Border Region investment continues to suffer under FG – Gallagher

– Latest figures reveal only 5 IDA site visits made in 2015 and 2016 –

Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher says Fine Gael is failing to kick start the economy of border counties in favour of investment in the Greater Dublin Region.
New figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal that there have only been 5 IDA site visits to Cavan and Monaghan in 2015 and 2016.  In contrast, there were 446 visits in Co. Dublin over the same period.
Senator Gallagher explained, “These figures confirm something that people in Cavan and Monaghan are well aware of.  There has been a complete vacuum of investment in the border counties over the past 5 years, and this pattern is continuing under the new Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor.  It is blatantly obvious that the Government is solely focused on attracting investment to Dublin and the surrounding commuter counties, while allowing the regions to lag behind.
“Counties like Cavan and Monaghan have been all but ignored by the IDA.  There have only been 4 site visits to Co. Monaghan over the past 2 years.  Cavan fares worse – it has only had one visit in 2016 and none at all in 2015.  These figures speak for themselves.
“Only last year 140 people lost their jobs when the Bose factory in Carrickmacross closed.  Despite meetings with then Minister Richard Bruton to seek alternative investors that site still remains empty.   I wrote to Minister Mitchell O’Connor last month asking her to visit the facility and meet with local representatives but no date has been forthcoming.
“This Government appears content to ignore this region.  Not only is economic investment well below what’s needed, but essential services like broadband are among the worst in the country.  Fine Gael and their Government partners need to get serious about investing in the rural economy. Without dedicated job creation initiatives, communities will continue to decline, and young people will leave to go and work in larger towns and cities.
“We need a whole of Government approach to the regions. Quality broadband and attracting investment to the regions go hand in hand.  No amount of Government spin will change the fact that not enough is being done”, concluded Senator Gallagher.

 

WATCH: Senator Gallagher Raises the issue of Children with Arthritis Waiting for Appointments

 

Order of Business – 26th October 2016

“I wish to raise the issue of children with arthritis waiting for appointments. The number of children waiting more than 18 months to see an expert in juvenile arthritis has increased from 22 to 110 between January and the end of August this year. That is a 400% increase in the number of children and teenagers waiting at least 18 months. Figures released up to the end of August reveal that a total of 565 children are still waiting to be seen by one of only two specialists in this area. If left untreated, juvenile arthritis can quickly lead to permanent joint damage, muscle wastage and the deformity, not to mention the trauma a child and his or her family experience as a result. With this condition, it is vital that children are seen as soon as possible by a rheumatologist. Irreparable damage can be caused to joints while this waiting continues, in addition to damage of an emotional nature.

  Two consultants are based in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin, and they provide care to more than 1,200 children aged between three and 16 suffering with this condition. Ireland has only two paediatric rheumatology consultants and we are ranked as having one of the lowest number of paediatric rheumatologists in Europe. I join Arthritis Ireland in calling on the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, to appoint a third consultant to this area. Allowing children to continue to suffer is simply not acceptable. I plead with the Leader to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Harris.”

WATCH: Senator Gallagher Voices Concerns for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2016

The over-consumption of alcohol is a persistent issue in Ireland and has taken many lives. It is fair to say that there is probably not a family in the country that has escaped the effects of overconsumption of alcohol and the dangers and addiction that comes with it. Any Bill that strives to attempt to lower consumption must be welcomed, and I will certainly support it

If the minimum pricing of alchohol units comes in I do think this should be introduced in a joint effort with Northern Ireland. Businesses in border counties would not stand a chance should prices be risen in the Republic and not the North, as alcohol buyers would simply cross the border to avail of the cheaper prices.

There is also clarification needed with regard to the isolation of alcohol within retail premises. Where it may be easy in some cases small rural shops throughout the country do not have the funds of the size of premises to keep alcohol discreetly hidden and separate from other goods. There needs to be clear acceptable standards introduced which do not cause too much of a burden on business owners.

Brexit presents enormous challenge for border communities – Gallagher

Brexit presents enormous challenge for border communities – Gallagher

Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher says the Government needs to move fast to protect Ireland’s trading relationship with the UK in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Senator Gallagher also pointed out that Brexit presents an enormous challenge for border communities, and says the Government needs to put continued cross-border co-operation at the heart of its negotiation strategy.

“We are now four months on since Britain voted to leave the European Union and there is still great uncertainty as to the knock on effect associated with that decision. Farmers have been particularly hit by this uncertainty, and there are fears that Brexit could have a detrimental impact on the strong trading relationship between Ireland and Britain,” said Senator Gallagher.

“The British Government has indicated that it will start the formal process of leaving the EU early next year. Our Government needs to move fast to minimise the disruption caused once this process gets underway. Britain is our nearest neighbour and largest trading partner and it is important that this relationship is maintained post Brexit.”

“The biggest barrier to development in border communities is the threat associated with the introduction of a ‘hard border’ between north and south. The Government needs to ensure that this does not come to pass. It would cause severe economic hardship for border communities, and would have a detrimental impact on the agricultural and tourism sectors in particular.”

“It is vital that the Government works with our European and UK colleagues to minimise any disruption to border communities. I firmly believe that a new Minister should be appointed to Government with the sole responsibility of dealing with the fallout associated with Brexit. We need to ensure that our strong trading relationship with Britain is maintained,” concluded Senator Gallagher.

WATCH: Ireland’s Student Accommodation Crisis

Here in Ireland we have the highest participation in third level education in the EU. However this has become overshadowed by a student accommodation crisis which is causing a huge amount of stress and financial burden to young people and their families throughout the country. USI have reported that 58% of students go without 1 meal a day in order to cut costs and to be able to afford to stay in college. To solve this issue we could create a bank fund for universities to build more housing for their students and also start to decentralize third level institutes to outside our cities.

WATCH: “tonight 2,121 children will sleep in emergency accommodation” – Senator Gallagher

Speech

I welcome the Minister of State and wish him well with this brief, probably one of the most important any Minister of State could now have. Much good has come out of this debate. We can all look back with hindsight but this is a case of looking forward, although we have to learn from the mistakes made by all concerned. Who in this room can say they have not made mistakes or done things they might regret today? I agree with Senator Devine that this is an emergency. We throw out statistics: tonight 2,121 children will sleep in emergency accommodation, 1,700 of those in this city alone but as the Senator said, behind each of those is a family. We can only look in horror at what the repercussions of that situation will be in years to come.

There are two ways to tackle this emergency. First, introduce emergency measures, such as increasing rent allowance, which is all we can do. There is no silver bullet solution to the housing crisis. We need a strategy and a vision. In my county we talk about the number of hectares zoned for housing. How much of that zoned land could be built on tomorrow? How much infrastructure is there? In my county there is a serious shortfall in infrastructure. Without the infrastructure, zoning land is a waste of time.

Second, we also must explore what type of housing we need. Families today are much smaller than they were 20 or 30 years ago. There are more separations and divorce, partners move out and need accommodation. Those are all factors. We need to consider long-term leases on property. For a long time the mentality in this State was that renting a house was a short-term measure, for six months or a year. Now people can end up renting for 20 years. Families need to be protected and perhaps we need legislation to give them long-term security, so that they will know where they will be and will not get a letter one day telling them they have two or three months to vacate the property.

I was at a conference last weekend where a gentleman quoted a statistic from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, that every week 200 houses go out of commission in this country. That is a frightening statistic. I was not aware of it before then. What do we do about that? Do we tax that property? Do we give the owners an incentive to bring them back into commission? We need to consider all these issues.

The tenant purchase scheme is back in vogue, whether we like it or not and we can argue about its economics. Those in Part V housing are precluded from purchasing their houses. The Minister of State might consider that.

WATCH: “58% of students go without 1 meal a day to afford to stay in University” – Gallagher

Ireland has the highest level of participation in third level education in the EU, this is something we should be very proud of. However student accommodation in our capital in particular is a continuous crisis issue which is effecting families throughout the country who have children going to university here. In 2014 57,000 accommodation spaces were needed to meet demand, this figure is growing and is coupled with sky-high rents.

According to the USI 58% of students miss 1 meal each day to be able to afford to stay in University. 34% go without heating. 

Something needs to be done to relieve this problem which is spiraling out of control. A bank fund could be set up to fund colleges to build more student accommodation. There is also the option of de-centralizing University courses to outside the capital.

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