Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ireland's Jump in World Competitive Rankings

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, today welcomed the results of the annual world competitiveness rankings produced by Swiss business school IMD.

“This survey reveals that Ireland continues to improve its competition rankings, jumping from 53rd in 2008, to 20th in 2012, a remarkable achievement.

“Ireland was ranked first in the world in the category of availability of skilled labour. We are also ranked first for flexibility and adaptability of workforce. In addition, the country is top for "investment incentives" something which one imagines will be scrutinised very closely by some of our EU peers.

“The survey’s encouraging results show that Ireland is moving towards meeting the Taoiseach’s target that by 2016 Ireland will be the best small country in the world in which to do business, and the Government has started to implement our plan to deliver on this.

“With the Action Plan for Jobs, the Government are implementing a raft of changes to reduce costs to business, improve access to finance and encourage greater innovation and in the coming months Minister Bruton will be developing a list of areas in which Ireland’s performance is lagging internationally and a plan to address this.

“Today’s results show that there has been a noticeable improvement since 2011, and the Government will to deliver real reform across the economy, improving our competitiveness and ensuring that we can get jobs and growth back into the economy again”.

Move Clears The Way To New Health Directorate

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty,welcomed yesterday’s Government announcement that it had approved the Heads of a Bill which will see the formal abolition of the Board of the Health Service Executive and the establishment of a new Directorate structure for the organisation.

“Yesterdays approval by the Government to bring about major changes to the governance of the HSE is a key step along the road to the establishment of a health service that has as its highest value the best outcomes for patients."

“The intention is to put in place a system of Universal Health Insurance ending the current “two-tier” system and ensuring access for patients on the basis of need rather than means. "

“The new Directorate Structure of the HSE will provide a new administrative architecture designed to guide the organisation towards the roll out of Universal Health Insurance.

"This Government reform reflects the need for greater operational management focus on the delivery of key services and greater transparency about funding, service delivery and accountability."

‘Town Hall’ meetings for The Gathering 2013

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty today welcomed  Minister Michael Ring’s announcement of  series of Town Hall-style community meetings which  will be held around Ireland.
“I would like to encourage people to get involved in The Gathering Ireland 2013, the year-long festival of festivals taking place next year, 2013.
 
“The Gathering 2013 is a people’s project and local Gathering organisations are being set up in every county, comprising sporting bodies, cultural and musical organisations, local authorities, and local development companies. A series of Town Hall-style community meetings will also be held around Ireland over the summer and in the year ahead.
 
“The Gathering Ireland 2013,  is  Ireland’s biggest ever tourism initiative and will involve local  representatives to engaging  within their own  communities and with citizens to design, create and implement a range of innovative ideas to make The Gathering 2013 a success in their own areas. No event is too small.
Sporting organisations, clubs, teams, representative groups and communities can all  get involved and to make The Gathering Ireland 2013 a resounding success.”
 
“The Gathering 2013 is a people’s project. In order to spread the message and get everyone involved, we are calling on local networks, like this local organisation, to come on board. It’s extremely important that this initiative is not confined to big cities, but will be a truly countrywide event which shows off Ireland at its best. Everyone can help by doing something as simple as sending an e-mail or postcard to a relative or friend abroad inviting them to Ireland in 2013.”

Welcome to Ireland’s Tattersalls Horse trials this weekend

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, today welcomed this week’s Tattersalls International Horse Trials

“Following on from the success of the event in 2011, I would  like to congratulate Tattersalls on their second  Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair  which will take place from May 31st to June 3rd 2012.

“With this event, Meath will welcome even more international riders & visitors to Ireland in what is an Olympic year. The horse trials are established  not only as a world class equestrian competition but as an entertaining family day out with an abundance of activities for all members of the family.

This is a great opportunity to see Irish riders such as Camilla Spiers, Mark Kyle and Jayne Doherty as they compete amongst the best in the world.”

“Entries once again demonstrate the standing of the event internationally. It is great to see so many top international riders coming over to compete”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Welcome Incentives for Keeping and Creating Jobs

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has urged business to take advantage of an number of recent  improvements and  incentives designed to help businesses retain staff and take on new employees over the past year.

“Times are very challenging at the moment, and the Government has put in place a range of initiatives to set the scene for future growth.
“The Employment and Investment Incentive (EII) and Seed Capital Schemes replace the previous Business Expansion Scheme and Seed Capital Scheme and provide tax relief for investments in small and medium-sized enterprises. The new schemes provide relief for investments in companies operating in most sectors of the economy.”
Tax relief is also available for start-up companies and in addition to this, the Revenue Job Assist scheme is available to all employers who employ qualifying individuals who have been unemployed for at least 12 months. This scheme provides a double deduction from Income Tax and PRSI for employers. A deduction from Income Tax is also available for the employee. This scheme was extended in Finance Act 2012 such that individuals who are signing for PRSI credits can also qualify.
All companies in receipt of the R&D tax credit now have the option to use a portion of the credit to reward key employees who have been directly involved in the development of R&D. This option was introduced in order to help companies to retain key employees. It is envisaged that there would be no additional cost to the Exchequer as the bonus comes from the R&D credit already received by the company and the employee still pays the full tax liability on their other income. This change will be monitored closely and if abused will be removed.
The Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 provided for a second reduced VAT rate of 9% on a temporary basis in respect of certain tourism-related services and goods for the period 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2013. This measure is aimed at contributing towards boosting tourism and the creation of additional jobs in that sector. Initial analysis of the effectiveness of the 9% VAT rate indicates that employment numbers in the tourism and restaurant sector have increased, prices have reduced and Tourism Ireland is targeting growth in overseas visitor numbers in 2012.
In addition, the Department of Social Protection provides for the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme. Under this scheme, if an employer takes on an additional member of staff in 2012 that has been unemployed for 6 months or more, an exemption from employers’ PRSI for 18 months is available. Primary responsibility for this incentive rests with the Minister for Social Protection.

Monday, May 28, 2012

An Taoiseach: European Stability Treaty Address

Next Thursday, in the referendum on the European Stability Treaty, you will be asked to make a decision that will have enormous implications for our country’s future.

In short, this Treaty strengthens the economic and budgetary rules that apply to countries like Ireland that share the euro currency.

It will create stability in the Eurozone. This is essential for growth and job creation.
A strong Yes vote will create the certainty and stability that our country needs to continue on the road to economic recovery.

This Treaty will not solve all of our problems, but it is one part of the solution.
One of the many foundation blocks we need to put in place to ensure that our economy stands on firm ground in the future.

A Yes vote will send out a powerful message internationally about the kind of country Ireland is.
The government I lead was given a strong mandate by the Irish people last year.
Since then, we have worked hard to stabilise Ireland’s economy and to get the country pointed in the right direction.

We have made a start, but there is a long way to go.

I acknowledge that some of the measures we have had to take have been painful for many people.
But it is clear that the sacrifices that everyone is making are starting to make a difference.
Our public finances are coming under control.

Unemployment, though still far too high, is stabilising.
Growth, although modest, has returned to the Irish economy.
We are continuing to improve the terms and cost of our Troika programme.
And, Ireland’s international reputation has been restored.
We have proven that we are a country working hard to solve the economic crisis.
This has led to increased international confidence in Ireland as a place in which to invest, and in which to do business.

So here are three VERY positive reasons to Vote Yes on Thursday.
First - a Yes vote is the best way of ensuring that the strong flow of investment in jobs continues and grows.
Throughout my recent visits to the United States, China and elsewhere, the consistent message from both political and business leaders is that they want to see certainty about Ireland’s place in the Eurozone.
A Yes vote will provide that certainty and will confirm to investors that Ireland is a reliable place, with stable conditions and a brilliant workforce.

In the last few months, you have seen many multinational companies showing their confidence in Ireland by investing and creating jobs here.

Companies like Paypal in Dundalk, Apple in Cork, Merit Medical in Galway, and Abbott in Sligo, to name but a few. Many others are considering doing likewise.

Their decisions will create thousands of new jobs directly, and will also boost smaller Irish firms who supply them with goods and services.

Second - only a Yes vote will give Ireland guaranteed access to Europe’s permanent rescue fund - the European Stability Mechanism, should Ireland ever need it.

I want this country to have the same access as all other Euro countries to this insurance policy. This is important.

Third - a Yes vote will ensure that good housekeeping rules are put in place so that responsible budgeting becomes the norm throughout Europe.

While the creation of budget rules alone will not be enough to solve Europe’s economic problems, it will ensure that no future government will be able to behave recklessly with the people’s money.

I want people to be fully informed about the contents and implications of this referendum before they vote.
That’s why we have sent a copy of this Treaty to every home in Ireland.

It has been signed by 25 countries and its contents will not be changed.
It is also important that you are aware of what is not covered by this Treaty.
It has nothing to do with corporation tax. There is nothing in it that would allow other countries impose service cuts or charges on Ireland.

We can’t fix all our problems on Thursday but we can take another step to keep our country moving in the right direction.

You have played your part in the progress Ireland has made in the last year.
And I thank you for that.

I ask you to make a further contribution by coming out to Vote Yes on Thursday.

Yes to stability.
Yes to investment.
Yes to recovery,
and Yes to a Working Ireland.

Go raibh maith agat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Training Initiative Set for Expansion – Doherty

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today welcomed confirmation that the successful Springboard initiative to provide part time higher education places for unemployed people in areas of current and future skills needs is to be expanded.

A further 6,000 part-time Springboard places are being launched in the roll-out of Springboard 2012.
“This initiative provides graduates with vital skills and qualifications that sectors of our economy need to grow and expand”.

"Since 2011, Springboard has supported almost 5,000 unemployed people to undertake part-time higher education programmes in areas of identified skills needs such as ICT, Medical Devices, Entrepreneurship and the Green Economy. About 3,500 of those students will graduate next month, with the remainder continuing their studies".

 The eligibility criteria have been expanded to include people who were previously self-employed and people in receipt of an extended number of social welfare payments such as Disability Allowance and Carer’s Allowance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

New standards to provide guidance to business on adopting cloud computing – Minister Bruton

New Cloud Computing Standard Launched by NSAI and IIA

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, today launched new Government-backed standards to help provide guidance to businesses small and large on moving to cloud computing.
The announcement marks the delivery of a Q2 measure under Action Plan for Jobs 2012.

Cloud services are reshaping the future of computing, but one of the primary concerns with the emerging Cloud paradigm is the lack of standards to guide its adoption and implementation. The National Standards Authority of Ireland (an agency of Minister Bruton’s Department) in partnership with the Irish Internet Association (IIA), this morning launched the new standards, entitled, “SWiFT 10: Adopting the Cloud – decision support for Cloud computing”. The standard is designed to provide guidance to organisations both large and small on the various issues that need to be considered when moving to the cloud.

Launching the new standards, Minister Bruton said: “A central part of the Government’s plan for jobs and growth is targeting key sectors where Ireland has competitive advantages and the potential to foster growth. One such sector is cloud computing, and various studies have reported that Ireland has potential to create high levels of growth and jobs in this sector if we move early. That is why the Action Plan for Jobs sets out a number of measures that the Government will deliver in 2012 to help deliver on this potential.

“Today’s launch of new Government-backed standards to help guide businesses of all sizes that are looking to move to the Cloud marks the delivery of one of these measures. This is an important move by Government to help increase the numbers of Irish businesses, small and large, who successfully adopt the Cloud. I am determined that over the coming months we will continue delivering these measures on time so that we can achieve the growth in the economy and in employment that we need”.

Developed by IIA Cloud Computing Working Group and adopted by the NSAI as SWiFT 10, this collaboration has delivered a comprehensive roadmap for businesses to encompass all Cloud delivery and deployment models. It is intended for use as a means of assessing Cloud adoption prioritisation and suitability.  The IIA Cloud Computing Working Group is a collaboration of expert practitioners and business leaders (Chief Information Officers, Chief Technical Officers, Heads of IT, Legal, and Consultancy) from a variety of business sectors and organisation sizes in Ireland.

Maurice Buckley, Chief Executive, NSAI, said, “Many people are already using Cloud computing in everyday life without even realising it. Services such as e-mail, social networking and photo sharing are all forms of Cloud computing. SMEs in particular will be receptive to this standard, as every effort has been made to make it as user friendly and straightforward as possible. Many businesses are already making the transition, moving elements of their business to the more mature and better known aspects of the Cloud, such as email or file storage. We hope that SWiFT 10 will enable and encourage more Irish businesses to move to the Cloud in the coming years, which we believe will give Ireland an early adopter and market advantage in this space.”

The Decision Support Matrix contained within SWiFT 10 has been divided into a number of categories, which address the challenges and business benefits to be considered in developing and implementing a Cloud migration strategy.  Using the guide will support organisations in thoroughly assessing the practical suitability of Cloud computing across the gamut of business operations.  It includes a thorough review of all legal, security, maturity and cost/benefit considerations.  

Joan Mulvihill, CEO, Irish Internet Association, said "We are so proud and pleased to have the NSAI endorse the great work of the IIA Cloud Computing Working Group. Cloud discussion tends to be quite vendor led and product focussed.  SWiFT 10 has been specifically designed with the customer in mind.  All of the research has shown that while SMEs are convinced of the merits of the Cloud, they are hesitant to take those first steps. SWiFT 10 will guide business owners and managers through the process and assist them in making the appropriate decisions and setting the right course for their Cloud adoption strategy."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Meath Men take GAA Initiative

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty today leant her support to the Meath GAA Social Initiative .
The Initiative, established by the GAA in 2009 in conjunction with Áras an Uachtaráin, provides a social outlet for older male members of society and particularly those in rural areas. It is a community-based project aimed at older men who would benefit from an enhanced engagement within the local community.

“I would like to congratulate the GAA for taking up the mantle. This scheme has the potential to transform the lives of the individuals involved and contribute significantly to community life. These men have no doubt contributed handsomely in various ways to their respective communities in the past and the project provides an ideal opportunity for the community to express their deep gratitude to them while also offering the men the opportunity to continue to utilise their great experience and wisdom for the benefit of society."
“There are great benefits for clubs getting involved in this initiative out from the visible benefits of improving the quality of life of particular people in your area the club will also be in a stronger position to make applications for grants from various agencies outside the GAA.”
Participation in the project will involve the clubs organising social activities in their respective areas - some of which will be GAA orientated. However, it is important to note that the Initiative is not exclusive to GAA members and the hope would be to have all men within a Club's parish to be made feel welcome.
Paddy Kelly has been appointed as a provincial co-ordinator to help and encourage clubs in Meath to join this initiative. Those who are interested can contact him at: 086 8282458

'Everyone can do something'

Adult volunteers from Ratoath Foroige Club recently visited Leinster House, where they were showen around by Regina Doherty TD.

Deputy Doherty has leant her support to the club's drive for adult volunteers. Entering their ninth year, the club offers young people the opportunity to run the club for themselves with the support and guidance of trained adult volunteers.

"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something by volunteering. This is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our young people and for volunteers. Foroige offers the opportunity make new friends, discover new talents and learn new skills for your own development of career," said deputy Doherty.

Ratoath Foroige are currently seeking adult volunteers to help in the running of the club, every Tuesday, 7.00-8.30pm. Induction and continued training will be provided.

For further details contact Foroige regional youth officer Joeanne O'Brien (086) 6579606

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Yes vote will help keep Meath on the road to recovery

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) said that a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum will help keep Meath on the road to recovery, by bringing about the certainty needed for jobs growth.

“As someone who has worked in the private sector for most of my career, I understand the need for certainty. International job creating investors thinking about coming here also crave certainty. They want to know that Ireland is moving forward on the road to recovery. We can give this to them by voting Yes in the Stability Treaty Referendum

“We’ve seen the benefit of Foreign Direct Investment in recent months in the North East, with the announcement from PayPal that it is creating 1,000 jobs in Dundalk, and a series of high profile announcements in Dublin from companies like Cisco, Amgen, Mylan, Mastercard and Sky. If we want to continue to attract this kind of inward investment, we need to send out a message of stability and certainty by voting Yes on May 31st.

“There are a number of positive reasons to vote in favour of the Stability Treaty. Firstly, it will give Irish and global companies the confidence they need to invest here and create jobs. The Treaty will also ensure governments stick to sensible budget rules, to avoid the reckless mistakes of the past from being made again. “And crucially, voting Yes to the Stability Treaty ensures we will have access to the ESM, Europe’s new bailout fund, should we ever need it.

Despite what Sinn Féin and others may claim, this is set out in black and white in the Treaty document; if we reject the Treaty, we will be cut off from these funds. “We need to borrow about €19 billion to run the country in 2014, after our current funding runs out.

Those opposing the Treaty cannot explain where we would get this money from if we block ourselves off from the ESM. “It’s also important to make clear what the Treaty does not do. It has absolutely no impact on our corporation tax rate; in fact the word tax does not feature at all in the Treaty document.

It does not threaten our sovereignty; decisions about Ireland and our finances will continue to be made by our government. “The Stability Treaty won’t solve all of our problems overnight. We still have a lot of work to do, and the Treaty will help us get there.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Levy on construction industry would be fairest resolution of pyrite problem

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has called for the introduction of a mandatory multi-annual levy on the construction industry to cover the cost of repairing pyrite affected homes. Pyrite is a building material which has caused significant damage to homes.

Pyrite has been used in the construction of an estimated 20,000 houses in north Dublin, Meath and Kildare and has left homeowners facing massive bills for problems such as cracked walls and floors.
“With the pyrite panel due to report imminently, affected homeowners are extremely keen to know who will pay for the repair of these homes.

“I don’t believe it is fair that the individual homeowners should have to pay for the significant bills to fix their homes, given that they bought their houses in good faith. Nor do I believe that the taxpayer should pay for it. I think the fairest solution is that a mandatory multi-annual levy be imposed on the construction industry in order to recoup the costs that will be incurred in repairing these homes.

“The repair of these people’s homes is a major priority and I hope the report of the pyrite panel will kickstart this process. I believe the construction industry should welcome this process in that it will provide much needed employment to the sector. It will also give the value back to this large swathe of our housing stock which is currently highly compromised.

“I have been contacted by numerous homeowners who are experiencing serious defects within their homes and am acutely aware of the impact that this issue has had on people. These people, many of whom bought their houses during the peak of the property boom, have had to endure the nightmare scenario of their homes being destroyed in front of their eyes.

“I believe that it would be fundamentally wrong for the homeowners to have to pay for the repairs and it would be wrong to foist the charge on Irish taxpayers who have already had to fund payments to bondholders of our banking institutions.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sinn Féin continues to talk absolute rubbish about future funding if we vote No

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) accused Sinn Féin of continuing to talk absolute rubbish about where we could get funding to run the country in the future if we vote No to the Stability Treaty. Deputy Doherty was responding to claims from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald that Ireland would be able to access the ESM, even if we reject the Treaty.

“I was left flabbergasted this morning when I heard Mary Lou say that if we vote No Ireland would still be given funding from the ESM, Europe’s new bailout fund, should we ever need it. I am beginning to wonder if Sinn Féin actually believes the myths they are pedalling.

“Let’s look at the facts here; voting Yes is the only way to ensure access to the ESM, which will act as an important insurance policy for Ireland. The certainty and stability brought about by having access to the ESM will not only be good for jobs growth, it will ease our entry back into the money markets.

“It is clearly stated, in black and white in the Treaty document, that only countries that ratify the Stability Treaty will have access to the ESM. Those countries that choose not to ratify the Treaty – which Sinn Féin is advocating – will not have access to this important source of funding. It’s that simple.

“Sinn Féin wants this country to take a leap into the unknown. They want us to take a massive risk, a gamble, and hope it works out for the best.

“Instead of uncertainty and risk, I believe we should vote for certainty and stability. A Yes vote will be good for investor confidence, which is so essential for jobs growth. It will ensure governments across Europe sign up to sensible budget rules, to prevent the mistakes of the past from being repeated. And it will provide access to the ESM.

“It’s about time Sinn Féin started talking honestly in the best interests of this country, instead of engaging in reckless and irresponsible rhetoric.”

Flower power brings healing garden in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan

Fine Gael Meath East Deputy, Regina Doherty today (Wednesday) congratulated Our Lady’s Hospital Navan, on the completion of its new rehabilitation garden for patients recovering from orthopaedic surgery.

“I’d like to express my admiration to the patients, their families and friends and   whose sponsored   walk and generous contributions,  have turned  the garden plans into a wonderful reality.”

The garden with its differing surfaces, slopes, steps and seating is used by the staff orthopaedic staff as an outdoor treatment area, but also provides patients with an enhanced hospital stay and a place to enjoy with their visitors

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Speech by John Bruton, former Taoiseach and current Vice President of Fine Gael, at the launch of the Meath Fine Gael campaign for a Yes vote to the Stability Treaty, Ardboyne Hotel, Navan

The net question in the Referendum is whether Irish permanent law should be amended to constrain governments running up debts in future. In a way, this should not be a controversial issue.

If governments run up debts, these debts have to be serviced or repaid by citizens.  Prudent citizens should, I believe, be in favour of using the law to prevent governments piling up unnecessary or wasteful liabilities for future generations. It is very difficult for an individual voter to follow what a government is doing with its finances on a day to day basis. So having limits and independent controls should be seen as helping people ensure that their money is managed prudently by their government.

Opposition parties, in particular, should favour placing limits on borrowing by current governments because, if they ever find themselves in office, they will be the ones  who will have to put money aside to pay interest on the previous government’s debts, before they can spend any money at all on day to day services or investment for the future.

If the Stability Treaty is ratified by people on 31st May, the Dáil and the people will be much better informed about what the government is doing with the people’s money.

An independent Fiscal Advisory Council will keep the Dáil, and the people, informed about trends in government finances. If mistakes are being made in estimating future revenue or spending, the Dáil and the people will have a new means of keeping government finances honest, so to speak.

This searching analysis of government finances by the Fiscal Advisory Council, and also that by the European Commission, will greatly enhance Dáil Eireann’s ability to carry out its duties under Article 17 of the Irish Constitution. This Article requires the Dáil to approve government spending and taxation. If the Stability Treaty is approved, the Dail will have much better quality information for making these important decisions. Governments will not be able to produce phoney estimates, something of which I had direct experience myself as incoming Minister for Finance in 1981.

And, under Article 13 of the Stability Treaty, government and opposition parties the Dáil will have a new means of observing and influencing the economic policies of other EU countries. There will be a new conference of parliamentarians drawn from economic affairs committees from all Member States of the euro. As an export economy, we need to have an input into the policies of our neighbours, and this provision in the Stability Treaty will help give us that.

Some people are describing the Treaty as an ‘austerity treaty’, because it places limits on government borrowing.

But borrowing is not a cure for austerity.

Borrowing is often just a means of postponing austerity.
It is a means of getting the next generation to pay this generation’s bills, without consulting them. And if the interest rate is high, the austerity in the future will be much greater than anything that would happen if problems were faced up to now.

The idea of placing limits on government borrowing and debt is not new. Back in 1992, the Irish people in a referendum approved our joining the Euro currency, and agreed to rules to defend the value of that currency by limiting government debts to 60% of GDP, and government deficits to 3% of GDP.

Put another way, we agreed that our overall government debt would not be more than just below two thirds of everything everyone earned in Ireland in a year, and that the government would not borrow additionally, in any one year, more than three cents for every euro earned by the country as a whole in a year.

These rules were put in the form of an EU Treaty, known as the Maastricht Treaty, approved by the Irish electorate on 18th June 1992.

Some might ask why we needed a rule like that, about government borrowing, in a Treaty primarily about setting up a new common currency?

The answer is that if you want to prevent a shared currency becoming worthless through inflation, you have got to control the amount of money in circulation. One of the ways that money is put into circulation is by governments borrowing money, and spending it.

Unfortunately we have not been able to keep our word to ourselves.  All over Europe, governments have got themselves into trouble because they have breached the 60% and 3% limits.

Of course, this was not the only problem, nor the only cause of the economic crisis.

Private businesses and individuals also borrowed and spent excessively. There was too much credit given out, and things were bought with that credit for more than they were worth.  The European Central Bank, and the Central Banks of most European states, did not put a stop to this. The same thing happened outside the euro area, in Britain and the United States, so it was not a problem of the euro as such.

To use an analogy, it was a problem of people, and businesses, acting like sheep, following one another, rather than thinking about where they were going.  Meanwhile the fences had been allowed to get into disrepair, parts of the field had no fences at all, and the shepherd had gone to sleep.

Now we have to put these things right.

The Stability Treaty is only a small part of the solution.

Ireland, and the rest of Europe, needs to reform its banking system.  A functioning economy needs banks. But banks never again must be allowed grow to be too big to fail.

Genuine economic growth needs to be promoted based on developing new products and services that the rest of the world will want to buy.

The consequences of our ageing societies must be addressed honestly.

Confidence must be restored, so that people will feel free to spend what they have. But confidence is only sustainable if it is based on truth; the truth about what we owe, and the truth about what we are spending. The Stability Treaty will help us tell ourselves the truth about our own economy, more fully than we did in the past, and in that way it will help restore confidence.

A Yes vote to the Stability Treaty will not bring complete certainty. Uncertainties will remain in the European and global economies. 

The EU is a political organisation. It is democratic. All EU governments have public opinions to consider, not just the Irish Government. The road to a stable, sustainable, and productive economy in Europe will be a long one, probably with some  detours. But the EU has made a start:
·         on banking;
·         on regulation;
·         on monitoring systemic risks and;
·         on monitoring economic as well as fiscal imbalances.

There is more to do:
·         on promoting investment;
·         opening up markets to competition and;
·         freeing people to work in other EU countries by  recognising their  qualifications.

But, having served as an Ambassador in the United States, and observed the United States legislative process at close quarters, I can say that the European Union is much further along the road towards dealing with its - admittedly more severe - long term structural and budgetary problems, than the United States.

The EU system is not deadlocked. It is working, slowly, sometimes incompletely, but it is working. Passing the Stability Treaty is a part of that work.

Friday, May 04, 2012

People considering cosmetic surgery should be fully informed of medical implications

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has highlighted the need for people to be fully informed of medical the reprecussions of any cosmetic surgery procedure.

Deputy Doherty, who is a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, was speaking following today’s appearance of Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, before the Committee to speak about the impact of faulty silicone breast implants made by French company PIP.

“It is clear to me that the current arrangement of self-regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry in Ireland is not good enough. On that note, I strongly welcome the news that the Department of Health is preparing legislation to deal with the regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry. It is sorely needed.

“This point is underscored by the case of the implants manufactured by French company PIP, who deliberately used industrial grade silicone during production. An estimated 1,500 Irish women have had this product inserted in their bodies.

“One company, which carried out the breast augmentation procedure with over 900 of these women, have proven to be far from helpful to the women who underwent the procedure with them. I hope that with the regulation of the industry in Ireland, patients will be spared the hardship that these women have had to go through.

“I urge the Department of Health to ensure that all advertisements for cosmetic surgery services contain advice for people to visit their GP in advance of any procedures to assess their physical suitability for the treatment and the potential medical implications. The State has a duty of care to its citizens and as such should encourage people to ensure that they are aware of what they are undertaking.”

WHY A YES TO THE STABILITY TREATY IS GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE

A YES vote in the Stability Treaty will deliver certainty around recovery, investment and the future funding of our country. It is in the interests of the agri-food sector to VOTE YES and secure Ireland’s future.

EXPORTS
·        Exports are key to the future growth of the agri-food sector. In 2011, agri-food and drink exports increased by 12% to nearly €9bn, exporting to 170 countries worldwide. A stable euro and strong reputation internationally is critical to driving further growth in exports.
·        Passing The Stability Treaty will send a strong message to our trading partners about our ongoing commitment to maintaining Ireland as a stable, secure and innovative place to do business with.

NEW MARKETS
·        EU membership and a strong and a stable euro have provided Ireland with a huge barrier-free internal market for our products and support for exports to world markets. Today we have free access to half-a-billion consumers across Europe providing huge potential to every Irish farmer.
·        Huge opportunities for expansion lie in new markets for Irish produce, like China and Africa, particularly with the opportunity presented by the abolition of dairy quotas post 2015. Maintaining certainty around our currency and capacity for recovery will be really important in accessing trading opportunities for Irish produce in new markets. 

CAP NEGOTIATIONS
·        The CAP has transformed Irish farming and the food industry in this country since 1973.  EU Membership has increased farmers’ incomes and transformed living standards to the benefit of farming, the food industry and the wider rural community.
·        Irish consumers have benefited from higher levels of food safety, better environmental controls, additional employment in food processing and a positive contribution to our balance of payments.
·        We are now reaching a crucial stage in CAP negotiations and Ireland is likely to be hosting the Presidency of the EU during the final stages of negotiation.
·        We have always punched well above our weight in EU agriculture negotiations because of our ability to build alliances and win friends for our cause.  We have also succeeded, where many other Member States have failed, in getting concessions or side deals to cushion the effects of reforms that might have had unfavourable impacts.
·        As a small country with a very significant interest in the outcome of the CAP for one of our most important indigenous sectors, it is vital that we maintain our goodwill and influence as a strong and vocal member state during the negotiating process so we can deliver the best possible outcome for Irish farmers under the new CAP. 

EU FUNDING
·        The agri-food sector and wider economy has benefitted massively from the CAP. Upon accession to the then EEC in 1973, the annual output of the sector £560 million and our main export market was the UK. In 2011, exports reached an all time high of almost €9bn, exporting to 170 countries and an overall annual output of €24bn and 150,000 jobs.
·        From 1973 to 2011, Ireland received around €50 billion from the EU in agricultural funding, including financing for direct payments to farmers, rural development measures (e.g. REPS, Disadvantaged areas, Early Retirement schemes etc.) and market supports. 
·        This Treaty provides Ireland with access to emergency rescue funds if we should need them in the future following our bailout programme, at low interest rates. This will be key to maintaining the progress we have made to date on building our reputation internationally and the interest shown by foreign companies in the agri-food sector to invest in Ireland.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Fine Gael calls for a strong Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum

The Taoiseach today (Tuesday) said that a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum will send a strong signal to companies that Ireland is the right country in which to invest. Speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on the 31st May, the Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny TD, said: ‘The Irish people have worked hard over the past few years to get our country back on track. Through their sacrifices they have shown the international business community that this country is serious about doing things the right way, and that Ireland is a stable country in which to invest’.

“Several multinational companies have demonstrated their confidence in Ireland by announcing new investments that will create real jobs for our people. I want that flow of investment to continue and grow. Only this morning, a number of IT multinationals have come out in favour of a Yes vote. They want to invest in a country where there is stability. We know that the best way of ensuring that, is through a Yes vote which will create the certainty and stability that investors need. We believe that a Yes vote is needed for a working Ireland – an Ireland that functions properly, does things the right way and, most importantly, builds the right environment for job creation.”

Fine Gael’s Director of Elections for the Referendum Campaign, Minister Simon Coveney TD, said this is the most important decision the Irish people will make between now and the next General Election. He said: ‘This Treaty is about investment, stability and recovery for Ireland. It is about making sure that our budgets are managed responsibly in the future and that funding from the European Stability Mechanism will be available to Ireland should we need it’.

“A Yes vote won’t solve everything, but it will help to provide the certainty that we need in terms of future funding and responsible budgeting. We are already working towards balanced budgets, we are already focused on job creation, and we are already attracting inward investment. This Treaty will help us to take another step forward in bringing stability and recovery.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton TD, said: ‘This will be the most comprehensive referendum campaign in Irish history - we are determined that the Irish people will have a full understanding of this Treaty when they vote on 31st May, and we look forward to talking to people around the country before then’

The IMF is no fairy Godmother - Hayes

We have already seen a number of canards thrown into the referendum debate. One of them was by the Sunday Times hinting last Sunday that Ireland may have a ready source of new and easy funding from the IMF if we needed a second bailout. For Ireland’s sake let us hope they don’t get what they wish for.
The IMF is the lender of last resort. It is a rules based organisation. As the IMF will tell you, the interest they charge on borrowed money can be seen on their shop front window. It’s higher than the blended European loans and they tend not to do, go it alone lending for states that cannot borrow elsewhere. If we lock ourselves out of the ESM by voting NO, the IMF are hardly likely to lend to us when we have decided to exclude ourselves from a new Euro lending facility. That’s particularly the case when you come looking for a second bailout.

According to IMF rules each country, including Ireland, has a quota of Special Drawing Rights [SDRs]. Under these rules funding to a country is capped by access limits of 200% of quota in any one year and to total lending of 600% of quota. The IMF does allow for exceptional access criteria when quotas can be exceeded.  

The €22.5 billion pledged by the IMF to Ireland in December 2010 was at that time 23 times Ireland’s lending quota. Ireland’s quota was increased in March 2011. Even so Ireland is still exceeding its IMF quota by 15 times.  The IMF rules were stretched to the limit by Ireland’s original bailout. Because the IMF was part of a wider troika of support the Board of the IMF, after taking extensive legal advice, decided to proceed to support Ireland.  But they did so on the basis that two thirds of the bailout money came from the European Authorities and where they had preferred creditor status over European Loans.
Of course it is technically correct to suggest that we could seek another loan from the IMF.  Any country can apply to the IMF for a loan. Just like anybody can apply to their bank manager for a large loan. If you have already exceeded by a very large margin your loan limits your bank manger is not likely to give you another loan. Ireland has already maxed out its IMF loan.

Are those on the No side seriously suggesting that the IMF are going to turn around and give us another large loan? The idea that the IMF is some kind of fairy godmother is frankly ludicrous. The IMF always insists on being the preferred lender when it makes a loan. It always insists on getting its money back first. That the IMF might lend Ireland additional support after we had cut ourselves off from EU funding is simply not credible. And we know from its history that when the IMF is the sole provider of finance it drives a very hard bargain. In a default situation the IMF might help. But their help would include some very nasty medicine indeed, much worse than anything seen so far.

As regards the approach being taken by Mr Hollande it is worth making the following points. Mr Hollande is still a candidate in electioneering mode. To see Mr Hollande as a white knight against fiscal consolidation is to totally misread the situation.

Mr Hollande and his chief financial adviser have both made it clear since the first round of voting that they intend to abide by the rules of the Fiscal Treaty. Both of them have stated their intention of bringing France’s budget deficit below 3% by 2013 and into balance by 2017. That is faster than even Ireland is planning. As a government we have a budget target of below 3% by 2015. And let us not forget one simple fact. There are 27 members in the European Union. In 2011 Ireland had the worst budget deficit in the whole of the EU. There is an economic and political imperative that we bring our budget into better balance and our debt levels on a downward trajectory.

It was too much debt that brought this country to its knees. Those who oppose this Treaty seem to believe that even more debt is the solution. If that remotely credible? We now know that too much debt is a vicious trap. We need to return to sound finances and sustainable development. The last thing we need is more debt that can be left to our children to pay off.

Of course Ireland supports a renewed emphasis at EU level on investment, growth and jobs. We have been pushing that agenda very strongly. We will have a clear opportunity to shape that debate when Ireland takes over the Presidency of the EU at the beginning of next year. Jobs continue to be at the centre of this government’s economic strategy. The government is prepared to listen closely to reasonable proposals. The government is prepared to engage directly with Trades Unions and other organisations on getting this country back on the road to recovery. But a vote against the Treaty will bring no benefits. It will only bring fear uncertainty and risks.  Voting no will tie the hands of the Irish government at EU level. It will mean Ireland continues to be a problem, not part of a solution.

Fundamentally this Treaty is about keeping the euro safe and strong. It is about restoring confidence. It is about bringing stability to the Eurozone. Peter O’Neill, Managing Director of IBM Ireland, put it very succinctly last Sunday. He wrote “without investment, there will be no growth. Growth is the only way out of the current situation”. I agree with his real world assessment as against believing in the magic of fairy godmothers.

BRIAN HAYES TD is Minister for State at the Dept of Finance

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Vote "Yes" for continued investment

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) urged people across the North East to vote Yes to continued investment in the upcoming referendum on the Stability Treaty. Deputy Doherty was speaking after An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, launched Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote in the Referendum.

“There has been a huge amount of progress made over the last year in attracting job creating international investors into this country. Foreign Direct Investment is hugely important to Ireland; at least 250,000 people are employed in the sector here both directly and indirectly.

“IDA supported companies account for €19 billion in total spend in the Irish economy. These same companies account for about €115 billion in exports; that’s 70% of our total exports, which are so important in driving our economic recovery.

“There have been a number of hugely positive jobs announcements in recent months, including the 1,000 new jobs created by PayPal in Dundalk. If we want to continue this positive stream of inward investment I believe it is essential that we vote Yes to the Stability Treaty.

“A Yes vote will be a key step in our recovery. It will send out a message of certainty to international investors thinking about creating jobs here. Today, we saw several IT multinationals come out in favour of a Yes vote.  They want to invest in a country where there is stability.

“A No vote is a vote for uncertainty, risk and confusion. A Yes vote will create the certainty and stability that investors need. A Yes vote is needed for a working Ireland – an Ireland that manages its finances properly and builds the right environment for job creation.”  

Anomaly in processing optical benefit must be addressed

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty has today (Tuesday) called for the system of processing applications for optical benefit to be re-examined immediately.

 “I have been contacted by many constituents frustrated at the system currently in place. At the moment, optical benefit applications from Meath, are currently taking nearly seven times longer to process than those of  their neighbouring counties. This issue is causing a major headache for both  customers and  businesses”.

"It makes no sense that we have a system whereby applications from one county are processed faster than in another.  In an age of technology, patient convenience and ease of access to  these benefits should be improved.

“I believe that this matter requires urgent attention and I intend to write directly to the Minister."

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Oireachtas Committee gains from inspiring discussion with Senator George Mitchell


Senator George Mitchel with Deputy Regina Doherty

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement today heard Senator George Mitchell discuss his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and reflect on the Good Friday Agreement, 14 years on.

In a wide ranging address, Senator Mitchell touched on his current work in the Middle East. He said that as conflict is created and sustained by human beings, it followed that all conflicts could be ended by human beings.

Supplement​ary Register and Postal Voting

Persons who are eligible to vote but who are not registered as electors still have time to apply for entry on the supplement to the register of electors to be published before polling day and so be able to vote on 31 May 2012. Application forms can be downloaded from http://www.checktheregister.ie/ or can be obtained from City or County Councils. To be eligible for inclusion in the supplement to the register a person must be an Irish citizen, must be 18 years of age by polling day and must be ordinarily resident in the State.
 
An application for inclusion in the supplement to the Register must be signed by the applicant in the presence of a member of the Garda Síochána from the applicant’s local Garda station who must first be satisfied as to the person’s identity before signing, dating and stamping the form.  The Garda may request photographic or other identification.  Where the applicant establishes in writing that he is unable to progress the application in this way, the form can be signed by the applicant in the presence of an official of the registration authority who is satisfied as to his or her identity.  Again, photographic or other identification may be required.  If neither option is viable due to physical illness or physical disability, the application form must be accompanied by a medical certificate.  The final date for receipt of completed application forms by the relevant City or County Council is Monday, 14th May 2012.  
If a person is eligible to vote by post, or is unable to vote in person due to a physical illness or physical disability and is resident in a hospital, nursing home or similar institution, and they are not on the Postal Voters List or Special Voters List, they can apply for inclusion in the supplement to those lists. Application forms are available from City and County Councils who will advise people of the appropriate arrangements for the completion of the relevant form. Completed forms must be received by the relevant City or Council not later than Wednesday 2nd May 2012.