Posted July 7th, 2011 in Blog, eNewsletter
Welcome to my monthly email update for July. Since my last newsletter, I was elected as the Secretary to the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, and appointed to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.
I am delighted to have been appointed to this important committee – the work of the PAC in scrutinising the spending of government agencies and departments is more important now then ever before. I look forward to asking probing questions of government agencies and departments, holding them responsible for their spending and seeking value for money.
This month, I also moved into my new constituency office at 4 Market Court, Bray. This is just beside the old town hall on the main street. Please call 01 618 3805 if you would like to make an appointment to meet me at my office.
I hope you find the information in this monthly update useful and that it gives you some insight into my work on your behalf in Dáil Éireann. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance.
SIMON HARRIS TD
Contributions in the Dáil
This month in the Dáil, I spoke on my disappointment at the delay in introducing a national missing children’s hotline. Some years ago, the European Commission created a dedicated number, 116000, to act as a single point of contact across all European states in cases where a child goes missing.
This hotline would take calls on missing children and liaise with An Garda Síochána, act as a point of support and guidance for parents and family members of missing children and support on-going investigations.
We must have policies and procedures in place to deal with cases of missing children, and I am encouraged by the positive response I received from the Minister of Children, Frances Fitzgerald, has committed to making every effort to have this project up and running as soon as possible.
I also spoke in the Dáil on the Private Member’s Bill on Adoption. I welcomed the progress that has been made to date by the Minister for Children in progressing the body of work that needs to be done to allow Irish people being able to adopt from Vietnam. I do feel however that the issue of adoption should be dealt with in the context of the much bigger project of the children’s rights referendum, and asked the Minister to ensure no time is wasted in putting a comprehensive and well thought out referendum to the people.
Finally, I asked the Minister to conduct an urgent review of the supports available to people who have been in foster care upon reaching the age of 18, and indeed to their foster parents. This is an issue which was brought to my attention recently and one which I feel requires careful consideration by the state.
In June, I asked Parliamentary Questions on, among other issues: hospital beds in Accident and Emergency departments, the risk of cross-infection in Irish hospitals, the Coast Guard service, alternative energy projects and cancer screening programmes.
If you would like more information on any of these subjects, or indeed would like more information about any issue of concern, please email me on
A full list of the questions I have asked, and the answers to them, can be seen at
Update on Loughlinstown Hospital
I also spoke in the Dáil on the issue of St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown. I am working closely with the other Wicklow TDs to ascertain the facts on this, to consult with the HSE and medical professionals and to push for a non-political public information day where people could drop in to hear that facts and figures without the political spin from any party. I will be guided on this issue by medical opinion on what is best for the people of Wicklow.
I believe that reforms to St. Columcille’s are needed, but they should happen as part of an overall package to coordinate and improve services. For too long Wicklow has been the poor relation when it comes to health services and this cannot continue. We need information on increased A&E capacity at St. Vincent’s Hospital before any changes are introduced to Loughlinstown, we need an improved ambulance service for County Wicklow and we need to hear more about the roll out of primary care facilities in Bray, Greystones, Arklow and Wicklow Town.
The full text of my speech in the Dáil on hospital reconfiguration is available online here:
The Fine Gael Presidential Convention will take place this Saturday, with Pat Cox, Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell all running for the nomination. The candidates recently came to a special meeting of the Parliamentary Party to present their visions for the country. I am am confident supporting Mairead’s candidacy, but confident the choice is between three very strong individuals. I am very much looking forward to the event and to an exciting campaign come the Autumn.
Revised Tax Rates
The reduced tax rates announced as part of the Jobs Initiative have now taken effect. This includes a 50% reduction in the lower rate of employers’ PRSI and also a targeted reduction of the VAT rate to 9%.
This new VAT rate applies to restaurants, catering services, hotel and holiday accommodation, hairdressing, cinemas, theatres, museums, fairgrounds, sporting facilities, amusement parks and printed matter including brochures, maps, programmes and newspapers.
Details of the National Internship Programme also announced as part of the Jobs Initiative were published earlier this week. Anyone who has been on the Live Register for at least three months is eligible to apply for a six or nine month internship. Interns will receive an allowance of €50 per week on top of their existing social welfare entitlements. This top up will be covered by the Department of Social Protection, meaning there will be no additional cost for employers.
There are a number of safeguards in place to ensure both that the scheme is as beneficial as possible for interns, and that no existing jobs will be displaced. I am encouraging job seekers and employers across Wicklow to check out this new scheme, details of which are online at
For job seekers, the programme offers invaluable hands-on experience and access to contacts and references that can only enhance the possibility of securing full time employment. And for the companies involved, the scheme allows them to bring talented and enthusiastic individuals into their organisation. I would be hopeful that many of the interns who are taken on will become full time employees in the long run.
If you would like more information about the JobBridge programme, please contact my office on 01 618 3805 or
Tackling the Black Economy
I have been contacted by a number of constituents concerned about the effects of the black economy. This is a serious issue – a recent ISME report estimated the black economy could be costing the exchequer up to €5 billion per year, and that is to say nothing of the unfair playing field this creates for tax compliant businesses.
I intend to take a close look at potential measures to tackle the growing black economy and would welcome any suggestions you have in this regard.
Student Grant Applications Now Open
Details of the Higher Education Student Grant for the 2011/2012 year have now been published by the Department of Education and Skills on the website
With the leaving cert out of the way, I would recommend that students submit their grant applications as soon as possible – there is no need to wait for a CEO offer before making the application.
The Department has confirmed that the income limits to qualify for maintenance grants, and the payment of student contribution will remain unchanged for the coming academic year. However I would advise all students to log onto
www.studentfinance.ie and make themselves aware of the changes to the qualifying criteria for the non-adjacent grant, which were introduced by the previous government.
The grants process has been significantly streamlined this year, and the majority of students will be able to apply for their grant online. In addition, the four previous grants have been replaced by a unified scheme. The majority of delays to grants involve incomplete applications which then have to be returned, so I would recommend students double check their applications before submitting them.
More PLC and BTEI Places for Wicklow
Wicklow is to gain 60 additional Post-Leaving Certificate places and 72 Back to Education Initiative places as part of the Government’s efforts to reduce unemployment and to re-skill and re-train people where necessary. These places will come on stream in September and I particularly welcome the Government’s request that these additional places be prioritised for unemployed people.
As a former member of the Board of Management of the Bray Institute of Further Education (BIFE) I have seen first-hand the major benefit of PLC places in enabling people to go back to education to gain necessary skills and training for new employment, while the new BTEI places will provide additional part-time, flexible learning opportunities for people who are low-skilled or who left school without completing the Leaving Certificate.
Congratulations to Wicklow Special Olympic Medal Winners
I would like to extend my congratulations to all of the participants at the recent Special Olympics in Greece. Wicklow was very well represented at the games, with medals won Amy Quinn in Athletics (Track & Field), Aisling Beacom in Swimming, Jonathan Deering in Badminton, Laura Reynolds on the Basketball team, Paul Kenny on the Soccer team and Stephen Deignan in Golf. The enthusiasm and commitment shown by all the Special Olympics participants was truly inspiring and I think our entire county can take pride in their achievements.
Free Access to OPW Sites
I welcome the decision by my colleague, Minister Hayes, to make our historic sites more accessible by introducing free access for all on the first Wednesday of every month. This is great news for families, who will be able to take advantage of this new initiative while children are on their summer holidays. We have a rich culture and heritage in Ireland and it is great to see that more people will now be able to enjoy them.
This scheme will be running on a trial basis until the end of the year. A full list of OPW sites is available on the website
Blue Flags for Wicklow Beaches
Blue Flag status has been awarded to three Wicklow beaches: Brittas Bay North, Brittas Bay South, and Greystones. The Blue Flag is a mark of distinction showcasing clean and safe beaches with high water quality, lifeguard facilities and other amenities, and has great tourism value. I am delighted these beaches have received this award, and in particular, that Brittas Bay South has regained its Blue Flag.
This is a testament to the hard work of local individuals, communities, businesses and clubs who maintain these beaches at award-winning level and provide high quality amenities and facilities along our coastline.
Opening of Fassaroe Community Gardens
I recently had the pleasure of attending the opening of the community garden project in Fassaroe at the Little Bray Community Centre. The project is a credit to all those involved and it would be wonderful to see it replicated in other parts of Wicklow. It was really great to see the community pulling together to deliver the project and I would like to sincerely congratulate all those involved – I look forward to a return visit to sample some of the vegetables soon!
New Secondary School for Greystones
The Minister for Education has announced Greystones will have an additional second-level school built as part of a programme of 40 new schools to be built nationwide over the next six years. This decision was made in light of the forecasted population growth in Greystones.
I am pleased that even in these difficult times the Minister for Education is looking ahead and continuing to invest in education. The patronage and composition of the new school has not yet been determined, and all patron bodies will be contacted by the Department to apply for the patronage of this school.
I was honoured to be invited to the US Ambassador’s Residence in Phoenix Park to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. Given the success of President Obama’s visit in May it is a timely reminder of the close links between our two countries. I look forward to continued engagement on matters of mutual interest and importance.
New Facebook Page
I have recently set up a new Facebook page to provide regular updates to my constituents. The address is
www.facebook.com/DeputySimonHarris. My previous Facebook page will no longer be updated, so if you have been following me on Facebook, please ‘like’ my new page.
If I can help with any issue at all then please get in touch and I or a member of my team will do all that we can to assist.
You can contact me in my Leinster House office by phoning 01-6183805 or by emailing
My new constituency office is 4 Market Court, Bray, Co Wicklow. I will be publishing details of opening hours soon, but in the meantime, please call or email to make an appointment.
You can also keep up with my day to day work, both in the Dáil and throughout Wicklow, by following me on Twitter, at