Monthly Archives: August 2011
Posted August 31st, 2011
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, is preparing to mark Suicide Awareness Week by chairing a seminar on suicide prevention in the Mansion House this Saturday, 3 September. Suicide Awareness Week will run from Sunday, 4 September until Saturday, 11 September.
Deputy Harris said, “As a young man involved in politics, I feel a particular responsibility to do all I can to speak out on issues of suicide and mental health. I have seen through my own clinics the huge pressures families and individuals are facing in Wicklow and right around the country. Now more than ever there is an onus on us to work to eliminate the stigma that has shrouded issues of mental health for so long and to build a robust mental health service so people who need help can access it in a timely and efficient manner.”
“I am honoured to have been asked to chair the seminar on suicide prevention, which will mark the start of a nation-wide campaign to encourage young people to talk about issues of mental health. I will also be continuing to use my platform in the Dáil to speak out about suicide and the stigma that continues to be associated with mental illness, and to work towards an improved mental health system where those with mental health needs can access the highest standard of community based and age-appropriate care.”
Posted August 31st, 2011
Fine Gael Deputy, Simon Harris, has welcomed funding for Arklow Swimming Pool announced by the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring TD. The grant of €297,500 will be used to improve access to the pool for people with disabilities, and also to help increase the pool’s energy efficiency.
Praising the funding, Deputy Harris said, “I am delighted to see money being invested in improving access and facilities for people with disabilities, and I am sure the planned disabled access changing and shower room will make a big difference for users of the pool. I am also pleased to see funding to improve the energy efficiency of the pool is also very important, as heating bills are often the single biggest running cost. Reducing the heating and water costs associated with running the pool will have a knock-on effect for tax payers, ensuring they get better value for their money.”
Posted August 30th, 2011
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Tuesday) called on the Irish banks to face up to reality where mortgage debt is concerned and to acknowledge that they were given substantial amounts of public money in part to help mortgage holders and enable them to write off debt.
“Minister Noonan’s comments today highlight a reality that Irish banks continue to ignore. The banks were rigorously stress tested and sufficiently recapitalised to enable them to help mortgage holders who are struggling to make their monthly repayments.
“It is high time that they recognise this fact as people across the country are being put under immense pressure by banks to meet their mortgage repayments.
“I welcome Minister Noonan’s comments and believe that it is time to turn political focus on the issue into positive action for the thousands of families in middle Ireland who are struggling to make ends meet. Banks received considerable support from the Irish taxpayer, the mortgage-holding taxpayer now needs to see the benefit of this support.”
Posted August 30th, 2011
Wicklow TD outlines his support for independent arts centres
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has paid tribute to the work done by staff and volunteers at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, following a visit to the centre. Deputy Harris said, “There is a great tradition of the arts in communities across Ireland, and I am delighted to see this is continuing in the beautifully restored centre at the Courthouse in Tinahely.”
“The Courthouse will be hosting two free events to mark Culture Night on September 23rd, and I would urge those living nearby to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the centre and become familiar with its work.”
“I will be speaking to my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan TD, about the need to continue to value and support the work of rural arts centres and the contribution they make to local communities and their economies.”
Posted August 25th, 2011
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has highlighted the national Crime Victim Helpline, which can be reached on Freephone 116 006. The service is funded by the Department of Justice and Equality to listen, support and inform victims of crime.
Deputy Harris said, “As a former Chairman of the County Wicklow Policing Committee, I have seen first-hand the lasting impact of crime. It is perfectly normal for victims of crime to feel alone, anxious or isolated, but the Crime Victims’ Helpline is there to offer support and free and unbiased advice.”
“I would encourage anyone who has been affected by crime – regardless of when the time took place, who committed the crime or whether the incident has been reported to the Gardaí, to avail of this confidential and non-judgemental service.”
Posted August 19th, 2011
Office should have powers to investigate special education needs body
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, is today (Friday) supporting a call from the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, for the investigative powers of her office to be extended to include the National Council for Special Education.
“I fully support the request by the Children’s Ombudsman that her remit be extended to cover the workings of the National Council for Special Education (NCSE). The Ombudsman has been trying to progress this issue for some time, and I believe that it cannot be ignored any longer.
“The NCSE is a statutory body established in 2004 charged with sanctioning and overseeing the provision of special needs education within our schools. It is wholly inappropriate that the body responsible for this crucial, and at times highly sensitive, area would not be covered under the remit of the Ombudsman for Children.
“As an organisation, the NCSE makes extremely important decisions on the supports offered to children with special needs. It sends out completely the wrong message that the organisation would not be answerable to the Ombudsman for Children, whose very purpose is to ensure that the best interests of children are at the heart of decisions made right across society.
“The Children’s Ombudsman was established to give an additional source of protection for the needs of children, by giving the office powers to independently investigate how the State treats young people. A situation where a body such as the NCSE, whose every decision affects the welfare of children, would be outside the remit of the Ombudsman’s office can be allowed to prevail.
“Emily Logan has indicated that she will be seeking Oireachtas support on this issue, and I intend to raise it at the earliest opportunity as soon as the Dáil resumes next month. I understand that Ms Logan tried to pursue the issue with the previous Fianna Fáil Government, to no avail. The Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, and the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, should set about addressing this unacceptable anomaly. No State agency should be insulated from the healthy scrutiny of an Ombudsman, particularly not an organisation dealing with children with special needs.”
Posted August 18th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the news for the Inbhear Mor Youth and Sports Facility in Arklow, announced today by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald. The funding, granted under the Young People’s Facilities Services Fund is for a multi-purpose facility and flood-lit pitch.
Deputy Harris said, “I am delighted to see work on this much-needed facility will now be able to go ahead – I have no doubt that it will make a huge difference to the lives of many young people in Arklow and the surrounding communities. I would also like to recognise the hard work that has gone in to making this possible on all sides, and to thank my colleague, Minister Fitzgerald , and also Arklow Town Council, who donated the land the new facility will be built on.”
Posted August 18th, 2011
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has raised a discrepancy in the criteria used to determine which students are eligible for an exemption from Irish with the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn TD. Deputy Harris said, “Criteria already exist to allow a child with special education needs to be exempt from Irish. However, there is an anomaly where students with Asperger’s Syndrome are sometimes excluded by the current assessment criteria. I have written to the Minister for Education asking him to take this into consideration. ”
“I am particularly concerned about how the current criteria interact with students with ‘Specific Learning Disabilities’ – which includes Asperger’s syndrome,” continued Deputy Harris. “While many students with Asperger’s are extremely bright and may be top of the class in some subjects, there are other areas where they struggle. Language skills can be particularly problematic, and in fairness, the Department of Education recognises this with the Irish exemption.”
“The problem at the moment is that the awarding criteria are very specific, and the assessment must be based on the students’ proficiency in English. Many students have to work extremely hard both at home and at school to keep up in English, but the time and effort put into that achievement by the student, their parents and their teachers cannot be taken into consideration when determining whether to grant them an exemption from Irish.”
“We must make sure that are education system continues to work with students and their families rather than against them, and I have flagged this issue for the Minister’s attention,” concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted August 18th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, visited the Wicklow stand with the Minister of State for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, at the national launch of Culture Night in Dublin Castle yesterday (Wednesday). Culture Night will take place on Friday, September 23rd, and events will be held right across Wicklow.
Speaking at the launch, Deputy Harris said, “I am delighted at the wide range of events organised right across County Wicklow. The commitment and dedication of so many groups, voluntary groups, arts groups and town and county councils, to making this night a success is truly incredible and I would like to congratulate them on their energy and enthusiasm.”
Full details of the culture night events which will be held in Wicklow, and across the country, are available on the website www.culturenight.ie.
Simon Harris is pictured with Ann Nolan, Culture Night Coordinator, Minister Jimmy Deenihan and Jenny Sherwin, Arts Officer, Wicklow Council at the Wicklow information stand at the Culture Night Launch.
Posted August 17th, 2011
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Wednesday) urged the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett TD, to give the general public greater access to debates in the Dáil and Seanad.
Deputy Harris has written to the Ceann Comhairle asking him to look at ending the practice whereby TDs and Senators must ‘sign in’ a member of the public before they can enter the Visitors’ Gallery of either House of the Oireachtas.
“I believe that public confidence in the Oireachtas will be immeasurably strengthened if the general public is free to view Dáil and Seanad debates in Leinster House. We should take the lead from other national parliaments and allow anybody with an interest in public debate to sit in the Visitor’s Gallery, rather than restrict entrance to individuals and groups who have booked to visit through their public representative.
“This is an important part of strengthening Irish democracy and increasing the openness and transparency of Leinster House. The British and American Parliaments both provide a measure of free access to all individuals and groups who wish to visit and I believe that we should follow their lead.
“Comprehensive security and screening machines were installed at the Visitor’s Entrance to Leinster House in the past and I hope that, under the stewardship of the Ceann Comhairle, this is something that we can examine. Leinster House is the people’s house – they should be able to come in and view debates as they wish, just like people can in Westminster.”