Fianna Fáil » » Latest News The Republican Party Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:14:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Government apprenticeship announcement comes after 4 years of complete inaction Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:14:07 +0000 Fianna Fáil has accused the Government of completely ignoring apprenticeship programmes over the past four years, and claims that Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan is trying to win back support for her party by promising to extend the scheme to new sectors.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil through Parliamentary Question reveal that the number of apprenticeships fell by 30% between 2010 and 2014.

The party’s Education spokesperson Charlie McConalogue says these figures are a damning indictment of the scant attention given by this Government to the apprenticeship programme.

“Successive Ministers have been shockingly slow to realise that an apprenticeship system is vital in dealing with Ireland’s acute long-term unemployment problem. However, it appears to have fallen off the Government agenda and has only resurfaced now that a General Election is on the horizon.

“While Higher Education will continue to be the primary pathway for young people to skilled employment, it does not suit everyone and employers value vocational training. However this Government has failed to build on the programmes that have been offered to date and have allowed participation to fall off without introducing any changes to the existing programmes or expanding them until now. The demand from the technology and business sectors has not been fully utilised or valued and its role and contribution is not well understood by this government.

“While the proposal by the Apprenticeship Council to expand apprenticeship categories is welcome, the announcement is a drop in the ocean of what is required to deal with what is fast becoming Ireland’s largest economic problem – the unmoving long-term unemployment rate and most especially the large numbers of young people who are NEETs (not in employment, education or training). Government, education providers and industry must work together to ensure these new apprenticeship areas are fast tracked immediately.

Fianna Fáil Jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary added, “It is vital that the state invests and incentivises apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional university degree. These structured training qualifications create a robust pathway from education to work. Matching skills with job market demand is an absolute requirement for retaining a highly skilled economy.

“In our 2015 pre-Budget submission, Fianna Fáil outlined a number of recommendations to improve and expand apprenticeships in Ireland. We called for apprenticeships to be offered in a wider range of skills/crafts, which would be informed and shaped by regular and frequent industry reviews.

“We also believe that apprentices should be able to learn a broader range of skills during the off-the-job element of their course. This should cover skills in numeracy, technology and language which are highly valued by employers. The ICT and other ‘high skills’ sectors in business and technology are crying out for candidates with vocational qualification.

“Ireland needs a strategy that appropriately supports apprenticeships through the business cycle. The latest Government announcement has tapped into many of the proposals which we put forward last year, however I have concerns that this is just another case of spin over substance and that those apprenticeships which have been pushed out until next year, and possibly after the General Election, will never see the light of day”.

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325,000 face losing mortgage interest relief in next two years – McGrath Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:40:10 +0000 New figures provided to Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson indicate that 325,000 are set to lose tax relief on their monthly mortgage payment when mortgage interest relief is phased out by the end of 2017. The average benefit to families in 2015 is €850.

Deputy McGrath commented, “This payment is a very important support for families particularly those struggling with sky high variable mortgage rates. Mortgage interest relief has already been withdrawn from new home buyers since 2012. The process of withdrawing it from existing homeowners at the same time as they are subject to a residential property tax highlights a Government that is pursuing policies that are making home ownership increasingly unaffordable for families.

“In the months ahead we will see a procession of Ministers lauding their plans to cut taxes in the budget. They are likely to give far less attention to the impact of plans to withdraw support for struggling homeowners. There is also the looming cost of universal health insurance which as well as increased premiums is likely to be associated with elimination of tax relief on medical insurance premiums. The combination of these two policies will be a huge financial blow to lower and middle income families in particular,” concluded Deputy McGrath.

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FF demands Noonan statement on Aynsley accusations Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:44:04 +0000 Fianna Fáil has demanded an urgent statement from the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan following accusations that he was behind attempts to sell an IBRC asset at a knock-down price.

The allegations, made by former IBRC Chief Mike Aynsley at the banking inquiry, have been described as ‘alarming’ by Fianna Fáil’s Leader in the Seanad Senator Darragh O’Brien.

Senator O’Brien commented, “These accusations are extremely serious and it is unacceptable that the Government would seek to hide behind the summer recess to dodge answering the urgent questions that Mr Aynsley’s testimony has raised.

“We need a very clear statement from the Minister for Finance right now addressing allegations that his officials intervened in a commercial transaction at IBRC. Minister Noonan must answer the following questions:

▪ Was it made clear by a Department of Finance Official that the Minister would support the sale of an IBRC asset at €100m less than the top bid?

▪ What level of knowledge did the Minister have about these alleged representations?

▪ What level of political interference was there to encourage the fire sale this asset?

▪ Were representations made to encourage quick sales through bilateral arrangements behind closed doors?

▪ Has there been political interference in the sale of any other similar assets?

“There is nothing preventing Minister Noonan from clarifying these issues right now. Mr Aynsley’s testimony has raised grave concerns about political interference in the sale of such assets on behalf of the taxpayer.”

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Fine Gael policies laying waste to rural Ireland – FF Fri, 31 Jul 2015 13:00:44 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív TD has described Fine Gael’s latest PR gimmick, Standing Up for Rural Ireland as “deceitful and a complete fabrication”.  The social media campaign launched ahead of the General Election is nothing more than a blatant attempt to win votes and is based entirely in fiction. Fine Gael’s four year record in government has been one of decimating rural Ireland’s existence, through drastic cuts to services and supports.

Deputy Ó Cuív explained, “Rural Ireland’s very existence is being undermined by this government. Upon taking office in 2011, Taoiseach Enda Kenny abolished the Ministry of Rural Development – a senior cabinet position which had been created by a previous Fianna Fáil led Government.

“Under Fine Gael, LEADER companies, which bring much needed investment into rural communities, have been dismantled and stripped of their local autonomy. Funding for the programme has been cut by over 40% to €250 million in contrast to the last programme when Fianna Fáil secured €427 million in LEADER funds.  Even when the Government attempted to feign an interest in rural Ireland through the commissioning of the CEDRA report, its lack of commitment has been more than evident through its failures to implement the recommendations contained in it.  A paltry €1 million has been allocated for CEDRA projects this year.

“In its campaign video, Fine Gael claims that economic growth is evenly spread throughout Ireland. This is a gross falsehood. Evidence clearly points to a two tier recovery with job creation heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. 94% of all jobs created in 2014 and 50% of all IDA jobs were in the capital and commuter belt area. In April, Minister Noonan’s Department of Finance acknowledged that economic recovery in Ireland had been unevenly spread across the country.

“In 2011, the Fine Gael led government pledged to deliver fibre broadband to 90% of homes and businesses by 2015 in its Programme for Government. This is yet another promise which has been completely broken. Over 750,000 households and businesses (32% out of total Irish premises) will now have to wait up until 2021 to receive moderate speed broadband – 6 years over the promised deadline.

“Fine Gael’s lasting record in government has resulted in state services being abolished and downgraded. The CLÁR Programme, which provided vital supports to rural infrastructural projects, and which Fianna Fáil dedicated €20 million annually to when in office, has been scrapped.

“Rural communities are living in fear following the closure of 139 Garda Stations, while many other stations are rarely or never open to the public.  The Rural Social Scheme and Farm Assist Scheme have also been decimated, both of which were set up by the previous Fianna Fáil led Government.  Local small schools have also been subjected to targeted attacks, with dramatic increases in the pupil-teacher ratio.

“Fine Gael investment in its online campaign cannot detract from its four year crusade to dismantle rural Ireland.  People in rural communities the length and breadth of this country are experiencing the effects of this Government’s regressive policies on a daily basis.  They will exercise their verdict on Fine Gael’s falsehoods perpetrated during their time in office on polling day. The evidence is clear. Fine Gael’s lasting legacy is one of neglect and disdain for rural Ireland and no amount of spin can change that fact”.

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Govt changes its tune on importance of Eurostat test – FF Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:55:13 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen TD says Irish Water’s failure to pass the Eurostat test this week is a major blow to the Governments water charges strategy.

Deputy Cowen pointed out how the State is €785m worse off following the establishment of Irish Water, with water charges due to cost the Government up to €70m this year alone based on current compliance rates. In particular the introduction of the Water Conservation Grant has proved to have been a spectacular failure as it has not led to water conservation, nor has it helped Irish Water pass the Eurostat test.

“When the Government unveiled the Water Conservation Grant last year it was clearly designed to try and help Irish Water pass the Eurostat test. However the events of the last week show how this plan has backfired spectacularly” said Deputy Cowen.

“The Government is wasting €5m per annum on administrating the Water Conservation Grant. This is money which could be spent on improving water infrastructure, but instead it is being spent on a pointless grant which has failed in its key objective of helping Irish Water pass the Eurostat test. Fianna Fáil warned that this grant was nothing more than a gimmick and would not fool Eurostat into giving a clean bill of health for Irish Water.

“When Minister for Environment Alan Kelly was ramming the Irish Water legislation through the Dáil he insisted that the grant would reduce household use of water. However even Eurostat have rubbished this suggestion. They have pointed out that the grant is unlikely to reduce consumption.

“The fact is that not an extra cent is being spent on water infrastructure above the €500m per annum Fianna Fáil spent in Government. The establishment of Irish Water has been a costly mistake for Irish taxpayers. The super quango is swallowing vast quantities of public money on a daily basis while giving little in return when it comes to improving the quality of our water infrastructure.

“Minister Kelly and his Government have serious questions to answer in light of the Eurostat decision. Just what exactly is the purpose of the Water Conservation Grant considering it is unlikely to lead to water conservation and has not led to Irish Water passing the Eurostat test? Irish Water is set to cost the Government up to €70m this year alone. It is time to abolish the super quango instead of throwing more good money after bad.”

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Permanent TSB must act to reverse repossession actions – McGrath Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:56:32 +0000 Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has called on PermanentTSB to make every effort possible to reverse the house repossession actions it took against customers who were overcharged on their mortgage.

Deputy McGrath commented “It is absolutely shocking that up to 61 customers who were impacted by being charged the incorrect interest rate lost their properties. In 22 of these cases the overcharging appears to have been the decisive factor in people losing their homes.

“It now appears that the bank is still in possession of some of these homes. PTSB should accept that their legal action was initiated on a false premise as it was the bank’s overcharging in many instances which drove customers in to arrears. They should now return to the courts and have the repossession orders annulled where this is possible. This would allow people to return to the home which they should never have lost in the first place.

“PTSB gave every impression this week that they wanted to put this issue behind. There is a lot of work to be done before this can be said to be the case. Compensation payments should be made expeditiously and where a customer’s credit record has been impaired this should be rectified. Any outstanding legal actions against customers in this category should be dropped and where possible any repossessions which took place should be reversed,” concluded Deputy McGrath.

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Cloverhill Riot is Symptom of Prison System in Crisis – Collins Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:55:51 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice, Niall Collins TD has said that the latest riot in Cloverhill Prison is a symptom of the growing crisis in our prison system. Yesterday, statistics from the Irish Prison Service showed that most Irish Prisons were over capacity or had a large number of prisoners on temporary release to ease capacity issued.

Deputy Collins stated: “The incident in Cloverhill Prison yesterday is yet another sign that our prison system is in crisis. One need only look at the prison capacity statistics to show the pressure our prisons are currently under. Firstly, on Wednesday, 29th of July 494 prisoners were on temporary release in order to ease capacity issues across the prison network. Yet, despite this, two of the country’s largest prisons, Cork and Limerick, were still dangerously over capacity at 110% and 107% respectively.”

“In Mountjoy, the percentage of bed capacity in use is just under 100% because 150 prisoners have been let out on temporary release. Cork is in an even worse position. Despite over 119 prisoners being on temporary release the prison is still the most overcrowded in the system. Limerick is also in crisis with 315 prisoners allocated to that prison but only 248 beds for those prisoners.”

“The Prison Service has lost over 100 staff since 2011 and their budget has been cut by €20 million in the same period. I am concerned that the Service has now been cut to the bone resulting in an increasing number of episodes like what we saw yesterday in Clover Hill. The Minister must address the huge problems of prison capacity before another incident like this occurs again.”

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Crisis in health service escalates due to funding shortfall – Fleming Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:30:13 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming has said the health service is continuing to descend into chaos while Minister for Health Leo Varadkar sits idly by.

Deputy Fleming made the comments after the HSE published its latest ‘Health Service Performance Report’. The report highlights how the HSE is finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate health care within the budget allocated to it by the Government.

“This latest HSE report makes it clear for all to see how the Government has failed to adequately resource the HSE for 2015. This is now a recurring problem in the health service that Minister Varadkar has once again failed to address” said Deputy Fleming.

“The report paints a bleak picture of the current state of finance within the health service. HSE management has rightly allocated additional money to manage the shortage of beds in our hospitals and to address the chaos in Emergency Departments across the country. This was predictable and should have been foreseen by Minister Varadkar. As a result the health service has once again been left short of sufficient funding. This is something which Minister Varadkar assured us would not happen when the Government unveiled the budget for 2015.

“Fianna Fáil has consistently pointed out how the current Government is deliberately misleading the public with its funding allocation for the health service. Minister Varadkar knew that the budget allocation for 2015 would fall well short of meeting the needs of sick patients in the health service.

“Following the last budget Minister Varadkar said the HSE service plan would deliver €130m in savings and another €10m as a result of increased income collection. None of these promises have come to fruition, mainly because of the increased demands on the health service which were forecasted by many including Fianna Fáil.

“In May alone over 3,500 patients were forced to wait on a trolley in an Emergency Department for over 24 hours. The taskforce established by Minister Varadkar last December to address this growing crisis in our health service has not been receiving enough financial support. It is unable to satisfy the medium to long term needs of the country’s hospitals in relation to step down beds and the Fair Deal Scheme.

“Minister Varadkar is quite adept at attending fancy campaign and press launches, but when it comes to addressing this issue he is gone AWOL. What we need is a more hands on approach from the Minister. He urgently needs to take action to ensure patients are not facing longer waiting times on trolleys or lengthy delays for outpatient appointments as we head into the autumn and winter months.

“The Minister needs to be held accountable for what is actually happening in the health service rather than just issuing comments and observations from the side-lines” concluded Deputy Fleming.

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Cabinet in chaos over Irish Water shambles – FF Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:57:54 +0000 The Fianna Fáil Leader in the Seanad Senator Darragh O’Brien has raised alarm about the chaos at Cabinet level over Irish Water.He was speaking as opposition Senators today demanded the recall of Seanad Éireann as the crisis at Irish Water deepens.

“In a grave new development, we have the two Ministers in charge of the budgetary process totally at odds over whether or not the disastrous Irish Water project will have an impact on future Budgets,” explained Senator O’Brien.

“In an outrageous dismissal of the Irish Water fiasco, Minister Noonan has insisted it will have no impact on future budgets as it will remain a public utility ‘off the books’. Meanwhile Minister Howlin has now conceded that unless Eurostat reverses its decision, Irish Water will be part of the budgetary process and will have to compete with other infrastructure projects for funding.

“It has now also emerged that even if every single household in the country pays their water charges, it still won’t be enough to keep Irish Water off the books. Eurostat has said that full compliance would still leave the failed quango short of target and it will need to be propped up by central funding.

“This descends into further chaos every single day. Not only is it the first time in the history of the State that a Government has introduced a tax that actually costs the exchequer, there isn’t even agreement at Cabinet level about the future direction of this quango.

“Fianna Fáil is supporting demands for the recall of the Seanad next week. It is unacceptable that the Ministers overseeing this fiasco are totally unaccountable to the Oireachtas for the next few weeks. We want an opportunity to bring the Environment Minister Alan Kelly, the Finance Minister Michael Noonan or the Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin before the upper house without further delay to clear up the ever growing confusion surrounding Irish Water.”

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Irish Water chaos now threatens investment in housing, hospitals and schools – FF Thu, 30 Jul 2015 11:59:05 +0000 Major investment projects needed to position the economy to take advantage of an economic recovery and protect vital public services now face being held hostage because of the Government’s botched handling of Irish Water.

Minister Howlin is now warning that funding for the health service, new schools and housing could be seriously impacted if the funding of Irish Water must continue to be shouldered on the State’s books.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen has said the case for retaining Irish Water is draining away every day. Deputy Cowen commented: “The fact that major investment projects expected in housing, health and education in the coming years now hang in the balance because Fine Gael and Labour want to retain Irish Water is indefensible .This failed political project from Fine Gael is threatening to undermine key frontline public services without improving water infrastructure at all.

“The warning from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the continued financing for Irish Water means that the €5.5bn planned investment by Irish Water is no longer guaranteed and instead poses a clear and substantial risk to other investments needed in the economy.

“Despite this enormous taxpayer funds given to Irish Water by the Government this year it will spend less than €300m on fixing water infrastructure in 2015, compared to €500m in 2010 under Fianna Fáil. To put this into perspective, this year alone 33% of all motor tax receipts collected will go towards establishing Irish Water. This is on top of €850m that the super quango has borrowed, €540m of which is being spent on installing water meters that will not be used.

“How can Ministers credibly say the Eurostat decision on Irish Water will have no impact on budgetary policy? That is a disgracefully dismissive and arrogant attitude to take. Fianna Fáil wants to put in place a major capital investment programme over 13 years from 2015 to meet targets on water quality and leaks. This will be funded through a mix of Strategic Investment Funds, private bond issues, the European Investment Bank and general taxation. But instead an estimated €1.08bn has been diverted from general taxation to the subvention of Irish Water to date and not an extra cent of this is being invested in infrastructure over and above what was already planned.

“The Government needs to come clean with the public. Fine Gael and Labour need to admit they really don’t know what the full extent of the Eurostat decision will be on the spending plans in the forthcoming budgets or what impact there will be on public services because we now have to shoulder the burden of their bogus super quango while trying to invest in health, education and housing.”

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