Monthly Archives: June 2012
Posted June 29th, 2012
Wicklow TD says Brussels deal could significantly reduce the debt burden on Wicklow taxpayers.
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has said an agreement reached in Brussels in the early hours of this morning (Friday) and described by the Taoiseach as a ‘seismic shift’ in European policy could bring down Ireland’s debt burden.
Deputy Harris said, “This Government has been 100% committed to ensuring a better deal for Irish taxpayers, and last night’s summit deal represents significant progress in this regard. We have now secured Euro Group agreement that the link between bank debt and the state is going to be broken. This is hugely significant, as the single biggest difficulty we have been facing for some time is the level of bank debt being carried by the State.”
“Under the deal, Ireland is names as getting equal treatment to other countries with difficulties. As a result, the heads of government’s decision will now be sent to the Euro-group for an analysis of how best this can be used to re-engineer the debt burden on the Irish taxpayer.”
“The summit agreed that Euro-area rescue funds could be used to stabilise bond markets without the need for recipient countries to take on additional austerity measures or economic reforms, and also lays the foundation for a European banking union. As a result, a single supervisory body for European banks will be created by the end of the year.”
Posted June 29th, 2012
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed confirmation that parents and representative organisations will be consulted as part of the review into the Domiciliary Care Allowance scheme.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Harris said, “Domiciliary Care Allowance is an essential support for many parents of children with extra care and support needs. The issue with the current system is that it does not always recognise extra care needs that become apparent behind closed doors. Officials can hide behind statistics but the parents who protest outside the gates or visit us in our clinics know that something has gone wrong.”
“Since the review of the scheme was announced, I have been seeking clarification from the Minister on how it will operate, who will be involved, and what the terms of reference will be. The Minister has confirmed that the review will commence in early July, with the final report and recommendations due in December 2012. All reviews of individual claims will be suspended for the duration of the review process.”
“Part of the review will consist of a consultation process with parents and representative groups, while three representatives from Non-Governmental Organisations representing parents and guardians in receipt of the allowance will be included as members of the working group.”
“I will be following the progress of the review closely, and will be looking to ensure that the views of parents who have had to interact with the system are taken on board by the working group.”
Posted June 28th, 2012
Harris questions HSE Chief on need for ‘total healthcare model’ for procuring medical equipment and devices
Fine Gael Wicklow TD and member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Simon Harris, has today (Thursday) called on the HSE to catch up with international norms when it comes to procuring healthcare devices and equipment for patients.
Deputy Harris questioned the HSE Chief Executive, Cathal Magee, on the matter when he appeared before PAC today.
“It is quite astonishing that the HSE continues to operate in little silos. Each section makes its own savings without considering the impact of their work on the overall budget of the health service or, more importantly, on the impact of their decisions on patients.
“This goes down to the most basic level. For example, the procurement section may decide to save money by buying lower-cost bandages. But they don’t consider the fact that these lower quality bandages may need to be changed more often – piling more costs on the primary care section.
“It seems that everyone within the HSE is encouraged to look after their own patch, with no co-ordinated method to ensure genuine overall savings for the taxpayer.
“I was glad to hear Cathal Magee acknowledge that the HSE needs to introduce a model of budgeting and procurement based on total healthcare costs. We could learn a lot from our neighbours in Britain; the NHS sees investment in medical devices and equipment as something that can actually save the health service money and improve patient outcomes.
“This is just the sort of big picture thinking our health service needs. We continue to spend a smaller percentage of our health budget on medical technology than the UK, and we are well below OECD recommendations. A change of attitude is badly needed on this front.
“I welcome the commitment from the Cathal Magee that the health service will move in this direction. This now needs to be turned into action for patients and the hard-pressed Irish taxpayer.”
Posted June 28th, 2012
Latest Enterprise Ireland Figures show record levels of exports in 2011
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has said the strong performance of Irish exports in 2011 point to new opportunities for Wicklow entrepreneurs. “The latest figures show the Enterprise Ireland client companies were worth €15.2billion to the Irish economy in 2011. This exceeds the pre-recession record levels of 2008 and is the highest ever annual export gain achieved by Enterprise Ireland client companies.”
Deputy Harris said, “This Government is absolutely committed to doing everything it can to support Irish businesses, and it is clear that despite the difficult economic circumstances across the Eurozone, this is beginning to make an impact.”
“Enterprise Ireland is just one of the supports available to indigenous Irish businesses. The Microfinance Loan Fund Bill is currently before the Dáil, and will introduce an important source of credit for businesses of not more than 10 employees who have been refused a loan for the bank. Meanwhile, the Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €150 million of additional lending to eligible SMEs per annum.”
“It is clear there are opportunities now for entrepreneurs with good ideas and strong business plans to make their mark. Small local enterprises can have a significant event on the economy of local communities. I have put together a booklet outlining the various schemes and grants available to indigenous companies and I would encourage any budding Wicklow entrepreneurs or SMEs looking to expand and grow their business to contact me for a copy.”
Posted June 28th, 2012
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed the confirmation by the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, that the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) will have a seat on the board of the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority.
“As a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Education, I believe that it is extremely important that students are represented on this new Authority, so that they have a platform to voice their views on matters that directly affect them.”
“I welcome the Minister’s decision to specifically include this measure in legislation, therefore guaranteeing that the voice of this important student body is heard loud and clear. It is encouraging to see cross party consensus on the importance of having USI is represented on the board.
“Whilst it is very important that public bodies are streamlined, as the Minister is setting about doing in the third level sector, it is crucial that the voices of stakeholders are heard. The USI has an important role to play in generating ideas and views on reforming and improving third level education in Ireland and I look forward to them continuing this work through this new Authority. I also welcome the fact that the Minister will also make a second place on this Authority available to other learning bodies who may not be involved in the USI. Recognising this diversity is important and a welcome step.”
Posted June 28th, 2012
Bray Area Partnership hosting a Community Outreach Digital Switchover Programme.
With just four months to go until the traditional analogue TV network is switched off on Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, Wicklow Fine Gael TD, Simon Harris, has called on Wicklow residents to help people in their own community to make the switch to digital TV.
Deputy Harris said, “TV plays a huge role in the lives of many people, acting as an essential point of contact with the outside world. By the end of this week, every house in Ireland should have received a copy of the ‘Going Digital’ switchover information booklet, which provides clear information about the steps needed to change to digital. However the deadline to change is fast approaching, and it is important to make sure Wicklow residents are fully informed about and prepared for this change.
“Bray Area Partnership is currently coordinating a county-wide Community Outreach Digital Switchover Programme, and are seeking to involve as many community and voluntary organisations as possible. Organisations can get involved by providing leaflets or other information to the elderly, disabled, or those living in very rural areas, or can apply for a small grant to host an event.”
“I hope local organisations across Wicklow will support this local initiative, and help ensure we are ready come the switchover in October. For more information about the programme, contact Eileen on 01 286 8266, or for information about the digital switchover, see www.goingdigital.ie or Lo-Call 1890 940 980.”
Posted June 26th, 2012
All this, of course, is against the backdrop of the crisis in the Eurozone, which is continuing to have a deeply destabilising impact. I believe that we need to see a stronger and more cohesive response from Europe, including measures to ease the burden Irish taxpayers have inherited from the recapitalisation of the banks.
Europe needs to collectively address the loss of investor confidence caused by the banking crisis, and put in place measures to enhance growth. This is the message Fine Gael is sending to our partners in Europe, and we will continue to take a strong stance on this issue. I await developments from the European Summit which will be held on Thursday.
As ever, please let me know if I can be of assistance on any matter, I am always happy to help in any way I can.
Public Accounts Committee
Last week in the Public Accounts Committee, we had the Chief Executive of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority in before us, to account for the behaviour of the Board in relation to a number of property transactions. I was very disappointed with the standard of answer we received, and the PAC will be revisiting this issue again in the near future. We need to hear from those who sat around the Board table making decisions which have cost the taxpayer significant sums.
The HSE are scheduled to come before the Committee on Thursday of this week, and I have had a number of very interesting meetings in preparation for their appearance. If you would like to follow the proceedings, you can watch them live online.
New Oireachtas Committee
I am pleased to have been appointed to the new Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection. I hope to use this role to pursue my work on special needs education, how the social welfare system interacts – or doesn’t! – with people with disabilities, and the need to get serious about teaching technology skills more effectively in schools.
Consultation on Children and Young People’s Policy
A public consultation on the Children & Young People’s Policy Framework will run until Friday, 6 July. The framework will establish the Government’s priorities for children and young people over the next five years, and offers a really important opportunity for children and young people, their parents, or anyone working with them to ensure that the issues affecting young people are identified and addressed effectively.
Submissions can be made online on the Department of Children and Youth Affair’s website.
Guide to Business Supports
I am currently working on a guide to the various supports available to businesses of all sizes. Please drop me an email if you would like to receive a copy of this guide.
The Government has also set up a new website, www.businessregulation.ie to assist small businesses in avoiding unnecessary red tape. The website provides over 150 separate links to information, guidance and contact details, including sector-specific information.
Supporting Wicklow Subcontractors
I spoke in the Dáil last week on the Construction Contracts Bill, which will put vital supports to protect Wicklow subcontractors in place. This Bill has been a long time coming, and the Government is now sending a clear message to large contractors that it’s not okay to let subcontractors fall by the wayside and be left awaiting payment for months or even years.
National Council for Special Education
I had a productive meeting with the NCSE recently, who have acknowledged that there has been no review of the way special needs education in this country works since 1993. The NCSE are currently carrying out a review of this, and I have asked that they place a special emphasis on providing support for children “on the margins” – children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder etc. – whose needs are too often overlooked.
I will also be submitting a Bill for consideration regarding the role of the Ombudsman for Children. One element of this will be extending the Ombudman’s remit to include the NCSE, a move I think is long overdue, and I look forward to this Bill being debated in the Dáil.
There has been some confusion locally over aspects of the Greystones Harbour development, and I have now received written confirmation from the County Manager, Eddie Sheehy, regarding certain aspects of the work.
Mr Sheehy has confirmed to me that the three phases of the project are as follows: the marine works (now completed); the Primary Care Centre (see update below); and the remaining landside development, which may be broken down further depending on market conditions.
He has also confirmed a bond of €5 million remains in place to ensure the works are completed satisfactorily, and no transfer of title to the land has taken place. The Council has acknowledged there was an increase in coastal erosion this year, and Sispar have undertaken to carry out works to manage the rate of erosion.
Consultation on Cash for Gold
Previous recipients of this email will know that the issue of thefts targeting jewellery and other small valuables is one I am constantly encountering at Joint Policing Committees and Residents Association meetings around the country.
I raised this issue in the Dáil on several occasions, and the Minister has now published a report on the possible regulation of the cash for gold market, and Gardaí have also visited every cash for gold premises in the country to ensure owners are aware of their legal obligations in terms of knowing the provenance of the goods they offer for sale.
Local Area Plan – Greystones, Delgany and Kilcoole
Wicklow County Council is currently holding a public consultation on issues affecting Greystones, Delgany and Kilcoole residents in preparation for the new Local Area Plan for Greystones and Delgany which will run from 2013 – 2019. The council is also considering including Kilcoole under this place for the first time.
There’s a real chance for local residents to have their say on issues such as land zoning, infrastructure, community facilities and environmental protection. Submissions are invited in writing to Director of Services (Planning), Wicklow County Council, Station Road, Wicklow Town or by email to email@example.com
Greystones Secondary School – Patronage decision due soon
I understand a decision on the patronage for the new secondary school in Greystones will be announced shortly. I have submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Minister seeking clarity on this and information on the process in place to determine this patronage.
Newpark Secondary School
Many constituents have been in touch with me regarding the long-awaited new school building for Newpark Secondary School in Blackrock. I have met with parents and teachers from the school, and have also raised the matter in the Dáil.
I know many families in North Wicklow are reliant on Newpark as the only non-fee paying Church of Ireland secondary school in the area, and I will continue to work on progressing these essential works.
Eden Gate – Schools catchment issue
I have been contacted by several residents from Eden Gate in recent months who are extremely concerned that Eden Gate is not considered within the catchment area for local Greystones schools. To me, this seems illogical – for all intents and purposes, Greystones is the community for residents in Eden Gate.
The Department of Education have informed me that it is the responsibility of each patron and Board of Management to set their enrolment policy, decide on their catchment area etc. In light of this, I am now writing to the patron of these schools asking that they consider amending their catchment areas to include Eden Gate, and will keep Eden Gate residents informed of my work on this important matter.
Review of Domiciliary Care Allowance
The Government has undertaken to carry out an urgent review of the Domiciliary Care Allowance. I think this is an essential step in acknowledging that the current system is not working, and is not always given parents and children the support they need.
I think it is vital that any review allows parents to contribute their experiences, and to have their voices heard. I have now submitted a Parliamentary Question to Minister Burton seeking to find the exact perimeters of the review, the timeframe for its completion, and the membership of the review group.
Investigation into CPO land purchase in Greystones
The Minister for the Environment has now commissioned an investigation into the Compulsory Purchase Order of the land at Three Trouts in Greystones. I look forward to this matter being resolved once and for all, and will be providing updates as more details of the investigation become known.
Launch of Mental Health Booklet in Arklow
I felt very privileged to be invited to Arklow for the launch of a new leaflet outlining the wide variety of mental health services available around Wicklow. It is very inspiring to see the whole community coming together to talk about mental health issues. This kind of clear, comprehensive, and non-judgemental advice that people need to have available when they face mental health challenges.
Please contact the office if you’d like a copy of the leaflet.
Construction on Greystones Primary Care Centre to begin in September
I have been informed by the HSE that construction on the new Primary Care Centre in Greystones will begin in September. Some site-enabling works are scheduled to take place before this time.
I am delighted to see progress being made on providing this important, multi-disciplinary facility, while the works themselves will help improve the general appearance of the Harbour area. I will continue to liaise with the Department of Health and Wicklow County Council as work on the site progresses.
Congratulations to our Bray Olympians!
Next week I will be attending a reception to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Bray athletes who have qualified for the Olympics. I am very much looking forward to attending, and to watching the Olympics later this summer and will be cheering for Adam Nolan and Katie Taylor in their matches!
My latest Arklow newsletter is just back from the printers and will be distributed around the town in the coming weeks. Please email my office if you’d like us to send you on a copy.
Follow me online
Office in Bray (now full-time) plus clinics
My office in Bray is now open from 10am – 12pm and from 2pm – 4pm every day, except Wednesdays, when it only opens in the morning.
I hold clinics in the office every Monday morning, to book in, please call on 01 281 3727.
Posted June 25th, 2012
Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris, has today (Monday) called on the senior management team of Ulster Bank to come out of hiding and face their customers who are entering a sixth day of uncertainty as a result of a disastrous technical glitch.
“The silence from the senior management team of Ulster Bank has been deafening. The way they have handled this crisis has been to run and hide and hope it all goes away. With news this morning that the bank may not have this issue fully resolved until the end of the week, it is high time they step up to the mark and do the job that they are being paid very well to do, instead of leaving it to the Irish Payments Services Organisation to update the public. Its parent company, NatWest, has been more forthcoming in the UK than Ulster Bank has been here.
“If it is going to take until the end of the week before this issue will be resolved, then how is the bank planning to deal with the customers who are due their monthly salaries this week? And how are they planning to deal with social welfare payments? There also clearly needs to be greater co-ordination between all of the banks. Ulster Bank was the only bank open this weekend, so customers whose employers and state bodies who use Ulster Bank as a clearing bank had nowhere to go when their salaries were not paid.
“There a number of questions that must be asked as to how this serious issue happened in the first place and why there was no roll back plan to prevent such a disaster.
I am calling on the senior management team to be honest and forthcoming with answers to the many questions people have.”
Posted June 22nd, 2012
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris has welcomed the allocation of €14,000 to protect Aghowle Cottage, Ashford and Carnew Castle under the Structures at Risk fund.
Deputy Harris said, “I am pleased to see the importance of Wicklow’s heritage being recognised through the allocation of funding towards the conservation and preservation of Aghowle Cottage in Ashford and Carnew Castle.”
“Wicklow is renowned as a site of beauty but our built heritage is also a real asset to the county, and has a significant role in attracting tourists to the county. I am delighted to see this being recognised through the allocation of funding to protect these two structures.”
Posted June 22nd, 2012
East-Carlow to remain part of the Wicklow constituency for the next elections
Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has welcomed confirmation from the Boundary Commission that Wicklow will remain as a five-seat constituency, encompassing areas of East-Carlow including Rathvilly, Hacketstown and Tiknock.
Deputy Harris said, “While many local residents may have wished to see East Carlow returned to the Carlow-Kilkenny Constituency, the Boundary Commission found it was not possible to do so without creating a significant discrepancy in terms of their representation in the Dáil.”
“I am always happy to represent my constituents from all over the constituency, and to meet with any groups or individuals in East Carlow who would like to do so.”