Monthly Archives: May 2012
Posted May 30th, 2012
Long wait for new building promised to only non-fee paying Church of Ireland school serving North Wicklow must end.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has asked the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, to review the decision to delay funding for a new school building for Newpark school in Blackrock until 2015.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Harris said, “Newpark school was built to cater for 400 students in 1972. It now has 830 students, which while a real sign of its success in the community and the high regard in which it is held, has resulted in very serious concerns about the facilities available to students and the health and safety of the existing buildings.”
“I have long been an advocate for the right of parents to send their children to a school which reflects their own ethos, be it one of the many excellent rural schools around Wicklow, or Newpark, the only non-fee paying Church of Ireland secondary school serving students from North Wicklow.”
“I have called on the Minister for Education to engage with the school, which has already been granted planning permission, to ensure that this work goes ahead at the earliest possible opportunity. I will continue to pursue this matter, and to liaise with parents, teachers and students from Newpark.”
Posted May 29th, 2012
TD brings e-book VAT campaign to European Parliament
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris has said an anomaly in VAT laws is penalising schools and students who choose to embrace new electronic textbooks.
Deputy Harris said, “Every parent knows the cost of school materials, uniforms and books each September can be a crippling expense. We have seen very positive initiative from schools to reduce these costs, such as book rental schemes and changes to uniform policies, however there is still more to be done.”
“More and more schools are embracing e-books rather than traditional textbooks. This has a number of advantages; ensuring students are comfortable with technology, reducing the weight of bags and backpacks and should also result in lower costs for parents. However while traditional textbooks are exempt from VAT, e-textbooks are not, and this means any potential saving for parents is wiped out.”
“I raised this matter with the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, and was informed this is the result of and EU VAT directive. I have now written directly to the Fine Gael MEPs asking them to raise this matter in the European Parliament. I will continue to work with them with a view to seeing this anomaly resolved.”
Posted May 28th, 2012
€150,000 allocated to the ISPCC for set-up and initial operation of the 116000 Missing Children’s Hotline in Ireland.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has praised the allocation of €150,000 by the EU Daphne Programme to the ISPCC for the set-up and initial operation of the 116000 Missing Children’s Hotline in Ireland.
Welcoming the allocation of funding, Deputy Harris said, “In 2007 the EU created a designated number, 116000, as a single point of contact to assist with missing child investigations. Ireland has lagged behind in establishing a working hotline and I raised this matter in the Dáil with the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, in June of last year.
“I am pleased the Minister has championed this issue, and welcome the allocation of funding by the Daphne Programme to help support this important work. The Minister has advised that work will continue over the coming months to get the hotline, which will be operated by the ISPCC, up and running.”
“I will continue to follow this matter closely, and to ensure that Ireland follows best practice when it comes to protecting missing children.”
Posted May 28th, 2012
Speaking ahead of polling day this Thursday, May 31st, Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris said that groups from across the business, retail, hospitality and agriculture sectors have all come out to strongly endorse a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum.
“A Yes vote this coming Thursday will be a Yes to investment, stability and recovery. It will be a key step on our road to economic recovery, and will be vital as we continue to attract inward investment by helping to bring about the right conditions for growth.
“It is little wonder then, that a huge host of groups from across the business, retail, hospitality and agricultural sectors have endorsed a Yes vote. In the world of business and retail, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Exporters Association, Retail Ireland, the Small Firms Association and ISME are just some of the bodies calling for a Yes vote, because they recognise how important the Treaty is for our economic recovery.
“In the hospitality sector, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, the Vintners Association and the Restaurants Association of Ireland are also calling for a Yes vote on May 31st. They know how important stability is at a time when tourism is growing and creating jobs.
“The agricultural bodies, including the IFA, the ICMSA, the ICSA and Macra na Feirme are supporting the Treaty because they believe it is in the best interests of our farming sector. Irish agriculture has had a great couple of years, with bumper exports and major opportunities emerging in China and other markets. We already export to 170 countries worldwide. If we want to build on this impressive performance, a Yes vote will be crucial.
“As we enter the final days of the campaign, I would encourage everyone to focus on the positive reasons to vote Yes, and to stick to the facts. A Yes vote will give certainty to job creating investors. It will ensure we have access to Europe’s new permanent emergency fund, and it will ensure future governments stick to sensible budget rules.
“That is why I am encouraging everyone across Wicklow to come out this Thursday and vote Yes to a working Ireland.”
Posted May 25th, 2012
Wicklow TD says urgent action must be taken to implement Keane Report recommendations on mediator appointments
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has called on the Minister for Finance to fast-track the proposals contained in the Keane Report to support the appointment of mediators to work with families in mortgage arrears.
Deputy Harris said, “Almost every week at my clinics I meet families trying to negotiate with their bank. While many banks are acting in a responsible and constructive manner, this is a very intimidating situation for anyone to be in. Many people now having difficulty making their mortgage repayments have never had any need to negotiate with their bank before, and feel on the back foot during this process.”
“The MABS offices in Arklow and Bray do excellent work supporting individuals in financial difficulty, however they are overloaded with work. The Keane Report recommends the appointment of mediators with real clout to assist individuals in mortgage arrears in their negotiations with the banks. I have asked the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, to implement this aspect of the report as a matter of urgency.”
Posted May 25th, 2012
New census data shows rapid increase in pre-school age group and over 65s in Wicklow
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has said the latest census data, published this week, shows smart planning will be needed to ensure Wicklow’s changing population will be able to access the services and supports they need.
Deputy Harris said, “The latest statistics published by the Central Statistics Office showed a 19.8% increase in the population of those under 4, and of those over 65. The population of primary school children, aged between 5 and 12, increased by 14%.”
“It is imperative that we act to ensure adequate services are in place to meet the needs of these groups, and I am pleased the Department of Education is already planning for the increased number of students expected at Primary and Secondary schools across Wicklow. This forward planning needs to be mirrored across all Government departments.”
“I am aware that some parts of the county have experienced particularly rapid growth and will be working in the Dáil to ensure the needs of these communities are catered for as a matter of priority.”
Posted May 25th, 2012
Wicklow TD says checks and balances necessary to ensure NAMA gets maximum value for Irish taxpayer.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Simon Harris, has welcomed the publication of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) into the National Asset Management Agency.
Deputy Harris said, “The scale of the NAMA project is enormous, and it is vital to ensure everything is done to maximise the value for money achieved for the taxpayer. The people of Wicklow know all too well the influence of NAMA in making decisions about a number of ongoing projects right throughout the county.”
“NAMA must be transparent and subjected to scrutiny, it is in the public good. Among other considerations, we need to see how developers are working with NAMA to complete projects, what efforts are being undertaken to pursue developers who have tried to ‘hide’ properties and what level of success NAMA has had in getting extra securities for loans.”
“This report deals with the first two years of NAMA’s operation, and gives an indication of who the project is evolving. I look forward to discussing its findings with NAMA in more detail at the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on July 5, 2012.”
Posted May 25th, 2012
Over 120 awards on offer to students at the 2013 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition
Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has called on Wicklow students to start preparing projects for the BT Young Scientist Exhibition over the summer months. Deputy Harris said, “Wicklow is always extremely well represented in the Young Scientists Competition and I was delighted to visit last year, and to see some of the innovative and creative projects students had come up with.”
“The standard of projects at the competition is rising all the time, and there isn’t a huge amount of time to start planning once the school year starts again. The closing date for application is Monday, 1st October 2012 – just over four months away. The exhibition itself will take place in the RDS, Dublin from January 9th – 12th 2013.”
Posted May 24th, 2012
Now it’s time to focus on the contents of the Treaty
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the clarification at the EU leaders summit in Brussels that the text of the Stability Treaty will not change. Deputy Harris added that now it is time to focus on the facts and the contents of the Treaty in the run up to polling day.
“We’ve received categorical confirmation from the Taoiseach at the EU leaders’ summit that the text of the Stability Treaty will not change, putting to bed the false claims being made by those calling on us to reject the Treaty. We know what we are voting on, we know this will not change, so now is the time to focus on the facts.
“Despite what Sinn Féin and others have claimed, the Treaty is not going to change. Voting Yes on May 31st is in Ireland’s best interests, giving job creating investors the confidence they need.
“Voting Yes will also ensure we have access to the ESM, Europe’s new emergency fund, should we need it. The Referendum Commission has made this situation very clear on page 10 of their information leaflet sent to every home in the country. It clearly spells out the fact that only countries which ratify the Stability Treaty will be able to access this fund.
“So now that the two main myths about the Treaty have been dispelled, let’s focus on the facts. Let’s focus on what the Treaty means for Ireland and our future.
“The Stability Treaty will give investors confidence, it will ensure we have access to emergency funds if we need them, and it will make sure future governments stick to sensible budget rules.
“A Yes vote on May 31st will be a key step on our road to economic recovery, helping to bring about the right conditions for growth.”
Posted May 18th, 2012
UKIP ask others to butt out of UK affairs, but have no problem interfering in ours
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Friday) called the intervention of British anti-Stability Treaty campaigners in the Irish debate as insulting to Irish people.
“The fact that the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, is in Ireland this week campaigning against the Stability Treaty and circulating a leaflet which depicts Irish voters in chains being whipped by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is insulting and demeaning to Irish people.
“UKIP is arguably the most Eurosceptic party in the EU and has opposed every European Treaty as a matter of course. They advocate the UK leaving the European Union, want work permits introduced for every European person – including Irish – who want to work in the UK, and is campaigning for a five year immigration freeze in the UK. UKIP has also been dismissed by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as a party full of fruitcakes and closet racists.
“The Irish people fought hard for this country’s independence and every citizen has the right to their own views on this matter. We are perfectly capable of having a debate on this Treaty without the interference of any fringe British party.
“For a party that has such an issue with European interference in UK affairs, they seem to have no problem in interfering with Ireland’s democratic process.”