Latest News – Fianna Fáil The Republican Party Fri, 29 Apr 2016 10:15:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rigid policy on exam readers must be reviewed – McConalogue Fri, 29 Apr 2016 10:15:03 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called for a review of the State Examination Commission’s “reasonable accommodation” policy after a High Court overturned a decision not to facilitate a dyslexic student’s request for a reader for his Leaving Cert.

Readers can be provided to students to help them understand the exam papers, however the SEC had in this case refused the student’s request.

Deputy McConalogue commented, “This High Court case has highlighted certain deficiencies with the current system and as a result I would like to see a review of the “reasonable accommodation” policy.  The guidelines used to decide whether a reader is allocated appear to be unnecessarily rigid and should be examined.  We need to ensure that students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties are properly supported and the decision taken by the SEC in this particular case was clearly wrong and the High Court ruling has reflected that.

“The Leaving Cert is an exceptionally stressful time for students, and the added anxiety for pupils with dyslexia is being exacerbated by these stringent rules and the fear of being denied the assistance they need in an exam situation.

“I am calling on the new Education Minister to instigate a review of these guidelines to ensure that the students who need additional supports at exam time are allocated them without having to bring a case before the courts”.

High speed broadband commitment pushed even further down the road – Chambers Fri, 29 Apr 2016 09:08:33 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers says rural Ireland is being pushed off the agenda once again following the announcement that the roll out of the National Broadband plan has been pushed out to 2022.  The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources confirmed this week that the procurement contract for the plan will not be awarded until 2017.

Deputy Chambers commented, “This delay is the latest blow for homes and businesses across Co. Mayo who are still waiting for a secure high-speed broadband connection.  Under Fine Gael and Labour we saw the deadline for the National Broadband Plan pushed further and further down the road – the 2011 programme for Government promised to deliver fibre to 90% of homes and businesses by 2015. That target didn’t even come close to being met and the outgoing Government then committed to providing 100% delivery of high speed broadband by 2020 through the NBP.  Now this is being delayed by at least two years.

“New figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal that there are 50,831 homes and businesses across Mayo that are dependent on the National Broadband Programme.   The fact that they will have to wait another 6 years for a high speed service is an absolute disgrace and will only further exacerbate the two tier recovery witnessed across the country.

“While people living in towns, cities and urban areas have access to fibre and high speed broadband services, large parts of Mayo have been left with only basic packages.  This has a major impact on businesses in the county and is stifling growth and expansion opportunities.

“High speed broadband access across the whole of the country must be a priority for the next Government.  Instead of publishing plans and then pushing out the targets, the next Government must commit to rolling out a high speed service to every home and business in a reasonable timeframe”.

Lahart supports calls for immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:25:13 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South West John Lahart has reiterated his call for the immediate release of Ibrahim Halawa. Deputy Lahart’s comments have been echoed by his four Dáil constituency colleagues.

Deputy Lahart said, “Ibrahim has been in prison awaiting trial since 2013 and has been subject to dubious court proceedings ever since. He has spent 3 years behind bars without being afforded the opportunity of a fair trial. Ibrahim is being tried as part of a mass trial of almost 500 people and his right to due process is not being realised as a result of this.

“It’s unacceptable that as an Irish citizen, who was aged just 17 when taken into custody, is being denied a fair trial. His trial has been adjourned 13 times and there is no end in sight for these dubious court proceedings. Amnesty International have amassed significant evidence which documents Ibrahim’s innocence. London based human rights group ‘Reprieve’ has also spoken out against his poor treatment.

“Today I’ve joined with my fellow Dáil colleagues in Dublin South West by calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ibrhaim. The Irish Government must do everything in its power to achieve this. Securing his release must be a top priority for the next Government,” said Deputy Lahart.

O’Brien questions Minister on progress of schools development Wed, 27 Apr 2016 16:50:01 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Fingal Darragh O’Brien has questioned Minister Jan O’Sullivan on the progress of two new secondary schools which were promised for the Swords area and Malahide-Portmarnock in November 2015.

“These two schools, which are badly needed, were promised by the previous Fine Gael-Labour government only months before the last election. It was announced these schools would open in 2017 but following parliamentary questions that I put to the Minister, I have found little to reassure me that these schools will be open in the timeframe promised.

“I call on the Minister to provide the public with solid details on whether these schools will be delivered in 2017, as promised. If the schools are not to be ready by then, the Minister should explain why the people of Fingal were misled before the election.

“Swords, Malahide and Portmarnock are communities with a young and growing population. New schools are needed to meet the needs of the people in these localities. It is important that these two schools which were promised before the election are delivered when we were told they would be. I will continue to pursue the Government until the people of Fingal are given clarification on this,” concluded Deputy O’Brien

Speech by Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:30:10 +0000 We sought this debate because we believe it is important for Deputies to be able to outline their approach to the broad issue of water services.

If we want this debate to be useful it would be constructive if Deputies concentrated on outlining their own policies.

This is very far from being the single most important issue facing our country, however it is important and the handling of it in recent years represents a dramatic public policy fiasco.

It is also one of the few areas where there was a substantial policy debate during the election and a decisive result in favour of ending current policy.

There has been an enormous amount of ill-informed and highly skewed coverage of this issue in recent weeks.  The scale of lobbying and media briefing by commercial state firm using public money has been unprecedented.  This has distorted the debate and ensured that manifestly false claims are being made on behalf of existing policy.

During the past five years and during the election Fianna Fáil was clear in setting out its policy and addressing various eventualities.  Many have presented distorted and superficial claims about our policies, but distorting and misrepresenting our policies has been a consistent part of why so many failed to anticipate growing public support for our party.

We opposed the establishment of Irish Water and the introduction of the charge.  Leaving aside the issue of the arrogant failure of the outgoing government to justify the model of a national commercial utility or to outline the actual costs involved in the administrative and charging regimes they imposed, we had other substantive problems.


We accept the need to invest in improving our water services – but to say that the existing framework is the only way you can deliver and fund this work is simply not true. The comparison with the ESB is fatuous.  The ESB does not require state subvention, it is a genuinely commercial firm, albeit providing a vital public service.  More importantly, the ESB does not demand that you pay them for years before they can guarantee an acceptable service.

The outgoing government’s policy was to allow Irish Water massive commercial freedom even though it would be funded primarily by direct state subvention and would take many years to bring services to the level they themselves define as acceptable.

Irish Water is very far from being the accepted model of water service provision and development internationally.  Northern Ireland and Scotland are very much the exceptions in Europe.  Comparable countries to Ireland manage to deliver major water infrastructure developments without a commercial utility like Irish Water as it is now constituted.

A service delivered with ongoing public investment should most properly be delivered by state agencies.

Had Irish Water been a state agency the uncontrolled expansion of management, the bonus culture, the waste, the secrecy, the 1/3rd million spends on polling, the massive and rising payments for lobbying and many other practices would not have been possible.  And equally the disdain for democratic accountability would never have been allowed.

The consistent claim for Irish Water was that this was the only way of raising the funding required for investment.  This is simply false – in fact the commercial state firm has reduced potential funding for investment.

Not only has Irish Water’s investment programme failed to be taken out of government borrowing figures there is no plan on the table from anyone which shows how this could happen.

Commentators who say that we are facing a choice between off-balance sheet borrowing and public funding need to go and look at the facts.  There are no proposals from anyone which show how Irish Water could potentially ever meet the arms-length borrowing test of Eurostat.

So please, let’s hear no more of the nonsense that water services will be deprived of funding unless current policy continues.

The entire case for Irish Water and the investment figures published has been based on putting spin first.  Far more time and money has been spent on co-opting the support of commentators than on ensuring that the policy stands up to scrutiny.

Conservation and quality are core objectives for water policy – and this is where the funding and the priority should have been rather than on constructing a metering and charging regime which is profoundly wasteful.  By Irish Water’s own estimation, the fixing of elements of the supply system is the single most important element of conservation and quality improvement.

On the matter of charges specifically, we believe that there is no basis for asking the Irish people to pay a regressive direct charge which is at present marginal to achieving conservation and quality objectives.

Unlike others our position is that you don’t get to pick and choose what lawful payments you make.  What is lawfully owed should be paid.  As democrats it is up to us to use legitimate democratic means to change policies.  This is exactly what I said repeatedly when questioned on this topic during the election.

On the issue of a constitutional referendum on public ownership, we are fully supportive of a stand against privatisation. There is, however a need for all those advocating this to explain how it would work.  How would it be proposed to give constitutional status to a service which is not universal?  What about water services not provided directly by state agencies?  We’ve had enough of water policy being made up on the hoof by the outgoing government that we don’t need to spend years on something which is all about soundbites over substance.  Clearly, detailed work would be required in exploring such an option in the meantime. Moving Irish Water on a pathway to effectively become a state agency is the most effective and pragmatic way of copper-fastening the public ownership issue.

Nobody here has been given the mandate to dictate policy or to tell others what their mandate represents.  We’ve had too much of that nonsense in recent weeks.

I believe that the legitimate place for the future of water policy to be settled is here in the Dáil.  Let’s first of all do what should have been done five years ago, and have an independent report on key elements of water policy.  Let’s then debate it.  Those who believe that the current model of provision and funding is the only possible one make their case.  Let them seek to persuade others and the Irish people.

We welcome the fact that Fine Gael acknowledges the new reality and may agree a suspension of charges.  They would be free to argue and vote for the recommencement of charges after the suspension – and equally we and others would be free to argue and vote for the non-imposition of charges during this Dáil term.

I would encourage other Deputies to put aside their fake outrage and distorting spin for the rest of this debate.  The policy we are committed to for the Dáil remains a scrapping of the commercial state firm, no charges for at least the duration of this Dáil and a major national investment programme in developing this vital public service.

Delay in rolling out fibre broadband will further harm rural communities – FF Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:25:17 +0000 Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications Michael Moynihan TD says he is appalled following the revelation that some 750,000 homes and businesses will have to wait until 2022 before they get access to high speed broadband under the Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Deputy Moynihan made the comments after the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources confirmed that the procurement contract for the plan will not be awarded until 2017.

Deputy Moynihan, “This is an enormous hammer blow for rural communities considering the network build will take 3-5 years to complete once a contract has been awarded. For all their promises and policy pledges, the digital divide has grown under the outgoing Government. Ireland has one of the most pronounced two-tier coverage systems in Europe. High speed broadband is readily available in urban areas, however this is in stark contrast to rural areas which only have access to basic broadband packages.

“The goalposts for broadband delivery continues to be shifted. The 2011 programme for Government promised to deliver fibre to 90% of homes and businesses by 2015. The Government subsequently committed to providing 100% delivery of high speed broadband by 2020 through the NBP.

“Figures recently supplied to Fianna Fáil in a parliamentary reply show that close to half of all premises in 15 counties may have to wait until 2022 to receive high-speed broadband under the Government’s NBP.

“The delay in rolling out high speed broadband to rural communities will continue to hurt investment and job creation opportunities. The National Competitiveness Council has pointed out that the creation of jobs outside of Dublin remains sluggish due to the slow roll out of broadband. This is something that the next Government will have to tackle. Fianna Fáil remains committed to the roll out of high speed fibre broadband to every home and business in Ireland.”

Dáil Statement on Mental Health Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:15:57 +0000 I am delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute to today’s debate on health. It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to contribute to a debate on health issues on behalf of my constituents of Kildare North with a view to highlighting areas in the health service where there are significant opportunities for improvement. Before getting to the main points of my contribution, I wish to set in context the points I will make. The health of the nation and the state of the health services available to the citizens always should be on the agenda of public representatives and of this House. No matter how much money is spent on the health services and no matter how good are the health professionals, there will always be a requirement for more resources for the health services. As the population ages, new medical procedures become available and new medicines are developed, the health service will always be in the spotlight and it is Members’ duty to ensure it remains there.

Throughout my relatively short career in public life, I have witnessed year in and year out the adversarial approach adopted by politicians on health policy with the Government claiming it is always right and the Opposition claiming the Government policies are not adequate to address the health issues facing the country. Opposition parties must provide an effective challenge to Government policy when it is needed and the Government must defend its policies when it passionately believes they are the right ones. However, the people on waiting lists for vital health procedures will not forgive the politicians if they do not develop a new approach to the formation of health polices, namely, to have open discussions in this House on health policies in which each Deputy’s input is sought and all political parties are allowed to have their say. Often the best policies are achieved by collaboration with others and all Deputies should be given the opportunity to have their input. I also believe the great work of thousands of employees in the health service must be recognised. Each day, thousands of health professionals provide invaluable care to many patients who use the health service. In the heated debates that often take place inside and outside this House on health policy and resources for the health service, their work, dedication and professionalism often get ignored. Many people who gain access to the health service are full of praise for the workers there and it is important to recognise their vital contribution and I am delighted to acknowledge their work today.

It is only fair to acknowledge the significant improvements that have taken place in cardiac treatment and the cancer care services over the past 15 to 20 years. As Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Micheál Martin brought forward health policies that had a long-term benefit for the community as a whole, as demonstrated by the cardiac national treatment services and the cancer care services. In common with all Members in this House, health is a constant issue at my weekly clinics. Access to vital health procedures is a challenge, waiting lists are increasing and securing home care for the elderly is a constant struggle for many older people. Moreover, vital services for children are starved of resources and for those who need them most, medical cards seem to be getting harder to secure. In the past week, I have come across two particular cases I believe merit mention in this debate. One pertains to a child who is on an 18-month waiting list for a vital operation to enable the child to walk. In a developed country like Ireland, children needing such treatment to enable them to walk should not be obliged to wait so long. The second case worth mentioning, albeit only because it is becoming more regular at my clinics, relates to securing home help hours or carers for the elderly. It is becoming more challenging for older people to secure home help hours and when they do receive approval for such hours, they are finding it difficult to secure the appointment of personnel to carry out the home help.

A review of information regarding Naas General Hospital in my constituency, which I am sure is typical of what is happening elsewhere in the country, highlights the need for a different approach. For instance, in March 2015, some 668 people had been waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment in Naas hospital, which was an increase of 424 people or of 173% over the previous year. Moreover, there are 5,320 people on the outpatient waiting list in Naas hospital and there were 426 people on trolleys there during March 2016, which is an increase of 37 people or of 9.5% since March 2015. While listing off these statistics is effortless, there is a medical need, which in many cases is acute, behind each person included in these statistics. In particular, I believe older people must become more of a focus for health policy and given the projected increase in the number of older people in Ireland, it is important to put in place polices and supports to deal with this reality. In 2006, some 468,000 people in Ireland were aged 65 or older in Ireland, but by 2041, the number of people in Ireland aged 65 or older will be 1.4 million. Care for the elderly can be provided for in their own homes with some modest supports from the Government or its agencies. Older people prefer to live in their own homes and this can be assisted by providing home care packages or home care hours and making their physical environment more suitable for their needs. In Kildare, there has been a decrease of 83,346 home help hours between 2010 and 2015, as well as a significant fall from nearly €4 million to €1 million in the housing adaptation grant for older people over a four to five-year period. The lack of resources for care for the elderly, as demonstrated by poor investment in home care hours and housing grants, means older people are being pushed into care in the hospitals or into residential care, that is, pushing older people into already-strained facilities. It would be much better to facilitate independent living and to encourage people to be minded in their own homes. This reduction in the overall cost of care for the elderly would free up facilities that are needed for many other services.

Prescription charges should be phased out – Murphy O’Mahony Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:05:46 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony has said Fianna Fáil is seeking to phase out the prescription charge, as the cost is making it prohibitive for people to access medication.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony said: “I am really concerned by reports in the media that up to a quarter of people are not taking the medication they require because the prescription charge is acting as a barrier to them. If people take the medicines they need, they are more likely to be kept out of hospital, thereby saving money for the state.

“Fianna Fáil is committed to making healthcare affordable to everyone. Phasing out prescription charges would help to ease the burden on families and patients with long-term illnesses.  I have met people across west Cork who have seen the €2.50 prescription charge cause them real hardship.  It is having a disproportionate impact on people on fixed incomes such as pensioners.  As further detailed in our “Independent Living Contract for older people” eliminating prescription charges on a phased basis is a key goal for Fianna Fáil.

“I am committed to ensuring that the people of west Cork can access affordable healthcare and not have to worry about getting sick. Our manifesto pledge to abolish prescription charge is one I am still wholeheartedly committed to. Our health service has been mismanaged and left with many problems following the Fine Gael-Labour coalition’s time in power.

“Phasing out prescription charges is one measure that Fianna Fáil intends to introduce to reform our health service. It is a part of our manifesto that I will continue to fight for,” concluded Deputy Murphy O’Mahony.

Rabbitte demands answers over dental delays Tue, 26 Apr 2016 11:50:47 +0000 Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Anne Rabbitte has called on the Health Minister to explain what measures will be taken to alleviate unacceptably long waiting lists for orthodontic treatment for children in the West.

The latest figures reveal that there are more than 3,000 children waiting for orthodontic appointments in the Western region.  Almost 1,000 of those have been on a waiting list for over 2 years, and now it’s emerged that further delays are on the cards as a result of staffing issues at University Hospital Galway.

Deputy Rabbitte explained, “The situation at University Hospital Galway is extremely worrying, and is having a major impact on hundreds of children right across Galway itself, and neighbouring counties.  While there has been a small improvement in the figures in the past few months, the number of children waiting years for basic orthodontic treatment is truly shocking.  These delays are not only impacting children waiting to get braces, but those who have completed their treatment are also having to wait to have their braces removed.  This is bound to have knock-on effects on their outcomes.

“I have recently been made aware of staffing issues within the orthodontic unit, which has resulted in the cancellation of certain procedures and increased delays for appointments.  At least two orthodontic posts are vacant and there appears to be no plan in place to fill them.

“The crisis in our health system is not just confined to Emergency Departments, waiting lists across many specialties are out of control and there is no sign of the Minister taking any form of tangible action on the horizon.

“I am calling on Minister Varadkar to outline his plan to ensure that the orthodontic unit at UHG is properly staffed.  The current situation is not sustainable and children and teenagers across the West are suffering as a result.  This is incredibly unfair and must be addressed as a matter of urgency”.

Collins condemns latest shootings in the Capital Tue, 26 Apr 2016 09:32:19 +0000 Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson Niall Collins has condemned the latest gangland killings in Dublin and has called for renewed efforts to defeat organised crime gangs before the situation escalates even further.

Deputy Collins commented, “Back in February, the Minister for Justice announced €5 million for a task force to tackle organised crime.  Since then we have seen more violent killings as the war between feuding gangs escalates.  This raises serious questions about the resources promised by Minister Fitzgerald.  Has this money been drawn down, and if so, where is it being spent?

“Fianna Fáil has consistently raised concerns about Garda numbers and resources.  The force has been seriously depleted and starved of funding needed to ensure that it can effectively target criminal activity”.

Deputy Collins also repeated the party’s call for a new Serious and Organised Crime Unit to be established with a remit to include co-operation with Interpol and other police agencies.

“This unit would lead the fight against criminal networks operating in the country.  We need to ensure it has the power, finance and political back-up to deliver.

“As I’ve often pointed out, we need a crime policy that’s ahead of the curve. We can’t allow this gangland feud to spiral further.  Efforts to defeat it must be intensified.”