Monthly Archives: November 2011
Posted November 30th, 2011
Good news for Bray residents and the wider community – After a quarter of a century of waiting, important flood prevention measures to be delivered by Fine Gael-led Government
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris has announced that funds have been ring-fenced by the Office of Public Works to deliver the long-awaited Dargle Flood Protection Scheme in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Speaking on this issue, Deputy Harris said, “For over a quarter of century, the residents of Bray have been left waiting for these important flood protection works. Finally, the wait is over and subject to the tendering process; the scheme will begin in 2012 and will be fully completed. No doubt, this news will come as a great relief to many Bray residents living near the Dargle River but also to the broader town, the business community and the local authority.”
“Since my election to Dáil Éireann, I have raised the urgent need for this scheme with the Minister for the Office of Public Works, Brian Hayes TD on numerous occasions by Parliamentary Question, by correspondence and in person. In these difficult economic times with very constrained resources, I was determined that Bray would not be overlooked. A delegation from Bray Town Council including my colleague, Cllr Mick Glynn met with Minister Hayes earlier this year as part of our ongoing efforts to advise the OPW of the absolute necessity of these works. I am pleased that these multiple representations have now paid off for the town of Bray,” stated Deputy Harris.
“As a TD for Bray, I would obviously welcome any investment that occurs in the town but this large capital investment in the town is particularly welcome considering the fear, worry and stress of flooding that many residents have had to endure in Bray over a long number of years. Only a matter of weeks ago, the fear of flooding was almost realised yet again in the town,” continued Deputy Harris.
“Now that this funding has been ring-fenced specifically for this project, I will be working closely with Minister Hayes, the OPW and my Fine Gael colleagues on Bray Town Council to ensure the speedy and effective delivery of the Dargle Flood Protection Scheme. For far too long, the people of Bray have been left waiting – today, thankfully, that wait is almost over, funds have been secured and I look forward to the progression of the project,” concluded Deputy Harris.
Posted November 24th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the publication by the National Council of Special Education (NCSE) of an information booklet to help parents understand the supports that are available in schools for children with special needs.
Deputy Harris said, “I welcome this publication, which, for the first time, clearly and comprehensively outlines the assessment process, the types of education available, and the supports in place for children with special needs. I think this is a positive step forward in helping parents make informed decisions concerning their children’s education.”
“I believe the allocation of special needs supports for children should be a fully transparent process. I have asked my colleague, the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, to extend the remit of the Children’s Ombudsman to include the NCSE, so that parents will be able to ensure the best interests of their children are at the heart of every decision. I am continuing to pursue this issue in the Dáil.”
“Recently I also met with the Special Needs Parents Association and I am continuing to work with them in the interests of children with special needs.”
Posted November 24th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the completion of the National Broadband Scheme, with 100% coverage achieved in areas covered by the scheme.
Deputy Harris said, “Extending broadband coverage beyond urban areas is hugely important for local economies. Not only do many businesses rely on broadband for their communications, but in this day and age it is increasingly important to tourists, who expect to be able to check their emails and plan their itineraries while travelling.”
“I am pleased to see broadband has been extended across Wicklow due to the scheme, with coverage now available from Hollywood to Woodenbridge, in towns and villages such as Rathnew, Tinahely and Annamoe. Work must now continue on improving speeds and access to broadband across County Wicklow and I will continue to raise this. If you have any queries about the provision of broadband under the National Broadband Scheme in your area please contact my office.”
Posted November 24th, 2011
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Simon Harris, has today (Thursday) called for the urgent creation of a central database to capture information on children in primary schools across the country.
Deputy Harris made this request during questioning of the Secretary General of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the CEO of the National Education Welfare Board.
“During today’s PAC Meeting I was astounded to find that there is no database of primary school children in Ireland. This means that there is no way of saying centrally how many students are in school on any given day, what trends may be emerging in different schools around the country and how students are transitioning from primary to secondary schools,” stated Deputy Harris.
“Excellent work is being carried out by a number of agencies and organisations in relation to working with vulnerable children, seeking to tackle truancy from school and improve child protection – yet the most basic piece of infrastructure; a central database for children in primary school in this country does not exist. We have seen in the past how data protection issues have prevented the communication of important information about child welfare from one organisation to another, this can never be allowed happen again. Lessons have to be learnt from the past and we need to use all tools at our disposal to address this matter.
“The days of the dog-eared roll- book being the only indication of school attendance, school numbers, welfare, etc are long gone. We need a system in place to co-ordinate data and put that data to use for the welfare of Irish children.
“As a result of my questions, the Public Accounts Committee will now be recommending the creation of such a database and I also intend to pursue this matter directly with the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Posted November 18th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed a commitment from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that 60 new and additional social worker posts will be in place by the end of the year. Deputy Harris also praised the out of hours services pilots currently running in Cork and Donegal, which he said he hope would be continued and rolled out across the country.
Speaking in the Dáil on the publication of the first Annual Report of the National Review Panel on Serious Incidents Including the Death of Children in Care, Deputy Harris said, “As a state we are now facing up to the neglect of the past, acknowledging the mistakes that have taken place and trying to move forward and ensuring that never again will we live in a country where child protection issues are brushed under the carpet and not discussed.”
“For too long, politics in this country has been dominated by the economy: we have measured our wealth in crude economic terms while many issues of child protection were ignored and the voices of children were silenced.”
“The job the Minister, this Government and the broader State is charged with is restoring trust and confidence in the child protection services. The Minister is leading the first ever Cabinet level Department specifically and exclusively charged with children and this sends out an important message about this country, this Government and our ethos and attitude towards children.”
“It is essential that we proceed with the legislative changes required and the referendum on children’s rights as quickly as possible.”
Posted November 17th, 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, this week attended the launch of the Bray Economic Think Tank Implementation Plan. The think tank is an economic forum set up by Bray Town Council to attract and nurture businesses in Bray.
Speaking after the event, Deputy Harris said, “I was delighted to attend the Bray Economic Think Tank launch. The BETT is a very positive initiative which ensures the Town Council, members of the local business community and public representatives work together to encourage economic development in the town.”
“Bray has a lot to offer as a business location and is already home to a wide and diverse range of businesses. It is great to see the BETT taking steps to market Bray to its best possible advantage, and to formulate a plan for the sustainable economic development of the town.”
“Already a new website, www.bray.ie, has been set up to showcase Bray as a location and provides very useful information about the town to businesses and indeed individuals who might be thinking about basing themselves in Bray.”
Posted November 17th, 2011
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris TD, yesterday (Wednesday) highlighted the need to ensure that our children and young people leave school with the tools they need to look after their mental health, and the knowledge that there is no shame in seeking help from the professionals best positioned to provide it.
Speaking in the Dáil during the Topical Issues Debate on the need for mental health education in Irish schools, Deputy Harris said: ‘The reality is that one in four people experience mental health difficulties at some stage in their lives. These problems have been kept behind closed doors in this country for too long. We need to introduce a syllabus which will ensure that young people leave school with the confidence to talk about their mental health, and are fully equipped to cope with any mental health issues they may encounter’.
“In the same way that we have implemented anti-bullying strategies in schools, there is also the potential here to teach children and young people about caring for their mental health before they develop any entrenched attitudes to it. This will ensure that every child receives the same message on mental health and knows that it is ok to seek help.
“In Scotland, following a successful two-year pilot programme, the Positive Mental Attitudes Curriculum has been adopted by the Education Department. Children are given the opportunity to engage with mental health in the classroom, and to discuss issues that may affect them with their teachers and their peers. As it is a national curriculum, teachers are provided with lesson suggestions and worksheets, and a DVD of anecdotal scenarios to highlight mental health issues young people or their friends or family members may be experiencing.
“It is time for a discussion on mental health which is about more than resources, and which addresses the culture of how we talk about mental health. Schools an ideal environment for young people to learn from both their teachers and their peers.”
Posted November 15th, 2011
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed a new trial which will see live coverage of Dáil proceedings broadcast on UPC Channel 801 from 2pm today (Tuesday).
Deputy Harris said, “I am convinced of the need to make the work of the Dáil more accessible to ordinary people. I am excited by the possibilities of this new channel, which will give people an opportunity to engage with the work of the Oireachtas. Until now, television coverage of Dáil proceedings has been limited to brief clips on the news, or to shows which air late in the night.”
“Throughout the six-month trial period Dáil proceedings will be shown live from 2.00pm on Tuesday until the close of business on Thursdays. Coverage of Committees and Seanad Éireann sittings will be aired when the Dáil is not sitting. Scheduling information will be available on the Houses of the Oireachtas website, www.oireachtas.ie.”
“I would like to extend my gratitude to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, Sean Barrett TD, who has made this initiative possible, and am pleased to note it will be provided at no cost to the taxpayer. I welcome the Ceann Comhairle’s comments that he hopes this service will be extended to other TV providers in future.”
“This is a trial project and members of the public are invited to send their views and feedback on this initiative to TV@oireachtas.ie.”
Posted November 13th, 2011
Last weekend I had the pleasure of launching the Annual Report of Youth Work Ireland and presenting Volunteer Achievement Awards to some very impressive individuals whose voluntary work helps so many young people.
In light of the current economic difficulties this country finds itself in, many of the reports I get across my desk document problems, failures and errors. It was so refreshing and uplifting to be gathered with young people and those who work with them and to take the time to acknowledge all the great work going on in youth clubs right across Ireland.
Being in my 20s, much of the Ireland in which I grew up in no longer exists; guaranteed employment straight from college, give-away budgets and a city sky-line dominated by cranes are all but distant memories. What this youth event reminded me though is that community spirit and a sense of volunteerism in Ireland is very much alive and well – in fact, perhaps it is even stronger today than in what is the years when the roar of the Celtic Tiger somewhat drowned out many important things.
Whilst voluntary groups are finding the recession difficult, they are meeting the challenges and using every possible innovative approach to ensure that the services they deliver can continue. There is an obligation on those of us in political life to ensure that the Government does everything it possibly can to help them carry out their work. This means more than just funding – it involves ensuring they are consulted on issues in which they have garnered a real-life expertise and also making sure that bureaucracy doesn’t get in their way.
Specifically in relation to youth work and those that volunteer in this field, it is heartening to see young people who availed of the facility of a youth club or cafe now being empowered as leaders. They have benefitted from the services of volunteers and now they themselves are giving back to their own community and the next generation.
It is easy in politics to extend platitudes to young people by referring to them as the “leaders of the future” or “Ireland’s tomorrow” but the reality is they are an important part of the Ireland of today. If we want them to grow into the leaders, the parents, the social innovators and the entrepreneurs that this country wants and that the world needs, there is an onus on us all to meet their needs today.
The new Ireland that we are all striving to build should not be a revival of the Celtic Tiger. That beast is dead and gone. Never again should the desire for commodities trump the importance of community. A recession, as appalling difficult as it is for so many, can pose opportunities. It gives us the space to look the youth of this nation and to see how we can meet their needs. The Celtic Tiger never delivered youth mental health services in this country nor did it deliver sustainable employment and careers for many young people.
Government could do an awful lot worse than take the time and the space to talk with the volunteers and their groups throughout this country – the people who through good times and bad have been working with our young people and meeting their needs, often where official Ireland has failed. This is the message I will be talking back to Dáil Éireann. This country might be cash poor – but it is community rich. As we set about trying to repair our economy, let’s try to remember that.
Posted November 11th, 2011
14 quangos abolished since March with 15 more set to go
Information obtained by Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has revealed that Government action has been taken on a staggering 43% of quangos listed by Departments. The details were contained in Parliamentary Questions tabled by the Wicklow Deputy.
“Cutting the number of quangos that ballooned under the previous Fianna Fáil administration was a core part of Fine Gael’s pre-election strategy. In an attempt to assess the progress being made by the Coalition partners in this regard, I put a PQ to each Department.
“I asked each Minister to outline what action has been taken in their Department to reduce the number of State bodies and companies under their remit, the number of bodies reformed, merged or abolished since March and their plans to deliver on this issue.
“Out of 173 quangos listed, 14 have been abolished, 2 are in the process of being abolished, 9 are being merged and there are plans for a further 6 mergers. Three have either been restructured or are about to be and 2 new quangos have been formed (SOLAS and the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency).
“An additional 15 bodies have been listed for abolition, 15 have been pinpointed to be merged and a further are 10 listed for restructuring.
“Based on these figures, action, in the form of abolition, merging or restructuring, has already been taken by Government on 20% of quangos listed and plans are in train for similar action on a further 23% of State organisations.
“From the get-go, his Government has demonstrated that it means business. By tackling the grossly inflated number of quangos that sprang up in recent years under Fianna Fáil and the Greens, red tape will be reduced, SMEs will find it easier to conduct their business, and services will be streamlined, and ultimately improved, for the citizen.
“I am confident that this Fine Gael-led Government will continue to address the areas that are failing people in this State. If this amount of work can be achieved in just eight months, I have no doubt that before long we will once again have a system in operation that can and will deliver for the people.”