Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mahon highlights disturbing approach of former FF Ministers

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) said that the Mahon Tribunal Report highlights the deeply disturbing culture of Fianna Fáil in Government. Deputy Doherty specifically referred to comments made by senior Fianna Fáil Ministers criticising the Tribunal, while it was investigating the affairs of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

“In his introduction, Judge Mahon specifically refers to how the Tribunal came under ‘sustained and virulent attack’ from a number of senior Government Ministers in 2007/2008 when it was inquiring into matters relating to Bertie Ahern.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Judge Mahon when he says that it was entirely inappropriate for members of the Government to launch partisan attacks against a Tribunal of Inquiry. I find it completely abhorrent that Fianna Fáil Cabinet Ministers would deem it appropriate to try to undermine the conduct of the Tribunal while it was inquiring into their then leader and Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

“We know, for instance, that the current Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, criticised the way the Tribunal investigated what he described as ‘bizarre’ allegations made by Tom Gilmartin. Former Fianna Fáil Minister, Dermot Ahern, labelled the Tribunal’s questioning of Bertie Ahern as ‘astounding’. We also had the incredible statement from current TD and former Minister, Willie O’Dea, saying that he was waiting for the day the tribunal would start questioning what Bertie Ahern did with his First Communion money. Former Minister Dick Roche, meanwhile, saw fit to describe the Tribunal as ‘petty’ and ‘prurient’.

“These comments are even more shocking today than they were at the time. Given the Tribunal’s findings, do all of these current and former Fianna Fáil politicians stand over these statements?

“Judge Mahon draws the conclusion that the objective of these attacks was to erode the Tribunal’s independence and force its collapse. I believe the individuals involved should account for their actions. Some of those who were Cabinet Ministers at the time are members of the current Dáil; they should not remain silent on this issue.

“The Mahon Tribunal Report draws a line under the corrupt environment that polluted all levels of Government over the last couple of decades. All of the major political parties in this State must carefully study its contents. It will take some time to digest all of Judge Mahon’s findings and recommendations.
“I look forward to the report being scrutinised by the DPP and the Garda Commissioner, to establish whether any legal prosecutions can be brought.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

North east hospitals will benefit from Acute Medical Programme

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) said that hospitals in the north east are set to be among the first to benefit from the new Acute Medical Programme, which will overhaul how patients are admitted, and make hospitals operate in a more efficient manner.

“The Minister for Health, James Reilly, is implementing a series of reforms on how our hospitals are run by overhauling clinical programmes. This will deliver greater efficiencies and, crucially, it will lead to better outcomes for patients.

“The Acute Medical Programme (AMP) will radically change the way hospitals deal with patients who come into Emergency Departments. It will improve the experience of sick people by ensuring that they are dealt with through a number of different ‘streams’ into the hospital.

“Four hospitals in the Dublin North East Region will be among the first to benefit from this new programme. The AMP will be rolled out this year in Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda, Beaumont and Cavan General.

“This will change the way the Emergency Departments are run in these hospitals by improving safety and ease of access, especially for very ill patients. The AMP will stream these patients away from crowded Emergency Departments to purpose-designed areas for rapid investigation and treatment, called Acute Medical Units.

“As well as changing the pattern of admissions, the AMP also includes a National Early Warning Score (NEWS) which will help to monitor the patient’s condition, and trigger a medical response if there is a deterioration. This may lead to the patient being moved to a more appropriate care setting.

“The AMP is aiming to save 500,000 bed days used, which means it will free up much needed bed space. This, together with the Special Delivery Unit, will help to make a serious dent in the problem of overcrowding in our hospitals. The AMP will be introduced in at least 18 hospitals in 2012 and in all other hospitals in 2013.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Health Committee to discuss substance misuse strategy with Minister Roisin Shortall

Minister of State with responsibility for primary care, Roisin Shortall, TD, will attend the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children tomorrow, 15th March to discuss the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy.

Committee Chairman, Jerry Buttimer TD said: “In January this Committee launched a major report The misuse of alcohol and other drugs which called for an end to VAT refunds on below-cost sales of alcohol and for the Government to explore the option of a ban on all retail advertising relating to the discounting of alcoholic products. The report also confirmed that a majority of the Committee support moving towards introducing minimum pricing in respect of alcoholic drinks.

This report will complement the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy which was launched last month. Therefore it is timely that Minister Shortall and Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, should attend our meeting tomorrow to discuss the findings of the report and provide members with an overview of some of the evidence presented by the Steering Group on the adverse implications of alcohol on society.

It is the Committee’s belief that there is no single measure which will solve the problem of alcohol misuse. Rather, a package of measures is needed to change our attitudes towards, and behaviour regarding, the consumption of alcohol.

We would hope that the implementation of findings and recommendations from both reports will help to bring about a change in attitudes towards the misuse of alcohol by illustrating the huge personal and economic costs caused by hazardous drinking.”

The meeting takes place, Thursday, 15th March, 11.30am in Committee Room 2, LH 2000. Committee proceedings can be followed live at: http://bit.ly/24YmPIw

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meath groups to benefit from Lotto funding

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) said that community and voluntary groups in Meath are in line to benefit from fresh funding allocated to the HSE by the National Lottery. Organisations involved in health and personal social services can apply for once off funding under the scheme.

“The HSE has announced that the latest round of Lotto funding has been approved, and I’m encouraging local community groups and organisations in Meath to make their case by applying for funds from the HSE Dublin North East.

“The grants can make a huge difference to local groups providing hugely worthwhile supports and services to communities across Meath. These groups are helping young families, the elderly and the disabled in their everyday lives.

“As well as supporting the groups involved with once off funding, the money can also be used to improve the building, equipment and furnishing of health facilities and clinics.

“This round of Lotto funding will also go towards the Respite Care Grant Scheme; this annual payment made to carers is a valuable means of support for those caring for their loved ones at home. The payment can be used to provide respite care, or for anything else that the carer needs.

“National Lottery Grants have proven to be a valuable source of support to local community groups in recent years. Any groups in Meath who would like to apply for this latest funding to get in touch with the HSE Dublin North East before the closing date on April 20th.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Help make the most of Meath’s best heritage sites

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) encouraged people across Co. Meath to help promote and enhance historic sites in their local area. The Office of Public Works (OPW) wants to get community groups more involved to make sure that we are getting the most of the fantastic array of world class heritage sites across the country.

“I am urging community groups and organisations in Meath to make their views known on how we can develop tourism locally by using our national monuments and sites. The Minister of State at the OPW, Brian Hayes TD, wants to have at least 25 partnerships in place nationally between the OPW and local organisations by this summer.

“This is a new departure for the OPW; up to now there has been no major volunteer effort in how we present our heritage. It also builds on the success of the recent Free Days initiative, which grants free access to heritage sites on the first Wednesday of every month. It has been a huge success in Meath, with a 142% increase in visitor numbers to the Battle of the Boyne site on free days.

“We have a host of great heritage sites in Meath, including the Hill of Tara, the Battle of the Boyne site and Newgrange, and I’m sure there are plenty of great ideas locally on how these sites, and other historical amenities and monuments, can be better promoted.

“Ahead of the busy summer season, it’s vital that we are doing all we can to attract as many people as possible to these sites. Visitors from at home and abroad who come to see heritage also tend to spend some time in the local town or village, and may even choose to stay nearby, providing a much-needed revenue stream for local businesses.

“The reality is that we don’t have any extra money to extend opening hours at heritage sites or increase the guide service on offer. But through this partnership approach being led by Minister Hayes, community groups can help to address shortcomings by coming up with innovative ideas. Local input will also help to instil a sense of confidence and ownership in heritage sites, and could form part of the overall tourism strategy for a local town or village.

“Tourism is a key driver of the local economy in Meath; recent figures show that Ireland’s tourism market recovered significantly last year, and now is the time to build on this progress. I’m urging community and heritage groups in Meath to make their views known, and help us boost our tourism potential even further. You can email the OPW at communities@opw.ie or call 046 9426106 or 046 9426061. A national conference will take place in April and the OPW will provide training and support for the groups selected to be part of the pilot in 2012.”

Friday, March 09, 2012

142% boost for Battle of the Boyne visitor numbers

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has welcomed the news that the ‘Free Day’ for heritage sites on the first Wednesday of every month will continue this year. Deputy Doherty said the initiative, run by the Office of Public Works, is clearly working, as visitor numbers at the Battle of the Boyne site have jumped by 142%.

“I am delighted that Minister of State for the OPW, Brian Hayes, has decided to extend this initiative, which gives visitors free access to heritage sites on the first Wednesday of every month. This is a great way of encouraging locals and visitors to explore the huge array of fantastic historical sites on offer across the country.

“The initiative has been a huge success in Co. Meath, where ‘Free Wednesday’ led to an extra 1,000 people visiting the Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre. In total, visitor numbers jumped by 142% on free admissions days in the second half of last year, compared with the same days a year earlier.

“Tourism is a valuable contributor to the local economy in Meath, and a vital source of jobs. Boosting visitor numbers at attractions like the Battle of the Boyne has a very positive knock on impact for the towns and villages nearby who benefit from increased footfall and traffic as people spend time in the area. People who take a day out to visit a heritage site are likely to stop for a bite to eat, or to do some shopping, all of which is of major benefit to local businesses.

“I hope people from across Meath, as well as people visiting the county, will take the chance to avail of our world class heritage sites over the coming months.”

"Growing up in Ireland" provides essential insight to inform public policy

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Chair of the Internal Fine Gael Committee on Health and Children, has today said that the Growing Up in Ireland study provides an essential and valuable insight into the lives of our children. Deputy Doherty was speaking following the publication of the latest instalment of the study, which examines how our children’s emotional state is impacted by their families.

“This study is proving to be an extremely valuable resource for the Government, when formulating child centred policies. The latest report looks at how children are affected emotionally and socially by their families. The vast majority of nine year olds are developing well, but up to one and five are classified as having significant levels of difficulty. The study also highlights the fact that children from lower income and single parent households are more likely to experience difficulties. This provides both a challenge for their parents and for the State.

“Our children are our most important asset, and they must be valued and cherished appropriately. This Government has placed children’s issues at the heart of policy making, by establishing a dedicated Ministry for Children. We must ensure that information like that contained in the Growing Up in Ireland report feed into public policy to ensure that our children are being best served.

“The establishment of the new Children and Family Support Agency will be a key step in ensuring that our children are better protected. I am encouraged to receive confirmation from Minister Frances Fitzgerald that significant progress is being made on the new Agency, which will incorporate key children’s services.

“The Agency forms just one part of a significant reform agenda, including placing the Children’s First Guidelines on a statutory basis and the establishment, for the first time, of a dedicated budget for children and family services.

“I commend the Government on the work that has been completed to date and I urge Minister Fitzgerald to ensure that the Growing Up in Ireland plays a key role in the formulation of policy into the future.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Local community needs urgent action on Slane bypass rejection

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) expressed her deep disappointment at the decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for the proposed Slane bypass. Deputy Doherty has raised this issue with the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, asking for urgent action to be taken to address the decision.

“I was devastated to learn of An Bord Pleanála’s decision this morning. The people of Slane feel incredibly let down and immediate action is needed to address their concerns surrounding road safety in the village.

“I have written to Minister Varadkar asking him to instruct the National Roads Authority to consult with Meath County Council on foot of today’s decision. I believe the NRA and the Council have a duty to come back to the people of Slane within three months with positive and realistic options on how road safety in the village can be improved.

“I have also been in contact with local councillors, urging them to enforce a HGV ban in the village, at least until a long-term solution is found. The Council previously decided to hold off on a HGV ban, due to the belief that it could hamper the planning application for the bypass. We now know this was pointless.

“Lives are being lost in Slane, due to the treacherous traffic situation. The 30km speed limit is being ignored. Twenty-two people have died in accidents on the bridge or on its approaches, and I fear more lives could be lost as a result of today’s decision. Immediate action is needed.”

Irresponsible alcohol advertising proves self-regulation isn’t working

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has said that some leading supermarkets are cashing in on the Six Nations by running irresponsible advertising encouraging customers to buy large volumes of cheap alcohol for the rugby tournament.

“I was annoyed, but not surprised, to see full page ads running in weekend newspapers advertising the sale of cheap alcohol to coincide with the Six Nations. Not only did one ad for a major supermarket encourage the public to buy 24 cans of beer for €24, it also urged customers to start drinking in time for the rugby kick-off time at 3pm.

“This sort of irresponsible advertising proves yet again that self-regulation on the sale of alcohol is not working. It’s my view that major supermarkets and other discount stores are failing to take account of the impact of their actions when they peddle cheap alcohol as a means of getting people through their doors.

“This is made all the more clear when a national sporting event, which should be an occasion of pride, is used as an opportunity to push the sale of cheap alcohol. This just further encourages a culture of binge drinking.

“The damage that alcohol inflicts on society cannot be underestimated. According to the Department of Health, the cost to Irish society of alcohol related problems is currently in excess of €3.5 billion a year. It’s estimated that alcohol plays a role in more than 50% of all suicides here. Tackling this problem is one of the biggest challenges facing us today, from a health, societal and economic point of view.

“Introducing sensible and fair regulations on the sale of alcohol will be a major step forward. Minister of State at the Department of Health, Roisin Shorthall, is drafting legislation that will directly address the issue. I am hopeful that it will include a ban on below cost selling, restrictions on advertising multi-pack offers and restrictions on price point advertising. Forcing supermarkets and other stores to have a separate entrance point for their off-licence sales would also be a progressive move.

“Self-regulation on the sale of alcohol is failing us. I look forward to the publication of the new legislation, which should help us get a handle on this problem in a meaningful and constructive way.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Time for FF to say how they would increase women TDs

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) called on Fianna Fáil to clarify how it proposes to increase the number of female politicians in our national parliament. Deputy Doherty’s comments come after a motion to introduce gender quotas was defeated at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis.

“Considering Fianna Fáil doesn’t have a single female TD in the Dáil, I would have thought that the Party would be particularly keen to boost the number of women politicians. But apparently not. I was shocked to learn that a motion calling for gender quotas to be introduced was defeated by Fianna Fáil members at the weekend.

“As one of the few female TDs in the Dáil, I recognise the need to address the gender imbalance in Leinster House. Our national parliament should be representative of society. This is something the Government is acutely aware of, and that’s why we have introduced progressive legislation to directly address this issue.

“The Electoral Amendment Bill will introduce gender quotas, to ensure each party has 30% of women and 30% of men as candidates. Any party that fails to comply will face a cut in State funding. This legislation is a significant step forward in making our national parliament a more representative, modern force for change.

“Increasing the number of female politicians in the Dáil will benefit society as a whole. For too long Leinster House has been a closed environment for a closeted few; Fine Gael wants to encourage men and women from all sectors to enter public life and make a contribution. Indeed, I would argue that if more women had been present, different choices may have been made on issues of national importance in recent years.

“Fianna Fáil failed to address this problem in Government; now it seems they can’t even agree on a credible approach in Opposition.”

Friday, March 02, 2012

Huge hurdles still to cross on gender pay gap

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) said that the European Commission study which shows that Irish women are earning 17% less than men proves there are still huge hurdles to cross when it comes to addressing the gender pay gap.

“It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me to learn that Irish women continue to earn considerably less than men. While there has been progress in recent years, we still have a long way to go when it comes to equality in the workplace.

“As a female TD, while I may earn the same as my male colleagues, I also work in an environment that is grossly unequal. Women are severely underrepresented in the Dáil. The nature of our political system is extremely difficult to juggle with having a family, and female Oireachtas members do not receive maternity leave.

“The Government is attempting to address the inequality within our national parliament through the Electoral Amendment Bill, which will enforce gender quotas for candidates in the next general election. While this will go some way to address an aspect of the inequality associated with public life, today’s European Commission survey clearly shows that significant progress is needed to address the inequality that persists within the private sector.

“I believe we need to look as a society at how we support women in the workplace. Appropriate maternity cover and childcare supports are essential. But I think a greater cultural shift is also needed; as women must challenge casual sexism, rather than choosing to ignore it. We must also ensure we are properly valued in the workplace; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that in many cases women are paid less, simply because they do not ask for more.

“Despite the fact that girls perform better in school and at college than their male counterparts, a gaping pay difference persists in the workplace. However, it is somewhat encouraging to see that the gap is smaller for younger women, which indicates that we are moving in the right direction.

“Discrimination must not be tolerated. Greater income transparency within companies could help to address pay gaps. But in reality, legislation and workplace standards can only achieve so much. We must demand equality in attitudes and behaviour from each other if we are truly to become a progressive and just society.”

Shave or Dye - March 10th

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Make your views known on septic tank standards

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, is encouraging Co. Meath householders and interested members of the public to make their views known on the draft standards for septic tanks, which have been published today (Thursday) by the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan. Public submissions will be accepted for the next four weeks before the standards are finalised.

“The Government wants to listen to the views and concerns of the public, when drawing up a finalised list of standards for septic tanks. The standards will be used as the basis of a new inspection regime, which will ensure our groundwater supplies are protected.

“The Opposition has been engaging in a huge amount of rabble rousing and scaremongering in recent months in relation to the new septic tank inspection regime. Rather than unnecessarily scaring people, it’s much more constructive to look at the fact; there will be no inspection fee, registration charges are being kept at an absolute minimum of just €5 for those who register in the first three months, and the Minister has said he will consider providing financial support to those who need major work carried out on their system.

“The draft standards set out the responsibilities of septic tanks owners. For example, you need to know where your tank is located and you should visually examine it once a year. You also need to ensure only domestic waste water is treated in your tank and that it only discharges from appropriate points.

“We need these standards, not only to comply with our European obligations and avoid huge fines, but more importantly to safeguard our groundwater supplies. Ensuring high water quality will also help to attract inward investment from sectors such as pharmaceuticals and ICT.

“This Government is taking a practical and pragmatic approach to this issue; unlike Fianna Fáil who consistently ignored it for political reasons and increased our risk of being imposed with large fines.

“So if you are interested in this issue, now is the time to make your views known. Submissions can be made by post or online over the next four weeks. The Minister will consider these submissions, before a final set of standards are drawn up. The Environmental Protection Agency is developing a National Inspection Plan for local authorities, with inspections expected to begin next year.”

Local Heroes Making an Impact

RTÉ’s Local Heroes campaign, now active in Drogheda, Limerick, Clonmel, Wicklow, Clifden, Kells, Templemore and Burtonport is having a strong local and national impact and is getting the message across that just one simple action, on all our parts, can help kick-start recovery. Over 90% of those questioned in a recent survey, commissioned by RTÉ, said they regard Local Heroes as ‘enterprising’ and ‘relevant’.

Sean Nolan, Associate Director, of Amárach Research, which carried out part of the research on Local Heroes, commented that the campaign is "hitting the nail on the head in terms of matching the public's mood."

More importantly, that goodwill is having a positive impact on behaviour. In an online survey conducted by RTÉ Audience Research, seven people in ten, who had come in contact with the campaign, said they intend to shop locally more often as a result. Local Heroes provides communities with the inspiration and start-up material needed to support local jobs. For more information about how to get your community involved log on to www.rte.ie/localheroes