demanding sex in exchange for rent is abhorrent. It reveals the depraved depths of the housing crisis where grossly exploitative landlords expect sexual favours in return for putting a roof over people’s heads.
The Social Democrats used our time in the Dáil this week to progress our colleague Cian O’Callaghan TD’s bill making requiring sex for accommodation, or facilitating sex as a condition for accommodation, a criminal offence.
This Bill is an important focused response to this particular issue, but without addressing the larger underlying factors of a housing shortage and rapidly rising rents, the conditions for these abuses will remain.
Watch my contribution here: https://youtu.be/HlzjfqOYqoo
Dursey Island cable car at a standstill
The Dursey Island cable car service will halt operations this week. But no public alternative service is in place. And no-one is taking responsibility for it.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development informed me that Cork County Council were responsible for any replacement, but on Monday the local Councillors were informed that it was the Department’s responsibility.
The Minister for Finance, taking government questions earlier in the week, assured me that he would act on the issue, but as of publishing this post, no action has been taken. https://youtu.be/KXt3toxO2Xs
We need a State inquiry into illegal adoptions
The recent report from the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection on State Response to Illegal Birth Registrations recommended establishing a state inquiry into illegal adoptions using a truth commission model.
And yet the government continues to delay.
Adopted people and their families have endured forced family separation, one of the worst violations possible, at the hands of this state, and have been denied access to their identity for decades. We need a full State inquiry, nothing less.
I had a heated discussion with the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD at the Disability Matters Committee on Thursday.
We have one of the highest rates of poverty and social exclusion for people with disabilities in the EU at 38.1%, while at the same time we have the lowest employment rate of people with disabilities, at 32.3%. The system needs greater flexibility to help people work and receive state payments.
I also raised issues around applying for Disability Allowance and the high rejection rate. In 2020, almost two-third of applications that were initially rejected were overturned on appeal.
IN OTHER NEWS
It is very frustrating that the junior Minister for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD, is still not enabling walk-in appointments for driving licenses. Instead people have to book online, which not everyone can do, or call to make an appointment to a phone line that is often not answered: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-03-22/222/…
Senator Lynn Ruane, one of the most dedicated and principled legislators in the Seanad, has created an important and insightful podcast. Record in Wheatfield prison, it features interviews with the people who have first-hand experience of the Irish reform system. LIsten here: https://t.co/YfqJwp1FTA
I met with the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association this week to discuss food security and more.
I was really honoured to be named a Farming for Nature ambassador recently, along with my mum, Madeleine:
First time travelling abroad in a while? This is your reminder to check if your passport and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are still in date.
Passports can be renewed online: https://www.dfa.ie/passportonline/
Renew your EHIC here: https://www2.hse.ie/services/ehic/ehic.html
The Government’s online mapping portal for Ireland’s marine spatial planning is now live at http://marineplan.ie
The Echo interviewed the lighthouse keepers from Mizen Head, Galley Head, and the Old Head of Kinsale: https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/arid-40823523.html
There is funding available as part of the Decade of Centenaries Bursary to encourage new local research and local history studies on events during the Struggle for Independence and Civil War period: https://www.ria.ie/decade-centenaries-bursary
A public consultation survey on the future of forests in Ireland has been launched and will be open until 27 April 2022: https://foreststrategy.consultation.ie/en/surveys
You can view the latest Council road project planning applications including a pedestrian crossing at R600 Archdeacon Duggan Bridge, Kinsale, traffic calming measures at N-71, Cappyaughna / Monteensudder and a pedestrian crossing in Glengarriff at:
20 March 2022
Ballydehob SNA Fundraiser
Friday’s tractor run in Ballydehob was organised to raise funds for an SNA for Scoil Bhríde N.S, Ballydehob.
There was such a good atmosphere and incredible support, but it’s a disgrace that a community has to go to such lengths to get support for children with special needs.
I have been continually raising the issue of a lack of educational support in the Dáil and in the Disability Matters Committee.
Not only do children have a right to an education, early interventions have significant impacts assisting in their development and improving prospects for the rest of people’s lives.
There are major gaps between local needs and what the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) provides.
I am in contact directly with the Minister for Special Education, Josepha Madigan TD on this and related issues in the constituency, including a lack of spaces in special classes and inadequate transport: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-03-10/133/…
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Castletownbere
It was nearly worth the two year wait to finally get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I really enjoyed visiting Castletownbere on the day.
I also talked with the lovely people from Bere Island community radio who were set up in the Square.
We need to talk about fertiliser
I met with representatives of the IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) and the ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association) this week to discuss the current challenges facing farmers and food producers including the shortage of fertiliser and rapidly increasing input costs.
There is broad agreement on the need to move away from our dependency on imported chemical fertiliser, but this will be a complicated and gradual process.
I wrote to the business committee explaining the urgency of the situation and asking for statements from the minister for agriculture in the Dáil this week. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening.
We also discussed the larger issues of the unfair prices farmers receive and the challenges of farming in the west of Irelan
IN OTHER NEWS
Cork ARC Cancer Support House in Bantry provide invaluable services to people diagnosed with cancer from across West Cork, from counselling and advice to complementary therapies. Disgracefully, the HSE only provides 5% of their overall income:
I have been pushing for a greater focus on helping students with special needs progress from secondary school to either college or into a workplace. Ireland has one of the lowest rates of disabled people in employment in the EU – this needs to change: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-08/359/question/359/
The Cork County Council Library & Arts Service local studies team are hosting tours and presentations for any groups/individuals interested in the library’s resources. Contact local studies email@example.com or phone 021-4285640 for further details.
The Age Friendly Libraries Digital Ambassadors Programme has now been rolled out in Cork County Council Libraries. Contact your local library or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Over the next few weeks you can dispose of unused or out of date medicines at your local pharmacy: https://twitter.com/CorkKer…/status/1503315541989203972…
The Cork School Gardens Competition is about bringing nature and plants into school gardens/grounds and promoting horticulture and biodiversity. More details here: https://www.muintircork.com/competiti…/cork-school-gardens
County Cork Commemorations Grant Scheme and the County Cork Heritage Grant Scheme for 2022 are open: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/bilingual-cork-county-council…
The National Lottery Good Causes Awards is open until this Friday. Organisations and groups can find out if they are eligible to enter at www.lottery.ie/goodcausesawards
The public consultation on Ireland’s marine strategy framework is open for submissions. Closes Fri May 20: https://www.gov.ie/…/4513c-public-consultation-on…/
13th March 2022
Rocketing fuel costs
The government decision to reduce excise duty is welcome but more needs to be done.A maximum cap on fuel prices is the only way the government can ease the burden on ordinary workers and families in the short term. Large fuel companies are profiting from the situation and it appears some providers increased prices intentionally before the government cuts came in. My Social Democrats colleague Jennifer Whitmore TD has asked the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to investigate reports of cartel behaviour and price-fixing by motor fuel suppliers. This is another situation where better and cheaper public transport could be part of the solution. I am pushing the Minister for Transport to improve local public transport and to reduce fees: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-03/77/question/77/
Asesssment of need: Shortcomings and pitfalls
Children have to wait months for assessments which have been watered down to meet legal requirements, and then families have to wait even longer for more detailed assessments and to access vital therapies. Early intervention is essential to meet the health and educational needs of children with disabilities and additional needs, in order to improve their quality of life from a young age. Every day children and families are being failed in ways that will have lasting impacts for the rest of their lives. Not only is Ireland providing significantly less support to children than other countries; there is a massive variation in services within Ireland. Watch my speech: https://youtu.be/jP1hTk41Rf0
International Women’s Day events round-up
The week of International Women’s Day is always incredibly busy. On Monday, I visited Presentation Secondary School Ballyphehane to talk with young women who are very active on social and environmental issues. I represented the Houses of the Oireachtas at an inter-parliamentary panel with speakers from Italy, Malaysia, and Bhutan and I was one of the guest speakers at the Ludgate’s event on “Breaking bias in business”.I also contributed to an online conference organised by UL discussing women and the media.
We continued our discussion of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill for two very long sessions at the Children’s Committee this week. NONE of the over 300 amendments put in by myself and other opposition TDs, based on work with human rights experts and survivor advocates, were accepted by Minister O’Gormon. There are very serious concerns about the Bill given the way adopted people and their relatives have been treated by the state for decades, but, yet again, the government is unwilling to listen.Here’s a summary of the main points I raised: https://youtu.be/o2gMnx3nhQ0
The Disability Matters Committee held a joint meeting with the Finance Committee this week to focus on enabling financial independence for women with disabilities. Disabled people are more likely to experience poverty, social exclusion, and financial discrimination. This situation is compunded for women with disabilities. We discussed issues such as the cost of living with a disability, the need for inclusive financial practices, the importance of Credit Unions, and personal assistance. Disabled Women Ireland and Independent Living Movement Ireland outlined major issues that need to be addressed. Watch: https://youtu.be/kptWfl2KwQ4 and https://youtu.be/DX4EBAuDcuM
IN OTHER NEWS
Endometriosis affects up to one in ten women and has very serious health impacts. It can take up to nine years to get a diagnosis. I pressed the Taoiseach on the need for more specialists and resources for GPs: https://youtu.be/LnaKmNCj-mcI am continuing to push for reforms to help Credit Unions provide larger loans and become key providers of community banking: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-03-02/89/…https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-02/90/question/90/
It is important that the government puts in place concrete plans to help Ukrainian refugees. I asked the Minister for Justice about humanitarian admission provisions:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-03-02/157/…
The Red Cross are seeking commitments from people who may have space to accommodate refugees from Ukraine: https://registerofpledges.redcross.ie/#/
There are many housing estates across West Cork owned by private developers that need infrastructure investments before the Council can take them over. Currently residents have to campaign for years before any action is taken. We need a coordinated approach with central government providing funding to address these issues: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-03/155/question/155/
There have been several reports in recent months of landlords soliciting sex in exchange for rent – taking advantage of people desperately looking for affordable accommodation. My Social Democrats colleague Cian O’Callaghan T.D. has launched a bill that would make this disgusting practice a criminal offence: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40823565.html
The West Cork Islands Community Funding Scheme funds island community development with small scale capital and amenity projects to a minimum of €1,000 and a maximum of €25,000. Email email@example.com for details. Closing date: March 28.
Interested in applying for the CLÁR Scheme? Contact your local Municipal District office with an Expression of Interest form by 4pm on Friday March 25: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/clar-ceantair-laga-ard…
Plans for the proposed R605 Road works at Ship-Pool Bends, Innishannon are available to view here: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/active-part-8-development…
The consultation on control of wild bird species under the Wild Bird Declarations closes tomorrow (March 14): https://www.gov.ie/…/6515c-public-consultation-wild…/
6th March 2022
Searching for answers on Early Intervention Classes
Earlier this week we heard the great news that the decision to close Kilbrittain’s Early Intervention class has been reversed. However the Department of Education still hadn’t refuted the rumour that they intended to phase out these classes, so I set about trying to get answers from the government. On Wednesday morning, I asked the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, for an assurance that early intervention classes would not be phased out. Unfortunately, despite asking her twice, she did not answer: https://youtu.be/JKJTDPfT5ko
Later that day, I raised the issue with the Taoiseach, who was not aware of the issue but spoke strongly in favour of early intervention classes: https://youtu.be/5jtxnfhmDws
On Thursday, at the Disability Matters Committee, I asked the Minister responsible for Special Education, Josepha Madigan TD. Thankfully, she confirmed to me that early intervention classes will be retained. She also committed to looking into schools who have been refused SNA allocations, such as Ballydehob National School. I raised the overall lack of special classes spaces in Cork South West, the pressures families are under, and the difficulties young people face transitioning between primary and secondary schools. I asked the Minister so many questions it needed two videos. You can watch them here:https://youtu.be/-zpt2XyvIg0https://youtu.be/CjLGyoiv6Bk
Institutional Burials Bill: #Stand4Truth
In the Dáil this week we discussed the Institutional Burials Bill. This allows for the examination and evacuation of sites of potential mass graves to try and identify the remains and ensure proper respectful burial. This is an extremely important Bill, but I am worried about barriers in the legislation that will limit the number of sites which will ever be examined. Survivors and campaigners have fought for justice for too long, each and every person affected deserves to know the fate of their loved ones. Given the complexity of this issue, I spoke for almost twenty minutes, so this video is in two parts: https://youtu.be/ZDAdmDjrjkIhttps://youtu.be/vx1AVvNUntU
Birth Information and Tracing Bill: Rejected Amendments
At the Children’s Committee we discussed and voted on amendments to the Birth Information and Tracing Bill aimed at permitting adopted people to get access to their personal information which has been denied to them repeatedly by the state. There were over 350 amendments mainly from opposition TDs and we discussed about a third of these on Wednesday. The Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, refused to accept ANY of these amendments. Here is a short video of some of the discussion at the Committee: https://youtu.be/P2zL-EgF6Uo Unfortunately it is very hard to follow due to the bureaucratic nature of the process, something which is a deeply problematic aspect of our law-making.
When will we see action on eating disorder services? I once again confronted the Taoiseach with the hard facts of how our health system is failing people with eating disorders.Only 55% of the staff for three new teams promised for 2021 have been recruited. Less than one third of available funding has been invested at all since 2016. Disappointingly, the Taoiseach’s response was more of the same. It is so frustrating and worrying that such little action is happening in this very serious area. Watch: https://youtu.be/o8Rigl6KgRYRead more about the issues here: https://www.noteworthy.ie/silent-treatment-wait-for-care…/
MONTHLY CLIMATE ROUND-UP
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes for grim reading. The final sentence sums it up: “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” https://www.theguardian.com/…/what-is-the-ipcc-climate…
Thanks to the excellent work of my Social Democrats colleague Jennifer Whitmore TD and the Irish Basking Shark Group, basking sharks will now be protected as an endangered species under the Wildlife Act. Teenagers from Cork talk all things climate change on the inspiring Sustainable Sleepover Podcast: https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/arid-40819002.html
As the horrific invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops continues, I focused on highlighting the concrete ways the government can support the reuniting of families here and facilitate refugees escaping violence: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-02/119/question/119/https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-02/120/question/120 / https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-03-02/139/question/139/
On World Wildlife Day, I raised the conservation resources in place to properly manage Lough Hyne as a spectacular and unique site of natural heritage: https://youtu.be/ipLsPEg3vlQ
I also raised the need to help protect Garrylucas Bog, Garretstown, by upgrading its status from a proposed natural heritage area to the real deal: https://youtu.be/e7uW7NqsRPI
There is considerable disparity in the allocation of mackerel quotes, with the inshore sector receiving just 2 percent. Last year this meant small family fishers had to stop catching in June. There should not be a repeat of this if the Department of the Marine manages it correctly: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-02-17/337/…
I asked the Minister for Agriculture about the steps he is taking to address illegal gorse fire which are very dangerous and take up valuable firefighting resources: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-02-22/892/…
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is holding a series of public information sessions on the draft CAP Strategic Plan. The West Cork meeting takes place Thursday March 10 in the Celtic Ross Hotel and there is a webinar on March 15. Department staff will provide important information to farmers about the changes that will occur when the new CAP commences in 2023: www.gov.ie/cap
Over half of child car seats inspected by the RSA were found to be incorrectly fitted and needed some type of adjustment to make them a safe fit: https://www.echolive.ie/nationalnews/arid-40815546.html…
This week is Local Enterprise Week and there are a range of events to help small and new businesses https://www.localenterprise.ie/…/Local-Enterprise-2022…
Tree Week takes place from March 20 – 26. Looking to avail of trees for planting or simply want to find out more about trees and Tree Week? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021 4285905.
27th February 2022
The invasion of Ukraine
What’s happening in Ukraine right now is unprecedented – I think a lot of people, including myself, are still actually trying to come to terms with the reality and the gravity of it. This attack, ordered by President Putin, is entirely unprovoked and will cause catastrophic loss of life, injury and suffering among the Ukrainian people. I join my Social Democrats colleagues in pushing for the government to give urgent and practical assistance to enable families to bring their loved ones to safety in Ireland. Ireland must do everything we can to support the Ukrainian community. This is a pivotal moment in European history, in which the security of the entire region has been imperiled. The EU must act decisively and with determination to try to bring this invasion to a swift end. I was on the Pat Kenny Show discussing this and more on Friday. Listen here: (starts at 3:35) https://pd5i4.app.link/DlwOWMDKSeb?$deeplink_path=podcast/47/326255
Early Intervention Classes update
The Minister with responsibility for special education, Josepha Madigan TD, responded to my questions about the National Council for Special Education planned closure of the Kilbrittain class. The Minister informed me that the request to reverse the decision is being considered by the NCSE (National Council for Special Education) “as a matter of urgency and a meeting has been arranged with the school to review the level of need in the area and the capacity of the school to meet the need.” This is difficult to understand as the NCSE is already aware of the local need and the capacity of the school to provide it, and they were aware of this information when they decided to close the class. However, I am very hopeful the decision will be reversed thanks to the campaigning of the parents and school staff, especially the Principal. Read: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-02-22/466/…
Funding announced for West Cork piers
The funding announced for public piers and harbours this week is welcome news for our coastal communities. Courtmacsherry, Kinsale, Baltimore, Turk Head, Glengarriff, Cunnamiore, Glandore and Heir Island will all benefit. These small piers are vital infrastructure that support local fishing, recreation, and tourism industries. Funding for small piers is something I have been working on since being elected a Councillor so I am so happy to see progress in this area. I am working with Cllr Ross O Connell to push for funding for other areas, including Cleandra (Ardgroom), Colla (Schull), and Ballydehob (where dredging is badly needed). Read Cllr. Ross’s update from the meeting and follow him here: https://www.facebook.com/cllrross.oconnell/posts/482236636703170
I was disappointed with the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD’s response to my request for assistance in resolving the Dursey Cable car issue, which is placing all the responsibility on Cork County Council. We need ALL stakeholders, including the government department responsible for off-shore islands, to work together on this:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-22/923/question/923/
I spoke with Hotpress magazine about the urgent need for a Citizen’s Assembly on Drug Use: . https://www.hotpress.com/…/can-a-citizens-assembly-do…
I met with AsIAm, Ireland’s National Autism Charity, to discuss the worrying actions of the NCSE with regards to early intervention classes. We also discussed the many issues families experience in accessing education provision for their child with additional needs.
The lack of proper internet access in towns and villages across West Cork continues to be a major impediment to social and economic life. I am continuing to push for the roll out of the national broadband plan and for a more flexible model to support local internet providers:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-23/84/question/84/
The importance of post offices to our communities is undisputed, and the need for investment in the network is well known, but despite repeated requests the Government will not provide the necessary funding: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-22/171/question/171/
We need to assist farmers to install renewable energy generation capacities on farms to progress our climate change goals. I asked the Minister for Agriculture to prioritise this area:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-10/150/question/150/
I repeated my call for a properly resourced food ombudsman in the Irish Farmers Journal. A food regulator (especially one for the beef sector), would be better for farmers and consumers, but the government is not willing to establish one: https://www.farmersjournal.ie/strong-cross-party-support…
New sign language interpreter positions have been created to allow deaf children access mainstream education. This great news is down to the dedicated campaigning of families who are fighting for the right to education for all: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40812594.html…
Work is continuing on extending the Courtmacsherry to Timoleague walkway – a great accessible amenity: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=325258216294773&set=pcb.325258322961429
There is funding of up to €50k available for small-scale rural projects as part of the Clár programme:https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/91ba52-clar/…
On Friday, March 4 at 8.30pm the Bantry Development and Tourism Association is hosting a quiz with all proceeds towards their Bantry Goes Green Festival: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.19726719…/5170764556290042/
Looking for work? The CSO is looking for Household Survey Interviewers: https://www.cso.ie/en/aboutus/careers/recruitment/
Cork County Council is recruiting firefighters in Dunmanway: tinyurl.com/2akmcavv
They are also looking for beach lifeguards for the summer months: https://www.yourcouncil.ie/AchieveForms/?mode=fill&consentMessage=yes&form_uri=sandbox-publish://AF-Process-e3af8e10-c3f8-4d9a-9f12-d705d78811fd/AF-Stage-84a418b9-a6e4-4454-8604-5a4800f3c5e8/definition.json&process=1&process_uri=sandbox-processes://AF-Process-e3af8e10-c3f8-4d9a-9f12-d705d78811fd&process_id=AF-Process-e3af8e10-c3f8-4d9a-9f12-d705d78811fd&roleType=Outdoor
RTÉ’s Eye on Nature wildlife photography competition is back this year. Closing date is Friday: https://www.rte.ie/…/1274570-eye-on-nature…/
Did you know that on the first Wednesday of every month many OPW heritage sites offer free admission? This includes Charles Fort and Garinish Island: https://www.heritageireland.ie/…/Free-Wednesday-Jan2022…
There has been a striking increase in Youth homelessness in the last number of months so this is an important consultation: https://www.gov.ie/…/3aec9-consultation-on-youth…/
I met with the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists to discuss how improved screening and care for hearing impairments can help address issues of social isolation and low employment rates for people with disabilities.
20th February 2022
Good news for Bantry General Hospital Planning permission has been granted for the new endoscopy unit along with a single storey extension to the hospital which will provide 16 extra beds for a new Stroke Rehabilitation Unit.
Safe route to school result for Kealkill
To get to school in Kealkill, children need to cross the main street in the village. The main street also happens to be the main route to Cork city from Bantry, Beara and the Sheep’s Head. There are no traffic calming measures in place. No legible markings, no footpaths, no pedestrian crossing. Nothing. Last June, I raised this dangerous situation in the Dáil and asked the Minister for Transport to ensure a safe route to school for the children of Kealkill. This week we got the news that as part of the €2.8 million Active Travel Fund for West Cork towns and villages, Kealkill is to get an investment of €110,000 for footpath extensions, pedestrian crossings, junction improvements and cycling infrastructure. I am delighted for the community there who have worked so hard to get this issue addressed.
Positive news for Bandon Playground Group
Massive congratulations to the Bandon Playground Group who were granted over €100,000 in LEADER funding this week.It is a testament to the dedication of this group and to the support given to it by the wider Bandon community and local businesses.I was really glad to be able to support the campaign and push for it in the Dáil and with the Council. Playgrounds are such important facilities for children and so many towns and villages in West Cork need better play infrastructureWatch: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3202271930018447
At the Disability Matters Committee, I asked the Chair to raise the surprise closure of Kilbrittain National School’s early intervention class with a representative from the National Council of Special Education. The response was worrying. Read more: https://www.facebook.com/100048135442209/posts/443318960615948/?d=n
At the Children’s Committee at the moment, we are scrutinising the Assisted Decision Making Bill which will ensure that people with disabilities, people with mental health difficulties, and others will have a guaranteed voice in decisions that affect them. However, it also has aspects that are of concern to representative groups. While we all agree on the importance of this legislation, it is essential that it is done correctly in the best interests of, and with, those it intends to support. I asked representatives about improvements they want to see in the law:https://youtu.be/VsZ4kqcXsq4
Childcare is a large contributor to the rising cost of living for many families. I am pressuring the government to do more for hard pressed parents, especially lone-parent families where childcare costs can often prevent the parent from getting employment or pursuing education. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-03/156/question/156/https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-03/178/question/178/
The lack of local public dental services is an issue of concern in CSW, especially for families and medical card holders. HSE management have informed me that there is “currently a reduced service in West Cork due to staffing issues. However, a recruitment process is now underway and we expect another dental surgeon to be based in Bantry in the near future”. I will continue to seek updates.
It has been almost a year since the publication of the White Paper on ending direct provision and progress is maddeningly slow:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-03/176/question/176/
I have sought an update from the Minister responsible for natural heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD, on the much-needed conservation management plan for Lough Hyne: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-15/366/question/366/
Cork County Council has announced the Local Festival Fund for 2022 is now open for applications. Applicants can apply for amounts ranging from €500 up to a maximum of €6,000 per festival: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/funding-available-festival…
Dunmanway Family Resource Centre is currently undertaking a Strategic Plan for its service and is looking for your opinion. Here’s the link to the online survey (if you’d prefer to fill out a paper survey instead, contact the centre): https://forms.gle/8PfNTCwLvPxmgY2x6
‘A Quiet Tide’, by Marianne Lee, fictionalises the story of Ballylickey’s Ellen Hutchins, Ireland’s first female botanist. ‘A Quiet Tide’ was the Book on One on RTÉ Radio 1 this week. Listen back here: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/book-on-one/
The An Post Junior Writing Competition is open to primary school children from junior infants to fourth class. Closing date: March 18: https://www.anpost.com/…/Activities…/Writing-Competition
As part of the PublicJobs.ie Schools Advertising Challenge, secondary school students are tasked with creating a 30 second video ad pitching the public sector as an attractive career pathway for their fellow students: https://publicjobs.ie/en/schools/the-pitch-competition
The public consultation on proposed legislation regarding Co-operative Societies will close to submissions this Friday, February 25. It’s important that members of co-ops have their say: https://www.gov.ie/…/b3e24-public-consultation-on…/
A public consultation is now open on the application for decommissioning of certain facilities within the Kinsale Area gas fields: https://www.gov.ie/…/e2c31-public-consultation-on-the…/
13th February 2022
Drug reform now
Addiction requires a health-based approach and the focus should be on harm-reduction and prevention. We need to reform our drug policy and make sure it focuses on individuals and communities, while holding criminality to account. Best practice, such as the Portuguese model, suggests decriminalising possession of small amounts for personal use is very effective. Where is the promised Citizens’ Assembly on drug use and why isn’t it being prioritised? I asked the Taoiseach -Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=110WBskOVGI
Cost of living crisis continues to bite
The government’s announcement this week doesn’t go far enough. We know that low and middle incomes spend a disproportionate amount of their income on essentials like energy, rent, transport and food. It is crucial that support is targeted at these workers and families, as well as people on fixed incomes. The temporary decrease in the threshold of the drugs payment scheme and the reduction in public transport fares need to become permanent measures.If we are serious about tackling the cost of living, there are so many other areas that need to be addressed such as making disability payments €350, increasing carers allowance, capping rents, and improving support under the National Childcare Scheme.
Rising fertiliser prices hitting farms hard
Fertiliser prices have increased significantly in recent months and Irish prices are among the highest globally. We need government action to address the current issue, but also to address Irish agriculture’s dependency on chemical fertiliser. The Department needs to encourage the use of more diverse and sustainable methods yesterday. Watch: https://youtu.be/1xDZ8Ck1aPM
Dismay at Dursey Cable Car closureThe announced closure of the Dursey Cable Car for essential works from April to November has come as a considerable shock for the people of Beara and is a deeply frustrating development. The cable car is not only a unique tourist attraction, but an essential service for families who still farm on the island. While safety is most important, scheduling the closure during the tourist season seems totally counterproductive. Local residents need to be consulted and a practical solution needs to be found.
Disability Matters CommitteeRepresentatives from the Cope Foundation discussed the changes required to help more disabled people have meaningful employment, and representatives from Down Syndrome Ireland outlined ongoing issues with the Children’s Disability Network Teams: https://youtu.be/Wc6ixTZ-uno
Children’s CommitteeWe discussed the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s budget with the Minister. I asked about the measures for Mother and Baby Homes survivors, Early Learning and Care, ending Direct Provision, and refuge spaces for victims of domestic violence: https://youtu.be/K3pax0lq_zU
I asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education about measures to ensure that people with disabilities and people with low incomes can attend college: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-08/119/question/119/ I attended the launch of the Safe Routes to School programme in Bandon on Friday. It is great to see new measures to encourage active travel; however, many of our national schools need improved infrastructure. I am continuing to push the government to provide targeted funding.
I asked for the government’s response to a recent survey which found alarming high rates of sexual harrassment, violence, and rape among Irish third-level students: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-08/78/question/78/
The report of the Commission of the Defence Forces has highlighted the extent of the crisis faced by personnel. Improved pay and conditions for members of the Defence Forces is a critical component in bolstering our defence capabilities. I was glad to see that many of the recommendations made in the Social Democrats submission were accepted as part of the final report.
It is brilliant to see so many festivals and events returning this year and Ballydehob Jazz Festival is one of my favourites. The organisers are currently looking for volunteers: https://www.facebook.com/…/a.340554562…/4577709772340408
The Irish Examiner is looking for people to anonymously take part in a survey regarding illegal drug use in rural Ireland: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40805151.html Community and voluntary groups affected by the pandemic can apply for support to help keep their facilities open. The closing date is Friday, 25th February at 4:00pm: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/funding-available-community…
Changing Places Toilet Facilities enable people with complex care needs to take part in everyday activities. At the moment, there are only 17 (!) public Changing Places Toilet Facilities in Ireland and most are in Dublin. The government has opened a consultation to make provision for more Changing Places Toilets in certain buildings. You can access it here: https://www.gov.ie/…/247d5-public-consultation-on-the…/
Online consultation meetings are taking place for the new draft River Basin Management Plan. On Monday 21st Feb there is a meeting in relation to the Bandon and Illen RIvers, as well as Bantry Bay. Find out more here: https://lawaters.ie/
6th February 2022
More trees? Yes, please. This week the Dáil passed a bill which will allow farmers and landowners to plant small-scale forestry without planning permission. This is a positive and proactive step. I spoke on the need to ensure these schemes are accessible and focused on helping farmers. I also highlighted the contradiction of Coillte selling a large section of Ballymartle Woods, Riverstick at a time when the government is missing deforestation targets. The Bill also provided for the end of fur farming in Ireland.Watch: https://youtu.be/QzBX2wzZ0Q8
An examination of integration We need a whole-of-government approach to improve integration and diversity. There are still thousands of people in Direct Provision, a deeply harmful system that also acts as a barrier to integration. Migrant women and girls are being left vulnerable to gender-based violence due to issues with our immigration system and lack of training in state services.We pride ourselves on being a welcoming society, but the reality for some minorities is very different.Watch: https://youtu.be/ZtwFRTXrlyI
Proposed penalty points system for fisheries We had a robust discussion this week on the government’s Bill on the fisheries penalty points system. The Bill contains several worrying flaws including a lack of due process and appeals mechanisms. It represents a larger issue around the Department of the Marine’s poor engagement with coastal communities. This needs to be resolved. Watch: https://youtu.be/29NfHNUn4aE
At the Disability Matters Committee, the Irish Thalidomide Association described how their past and present treatment by the state deviates from their rights under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I asked about the practical support they need and how the ratification of the Optional Protocol would impact their lives: https://youtu.be/V-tb7DSAcdQ
At the Children’s Committee, we focused on setting up pre-legislative scrutiny of the Assisted Decision-Making Bill. This will be an important piece of legislation to enable groups of people to exercise their rights.
I was on C103 on Friday discussing fire and rescue service personnel being allowed to act as first responders in emergency situations until ambulances arrive: https://play.acast.com/…/48e8038d-2e73-421b-829e…
I am continuing to push for better special needs education in Cork South West. Too many children and young people are not getting the support they need: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-02-01/113/question/113/
Inclusion Ireland are asking parents to complete a survey on accessing the new Progressing Children’s Disability Services for Children and Young People Programme: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5ZX8DL3
The Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD, needs to do more to combat sexual abuse, harassment and bullying in the defence forces. We need to see real progress in this area, especially following the Women of Honour group’s criticism of the government’s planned review: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-01-27/119/question/119/
There are one-off grants available to support Community and Voluntary Groups who deliver vital mental health services. Any group doing work which contributes to positive mental health could be eligible. More details here: https://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/grants2022
There has been an increase in funding for the Student Assistance Fund – students can apply through their college access office.
Met Éireann and Irish Lights are collaborating to enhance understanding of Irish Coastal Waters, with the aim of improving safety for coastal inhabitants and mariners: https://theskipper.ie/navigating-the-stormy-seas/…
30th Jan 2022
50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday Today marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday when British soliders opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry, killing 14 unarmed civilians. Their families are still seeking justice. Political journalist Aoife Grace Moore’s uncle was killed on Bloody Sunday. I recommend reading her moving piece from yesterday’s Examiner (https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/spot…/arid-40795668.html) and listening to her talk about how Bloody Sunday shaped whole communities: https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/comm…/arid-40794747.html
Child and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) controversy
I attended a briefing this week on the review of the South Kerry CAMHS case which revealed shocking systematic failures. There were clear managerial and oversight failures in that case and this raises questions about the state of CAMHS nationally. Children and young people are on incredibly long waiting lists at a stage in their lives when early intervention is incredibly important and beneficial. I have requested an urgent update on Cork CAMHS. :https://www.rte.ie/…/0127/1276255-camhs-kerry-analysis/
The spiralling cost of childcare
Childcare costs in Ireland are among the highest in Europe. This has a major impact on families, with parents having to give up work or work longer hours just to get by. It is also a major contributor to child poverty, especially in one-parent families. Due to the cost, lone parents cannot afford to get full-time employment or education which affects their future career prospects and furthers the cycle of poverty. This has been a major theme of the Children’s Committee sittings recently. Watch my discussion with representatives from St Vincent de Paul and One Family here: https://youtu.be/a9hxRg1a6Vg
At the Children’s Committee this week, we discussed the Domestic Violence Leave Bill. This legislation focuses on the harsh reality experienced by many women trying to leave violent and coercive settings and would give workers a statutory right to paid leave due to domestic violence: https://youtu.be/KIRC-ro5QUM
At the Disability Matters Committee, we planned out our work schedule for the year ahead, focusing on issues such as special needs education, discrimination, and financial matters.
JANUARY CLIMATE ROUND-UP
2021 was tied for 6th warmest year since records began, leading to increased social, environmental and economic damage: https://www.unep.org/…/global-temperatures-costs…
Discussions of the Government’s proposed carbon budgets are ongoing, but we need more ambitious measures to help all sectors become more sustainable in a just transition: https://www.irishtimes.com/…/contribution-by…
Kinsale-based Climate Ambassador, Carmel Wright, shares some sustainability tips: https://www.echolive.ie/wow/arid-40779603.html
IN OTHER NEWS
The Social Democrats are continuing to push for a hybrid approach to the Leaving Certificate following the recommendations of the Irish Second Level Students Union survey.
It will take a long time for our tourism and hospitality sector to fully recover from the pandemic. I have asked the government to focus its supports on rural tourism and hospitality SMEs: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-01-20/134/question/134/
I asked for an update on the National Clean Air Strategy which will be an important development for respiratory health and the environment: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-01-19/182/question/182/
Farming remains one of the most dangerous sectors in Ireland, with 9 fatalities recorded in 2021 as well as numerous accidents on farms and in meat plants. To ensure safer workplaces, farmers and workers need better support and training: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2022-01-19/71/…https://www.agriland.ie/…/362-accidents-reported-in…/
The GLAS Traditional Farm Buildings Grant Scheme (open to farmers participating in the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme) is now open: https://www.teagasc.ie/…/glas-traditional-farm…
We need a strong strategy to tackle food waste. The public consultation on the Draft National Food Waste Prevention Roadmap is open until 24 March 2022: https://www.gov.ie/…/96a04-public-consultation-on-the…/
23rd Jan 2022
Time to act on gender-based violence
I spoke twice on gender-based violence in the Dáil this week and highlighted the actions that the government can immediately take, including an increase in the number of domestic violence refuge spaces, reform of our justice system in this area, and proper relationship and sexual health education. I posted the first speech to this page on Wednesday and my second speech is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n28Fz0ZuqT4 Over the past week people have been donating to different organisations that help people fleeing domestic violence. Please considering donating to West Cork Women Against Violence here: https://www.paypal.com/ie/fundraiser/charity/4042284
Bantry Flood Relief Scheme update
The Minister responsible for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan TD, told me this week that he expects “consultants will be appointed in the coming weeks” for the Bantry tidal defences. He said that the Council is preparing the consultants’ brief, which is expected to be issued in the first quarter this year to carry out the repair and reconstruction of the culvert. These developments are positive, but we need to have the process move as quickly as possible. I sought more funding for remedial works in the meantime, given their success in helping alleviate some flooding. I also raised the Skibbereen and Bandon Schemes with the Minister.Watch our exchange here: https://youtu.be/BVXBlFzVmRA
Good news for small piers
On Thursday, I got a commitment from the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD to increase funding for piers and other marine infrastructure. Small piers are key pieces of infrastructure that support coastal and island communities. They enable the type of sustainable fishing that has been practiced in Ireland for generations, and they also facilitate recreation and tourism opportunities. However, every year Cork County Council and other local authorities are given vastly insufficient funds to maintain and develop small piers.I welcome the Minister’s statement and I will be following up to ensure that West Cork piers and slipways get the investment they require.
IN OTHER NEWS
I spoke on the Birth Information and Tracing Bill in the Dáil on Wednesday night. The Bill was supposed to provide access to birth and early life information, however it falls far short of what is required and fails survivors in several ways: https://fb.watch/aJls26i3Wi/
The Disability Matters Committee held a private meeting this week focusing on planning our work schedule and a forthcoming report on independent living for people with disabilities.
Disgracefully, the trend of people being forced to go to the UK to access eating disorder treatment looks set to continue. I have been raising this issue with the government for nearly a year now: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40788858.html
Fuel poverty is a very real issue affecting many households, especially older people. I asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, for an update on the steps he is taking to combat this, and for clarification on who qualifies for the recently announced €100 electricity credit: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-01-19/184/question/184/https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-16/194/question/194/
I am continuing to push for Garrylucas Bog and other sites to be designated natural heritage areas to provide additional protection: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2022-01-19/614/question/614/
Many people with disabilities and their families have to wait even longer on housing lists because of a lack of suitable homes. I raised this with the Minister for Housing: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-16/343/question/343/UCC runs a fantastic bystander intervention programme which helps people learn how to identify and safely intervene when they witness sexual hostility, harassment and violence. Anyone can complete the training for €10: https://open.ucc.ie/…/all/courses/bystander-intervention
Well done to all the students who were recognised in the Young Scientist Competition recently, and to their teachers, schools, and families. Kinsale Community School had winners in multiple categories, while students from St Brogan’s, Coláiste Na Toirbhirte and Clonakilty Community College were also recognised: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40785672.html
School transport is such an important issue, especially for rural areas. The Department of Education is conducting a review of the school transport scheme (closes Feb 10). Have your say here: https://www.gov.ie/…/81e6e-school-transport-reviews/
The Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2022 is open until 16th February:https://www.heritagecouncil.ie/…/community-heritage…
16th Jan 2022
Cancer support funding shortfall On Thursday, I visited Cork ARC Cancer Support House in Bantry to learn more about the incredible, free services they provide for people going through a very difficult time. Disgracefully, Cork ARC Cancer Support House receives just €45,000 annually in HSE funding towards both centres in Cork City and Bantry, representing just 5% of their overall operating costs. It is vital that ARC receive the funding they need to continue their excellent work.
Violence against women in the headlines yet again. The murder of Ashling Murphy has caused shock, revulsion and grief across the country. I attended a vigil in Ballydehob yesterday, just one of dozens held across West Cork this weekend. We must direct State resources into strategies that can dismantle the cultural and social norms that underpin violence against women. As it stands, as a country we are not doing nearly enough. We are failing to implement even basic measures, something I discussed on the Pat Kenny Show on Friday morning. Listen here: https://www.newstalk.com/…/looking-back-on-the-news…
Disabled Drivers Board resign en masse
This week it was reported that the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal resigned en masse due to overly restrictive eligibility criteria of the scheme. This comes on the back of the Ombudsman’s report criticising personal transport supports for people with disabilities. This failure to provide basic transport support for people with disabilities does not just increase their isolation and anxiety, it also has a very real impact on their ability to work and move out of poverty.
We need free antigen tests and higher-quality masks
The latest changes to isolating and testing mean that it is more important than ever that the government provide antigen tests and high-quality face-masks to the general public. While people between 4 and 39 years of age can access an antigen test (https://www.hse.ie/antigentesting/) this is a limited service. People are required to purchase multiple tests, the cost of which quickly adds up, and FFP2/N95 masks are expensive.I have requested that the Minister for Health makes these available to the general public as a public health priority.
What is happening with the Leaving Cert? Back in March, I asked the Minister of Education to outline her plans for Leaving Cert 2022 by September to enable students and education staff to prepare properly. This year’s cohort has had a senior cycle that was incredibly disruptive and stressful and the government needs to acknowledge this. There is no reason last year’s hybrid-model cannot be used again in June, but students and teachers need clarity now from the Minister and her Department.
IN OTHER NEWS:
With major investment planned in our offshore wind potential, it’s important that the voices of coastal communities are heard. The Offshore Wind Phase 2 Consultation closes on March 2: https://www.gov.ie/…/b19b1-offshore-wind-phase-two…/
The Draft Fifth Nitrates Programme concerns specific measures to protect surface waters and groundwater from nutrient pollution arising from agricultural sources. The public consultation on the Natura Impact Statement and Strategic Environmental Assessment on the Nitrates Action Programme closes Jan 26: https://www.gov.ie/…/72a50-public-consultation-on-the…/ Owners and custodians of archaeological monuments in County Cork are being invited to apply for funding to safeguard these structures into the future: https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/heritage-funding-available…
Applications are open for the Markievicz Award to provide support for artists to develop new work that reflects on the role of women in the period covered by the decade of centenaries 2012–2023 and beyond: https://www.artscouncil.ie/Funds/Markievicz-Award/
Kinsale’s striking-looking lobster pot Christmas tree raised over €1,500 for the Kinsale RNLI. Well done to fisherman Eamonn O’Neill and all involved. The RNLI is an inspirational organisation with incredibly brave members: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40783140.html
Cork County Council’s Library and Arts Service has started a JAM Card initiative, a practical system that allows people with learning difficulties and communication barriers to ask for a minute of patience when they need it: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40768842.html
BirdWatch Ireland’s annual survey is running until the end of February. You can take part by keeping note of the highest number of each bird species visiting your garden/area every week: https://birdwatchireland.ie/…/irish-garden-bird-survey/…
On the Irish Mirror’s Glass Ceiling podcast with Ciara Phelan, I talked about the need for more transparency in the Dáil, an agriculture policy that supports small farmers, and urgent action on eating disorders: https://twitter.com/ciaraph…/status/1479179371474735110…
Earlier this month, I took a break from talking about politics to chat to Matt Cooper about my favourite books, films, and gigs on The Culture Club:https://www.todayfm.com/…/the…/culture-club-holly-cairns I was very touched to be included in a list of ‘trailblazing women who led way in 2021’ in the Echo: https://www.echolive.ie/corkviews/arid-40771977.html
19th Dec 2021
Vindication for #MotherAndBabyHomes survivors
On Friday, the High Court ruled that the Mother and Baby Homes Commission treated eight survivors unlawfully by failing to provide them with a draft copy of the report prior to its publication and a right of reply.This is a massive development and I am in awe of the survivors who took this case to court. The government cannot continue to stand over this report and must repudiate its flawed findings as a matter of urgency. https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/cour…/arid-40768275.html
83 recommendations to ensure right of access to records On Tuesday, the Children’s Committee launched our Report on the Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2021. We have made 83 recommendations to ensure that people get unfettered access to their information (as is their right). Learn more: https://twitter.com/Oireachtas…/status/1470778191879020548
Bantry Flood Relief updateI welcome Patrick O’Donovan TD’s (Minister for State responsible for flood schemes) visit to Bantry this week. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but I am glad he made the journey as it is essential he understands the issues and impacts of repeated flooding. There still no clear timeline on when the scheme will begin with several phases still to happen before construction. I have repeatedly urged the Minister to expedite the process and provide remedial works funding in the meantime.
In the Dáil this week:
I was happy to support the Animal Welfare and Forestry Bill which would phase out fur farming in Ireland and also make it easier for farmers and landowners to engage in small-scale native tree planting. However, I argued the government needs to have a more consistent approach to forestry and that issues like the sale of a large section of Ballymartle Woods near Riverstick need to be addressed: https://youtu.be/KLOWrgI1G64
I questioned the transfer of €7 million in capital expenditure from the forestry budget when the government consistently fails to meet our afforestation targets: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-14/766/question/766/
I raised the continuing delay in eating disorder services. The 2018 Eating Disorders strategy aimed for sixteen specialist treatment hubs across the country. Right now, we have a total of three and people are forced to travel to the UK for treatment.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Fnb8tq2hm8
At the Childrens Committee, we are continuing to examine the serious issue of Child Poverty. I asked representatives of the National One Parent Family Alliance about the importance of investments in public childcare, and the Rialto Youth Project about their homework clubs and arts-based education: https://youtu.be/GAaRQYZEzR4
At the Disability Matters Committee, the Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, discussed his recent report on the lack of support for disabled people to access personal transport schemes. I asked him about the Government response to his report and the changes necessary to improve the situation for disabled people, especially in rural areas. https://youtu.be/Jjv5GM4enxc
IN OTHER NEWS Skibb’s rowing mastermind Dominic Casey has been named Manager of Year at the RTE Sports Awards: https://www.corkbeo.ie/…/rte-sport-awards-skibbs-rowing… Last Friday, I attended a meeting facilitated by Senator Lynn Ruane to discuss Drug Policy and the potential impact of a Citizen Assembly on Drugs on a harm reduction led policy.
I was bloody delighted to help launch the Free Period Products initiative at The Shack youth centre in Clonakilty. The hub is a wonderful addition to the town that will help empower local youth with accurate information about their bodies and health: https://twitter.com/SHC_Cork/status/1470392604852432899?s=20
The Climate Change Advisory Council Annual Review 2021 highlights as a serious concern the implementation gap between national policy and action (Ireland’s consistent failure to meet our emissions targets is a perfect example of this). I asked the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan TD, for his response on this crucial issue: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-14/42/question/42/
Given the importance of the LEADER programme to rural areas, I asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD to provide more funding in response to rising buildings and materials costs: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2021-12-07/96/…
The Teagasc National Farm Survey Sustainability Report 2020 found that only 26% of sheep farms were defined as economically viable as of 2020. I asked the Minister for Agriculture what action he was taking in response. It is disgraceful that we don’t have a market to use wool as natural insulation: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-07/667/question/667/
Well done to the students and staff of Kinsale Community School for getting a Cork Environmental Forum Award for their environment and sustainability work: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40764897.html
The consultation on the Courtmacsherry Pier Dredging is open until Friday 7 January 2022: https://www.gov.ie/…/26aa8-fs006969-courtmacsherry…/
The Proposed footpath and Traffic Calming Minane Bridge consultation also closes on 7 January 2022: https://www.gov.ie/…/66e64-section-38-proposed…/
On the mornings of the 20th, 21st, and 22nd December there will be a live-stream of the Winter Solstice Sunrise from within the chamber at the Neolithic passage tomb of Newgrange. You can watch it here: https://heritageireland.ie/
12th Dec 2021
#RepealThe8th fight goes on
There are very clear issues with our current abortion legislation, with many women still travelling to the UK for care. We need the upcoming review of the legislation to address these issues, but it is not looking promising: https://www.socialdemocrats.ie/review-of-abortion…/Next week the Rural Independents are launching a bill that will try to roll back reproductive rights and healthcare through stealth.We may have voted to #RepealThe8th in 2018, but it’s very clear that our fight for free, safe, legal abortion is nowhere near over.
A tale of two countries (and two counties)Fiona Walsh and Dr. Simon Walsh appeared before the Disability Matters Committee this week to describe their daughter Zoë’s experiences of disability services in Ireland compared to Australia, and in Galway compared to Cork. A friend’s child who has the same condition as Zoë, receives weekly occupational, physio, speech and vision therapies in Australia, whereas in Cork, children are lucky to get one appointment annually. Please take a few minutes to watch the Walshs outline the disgraceful situation they and thousands of other families face in a “non-functional system”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdXxObj_fSo&feature=youtu.be
The Irish fishing sector is in the eye of the Brexit stormThe Seafood Taskforce Report highlights the major issues facing the fishing sector.This week in the Dáil, I called on the government to recognise and support the inshore sector and provide public marine infrastructure, especially small piersWatch my contribution here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPJVISDFwmA&feature=youtu.be
At the Disability Matters Committee, I asked the National Advocacy Service about their work and what needs to be done to help disabled people realise their rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV7Gc-ToqvM The Children’s Committee looked at migrant experiences of state services and the challenges this vulnerable group faces. I focused my question on understanding how state policies on immigration and treatments of migrants can make individuals more vulnerable to domestic violence and coercive abuse: https://youtu.be/nvUazMGbqCE
The government is proposing to decrease the level of LEADER funding in the new CAP compared to previous programmes, which will have a major impact on rural communities where LEADER Is often the only capital funding available: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-07/84/question/84/
I am working with Gary Gannon TD, our Spokesperson on Education, on the poor communication and lack of clarity around COVID-19 measures impacting primary school children. Schools STILL do not have enough CO2 monitors which means they cannot accurately assess ventilation in all rooms: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-07/322/question/322/https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-07/323/question/323/
After engaging with the Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group about issues restricting women’s access to Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS), I flagged these concerns with the the Minister for Agriculture this week: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-07/703/question/703/
Participants in CE, Tús and rural social schemes get as little as €22.50 extra a week on top of basic social welfare payments for the work they do. I have been pushing for the government to increase these rates, to reflect the value and contribution they make to local communities, but they are unwilling to do so: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-25/45/question/45/
Many disability day services have still not returned to normal levels months after the easing of restrictions. I am continuing to push for their safe reopening: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2021-12-07/569/… I went on Spin South West to talk about the ongoing disgraceful issues with Eating Disorders treatment services and the delay in the opening of a vital treatment hub: https://www.spinsouthwest.com/…/specialist-eating…
Skibbereen has received long overdue funding under the Town Centre First Plans which will help develop a new master plan for Skibbereen.
I also met with Irish Families through Surrogacy this week, as well as representatives from the inshore fishing sector.
5th Dec 2021
Pair-trawling fiasco continuesI am getting regular reports of large trawlers (over 18 metres) operating extremely close to the coast of West Cork. This is a completely unsustainable practice that is of huge concern to inshore fishermen, marine tourism and anyone who cares about the eco-system of our coastal waters. However, thanks to successful court appeals, it is currently legal. I asked the Tánaiste to commit to bringing in new legislation to ban this practice ASAP. Watch: https://youtu.be/5AFd8vD5dio
Covid safety measures in school It is deeply frustrating and unfair that children are being asked to bear the responsibility for government failures. For months now, our education spokesperson Gary Gannon TD, has been pushing for proper ventilation in classrooms including HEPA filtration units, and for the return of adequate contact tracing (which disappeared from primary schools in September.) The communication on this issue has been disgraceful which has only added to confusion and distress.
Where did you come up with these numbers? This was the question I asked the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gormon, on Tuesday in relation to the proposed Mother and Baby Homes redress scheme. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E8Onr9ukwA
To mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities, I raised the need for Ireland to ratify the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and highlighted the general inadequacy of our disability services: https://jrnl.ie/5618499 Following the recent third level fees protests, I asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD, about the steps he is taking to address financial barriers in the education system: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-30/61/question/61/
I also asked him about supports for disabled people to access third level education: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-30/126/question/126/
The UK has a scheme that covers the cost of burials and cremations for the families of deceased children. I asked the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD, about introducing a similar approach here. Bereaved families should not have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get support: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-25/61/question/61/
I raised the need for more support for CE and Tús schemes given the uncertainty of the pandemic, and for the government to extend contracts beyond 4th Feb 2022 given the changing circumstances. Unfortunately, this is not something the government is currently considering:https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-25/25/question/25/https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-25/110/question/110/
Access to proper internet is still a massive issues in many areas of Cork South West, I asked for an update on the roll-out of broadband in County Cork, including the off-shore islands: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-12-01/57/question/57/
The Children’s Committee had extensive private meetings this week finalising our pre-legislative scrutiny of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill. I am advocating for a system that guarantees those affected full access to their records as well as appropriate counselling and other suppport.
The Disability Matters Committee discussed how disability services can be improved with service providers. Government’s continuing underfunding of this area continues to be a root cause of many issues. https://youtu.be/tYErdxL8-tA
For months I have been advocating for the Disability Matters Committee to have a stronger position on the optional protocol, and as part of our statement this week the Committee has called for ratification early next year.
IN OTHER NEWS
I was on C103FM with Patricia Messinger discussing how the decision of the government to scrap a subsidy scheme for antigen tests is a serious dereliction of duty:https://play.acast.com/…/2cba6f16-a782-48c8-85ae..
I met with Coillte representatives to discuss the selling of a large section of Ballymartle Forest, Riverstick. I am keeping in contact with the community and working on a response.
I have put together a quick guide to the recent budget outlining some of the upcoming changes. Contact the office if you’d like me to send you a printed copy. https://hollycairns.ie/…/Holly-Cairns-Budget-2022…
Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) is fundraising to buy the island’s national school buildings and gardens for island community use:https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40754016.html… Donations can be made here: https://sherkinisland.ie/neart-hub/
The Beara Bridle Way and walking trail has received funding under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme to be extended from Urhan to Ardgroom village and complete a loop in Teernahillane between Castletownbere and Allihies.
Kealkill National School are fundraising for Cork Arc Cancer Support with their incredibly cute Santas and Snowmen: https://www.facebook.com/KealkillNS/posts/386401736612796
Women in Agriculture Stakeholders Group are highlighting issues of inclusivity and gender balance in Irish farming in the next CAPhttps://www.instagram.com/womensagrigroup/?hl=en
To mark Hedgerow Week, Teagasc are running a series of webinars on the theme of “Understanding Hedges Better”: https://www.teagasc.ie/…/farm…/hedgerows/hedgerow-week-/
My colleague Jennifer Whitmore TD hosted a really interesting rewilding webinar with some great guests. You can watch “Biodiversity: What is it? Why is it necessary? How can we all do it locally?” here: https://youtu.be/a5EFkt2kymY
28th Nov 2021
This is no country for young people: That’s thanks to a combination of stagnant wages, insecure employment, poor public services and soaring housing costs.A new report shows that the number of first-time buyers aged 30 or below has collapsed in the past 16 years – falling from 60% in 2004 to just 27% in 2020. During Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, I pressed the Tánaiste to make the changes needed to actually support renters and those saving for their first home, rather than persevering with Government programmes that only end up benefiting developers.Watch: https://youtu.be/14OBPjyDUxM
“Politics would make you despair at times” This was the reaction of Gary Gannon T.D. to the government’s plans to delay the progression of the Social Democrats Sex and Relationship Bill for another nine months. There is no good reason for this delay and it is infuriating that students will be subjected to substandard sex education for even longer because of it. During my contribution to our Bill, I spoke about the importance of science-based relationship and sex education and highlighted the need for a larger national conversation about the separation of church and state. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1COMyu5or7U&feature=youtu.be Read: https://www.irishtimes.com/…/td-says-urgent-need-for…
Calls grow for Mother and Baby Homes redress scheme to change: I spoke for the second time on the proposed redress scheme on Thursday night. I highlighted the disgracefully low rates of payment being offered to survivors and sought a commitment from the Minister that he would address the many deficiencies with the scheme. The survivors want and deserve justice and the public are behind them. The Minister and the Government need to start listening. Watch: https://youtu.be/vnwzoL0B4Hg
DÁIL UPDATE: After meeting local residents on Monday, I raised the Ballymartle Forest sale with the Taoiseach who unfortunately repeated some of the inaccuracies regarding the section for sale: https://youtu.be/tFOkxcDmNyo
I called on the Minister for Agriculture to recognise the carbon and biodiversity value of hedgerows in the forthcoming CAP payments: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-23/746/question/746/
Children and young people in West Cork with special needs are not getting the resources they need. The Minister for Special Needs Education has informed me that the Department is engaging with 9 primary and 5 post-primary schools in South West Cork about the establishment of additional special classes for 2022/23 and beyond. I will continue to push the Department on this.
The Minister for Agriculture updated me on progress combating ash dieback and Dutch Elm disease. There are supports available to landowners with confirmed ash dieback, but no such scheme for Dutch Elm disease.
I also received an update from the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD on the actions he is taking to address serious concerns about bullying, harassment, and assaults in the defence forces.
At the Children’s Committee, we discussed child poverty with representatives from Children’s Rights Alliance; Early Childhood Ireland; and SPARK. I asked about the importance of local playgrounds and facilities, increased investment in childcare, school meal programmes, and about the systems that leave parents and children vulnerable to domestic violence: https://youtu.be/cQnP-22nRzA
At the Disability Matters Committee, I raised serious issues with the HSE disability services for children that mean many children with disabilities and special needs have to wait months, and in some cases years, for assessments and vital therapies: https://youtu.be/Zbs5HE4ag7Q The parents of a child affected by the lack of public therapies shared their story with The Southern Star this week: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/boy-had-just-three-hours…
IN OTHER NEWS:
Thursday was the UN Day For the Elimination of Violence against Women which kicked off the global 16 Days of Action campaign. If you can, please donate to groups and organisations like West Cork Women Against Violence Project who help victims and survivors: https://www.westcorkwomensproject.ie/
The consultation on the Environmental Assessment of the draft CAP Strategic Plan 2023-2027 is open until December 8: https://www.gov.ie/…/7140c-public-consultation-on-the…/
Do you commute to Cork city? The public consultation on improving bus services in Cork is open until December 10: https://busconnects.ie/busconnects-cork/
Coming up this week in the Dáil
The Children’s Committee will hold a private sitting on Tuesday to discuss pre-legislative scrutiny of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill.On Tuesday, the Horse and Greyhound Fund Regulations 2021 will be up for discussion.On Thursday, the Disability Matters Committee will discuss how to align disability services with the UN Conventions on the Rights of People with Disabilites.
I hope everyone is keeping well this Sunday evening. I’m still warming up after a freezing cold canvass in Rosscarbery yesterday. Huge shout out to Clonakilty GAA Club who came so close to winning the county final today
21st Nov 2021
Reform sex education in schools: Sex and relationship education should be science-based and free from religion influence. On Wednesday, we will debate and vote on a Social Democrats Bill to standardise the teaching of relationship and sex education across all state-funded schools. Since I posted about this subject last week, lots of teachers have been in touch to voice their support. Read more about the Bill here: https://www.socialdemocrats.ie/236299-2/
We need to talk about Men’s Mental Health (TW: Suicide and eating disorders): Friday was International Men’s Day and on Wednesday, I spoke about the urgent need to address the high rate of male suicide in this country as well as the need to challenge the stigma around mental health. Watch: https://youtu.be/5Peb7hGbMCE (Samaritans are available 24hrs a day for those that need confidential, non-judgemental support, freephone 116 123 and the helpline for BodyWhys, the eating disorders association of Ireland, is 01-2107906.)
What’s going on with Ballymartle Forest? A substantial section of a forest near Riverstick Co. Cork is for sale on the instructions of Coillte, something that is a source of major concern to local residents. I raised this with the Minister responsible for forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett, last week. Since then, I have been in contact with Coillte who have said that the area is not for sale for felling purposes, but instead for “potential woodland accommodation and recreational offering”. I am meeting residents about this matter next week and I have sought a follow-up meeting with Coillte. Read more: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40748061.html A petition has been set up opposing the sale here: https://chng.it/2k52DkNrky
IN THE DÁIL THIS WEEK
I spoke about:The fact that we have a budget-based approach to disabilities in this country, not a rights-based approach: https://youtu.be/TF6c69PXIJI
The urgent need for a reform and full resourcing of the ambulance service: https://youtu.be/W185Negi6jE
The importance of engaging communities in reviewing the new Rights of Way Aquired by Long Use system and the need for a proper public awareness campaign on the topic: https://youtu.be/cXn3hmVffBE
The need to attract and retain female councillors at local authority level as I introduced my Local Government (Maternity and Family Leave for Elected Members) Bill: https://youtu.be/fpoywKDJaP8
At the Disability Matters Committee, several witnesses spoke about the major and ongoing impacts of having a chronic illness: https://youtu.be/AgZNwt4kgvA
At the Children’s Committee, we looked at experiences of migrant communities engaging with state bodies, the health care system and other social services: https://youtu.be/Kx9h3U_2yeI
IN OTHER NEWS
Did you know that you have to swear an oath “to Almighty God” to take up the office of President? Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall and others took a case against this to the European Court of Human Rights: https://www.irishtimes.com/…/r%C3%B3is%C3%ADn-shortall…
The Skibbereen Flood Relief Scheme is still considered only ‘substantially completed’, a status which could cause problems for residents trying to access insurance and mortgages. I will continue to push the Minister to resolve this: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-16/98/question/98
The widespread use of antigen testing is now on the horizon, but it has been a long time coming, something I spoke about on the Tonight Show earlier this week: https://twitter.com/SocDems/status/1461713024264327168
I wrapped up my Register to Vote initiative this week with a visit to Hamilton’s High School in Bandon and MICC Dunmanway. Remember, you need to register to vote when you turn 18, it doesn’t happen automatically: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/registering_to…
Imagine if the 24hr bus service between Ballincollig and Carrigaline could be extended to Riverstick, Belgooly and Kinsale? A constituent approached us with this idea and I have since raised it with the Minister for Transport.
COMING UP NEXT WEEK: On Tuesday we will debate a motion on the Mother and Baby Homes redress scheme. On Wednesday we’ll debate a Social Democrats Bill to standardise the teaching of relationship and sex education across all state-funded schools.The Children’s Committee are preparing a report on the Birth Information and Tracing Bill, the long overdue legislation for adopted people. The Disability Matters Committee will hear from the Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte TD and HSE representatives.
14th Nov 2021
Ambulance Services: The shortage of ambulances and the additional stress being put on paramedic staff is an immediate and urgent concern to everyone in West Cork. I am awaiting a response from the HSE on the steps being taken to address the shortages. I will be speaking on this issue in the Dáil on Tuesday as part of a motion on the National Ambulance Service.
Regional Transport: On Tuesday, I spoke about the importance of transport infrastructure in rural Ireland in the Dáil. The success of rural Ireland lies in a properly funded transport system. We need better public transport, integrated approaches, and safer roads. Ultimately, we need the public investment to make this possible. Watch here: https://youtu.be/JXlLPy2HWG4
Forestry: On Thursday, I highlighted several ongoing issues in the forestry sector which are not only affecting commercial activities, but also the ability of communities to plant trees. I also brought up local concerns around the sale of forestry land. For example, a substantial section of a forest near Riverstick Co. Cork is for sale on the instructions of Coillte. I am pursuing the matter with Coillte and I am calling on the Minister to review practices around the selling of forestry land at a time when we should be greatly increasing our afforestation. Watch here: https://youtu.be/Jq2UIIY2X7o
Disability Matters Commitee: This week the Committee heard from individuals with an acquired disability or from those caring for a person with acquired disability. Mary Farrell, a parent of a disabled son, who has been a primary carer and advocate for over thirty years, and Fiona Bardon, a stroke survivor, shared their experiences fighting for services most people would consider entirely reasonable and necessary. I asked questions about the lack of home care support and the ongoing lack of coordination and poor communication within the HSE.Watch here: https://youtu.be/v8OX01DD66E
Liveline and people with disabilities: Earlier this week, RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline focused on the lived experience of people with disabilities whose quality of life is severely affected by a lack of basic equipment and adequate home care hours.It is a difficult listen, but an important one to understand the extent of the failures of state services. Listen here: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22027532/
Domestic Violence Rent Supplement: Credit is due to Heather Humphries TD, Minister for Social Protection, for making it easier for victims/survivors of domestic violence to access rent supplement. The DV Rent supplement was an initiative developed in the midst of the first lockdown in 2020 when there was a greater need than ever before to find a way to fast track housing payment support for people seeking to escape Domestic Violence. Well done to West Cork Women Against Violence for pushing the change in conjunction with Safe Ireland who took on an extensive lobbying campaign for the fast track payment.https://www.thejournal.ie/domestic-abuse-3-5598454-Nov2021/
Asylum Seekers: On Tuesday, I had a Zoom call with a group of asylum seekers who highlighted the draconian system they are forced to live in with extreme restrictions and little oversight of direct provision centres. I will be pursuing these issues in the Dáil and on the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.
Feed-in tariff for homes: I asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan T.D. for an update on the ‘feed-in tariff’, which allows households that produce their own renewable energy to sell the surplus to the national grid. Unfortunately, it is still unclear when this scheme will be available, despite it being a government commitment. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-09/428/question/428/
Safe Zones Legislation: Well done to the Together For Safety group and a cross-party group of Senators who have worked on legislation to introduce safe access zones outside healthcare settings that provide abortion care. It is designed to protect patients and medical staff, and prevent the type of intimidating and distressing protests that are occuring outside healthcare settings.I look forward to supporting the bill when it comes to the Dáil.https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/poli…/arid-40723950.html
Tidy Towns Awards Success: Congratulations to all the towns and villages who were recognised at this year’s Tidy Town Awards.This included a Gold Medal Award for Bantry, Clonakilty, and Rosscarbery; a Silver Medal Award for Kinsale and Skibbereen; and a Bronze Medal Award for Bandon, Ballydehob, Eyeries, Kilbrittain, Rathbarry and Timoleague. Ahiohill received an Endeavour Award and Bere Island won the National Island Award, while Sherkin was highly commended. Well done to everyone involved in the Tidy Towns community across West Cork and thank you for all that you do.
Tackling employment barriers for blind or vision impaired people: The National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI) have developed resources aimed at highlighting and tackling the many barriers that people who are blind or vision impaired face when gaining or retaining employment. Find out more here: https://www.ncbi.ie/policy…/latest-campaigns/employment/
Schull Students protest at Facebook: I was so happy to meet the students from Schull Community College who travelled to Dublin demanding that Facebook ‘face up’ to the impact of the way they run their social media platforms, in particular when it comes to body image issues and suicidal ideation among teenage girls. Massive credit is due to the Schull students for highlighting this important issue. https://www.southernstar.ie/…/schull-students-protest…
Michael Collins’ Diaries: I was honoured to attend the ceremony where the Collins Family presented diaries of Micheal Collins to the state. The pocket diaries, relating to the period from 1918 to Collins’ death in 1922, contain details of meetings, events, appointments, engagements and other historical information. We also need to have a conversation about commemorating his sister Margaret Collins-O’Driscoll who served as a TD for the Dublin North constituency from 1923 to 1933.https://www.rte.ie/…/1108/1258530-michael-collins-diaries/
Bandon Grammar School: This week I spoke with fifth years in Bandon Grammar School as part of our voter registration campaign. It is an incredibly active school and it was great to meet the students, many of whom were incredibly engaged and interested in the Cop26 talks and negotiations.
George Salter Townshend Book: I was delighted to help launch George Salter Townshend’s collection of poems ‘Celebrating Eighty’ yesterday in Skibbereen. His collection covers a rich range of events, places, and memories.
7th Nov 2021
On Tuesday I launched my Bill to extend maternity, parental and adoptive leave to councillors. Read more about the Bill here: https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40737201.html
HSE Meeting On Friday, the Cork-Kerry HSE Community Services management met with Cork TDs and Senators to update us. I had specifically sought updates on Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs), eating disorder treatment, and South Doc cover for rural areas, including Castletownbere and Kinsale. The implementation of CDNTs and eating disorder services is ultimately being hampered by a lack of investment. It is disgraceful these essential services are not being funded to required levels. I will continue to do what I can to progress these issues.
Cop26 commitments I raised the Government’s position at Cop26 in the Dáil this week.While I welcome the Taoiseach’s commitments, I do so with some scepticism. You can read my post about it here: https://www.facebook.com/HollyCairnsTD/videos/1019868345520425/
Credit Unions: On Wednesday, I spoke in favour of the Credit Union (Amendment) Bill which is designed to allow credit unions to provide a greater range of services and for the Central Bank to regulate them in a more suitable manner. Disgracefully, the Government is delaying this important bill by nine months saying that it wants to deliver a review of a new policy framework for credit unions first.It will take months for this Bill to progress through the different stages. Why can’t this process happen concurrently with the development of a new framework? This Bill provides many of the solutions credit unions need today. Any delay is willfully putting more credit unions at risk. Watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/7dDcVYVbr7o
Canvass in Belgooly and Kinsale: Yesterday we canvassed parts of Belgooly and Kinsale and met some really lovely people on the doors. Belgooly is a wonderful community which is let down by the lack of infrastructure. Much of the village doesn’t even have proper footpaths and for an area with so many young families there is a clear need for a playground. Estates in Kinsale are in need of basic maintenance by the Council which I will be following up on during the week. The need for traffic-calming measures by the schools is a concern of many residents.
Drink spiking: On Thursday, I highlighted concerns about the spiking of drinks in bars and nightclubs with Minister Paschal Donohoe who was taking questions on promised legislation. Victims are severely affected by having their drink spiked and it is also associated with sexual assaults. However, considerable uncertainty exists in this area as instances are under-reported. Often when an individual realises what has happened the substances may have left their system. This is an issue that Rape Crisis organisations and Students’ Unions are raising across the country. On Thursday, there was a rally in UCC highlighting the issue. Watch my exchange with the Minister here: https://youtu.be/TLk6XWyF6xM
Fur farming bill (and why I didn’t get to speak)The bill banning fur farming, and compensating current operators, was discussed on Thursday. I was due to speak on this bill, highlighting that this is a situation of the law catching up with societal changes and raising other animal welfare issues, such as animal cruelty, neglect, and abandonment and the poor standards in the greyhound industry. Unfortunately, I did not get to speak because a number of government TDs did not show up to speak. I’ll try to explain how this happens. I was initially due to speak around 6.30pm on the Animal Welfare Bill, but then the slot was moved to 5.30 and then 5pm as the discussions of other bills moved quicker than expected (this is not unusual as some legislation does not require the time allocated). I was working in my office keeping an eye on the schedule so I could be in the Dáil chamber a few minutes before I was due to speak. There are very strict rules about who gets to speak and in what order. Because government TDs did not show up for their slot, it meant that the Minister was the only government representative present in the Chamber when it was time for a government representative to speak, and according to the standing orders (or rules) of the Dáil, when the Minister speaks for the second time, the debate closes, which is exactly what happened. It is very frustrating that we have such restrictive standing orders, but also that government TDs who have signed up to speak do not show up or inform the Whips office in time for other arrangements to be made.
Disability Matters Committee: This week’s Committee focused on the lived experience of individuals with autism or intellectual disability or their carers. Jean Mullan, a parent of a 31 year old daughter living in rural Ireland who is on the autistic spectrum and has a mild learning disability, gave a very clear account of the barriers her daughter has faced. People with ASD are a diverse cohort with different individual needs which change across their lives. Our state services have not caught up with an understanding of ASD to provide the proper range of educational, health, and social support required for all those concerned to exercise their rights. We immediately need structures and resources to ensure that all people with disabilities can access education, employment, and housing in suitable ways. The vital role of carers and families was a clear theme in the session, unfortunately so is the reality that your efforts usually go unappreciated by the state. Carers are consistently overlooked despite the incredibly important and exhaustive work they do, and will keep doing out of love and dedication. Watch here: https://youtu.be/7FCttxNXoFk
Children’s Committee and Birth Information and Tracing BillWe had one of the final sessions on the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill with GDPR experts and the Data Protection Commission offering their expertise. Next the committee will prepare its official report for the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD. Watch the panel’s responses to my questions here: https://youtu.be/ytf1Yz60_Aw
ASD Classes: I am continuing to push for more resources for children and young people with special needs in West Cork. The lack of places and a means of transition between primary and post-primary is a major concern to many families. There is a clear and pressing need for not only more special classes but a special school in the constituency. Minister of State at the Department of Education, Josepha Madigan TD, informed me that the ‘Department and the NCSE have therefore put in place new planning structures and procedures to ensure sufficient places become available to meet local need. As new need emerges, there is a cohesive response available to ensure places become available in a timely and targeted way.’ I will continue to raise this and push the Department to make more places available.
South-West Regional Enterprise Plan to 2024: This plan is an important policy to drive sustainable employment in the Cork-Kerry region. The Minister of the State in the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Damien English TD informed me that the plan is due to be published before the end of the year. I will be following up with him on this issue.
Surrogacy: It was reported in the Business Post last month that the Government plans to only include national surrogacy in the new assisted human reproduction bill and leave international surrogacy until a later date. The Irish Families through Surrogacy group held a rally outside the Dáil on Tuesday. The Social Democrats are very supportive of the group’s calls for international surrogacy to be included in upcoming legislation. https://www.businesspost.ie/…/government-to-defer…
Student Nurses and Midwives’ Protest: Student nurses and midwives also demonstrated outside the Dáil on Tuesday. They deserve fair pay for the essential role they play in our health service. I have spoken on this issue several times and Róisín Shortall TD has continually pushed this in her role as Social Democrats spokesperson on Health.
Wastewater Treatment in 2020: During the week the EPA highlighted the unacceptable delays and the pace at which essential improvements in wastewater treatment are being delivered. There are 34 towns and villages releasing raw sewage into the environment every day, including Castletownbere and Castletownshend. Also, 12 large towns and cities did not meet wastewater treatment standards set to protect our environment, including Cork City, Cobh, and Carrigaline. I have highlighted these issues with the relevant Minister, Darragh O’Brien TD; it is beyond disgraceful that this is being allowed to happen in 2021 – while progress is being made on the Castletownbere and Castletownshend projects, they cannot happen fast enough.https://www.epa.ie/…/unacceptable-delays-and-the-pace…
Farmed salmon fish kill: I have asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD the actions he is taking in response to the estimated 80,000 farmed salmon killed by a massive toxic plankton bloom in Bantry Bay, including the threat posed to wild salmon. This incident underlines many of the concerns I have expressed around large scale salmon farms. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40737489.html
Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament Report: I was honoured to have been a member of the Forum on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament which explored a range of issues affecting the operation of the Dáil and Seanad. We launched our report this week which includes a series of recommendations such as a referendum to address remote working and proxy voting, increased representation of women on Oireachtas Committees, a reduction in long, late and unpredictable sitting weeks, and measures to ensure personal safety of members and their staff. You can read the report here: https://data.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-11-02_report-of-the…
Bere Island Internment camp video: Bere Island Project Group have produced a commemoration video to mark the centenary of the Bere Island Internment camp this year showing what life would have been like for the internees at the Camp in 1921. Watch here: https://youtu.be/3cfuu7s7Fh0
31st Oct 2021
Candle in the Wind Vigil: On Thursday evening in Skibbereen, a candlelit vigil took place to remember those who passed away during the pandemic and didn’t get to have a public funeral. This really beautiful and poignant event was part of Skibbereen Arts Festival and honoured the lives lost and the impact this loss has had, and continues to have, on so many families. The vigil highlighted the importance of remembering those who have passed and the role of the arts in helping us all process the scale of pandemic. https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/munster/arid-40732119.html
Micro-generation Tax Break: The Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, has confirmed that there will be a tax disregard of €200 in respect of personal income for households who sell residual electricity that they generate back to the grid. The government had previously committed to a new micro-generation support scheme with a renewable/energy feed-in tariff, but it is unclear when this will be implemented. We need more measures like this that encourage micro-generation and make it easier for households to help reduce our carbon emissions.
Apprenticeships and Hospitality Jobs: I am pushing for greater alignment between further and higher education programmes and the needs of different sectors of the economy. We are all aware of the shortage of apprentices and local businesses have highlighted to me the need for more hospitality graduates. There is a new action plan on apprenticeships but we need those measures to be put in place as soon as possible with more support for apprentices and greater effort put into encouraging students to pursue these areas. Minister Niall Collins updated me on current programmes and ones being developed in coordination with the hospitality and tourism sector.
Maternity Hospital standards: Following the scandal of the disgraceful treatment of the remains of deceased babies in CUMH, I requested that the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, launch external reviews of maternity hospitals. One review to ensure that all guidelines and protocols regarding pregnancy loss and perinatal death are being adhered to and another review to ensure all human remains held at any stage have been buried in a dignified manner. The Minster has assured me that the HSE is conducting a review and he’s been assured by the hospitals that they are following protocals, but would he have gotten the same response before the scandal came to light?
Sustainable Toy Rental Club: The Clever Tots Toy Club is a new way for children to enjoy toys in a more sustainable manner. It is the brainchild and business of Bandon couple, Didier and Jenel Sanders. They recycle and reuse the toys across their membership based on a monthly toy replacement model. Read all about it here: https://www.southernstar.ie/…/bandon-couple-make…
Greenify Credit Union Loan: Bantry Credit Union is participating in a new green home improvement loan which allows homeowners to access green finance to retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient. Find out more here: https://www.bantrycu.ie/greenifynews…
Hungry Crow: I was so happy to formally open the Hungry Crow at the Pike in Clonakilty yesterday. Niamh and Mark’s success comes from a strong vision and incredibly hard work. I don’t think I can overstate how much our villages and towns need businesses like this. Local family shops fill vacant and derelict buildings and add so much value to the area. The Hungry Crow like so many other businesses, including my own family business, owes so much to farmers markets. They have become a thriving part of local economies and social life. But, they are still under-appreciated. Thriving markets in West Cork and nationwide create supply chains that help us secure food sovereignty and attract thousands of tourists.
Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty Podcast: I had a great chat with Sacred Heart Clonakilty Transition Year students Cáit and Aoife for the OSHSS Podcast. We discussed a typical day as a TD, the student housing crisis, women’s rights in Ireland, and many other topics. Listen here: https://anchor.fm/…/Episode-2-Holly-Cairns…/a-a6oko8g
UN Youth Delegate: Well done to Treasa Cadogan from Oileán Chléire (Cape Clear Island) who has been selected as one of two UN Youth Delegates who will work closely with Ireland’s Permanent Mission to the UN and will have the opportunity to represent the youth of Ireland during sessions of the UN committee dealing with human rights issues. Treasa has a degree in International Development & Food Policy at UCC, where she co-founded the UCC Fighting World Hunger group. Rugby SuccessCongratulations to Enya Breen of Skibbereen Rugby Club who has been selected for the Ireland Women’s team for their Autumn tests v USA and Japan.https://www.instagram.com/p/CViFNyaq8sx/…
Heritage Award for Timoleague: Rev. Kingsley Sutton, Church of the Ascension Timoleague, received the award in County Cork on behalf of the local team dedicated to preserving this incredible building. Their winning project, ‘Amazing mosaics at the Church of the Ascension, Timoleague’, focused on presenting mosaics and other features of the church through lectures by stained glass expert Finola Finlay.https://www.heritageweek.ie/…/national-heritage-week… October Climate Crisis Focus As well as publishing weekly updates on my Dáil and constituency work, I’d like to start including a dedicated section on climate change action each month. This might turn into its own monthly post over time, but for the moment, I’ll include it here and hope you find it useful.
Here is October’s Climate Crisis Focus round-up:
COP 26: The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is a meeting for representatives of countries to progress commitments to avoid dangerous climate change and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. Countries will outline their new emissions reduction goals based on the 2015 Paris Agreement. It is no exaggeration to say this meeting is essential to prevent the worst effects of climate change by ensuring that global temperature rise is limited to 1.5 degrees. This will require an emission reduction of 45% by 2030, compared with 2010, and from there to net zero emissions by 2050. It is essential that national and world leaders take the ambitious steps we need for real climate action. Here’s a quick guide to the Conference:https://www.theguardian.com/…/what-is-cop26-and-why…
West Cork will be ably represented at COP26 by climate activist Alicia O’Sullivan who is a delegate to the event and a part of the UCC delegation. Listen to Alica on RTÉ Radio 1 during the week: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22022797/
Ireland’s Emission Reductions: Our 2020 greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.6 percent in 2020, which is encouraging. However, much of this is as a result of lockdown measures which saw a 15.7 percent decrease in Transport emissions. This shows the level of change necessary if we are to reduce our emissions by 51% in the next decade. This is also against the backdrop of us failing to meet our 2020 target. Instead of achieving 20% below 2005 levels we achieved 7%. Ireland is a small country on a global scale, but we produce a disproportionate amount of emissions and we have to take responsibility for our fair share. Unfortunately, this week we saw the same old farmers versus climate action rhetoric which misrepresents the situation and is referenced by some politicians on an almost weekly basis in the media and in the Dáil. Scaremongering and populism will never help address the massive climate and biodiversity crisis. We need solutions not slogans. One of my main motivations to enter politics was to ensure that agriculture in Ireland is transformed to become a leader of sustainable methods that will ensure the survival of families farms. Policies over recent decades have decimated small family farms. Those clinging to a business as usual model are not only putting us at considerable climate risk, they are squandering an opportunity to protect rural living.
Centre of Excellence for Climate Action and Sustainability in West Cork: A few weeks ago, I was delighted to attend the launch of the new Centre of Excellence for Climate Action and Sustainability in West Cork. Based in Myross Wood House Retreat House Leap, the centre is supported by Green Skibbereen CLG. It works with local groups and businesses to develop sustainable and environmental projects, including woodland restoration, retrofitting, renewable energy and other sustainable practices. Read more about it here: https://westcorkpeople.ie/env…/cecas-launch-for-west-cork/
24th Oct 2021
Pumpkin Contest: During a visit to Dreeny National School on Friday, I had the honour of adjudicating their pumpkin carving contest and chose this hungry specimen as the winner. A great example of craftsmanship and the importance of getting your five a day.
Autism Bill Delay: I am contacted every week by families who are deeply concerned about a child or family member with autism spectrum disorder who cannot access the therapeutic interventions and educational support to which he or she is entitled. I spoke on the importance of the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Bill on Wednesday. The Bill is aimed at addressing the inconsistencies and the availability and types of services for children and adults with ASD. Unfortunately, the Government wants to push back the Bill by a year to allow time for the development of the national autism innovation strategy. I am not convinced by their arguments and am deeply concerned that this will contribute to delays in services. Watch: https://youtu.be/Cci9CzjuBB8
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month: As part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, advocacy and support groups including Féileacáin (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Association of Ireland) are calling for an immediate amendment to Section 8 of the Stillbirth Registration Act 1994 to make the stillbirth register public. Under the current Act, only parents can view details of the infant on the stillbirth register. A mandatory sealing of this register hides away the details of lost infants from siblings and future generations. We need to amend the Act so that families can have the option to register their babies on the public record should they wish to do so. This is an incredibly sensitive matter which represents tragedy and bereavement for thousands of families. Pregnancy loss, in the form miscarriage or stillbirth occurs in up to one quarter of all pregnancies. Watch: https://youtu.be/0e8L7I2HswM
Ban on large trawlers fishing inshore: This week I raised the ongoing uncertainty concerning the ban on large trawlers and pair-trawling in inshore waters (within 6 nautical miles of the coast) with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Last month the Court of Appeal refused the Minister’s application to continue a stay on the ban. The court’s decision meant that large trawlers could resume trawling with immediate effect and no longer require an authorisation to fish for sprat inside six nautical miles. The ban on trawling by vessels over 18m in coastal waters is designed to ensure sustainable fishing and to protect the livelihoods of small-scale and island fishers who rely on inshore fishing. The larger trawlers can fish outside the six mile limit, but that option is not available to smaller boats. The directive balances the preservation of fish stocks and the livelihoods of hundreds of families depending on small-scale fishing. It also helps sea angling and tourism sectors. I pushed the Minister to put in temporary measures and begin the process of preparing a new directive if required, but he informed me that he was waiting on the full judgement of the Court of Appeal. Watch: https://youtu.be/Po4a67d-fOE
Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Issues: I had the opportunity to speak on the Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality in the Dáil this week. The Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality has done incredible work cataloguing and making recommendations on a range of issues that impact on inequity and discrimination concerning gender, from the needs of people with disabilities to the cost of childcare and harmful and abusive content on social media. As I only had time to focus on three issues, I discussed the recommendations that we should move to a publicly funded model of affordable early years and out of hours childcare; for increased refuge spaces and support for victims/survivors of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; and better gender representation in media and education. Watch: https://youtu.be/xBTqmM2VucM The Assembly’s report is worth a read. It has very good discussions and recommendations on many key issues, including a living wage, publicly funded childcare, improved conditions for carers, better social protection, home care packages for older people and people with disabilities and gender balance in politics, public life and workplaces. Read it here: https://www.citizensassembly.ie/…/recommendations-of…
International Credit Union Day: Thursday was International Credit Union Day marking the incredible contribution to the credit union movement in providing community banking and financial services to many people who were turned away by other institutions. Unfortunately, current financial regulations fail to appreciate these volunteer-led, democratic organisations which provide personal services and financial functions to people often turned away by commercial banks.Last month, I questioned the Minister for Finance on the promised reforms in the programme for government. Credit Unions are particularly limited when it comes to business and mortgage lending. Concentration Limits in the 2019 Regulatory Requirements put artificial and anti-business limits in place on how much credit unions can lend for these purposes. It was shortly after the passing of Donal O’Driscoll, CEO in the Access Credit Union, so it was only fitting that I mentioned him at the end of my contribution. Watch: https://youtu.be/wvvlrr8h3n0
Disability Matters Committee This week’s meeting was an incredible eye-opener for all members as two witnesses described their fight over years to get the most basic services from the state. Damien O’Reilly, an individual with a physical disability (Cerebral Palsy), described how he was unable to go to college due to a lack of support and his struggles with the HSE to get a PA. A PA, who Damien trains himself, allows him to control his life, make day to day decisions, and attend meetings and social functions. Samantha Kenny, Parent and Family Carer, explained the impact of having children with disabilities and the constant challenge of accessing health and education services as well as the sheer cost of equipment. I got to ask them both questions towards the end of the session so many of the main points had already been discussed. Damian explained the importance of a PA model that empowers him to live independently, while Samantha spoke about fundraising for a vehicle suitable for her daughter as there is no suitable public transport and the government support for buying accessible private transport is in no way adequate. Watch here: https://youtu.be/_8kPN3nNLtk You can read Damian and Samantha’s statements here: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/disability-matters/documents/
Flood defences: The Clonakilty Flood Relief Scheme was marked as completed this week with a visit from Patrick O’Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works. I was still at Committee meetings in the Dáil so I could not attend. The official completion is important for households and premises to access flood insurance. Currently Skibbereen and Bandon are listed as ‘substantially complete’ which creates a problem when people need to access insurance and even mortgages. I raised this with the Minister a few weeks ago, and I am pushing for the completion of these two schemes. Watch: https://youtu.be/2DabyT7-vxU
N71 New Court Corner: I have highlighted the numerous accidents at the New Court corner between Skibbereen and Church Cross with the Council, Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and the Minister for Transport. In response to a PQ (Parliamentary Question) to the Minister, Transport Infrastructure Ireland informed me that, “The section of the N71 which you referenced has been identified as a high collision location (HCL) in the most recent round of analysis. TII is currently finalising a report that will shortly issue to Cork County Council with the updated list of HCLs, which will include this location. “Cork County Council will, on receipt of the report, be requested to undertake a safety review of each of the HCL locations identified in the report and to submit feasibility reports with details of proposed remedial measures to improve road safety at the locations concerned. In order for TII to consider funding proposals for these safety works, Cork County Council is required to propose a design for a scheme, carry out an economic appraisal of the proposal and prioritise the scheme in relation to other works being proposed by the road authority.” I will keep following up on this case and other accident blackspots in the constituency.
Kilbrittain National School ‘Sponsor A Tree’ campaign: It is great to see that Kilbrittain N.S. are looking to purchase woodland for educational and recreational purposes. Access to nature and outdoor-learning is extremely beneficial to young people. You can donate here: www.gofundme.com/f/kilbrittainns They have also put together a wonderful video for their campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ4HQJIC0nk
A Taste of Bandon – Banshee Food and Family Festival: The Taste of Bandon festival begins this weekend and runs until Halloween, with a wonderful selection of activities for all the family demonstrating the town’s heritage with Halloween themed events including a Family Foraging Walk, Native Woodland & Biodiversity Walk and Storytelling at Bandon Farmers Market.http://tasteofbandon.ie/
Sea Memorial Baltimore Harbour: Croí na Mara (Heart of the Sea) is a beautiful piece of art remembering lives lost at sea. Artists Helen Walsh and Paddy McCormack collaborated on the sculpture together which depicts two copper and bronze waves rising to form the shape of a heart. It was commissioned by Baltimore Rath and the Islands Community Council and supported by the whole community, locals, and public bodies. https://www.facebook.com/815092498691801/posts/1777103352490706/
Employability West Cork: It was great to see the work of EmployAbility being recognised recently. Over the past 20 years it has provided an invaluable service helping people find routes back into employment. https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/arid-40721547.html
17th Oct 2021
Schull Community College visit: I was so happy to get the chance to visit my old school on Friday to talk with 5th and 6th years about the importance of registering to vote and using their voice. I also got to chat with 3rd years as part of their CSPE class.They asked me questions about politics and what it’s like representing the people of Cork South West (my answer: amazing, rewarding and challenging in equal measure). I was presented with flowers from the Student Council and got to catch up with some of my former teachers. https://twitter.com/schullc…/status/1449130491853090821…
Riverstick and Belgooly canvass: I visited Riverstick and Belgooly on Saturday to follow up on issues I’ve been working on and to check in with constituents about other local matters that need attention. We got such a warm and welcoming response on the doors. Riverstick and Belgooly are affected by many issues common to rural communities in Cork South West including a lack of community facilities, gaps in infrastructure, and speeding through the villages. These are fantastic areas and people are very happy to be living there, but it’s obvious that even a small bit of investment would make a significant difference.
Budget 2022: As we recover from the pandemic, this budget was an opportunity to improve quality of life by investing in our public services and unfortunately this opportunity was missed. Housing, childcare, disability services, SNAs and accessible climate actions are the most common issues constituents raise with me. I used my Dáil speaking time to highlight the significant under-investment in disability and special needs education, the lack of ambition for the agricultural sector, the poor treatment of carers, and the absence of proper announcements on domestic violence support and women’s health care. Watch: https://youtu.be/n2ZIooeGnh0
Budget 2022: Social Democrats response As a party, the Social Democrats also raised a number of significant shortcomings in the budget, including:
Cost of Living: Marginal increases in the fuel allowance or pensions, and minor tinkering to tax bands, will do nothing to address the high cost of living in this country. There is nothing in the budget to reduce housing costs or the cost of living and the lack of measures for renters is especially worrying for many families.
Childcare: Ireland has the highest reliance on private childcare services in the OECD at 99%.The OECD average is 34%. The State has let parents pick up the bill for childcare for decades. Moving away from the current model of childcare and towards a system of public provision must be the overarching priority.
Benchmarked payments: It is beyond time for the government to accept evidence-based benchmarks of what people need to live a decent standard of living. Pensioners and carers, and others on fixed incomes, should not have to depend on arbitrary decisions from governments when they try to figure out how much they have to live on.
Housing: There is no urgency to dealing with vacant sites: the Zoned Land Tax is little more than a rebrand of the failed Vacant Sites Levy – which was 7%, however, the new Zoned Land Tax is just 3% https://fb.watch/8J27bmjzWL/
Greyhound Industry Budget Funding: I was on Newstalk Breakfast this week discussing the huge level of public funding the greyhound industry gets.It received €17.6m in the budget, up from €16.8m this year. All animal welfare groups combined only get a fraction of that from the Department of Agriculture.
Disability Matters Committee: Universal Design We focused on accessible Changing Places Toilet Facilities and universal design in the Disability Matters Committee this week. Disgracefully, Building Regulations only require housing to be visitable for a wheelchair user but not liveable. I asked the Irish Wheelchair Association about how we can most effectively change this situation. Changing Places Ireland spoke about the importance of fully accessible facilities and its impact on the quality of life of disabled people. There are only 17 publicly available Changing Places Toilet Facilities in Ireland at the moment and most are in Dublin. This means that many people limit their movements for fear of not being able to access a toilet, and the families of children with complex needs are forced to use the floor of public toilets for changing. I have been pushing the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to increase the number of Changing Places Toilet Facilities. The Minister can make a real difference here as the state has buildings in every community from libraries to social welfare offices and health centres.
Disability Services: I was on C103 Cork with Patricia Messenger this week discussing the disgraceful waiting lists for the Children’s Disability Network Teams. These new teams are supposed to be about providing better, child-centred care and multidisciplinary care, but this is not what families are encountering on the ground. This new system has resulted in many children and young people receiving fewer therapies and support. I am continuing to push for better services in this area. Listen back here: https://play.acast.com/…/d3fc018f-2c9b-4ae7-ab11…
Bantry Playground Fundraiser: The Bantry Playground Fundraising committee are doing incredible work to raise money to upgrade the playground in Bantry. Bantry is another West Cork town that needs an upgraded playground to cater for the population and provide children with appropriate conditions to play and learn. Find out more about the campaign here: https://www.facebook.com/Bantryplaygroundfundraiser Donate to their GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/…/help-raise-money-to-update…
Skibbereen Arts Festival 2021 Part 2: It is great to see the Skibb Arts Festival running a second installment with music, dance, theatre, visual arts and a very special memorial event to commemorate those who have left us over the past 18 months. The Arts Festival started on Saturday 16th October and will run until 28th October. http://www.skibbereenartsfestival.com/
Try a Trade: West Cork Development Partnership is running a week-long workshop at St. Goban’s in Bantry for anyone interested in apprenticeships and the construction industry. It is essential more people go into these sectors and that they are paid properly to reflect the vital work they do. Booking is essential. Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=4504333849604318&id=167852409919172
County Foundation Environment Fund: The Community Foundation for Ireland is inviting community groups to apply for grant funding to engage an ecologist and develop a Community Biodiversity Plan for their local area. The closing date is 12 November 2021. https://www.communityfoundation.ie/…/environment-and…
MTU free period products: Well done to Munster Technological University for providing students and staff with free period products to help address period poverty and tackle taboos around menstruation. We need this service to be available across all public bodies. https://www.rte.ie/…/1251186-munster-universty-free…/…
Baltimore Croí na Mara Sculpture: Have you seen the beautiful new Croí na Mara sculpture overlooking Baltimore Harbour? Read about the story and artists behind it here: https://www.facebook.com/815092498691801/posts/1777103352490706/
10th Oct 2021
‘Miracle drug’ approved by HSE: Some really wonderful news to kick off the Weekly Update this week. The HSE has approved the gene therapy drug Zolgensma for reimbursement in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy. I raised this issue with the Minister for Health last week in the Dáil (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ZkeZJChPk) and was so happy to hear this news. Well done to everyone who campaigned so passionately to make this happen, especially the families of Kate Mynard from Dunmanway and Theo Whelan from Killorglin. https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/munster/arid-40716752.html More info here: https://www.gov.ie/…/9c553-minister-for-health…/
Visit to Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty: I loved visiting Sacred Heart Clonakilty on Friday where I spoke with 5th and 6th Years on Friday about the importance of voting and ensuring that they are registered to vote. I also had great fun recording a podcast with transition year students. https://www.sacredheartclonakilty.ie/…/shss-welcomes…
Find out how to register to vote here: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/registering_to…
Alternative Budget: This week the Social Democrats launched an alternative budget focused on making a difference in the lives of ordinary people leading to real improvements in living standards. You can read the full document here: https://www.socialdemocrats.ie/…/RevivalRenewal-FINAL-1…
Budget Day is this Wednesday and today is world mental health day. Mental Health Reform created a template with Uplift to make it easy to contact your TDs about the need for mental health reform.https://www.mentalhealthreform.ie/budget-22/
As I am the party spokesperson for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural Development; Social Justice; and Disability, I led the recommendations in these areas based on issues raised by constituents and meetings with associated groups. Here are *some* of the measures we believe the Government should introduce in the 2022 Budget:
Disability: include a cost of disability payment, introduced at an initial €10 per week, and be increased incrementally each year; additional funding for the reopening and expansion of day services; Commit to reserve 7.5% of all social housing stock for people with disabilities; and, reform of careers conditions and allowances.
Rural Development: Extend the budget for the Walks Scheme to build sustainable tourism; increase funding for Town and Village Renewal Scheme; provide supplementary funding for the LEADER scheme for 2022; Increase payments on the Rural Social Scheme, Community Employment (CE) and Tús schemes/programmes
Agriculture: Maintain funding for GLAS and other environmental and locally led schemes including REAP, and European Innovation Partnership projects; allocate additional funding to expand and develop the Smart Farming Programme; increase funding for Knowledge Transfer and other training programmes to ensure a fair transition; bring in tax reforms including extending Stamp Duty Relief to young trained farmers and Extend the tax relief on the leasing of farmland to include agreements between parents and children.
Fishing: Allocate Local Authority funding for the maintenance and development of small piers, and make allocation available based on the length of coastline within the county; increase the Fishers Tax Credit to €1,500 for those fishing a minimum of 80 days per year; recognise and value inshore fishing.
Childcare Ireland spends just 0.3% of GDP on Early Years care and education, which is well below the European average of 0.8% and the UNICEF recommended benchmark of 1%.This results in incredibly high childcare costs for families, while at the same time childcare workers are struggling to make ends meet. The Programme for Government committed to significant reform and investment in Early Years and childcare, yet the 2021 Budget allocation for this area was not increased. I highlighted these issues at the Children’s Committee this week where we learned about the lack of investment in childcare and afterschool services which are vital services in disadvantaged areas. Watch my contribution here: https://youtu.be/d-RXMXCTk3o
ASD classrooms ventilation: Gary Gannon TD, the Social Democrats education spokesperson, has discovered that ASD classrooms in Primary Schools were excluded in the allocations of CO2 monitors per school. So for example, a primary school with 12 classrooms and 2 ASD classes would have received the same amount of monitors as a school with just 12 classes. We have been calling for every classroom in every school to have a CO2 Monitor but it defies belief that ASD classes are not even being factored into the current monitor per school allocation. This further emphasises the absence of resources available to students with disabilities. Read more: https://www.facebook.com/gary.gannon.77/posts/6094195390654697
Maternity Restrictions: I raised this issue yet again with the government just as the March for Maternity protest was beginning to gather outside the Dáil. The situation has now grown so farcical that, from October 22, you will be able to attend a nightclub, but partners will still be told to wait in the car park when they arrive at a maternity hospital. Watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/3N9-YOve9Dw I also discussed this ongoing fiasco on the Tonight Show on Wednesday night and highlighted the under-investment in women’s healthcare.
SláintecareI also discussed the government’s mishandling of Sláintecare on the Tonight Show. Sláintecare is the cross-party plan, spearheaded by Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD, to establish a universal single-tier health and social care system. There have been recent high-profile resignations from Sláintecare because of resistance to change within the Department of Health and the HSE to reform. Now, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD has appointed the Secretary General of the Dept of Health Robert Watt and the head of the HSE Paul Reid to lead the process. It is very hard to have confidence in the new structure given its lack of independence. We need a new health system which provides access based on need, and not ability to pay. It is disgraceful that the government is delaying its implementation and already watering down its potential. Watch here: https://youtu.be/ROxaInCnSkU
Co-Action Castletownbere: All three Cork South West TDs met with Co-Action on Monday to discuss issues around staffing and the impact on the residents and their families. Unfortunately it seems that larger issues affecting the sector are impacting on the Castletownbere service. Nonetheless, Co-Action has a list of clear actions which if taken by the government and public bodies will help address the current situation. I will be pushing these with the relevant bodies and for immediate resolution to this unacceptable situation.
Rights of way: Under an amendment to the law in 2011, farmers and others would have had to register rights of way acquired by long use by the end of November this year. These rights, based on long use, were to be verified (by a court order, or an uncontested application for registration), and registered with the Property Registration Authority. This has been a large concern for many farmers and homeowners. After pressure the government is bringing in legislation to remove this deadline before the end of November. I will be keeping track of this to ensure that the government acts in time. This relates only to rights gained by continued use, such as access to land or a house by going through someone else’s land, public rights of way, or rights contained in written title deeds, are not affected.
Driving Licences for people in Direct Provision: The Programme for Government’s commitment to ending Direct Provision is moving at a glacial pace. In the meantime, there are other commitments which could help improve the lives of people trapped in our asylum process. For example, people living in Direct Provision are not allowed to apply for driving licences which limits their capacity for work and to move beyond the Direct Provision centres, which are often outside of towns in rural areas. The junior Minister for Transport, Hildegarde Naughton informed me that she is working on administrative and technical solutions but that it is “not possible at this time to give a definitive date for when these changes will be in place.” These delays are unacceptable. We need an end to this inhumane system and all the barriers associated with it.
Accessible polling stations: Accessibility issues at polling stations were raised at a recent Disability Matters Committee. An audit of polling stations for last year’s general election revealed that 29 buildings servicing 43 polling stations were not accessible to wheelchair users. Blind and visually impaired people and those with literacy difficulties also encounter many barriers to voting. The junior Minister for Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD has outlined some of the actions being taken to address issues; however, there is clearly more work to be done. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-10-06/51/question/51/
Swimming success Well done to 13 year old Brian Foste from Kinsale, who swam 100 times around Sandycove island recently. Each lap is one mile in length! This is an incredible achievement. https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40712510.html…
Reen’s of Bandon: It’s lovely to see another West Cork store featuring in the Echo series of corner shops. This week it’s Reen’s shop in Bandon’s turn and a great interview with owner Robert Fitzpatrick.https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/arid-40713470.html…
3rd October 2021
I had the best time attending Traveller Pride in the Park in Clonakilty yesterday as part of West Cork Traveller Pride Week. As part of the celebrations, we were treated to a trailer of the West Cork Travellers’s film (coming soon), an outdoor screening of the ‘Float Like a Butterfly’ film and shown a Barrel Top Wagon. It was an honour to celebrate this important week with West Cork Travellers.
CUMH Scandal: The scandal of the disgraceful treatment of the remains of deceased babies in CUMH was discussed in the Dáil on Thursday. This is such a tragic case and I extend my sympathies to the 18 families involved.I sought assurances from the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD that a full investigation will occur and highlighted the need for measures to ensure this can never be allowed to happen again. You can watch my contribution here: https://youtu.be/uiP_AcT8Aj0https://www.echolive.ie/corknews/arid-40710953.html
Call to approve ‘miracle drug’ for baby Kate
I also highlighted the story of baby Kate Mynard from Dunmanway who has a rare muscular condition.I urged the Minister and the HSE to do all they can to approve the drug, Zolgensma, which is used to treat spinal muscular atrophy, in time to help Kate who is 17 months old. I have previously raised this case with the Minister for Health, but got the opportunity to directly urge him to act in the Dáil this week. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40705664.html
Ratification of the Optional Protocol on the UNCRPD
On Tuesday, I urged the Taoiseach to begin the process of ratifying the Optional Protocol on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Watch our exchange here: https://youtu.be/FnCh1B7Ca7I Disgracefully, It took Ireland over 10 years to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. We are still waiting on the ratification of the Optional Protocol. Ratifying the Optional Protocol would enable people with disabilities to make a complaint directly to the UN if their rights as acknowledged in the Convention were not being recognised. Human rights and legal experts have told the Disability Matters Committee that we could ratify the Optional Protocol immediately, if the political will is there.
On Wednesday, we used the Social Democrats time in the Dáil to highlight the massive amount of energy and water data centres use at a time when we are facing potential blackouts. Last year, data centres consumed approximately 11% of the total electricity used in Ireland, and it is projected that they could account for over 30% of all demand by 2030. Our motion called for a moratorium on new developments until a proper risk analysis of their economic, environmental and energy impact is carried out. This is a basic requirement for good governance and sound policy making. Watch my contribution here: https://youtu.be/Z1N7Eta9aos
Government’s Housing Plan
I also spoke on the Government’s latest Housing Plan this week. I highlighted the need for better and quicker investment in social and affordable housing and the disgraceful lack of domestic violence measures in the plan. I also stressed the need to provide housing suitable for people with disabilities, including accompanying supports, as well as immediate action on dereliction in our towns and villages.My Social Democrats colleague Cian O’Callaghan T.D. is our spokesperson on Housing and is well worth a follow if you’re interested in this topic. Watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/AttGR8jATpQ
Information and Tracing Bill for Adopted People
At the Children’s Committee this week, the Minister for Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman TD, spoke on his Information and Tracing Bill for adopted people. Adopted people and human rights experts have raised serious issues with this bill. I brought up a number of these issues during the session including the limitations of GDPR and restrictions of people being able to access all their personal information. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40708754.htm l
Clonakilty Bay Oyster Farm Rejected
I welcome the news that plans for an oyster farm in Clonakilty Bay have been rejected. Credit is due to local people who put an incredible amount of work into highlighting the issues and gaining political support. It is unbelievable that plans are even allowed to be submitted for areas such as Clonakilty Estuary which is a Special Protection Area. I have raised this and similar issues with the Minister for Agriculture, Food,and the Marine multiple times.
Co-Action Staffing Issues
Staffing issues in Co-Action have impacted on capacity in some residential centres. This has led to some Castletownbere residents being relocated to Skibbereen. It is unacceptable that residents would be forced out of their homes and routines, and far from their families due to issues with staffing. I have been raising this issue with the HSE for a number of weeks now to resolve any funding issues. All three local TDs are meeting with Co-Action management tomorrow to work towards a solution.The Department of Health’s recent Capacity Review has estimated that in the next decade there is a need for a further €550m to €1bn investment in disability services. Despite disability being an issue that affects so many families, the Capacity Review’s estimates suggest the area of disability is generally one of the most underfunded areas of public expenditure.I am pushing for the government to use the Budget to begin to address the underlying deficits in disability services.
Barriers for Disabled People
In the Disability Matters Committee we are currently holding a very important session on participation of people with disabilities in political, cultural, community and public life. Representatives from the Irish Deaf Society, National Platform of Self Advocates (a disabled persons’ organisation run for and by people with an intellectual disability), and LEAP (a non-profit organisation that assists families of children with disabilities to take action for an inclusive life) highlight a range of different barriers affecting people, as well as potential solutions. It is essential we address these issues if we are serious about issues of equity and inclusion. You can watch the representatives’ answers to my questions here: https://youtu.be/zbOABZNy7iI
Unfortunately, there was another accident on the R586 near Baxter’s Bridge between Bandon and Enniskeane. This is a dangerous junction where there have been repeated accidents. I have highlighted this to the Council in a recent submission on speed reviews. I will urge for action on this again, and ask the Minister for Transport to consider increased automatic safety measures around known accident blackspots.
Irish Water Meeting
I have regular meetings with Irish Water to discuss ongoing issues in the constituency. Thankfully a longstanding issue in Belgooly is close to resolution with the announcement of funding this week, however there are other areas, such as Kinsale wastewater treatment plant and Shannonvale that need urgent intervention. I am continuing to do my best to keep this on top of Irish Water’s priorities.
The Social Democrats are preparing an alternative budget to outline our priorities.As part of this process I am meeting with different organisations to understand their needs and perspectives. This week I met with local branches of Macra Na Feirme, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO),SIPTU and IBEC, as well as representatives from the National Council for the Blind and Irish Grain Growers. Next week I have meetings with the Disability Federation of Ireland and St Vincent de Paul.
Adopt A Monument
The Heritage Council is looking for new groups to join its Adopt A Monument Programme and to adopt a monument in their locality. Many volunteers and groups across West Cork already put incredible time into protecting our heritage, this programme helps by providing expertise, mentoring, support, and networking to help to preserve and protect monuments. Find out more here: https://www.heritagecouncil.ie/…/call-for-adopt-a…
Social Enterprise Capital Grant Scheme
This scheme provides small grants to Social Enterprises for refurbishments, repairs or to purchase new equipment. It is administered by Cork County Council. Find out more here:https://www.corkcoco.ie/…/capital-grant-scheme-worth…
Deaf Awareness Week
As part of Deaf Awareness Week, Citizens Information and the Irish Deaf Society have developed a series of videos to provide an understanding of Deafness, the Deaf community, sign language and other topics related to the Deaf community. You can watch these videos here: https://www.citizensinformationboard.ie/…/deaf…
Pilot Soil Sampling Programme
This initiative provides farmers and their advisors with comprehensive details about the soil health and soil condition on their farms. Participation is voluntary and it is open to all regions and farming enterprises. However, applications to the programme will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis, so if you are interested, act quickly!https://www.gov.ie/…/4896d-pilot-soil-sampling-programme/
Whiddy Island Disaster Documentary: Fire in the Sky
This weekend, RTÉ Radio 1’s Doc on One covered the 1979 maritime disaster on Whiddy Island which claimed the lives of 50 people when the oil tanker Betelguese exploded.The documentary is very well researched and really worth your time. Listen here: https://www.rte.ie/radio/doconone/1248106-fire-in-the-sky…
26th Sept 2021
Update: Bantry Flood Relief Scheme. On Thursday I asked the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW for an update on the Bantry Flood Relief Scheme. Minister O’Donovan informed me that engineering consultants will be appointed in the coming weeks. I pushed him on the need for interim measures to help the households and businesses at risk of flooding, especially as we move into the winter months. I also raised the need for him to officially sign off on the Bandon, Clonakilty, and Skibbereen schemes as “complete” as soon as possible to enable the premises affected to access insurance and mortgages – their current status as ‘substantially complete’ is not enough. My Social Democrats colleague, Cllr. Ross O’Connell, is bringing a motion in relation to this at the next full Cork County Council meeting. Watch my exchange with the Minister here: https://youtu.be/2DabyT7-vxU
Maternity Restrictions: Back in May the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan said there is “no good reason” in public health terms for maternity hospitals to restrict visits from partners. And yet, we’re nearly into October and the restrictions persist in many maternity wards. Female Oireachtas members from across all parties and groupings are working together and actively calling for a return to pre-pandemic access for partners. Deputy Niamh Smyth and I both raised the issue of ongoing maternity restrictions with the Minister for Health on Tuesday. Minister Anne Rabbitte was very supportive in her response, but it is disappointing that the senior Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, did not come into the Dáil to speak on this issue which has affected thousands of women and families. Watch our exchange here: https://youtu.be/gbDrgJZDSIM
I also attended a meeting with the HSE on Wednesday along with female representatives from most parties and groups We are making progress, and it is great to see such solidarity amongst female TDs, but there is a clear need for Minister Donnelly and the HSE to address this issue once and for all. https://www.irishtimes.com/…/partners-should-be…
Sea Fisheries Bill: The government is pushing on with their fishing penalty points system despite its deep flaws which have been raised by the sector, by opposition, and by the Oireachtas Agriculture, Food, and the Marine Committee. The system lacks due process. Points can be issued on a balance of probabilities, rather than the usual threshold of beyond reasonable doubt. The right of appeal to the High Court is very limited and, in the case of a successful appeal, the penalty points would still remain on a licence. This Bill needs to be drastically changed and that can only happen with proper and respectful engagement with fishers. Watch my contribution here: https://youtu.be/Z6zmazJJq08
Pair-Trawling On Thursday afternoon, it emerged that the Court of Appeal has refused the Minister for the Marine’s application to continue a stay on the Government’s ban on large trawlers (over 18m) inside Ireland’s inshore waters, also known at the 6 nautical mile zone. This is a really worrying and disappointing development. Read my post about it here: https://www.facebook.com/HollyCairnsTD/videos/241412857799481/
Disability Matters Committee: This week’s meeting focused on participation of people with disabilities in political life highlighting the barriers people can face in going for election, being supported in their roles, and even in voting. We need a range of reforms in our electoral and political system to ensure that no one is prevented from running because of a disability. My Social Democrats party colleague Councillor Carly Bailey, an amazing advocate, appeared at the committee and shared her experiences of challenges encountered in political life.
School Secretaries and Caretakers: I sought an update from the Minister for Education on ensuring that school secretaries and caretakers are paid properly and receive improved working entitlements. For too long these groups which are essential to the running of a school have had to endure low pay and precarious working conditions. I will be following up with the Minister to progress this matter. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-21/363/question/363/ I also asked for caretaker pay to include an option for after-school hours. This could enable school facilities to stay open and be made available to community groups.https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-21/378/question/378/
School Uniforms: School uniforms can be a huge cost for families. Why aren’t generic uniforms with ‘iron on’ or ‘sew on’ school crests the norm? I asked the Minister for Education to look at bringing in regulations in regard to this. She referred me to a document which only contains guidelines that schools can (and do) disregard. This needs to change. We need greater leadership on this issue. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-21/377/question/377/
Paper Bank Statements: Bank statements are an important way for many people to keep track of their spending. While many people are happy to bank electronically there are still cohorts who can only use printed versions. I asked the Minister for Finance to ensure banks would provide customers with printed copies monthly if requested. Disappointingly, he just quoted regulations that say banks only have to provide paper copies annually. This is an unacceptable standard given that those who need printed statements can only rely on machines in branches which are closing down and require a level of comfort using in-bank technology. https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-21/191/question/191/
IFA Meeting: On Monday I met with representatives of IFA in my Bandon office to talk through their pre-budget document highlighting measures the government can take to support sustainable farming and protect family farms. I also raised issues which have been raised with me and encouraged them to bring them to the attention of the government.
Public Sector Jobs The Public Appointments Service is running a schools programme to promote student interest in the public sector careers. The Public Jobs Schools Resource Kit presents information about public sector careers in a new way for guidance counsellors and other teachers, to build confidence around discussing career options in the public sector with students and their parents. https://www.publicjobs.ie/en/schools
Bandon Library: To mark the opening of the new Bandon library building, Cork County Council want you to design a library card with the theme ‘Bandon: My Town, My Library’. Three winning designs will feature on limited-edition library cards. More info here: https://www.corkcoco.ie/en/library-services/news-events
St Mary’s Vintage Car and Tractor Run, Dunmanway: Well done to everyone who took part in the Vintage Car and Tractor Run last Sunday in aid of Multiple Sclerosis and St Mary’s Church in Dunmanway. A lovely video of the event is available here: https://youtu.be/lOpXeK1e8a0
Murphy’s Shop, Bere Island: Another West Cork shop featured in the Echo’s series on local stores. Murphy’s shop and post office on Bere Island also run a wonderful bakehouse café. It is great to see coverage of such a vital service for the island community. https://www.echolive.ie/corklives/arid-40702673.html…
19th Sept 2021
This week saw a return of the Dáil which allowed me to bring up a number of issues with the government and to contribute to several important pieces of legislation.
Maternity Restrictions: On Thursday, I raised the ongoing restrictions in maternity hospitals with the Tánaiste, who had assured me back in July that the issue would be resolved by now. Again, the goal posts shifted. Despite over 90% of adults being vaccinated, individual hospitals can still decide not to follow HSE guidelines. The previous evening I attended an online meeting organised by Better Maternity Care where many women shared stories of distress, fear, and anger at having to endure labour and care for their newborn alone. Watch my speech here: https://youtu.be/KbhD7Jjdpmg (There will be a March for Maternity on October 6th in Dublin .)
Adoption Information Bill: I spoke on a Bill from Deputies Thomas Pringle and Catherine Connolly which will allow adopted people to have access to their birth certs, a right still denied to them by the state. They are putting forward this Bill because historically governments have not resolved this serious issue. I spoke about the importance of beginning of life information to the right to identity, and highlighted the disgraceful situation where survivors of Mother and Baby Homes are being denied access to their personal information by the Department of Children who will only share it with a nominated GP first. Read about this disgraceful situation here:https://jrnl.ie/5549391 Watch my contribution to the discussion here: https://youtu.be/hUGUkekNKCs
Marine Area Planning Bill: This legislation will bring in a new framework for developments and management of Ireland’s offshore marine area, such as renewable energy projects. However, I highlighted the need for greater public involvement, justice, and sustainability. This law along with the National Marine Planning Framework and the Maritime Jurisdiction Bill will see a massive transformation with how the sea is used and developed. While this may bring benefits to coastal areas we also need stronger mechanisms to ensure that local communities are involved in decision-making, that any affected sectors, such as inshore fishing or marine tourism, are supported, and that sustainability is at the heart of any developments. You can see my contribution in the Dáil here:https://youtu.be/D7Gs_PyiggI
Disability Matters Committee: On Thursday I was extremely frustrated that a meeting of the Disability Matters Committee could not go ahead as we failed to reach a quorum due to poor attendance by members. Four other members and I waited until 10.30am, for more members to join the meeting, to no avail. This is not good enough. We cannot have politicians paying lip service to supporting rights for people with disabilities and then failing to attend meetings where they have an opportunity to advocate for those rights. I had an important item on that meeting’s agenda to ask the Committee to call on the government to ratify the optional protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Numerous human rights groups have stated there is no reason the optional protocol cannot be ratified immediately – yet the government has failed to do so. I understand, and accept, that members cannot attend all meetings and that, occasionally, unforeseen events result in meetings being missed. However, there is a pattern of non-attendance by some members on the Disability Matters Committee that is concerning and needs to be addressed.https://www.independent.ie/…/oireachtas-meeting-shelved…
Flood relief schemes: I regularly seek updates on West Cork flood relief projects from the Minister with responsibility for the OPW. He outlined the remaining works which need to be completed in Bandon, Clonakilty, and Skibbereen – it is important the issues which have arisen since the ‘substantial completion’ of these works are resolved. The Bantry scheme is progressing with the assessment of engineering consults in progress and preparation for the repair and re-construction of the Main Street Culvert, this work is moving slowly and I will keep pressure on the OPW to progress it.https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-09/376/question/376/
Coastal Habitats: The latest Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland Report found that the overall status of estuaries habitats are inadequate, lagoon habitats are classified as bad, and tidal mudflats and sandflats are also inadequate. These are worrying findings on the status of our coastal and marine habitats. While the Minister outlined some of the actions being taken, we also need to look at larger issues around water pollution and threats to biodiversity. Read the report here: https://www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports See my questions and the responses here: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-09/376/question/376/
Kinsale sewage: I have contacted Irish Water in relation to untreated sewage entering the harbour near the RNLI station. They informed me that this is caused by storm overflow from the wastewater pump station due to heavy rainfall, and this issue will be resolved in forthcoming works. I have regular meetings with Irish Water and I will continue to seek updates on this and the other Kinsale wastewater issues.
School carbon dioxide monitors: Ventilation is an important part of helping keep schools safe, and having CO2 monitors is a means of tracking ventilation. The Department of Education is providing monitors for all schools but not enough for every room leaving principals and staff having to develop their own system to distribute the CO2 monitors. I have requested that the Minister provides enough monitors for every teaching room: https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/2021-09-09/620/question/620/
Origins of Barleycove dunes: Work by West Cork geologist, Dr Anthony Beese suggests that the Barleycove Dunes may have been formed by the tsunami generated by the massive earthquake in Portugal in 1755:https://www.irishexaminer.com/…/arid-40695359.html…
COP 26 Climate ConferenceThe National Youth Council of Ireland are running an event to explain how the UN climate talks work, who’s involved and how young people’s voices fit within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties also known as COP. It is on Zoom next Saturday, 25th September. You can register here: https://www.youth.ie/…/future-generations-climate…/…
12th Sept 2021
The Dáil returns next week and we had a busy week in the office preparing and submitting parliamentary questions. On Monday the Social Democrats had our annual think in in Dublin. We heard from experts on some of the key issues for our party – environment, housing and health. I also got the opportunity to visit different parts of the constituency, including Timoleague, Bandon, and Skibbereen.
Rotunda TV series: Many people were (rightly) upset to learn that a TV production crew was given permission to film a series in the Rotunda maternity hospital while at the same time partners were (and in many hospitals still are) restricted from attending the birth of their child. When the first episode aired this week to considerable public backlash, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health spoke out to criticise the Rotunda’s decision to allow the camera crew access despite the restrictions. Their interventions would have been more helpful last December when I raised concerns about the planned filming with the Minister for Health. The level of disregard for the realities faced by expecting families is absolutely startling. Since the program aired, the Taoiseach and the Minister for health have aired concerns about it. It would have been really helpful if they had done this before now – I raised it with the Minister back in December.https://www.oireachtas.ie/…/question/2020-12-01/729/…The Rotunda have since announced that they will extend partner access to “close to pre-pandemic levels.” I hope the rest of the hospitals don’t have to be publicly shamed into taking action.It is astonishing and heartbreaking that this issue is taking so long to resolve, but we won’t give up in the fight for #bettermaternitycare.
Afghan Refugees: This week has been the first opportunity for me to formally ask the government about the steps they are taking in response to the shocking situation in Afghanistan.I have requested that the government ensures we take in our fair share of refugees from those fleeing violence and oppression, and that the Minister for Justice introduces a specific humanitarian programme to enable Afghan people living here to apply for visas for their family members.
Visit to St. Patrick’s Boys school and the Skibbereen Family Resource Centre: I really enjoyed my visit to St. Patrick’s Boys National school where I got to see some of their amazing initiatives like an incredible multi-sensory room for ASD students and a geodome to teach students how to grow food. I also visited the Skibbereen Family Resource Centre who provide invaluable services to the wider community like Parent and Toddler groups, counselling, youth services, West Cork Older People’s Network and much, much more (way too many to list here). It’s really frustrating that they have had to move premises four times since 2017. They desperately need a permanent home to provide these essential services in our community. I’m working with them to try and ensure this.
Islands Policy We have been waiting for the new off-shore islands policy for some time now and from what the Minister for Rural and Community Development has informed me, it seems like we won’t see any movement on this until next year, which is very disappointing.
Free Contraception: I also asked the Minister Health about his plans to allocate funding in Budget 2022 for the establishment of a State-funded contraception scheme. While acknowledging the barriers many people faced, he said he is committing to providing free contraception over a phased period, starting with women aged 17-25. While this is progress it needs to be accelerated and expanded immediately. Many HSE facilities, third-level institutions, and NGOs are participating in the National Condom Distribution Service, including the Sexual Health Centre in Cork: https://www.sexualhealthcentre.com/
Funding Announced Bantry and Kinsale are to receive extensive funding to develop outdoor dining space, which will add to the incredible work already completed in the towns. Also, well done to all in the Durrus community for getting a CLÁR grant for a sensory garden in the village.
Cork Camogie Massive well done and commiserations to the Cork Camogie Team for a nail-biting performance against Galway in the All-Ireland final this afternoon after a long and challenging championship. It was great to see so many clubs and schools in West Cork get behind the local players including Linda Collins, Libby Coppinger, Ciara O’Sullivan, Fiona Keating and Saoirse McCarthy.
Cork Bike Week: Cork Bike Week starts this weekend with a great range of activities for the all the family, including Clonakilty Bike Circus Workshops, Skibbereen Cycle Bus Kids Puncture Ready, Eyeries Community Development Bike Week, a Bere Island event, and Cork County Libraries Bike Books & Competitions. For more information go to: https://www.corksports.ie/cork-bike-week-events-2021…
March for Choice Dublin 25th September: The 10th Annual March for Choice takes place on Saturday 25th September 2021. The Abortion Rights Campaign will hold a socially distanced, static rally at Dáil Éireann for free, safe, legal and local abortion access With the forthcoming review of the abortion legislation, it is important to show the government our resolve to remove the continuing barriers to abortion. West Cork Rebels for Choice are subsiding travel from Cork. More information on their page here: https://www.facebook.com/wcrebels4choice
World Suicide Prevention Day: To mark Suicide Prevention Day, the West Cork Travellers group invites you to take part in a project to remember loved ones by lighting a candle and taking a photograph to send to them for an online group exhibition. https://www.facebook.com/…/a.122644322…/376634993997682/
Kinsale 9/11 Tribute: Members of Cork County Fire Service paid tribute to their fallen colleagues in the NYFD on the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks at the Ringfinnan 9/11 Garden of Remembrance:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9LdeUDUgrs&t=1s
Innishannon volunteers: The years of dedication to the Innishannon soccer club by Joan and Sean Lynch was rightly recognised in the Echo this week. This type of commitment is the life force of so many community organisations. https://www.echolive.ie/corksport/arid-40428917.html…
Burning: We have received a lot of reports into the office about the burning of land recently. There is a very strict code of practice for the legitimate use of burning, and deviation from it risks considerable environmental damage and prosecution: https://assets.gov.ie/…/cd7b70f4-f52a-4664-9908…
Recycling Soft Plastics: I welcome the announcement this week that soft plastic packaging such as wrappers, plastic bags and bubble wrap can now be recycled in Ireland. However, a report from the EPA shows we are still going in the wrong direction with an 11% increase in packaging waste in 2019 compared to 2018, and only 28% of plastics being recycled. The real change we need is to drastically reduce packaging. Larger retailers need to choose more sustainable models and we all need to consciously reduce our packaging. We are lucky in West Cork we have a great range of local shops which are leading the way with re-fill systems: https://www.epa.ie/…/national-waste-statistics/packaging/
Breast Cancer: The untimely death of Sarah Harding of Girls Aloud at 39 from breast cancer is a reminder for all women to regularly check their breasts and for those over 50 to attend breast screening when it is offered. The Irish Cancer Society has a quick guide to checking your breasts: https://www.cancer.ie/…/breas…/how-to-check-your-breasts
Defence Forces Abuses: The ‘Women Of Honour’ documentary broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday contained horrifying stories of female members of the defence forces being sexually degraded, harassed, abused and assaulted. The women subjected to this violent and degrading treatment have been left scarred, personally and professionally, by the abuse they suffered. Meanwhile, the careers of their male abusers flourished, as they walked away with barely a slap on the wrist. The Social Democrats are calling for a full independent investigation to determine the extent of sexual abuse, harassment and assault in the defence forces.https://twitter.com/DublinRCC/status/1436303165217968129…
Coming up next week
I’ll be on the Claire Byrne show at 10.30am tomorrow debating the chair of the Irish Greyhound Board. Again. With the Dáil resuming next week, I will be speaking on the Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021 which will shape coastal developments for years and on the Adoption (Information) Bill 2021 to improve information access for adopted people in relation to their information. I also have questions submitted to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and the Minister the Environment and Transport.