Latest News – Fianna Fáil The Republican Party Wed, 24 Aug 2016 13:22:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Online abuse demonstrates need for legislation on hate crime – O’Loughlin Wed, 24 Aug 2016 13:22:48 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South Fiona O’Loughlin says the highly publicised case of a young woman being racially abused on social media highlights the need for tougher action to be taken against those that engage in hate speech.

Deputy O’Loughlin said, “Yesterday we saw a disturbing situation unfold where a young woman was racially abused on social media for hours on end as she attempted to showcase her positive experience of living in Ireland. The abuse highlighted that there is a small section of society that are intent on spewing offensive hatred commentary, and this is something which needs to be tackled.

“I’ve met with a number of different groups since being appointed Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality. One of the things that quickly became evident is the need for a co-ordinated effort by Government to tackle hate speech. This is why I brought forward comprehensive legislation which will help prevent hate crimes from occurring.

“The ‘Criminal Justice (Aggravation by Prejudice Bill 2016’ will ensure that the option is open to the Gardai and Director of Public Prosecutions to pursue a hate crime conviction should such an offence have occurred. Ireland is well behind the curve when it comes to having legislation in place to deal with hate crimes. Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales all have similar legislation in place. It’s time Ireland followed suit,” concluded Deputy O’Loughlin.

Funding shortfall leads to home care cutbacks – Browne Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:59:41 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Wexford James Browne has called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to review the HSE allocation for home care services in the south east.

Deputy Browne made the comments after Dr Mark Doyle, who is the president of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, stated that no new home care packages would be made available to patients for the rest of 2016 due to financial constraints.

“Home care packages are a central part of community health care. They allow older people, who may need assistance and support, to stay in their homes rather than having to be treated in hospital or in a nursing home. Many older people want to stay at home in familiar surroundings than be forced into a residential setting,” said Deputy Browne.

“Fianna Fáil has consistently highlighted the lack of availability of home care services in certain areas. Last October our Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher challenged the Government on the funding allocation provided for home care services, and we made it clear that there would be a shortfall in home care hours as the year progresses.

“It’s clear that the funding shortfall is now having a major impact on the provision of healthcare in communities across the south east. Patients simply cannot access home care services and as a result they are forced to stay in hospital. This is having a knock on effect right across the health service, and is leading to increased waiting lists and delayed discharges.

“The vast majority of older people would like to remain in their own home for as long as possible. However many older people are being denied this due to a lack of home care packages. Without adequate investment in home care packages and home help hours, older people will be forced into already crowded acute hospitals, a significant number of which are already buckling under the pressure of an overburdened health system.

“This issue needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. If we are to show care, support and dignity to elderly people, something has to be done. Not only should these home help hours be met, they should be increased.”

Motor insurers fight the PR battle, but who’s looking after consumers? – McGrath Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:59:23 +0000 Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath says motor insurance premium hikes are now out of control and is calling on the government to accelerate the work of the task force established in July in an effort to get to grips with the problem.

Deputy McGrath was commenting as it emerged Aviva has written to its customers setting out its analysis of why premiums are rising at the current rate.

Deputy McGrath commented, “The blame game is now in full swing. Aviva has written a detailed note to customers setting out its analysis as to why premiums are increasing at the current crazy rate. We now have a situation where all the stakeholders are blaming each other for premium hikes but it begs the question, who is looking after the interests of consumers in all of this?

“While premiums are up by 38.6% in the year to July according to official CSO data, it would not surprise me if this rate of increase is actually accelerating at the moment. Every week now, I am being contacted by motorists who are receiving a renewal notice in the letterbox with much larger increases. Premium increases of 60%, 70% and even higher are not uncommon. This is not a sustainable situation and the government needs to show greater urgency in tackling this problem.

“The insurance industry may well be right that a rise in the number of claims and increases in the level of awards are the main factors driving these price hikes, but the truth is we simply do not know because we have no independent oversight. Fianna Fáil put forward a detailed motion on this issue in the Dáil in July and provided a roadmap to tackle the problem. This motion resulted in the establishment of a task force to address the issue. The government now needs to go further and set a tight deadline for the task force to report and to commit to implementing its recommendations as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, motorists will continue to be fleeced while all those involved wage a PR battle to blame each other.”

Minister must move on Sports Capital Grant allocations – Ó Cuív Wed, 24 Aug 2016 09:20:55 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West Éamon Ó Cuív says sports clubs across the country are losing out on important funding because the Sports Minister has failed to announce the next round of the Sports Capital Grant.

Minister Ross has confirmed that no decision has been taken on when the next round of the grant will be made.

Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “It is scandalous that there has been no Sports Capital Grant announcement for 2016.  Even if a decision is made in the next few months, the fact of the matter is no money will be drawn down at all this year.  This money is extremely important for sports clubs and communities across the country with many depending on this funding to buy new equipment and upgrade and improve facilities.

“There appears to be no credible reason as to why this year’s announcement has not been made, but it is not acceptable that clubs across the country are being left high and dry.  The last round of applications for the scheme was in 2015 and an announcement for this year is long overdue.  I am worried by Minister Ross’ lax attitude, and particularly his comment that “no decision has been taken on the timing of the next rounds of the SCP”.

“This scheme should not be allowed to fall off the Minister’s agenda.  It is a vital resource for communities the length and breadth of the country, who are now missing out on essential funding.  Minister Ross needs to address this issue without delay and announce the next round of applications”.

Latest migration figures show continuing graduate brain drain – Collins Tue, 23 Aug 2016 16:39:29 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Niall Collins TD has raised concerns regarding the number of 3rd level graduates who are choosing to leave Ireland.

Deputy Collins made the comments following the publication of the latest emigration figures by the Central Statistics Office. The figures show that in the 12 months to April 2016 it is estimated that 32,000 third level graduates chose to leave Ireland.

“These figures show that nearly half of all persons aged 15 or over who emigrated from Ireland in 2015 had a third level qualification or higher. It is estimated that 181,100 third level graduates have left Ireland since Fine Gael came to office in 2011,” said Deputy Collins.

“It’s clear that the action plan for jobs is failing to retain skilled Irish graduates. It is unacceptable that the number of highly qualified graduates leaving the country continues unabated. There is clearly a significant void in supports and opportunities for graduates which must be addressed.

“Furthermore it is concerning that there has been a 15% increase in the number of part-time workers who would like to have full-time work, representing 111,400 underemployed persons in total. The previous Fine Gael led Government was fixated on creating a deeply unfair two tier recovery. This two-tier approach continues to have a negative impact on the regions.

“There is still a significant disparity in the nature of the recovery across the country. The capital has an unemployment rate of 8%, but the midlands is suffering from a 10.7% rate of unemployment. If there is to be any real lasting recovery then is must extent to all regions and communities in a fair and balanced way.”

Allowance negotiations for young teachers must be brought to a conclusion – Byrne Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:26:34 +0000 Fianna Fáil’s Education Spokesperson has called on Minister Richard Bruton to announce an agreement in principle between his department and teacher unions on the restoration of allowances for newly qualified teachers.

Deputy Thomas Byrne made the comments following a meeting earlier today with senior leaders of the TUI and INTO. Subsequent to the meeting Deputy Byrne contacted Minister Bruton to outline Fianna Fáil’s view that this matter needs to be concluded with an agreement in principle by the end of the week.

“It’s time we saw an acceleration in the talks between the two unions and the Department of Education and Skills and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. There is the potential for serious industrial unrest in our schools should this matter not be resolved. Dragging these talks on beyond this week could cause severe difficulties,” said Deputy Byrne.

“It is clear that an agreement in principle effectively exists on the restoration of allowances for newly qualified teachers, and that ongoing negotiations are largely technical details that need to be resolved. However a Government statement is essential to confirm this progress.

“I have told Minister Bruton that a public statement should be made to confirm that an agreement in principle exists. This will provide reassurance for young teachers that progress is being made on achieving pay equality.

“New entrants to the teaching profession do not receive the same allowances as longer serving teachers, which cannot be justified and is corrosive to morale within schools. Unequal pay for new teachers is also discouraging talented individuals from entering or staying in the profession.

“A signal of clear progress on this crucial issue for teachers would act as a catalyst to resolving other industrial relations issues within the education sector, and will be the key to averting industrial action in the new school year.”

Open up EU car insurance market for Irish drivers says O’Rourke Tue, 23 Aug 2016 11:19:58 +0000 Kildare North Fianna Fáil TD, Frank O Rourke, has called on the Government to consider opening up the EU Car Insurance market for Irish drivers, following the unprecedented increase in car insurance premium in recent years.

“The most recent figures on motor insurance, show premiums have raised by almost 40% in the last year, as the underlying rate of inflation stands at 0.5%. In fact the main cause of this 0.5% inflation relates to the rising cost of insurance overall.’

“It is not unusual for young people in their early 20s to be asked to pay anything between €6,000 and €12,000 a year for their car insurance. This premium level is not an option for many young people, many of whom require cars for their educational, work or family purposes, as I have established at my clinics in recent weeks.’

“I know from liaising with my colleague Deputy Michael McGrath, that the claims which are being paid out have reduced in recent years, from claims paid out of €1.5 billion in 2011 to claims paid out of €1.01 billion in 2014. Insurance companies have also returned to profitability. This should have led to reduced premium costs not increased premiums.’

“I raised this matter in the Dáil recently and called on the Government to re-establish the Motor Insurance Advisory Board (MIAB). Given the track record of the MIAB in the past, it seems to me to be an imperative action for this Government, if we are going to make progress on reducing the motor insurance costs.’

“I also believe that we should look at opening up the insurance market to the EU, whereby, we could purchase our insurance in Germany or France and that it would cover our driving in Ireland. This would have the effect of increasing competition in the market and should reduce premiums from their current high levels.’

“Rising cost of insurance reduces net income available for people to spend on other life’s essentials and is key driver to increasing the cost of doing business in Ireland. As I said in my Dáil contribution, there is little point in the modest reduction in the USC in the last budget being transferred to enhance the profit of the Insurance companies.‘ concluded Deputy O’Rourke, who is committed to raising the issue in the Dáil again in the next session.”

Decisive measures needed to tackle student accommodation crisis – Byrne Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:59:59 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has said the combination of rising rental prices and lack of supply of accommodation will prohibit a large proportion of third level students from living within a reasonable distance of their campus.

Deputy Byrne was responding to the publication of the latest Daft rental report which shows rent rose by 3.9% between April and June this year, representing the largest three month increase since 2007.

“Compared to other countries, student residence accommodation is in short supply in Ireland. Just 11% of students are accommodated in such student residences, leading to 25,000 students having to undertake a frantic search for private rented accommodated each year.

“However as a result of the situation in the rental market in urban areas, students are simply not able to compete. I have been critical that the new Government housing plan does little to deal with the student accommodation crisis.

“Both short-term and medium term solutions are required. In the short-term, the Higher Education Authority in conjunction with the Private Residential Tenancies Board should be undertaking targeted campaigns to promote student digs and to incentivise households to open up rooms to students from September.

“It is however important to recognise that these short term measures are only sticking plasters, and cannot be used as a substitute for building new student residences. I have been vocal in urging the Government to develop a new borrowing framework for Institutes of Technology to fund infrastructure development, including accommodation construction. The delay in enhancing the borrowing power for Institutes of Technology is leading to reduced accommodation supply and increased rent for students.

“The Government housing action plan mentions the Grangegorman funding model currently being utilised by Dublin Institute of Technology as a model for future development of student accommodation. However it fails to acknowledge the fact that this project would be substantially cheaper if DIT could borrow in its own right.

“It is important we keep in mind that the failure to provide adequate student accommodation is making the rental crisis much worse. The Government needs to put in place a fund to enable third level institutions to invest in on-campus accommodation. This will have to include tax proposals that will make it attractive for colleges to invest in accommodation. This is the only way we will adequately increase student accommodation on a long term basis,” concluded Deputy Byrne.

Rabbitte expresses serious concern over dangerously low Garda numbers Mon, 22 Aug 2016 15:59:02 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Anne Rabbitte says the Loughrea Garda District is at breaking point because of severe staff shortages in the Galway Regional Division.  Senior management claim they urgently need more officers on the ground to ensure a fully operational and safe service.

Deputy Rabbitte commented, “Garda numbers in the Loughrea Garda District have fallen to dangerously low levels and there are now serious concerns that there are not enough officers in the area to deliver core services.  This situation has been exacerbated because of holiday leave and is expected to persist for a number of weeks.

“This is extremely worrying and residents in the Loughrea area want to see it rectified. The fact that Garda numbers are well below the minimum required to run an effective force is simply unacceptable.  While the situation in Loughrea is particularly bad, the Salthill and Galway City Districts are also finding themselves under pressure.

“Senior Garda management say they need a minimum of six new recruits in the Loughrea District to relieve the immediate pressure, as well as a 10% increase in staffing levels to ensure a fully operational force.  The East Galway region saw its Garda resources seriously depleted during the lifetime of the Fine Gael-Labour Government, with the loss of 5 marked squad cars.  Fianna Fáil wants to ensure that the force is properly resourced and supported and staffing levels are a key part of this process.

“I am calling on Minister Fitzgerald to immediately review the situation in the Galway Regional Division so that additional Gardai can be approved for the area and the valid concerns of residents in Loughrea can be properly addressed”.

Troy seeks input into Rio inquiry terms of reference Mon, 22 Aug 2016 15:25:05 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport Robert Troy says opposition parties must be consulted by Minister Shane Ross over the proposed terms of reference for the inquiry into the Olympic ticket controversy.

Deputy Troy said, “Today I have written to Minister Ross to highlight Fianna Fáil’s concerns about the effectiveness of his proposed inquiry into the Rio ticket touting scandal.

“While the advice of the Attorney General has to be respected, we have concerns that a non-statutory inquiry would lack powers of compellability of witnesses and access to documentary evidence.

“The allegations of impropriety on behalf of THG Sports, Pro 10 and members of the OCI have to be fully and independently examined. It should be acknowledged that the OCI has agreed to fully cooperate with the inquiry. However members of the public are understandably skeptical given the organisation’s initial reluctance to have any independent appointees involved in the investigation.

“In the event of full cooperation not being forthcoming from individuals or organisations under investigation, I believe the Government should keep open the option of converting to a statutory inquiry.

“This is a very serious matter which has caused huge embarrassment for Ireland on the global stage and Irish sport, in particular. There is an urgent need for Minister Ross to get this inquiry underway. It is essential that the inquiry is seen as credible and has full buy-in across all parties.

“The Minister should engage in prior discussion on the terms of reference with myself, as well as with other opposition spokespeople, rather than presenting them as a fait accompli next week when we are told he intends to publish details of the inquiry.”