Sunday, March 19, 2017

Upcoming Legislation - Week 11

GSOC Legislation & Criminal Justice (Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment) Bill 2016


The proposal by the Minister for Justice, Francis Fitzgerald, will ensure a strengthening of powers for GSOC in the course of investigating complaints against members of the Gardaí
Last week I joined my Cabinet colleagues in approving a proposal for legislation to be drafted to strengthen the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). The proposal by the Minister for Justice, Francis Fitzgerald, will ensure a strengthening of powers for GSOC in the course of investigating complaints against members of the Gardaí.

The Bill will now be drafted in consultation with a number of key stakeholders with a view to ensuring the mechanisms put in place by the state are adequate and that GSOC is adequately equipped to receive protected disclosures. Last week we also saw the Criminal Justice (Suspended Sentences of Imprisonment) Bill 2016 in the Dáil, which will ensure that the suspended sentences regime, an integral part of our criminal justice system, operates efficiently and effectively.

This Bill will allow for an appeals process for the triggering offence before consideration of the withdrawal of the suspended sentence. This crucial piece of legislation also gives provision for the Garda Síochána, the Governor of a prison or a probation officer to apply to the court for a hearing to revoke a suspended sentence in the instance of a breach of this sentence. 

Particularly in the context of the spate of thefts and burglaries that we have seen in recent months across county Meath, I am hopeful that this change in law will prevent these crimes taking place in our communities, many of which are performed by repeat offenders – a bleak reality which I was informed of when my own home was broken into last summer.

It is vitally important that we continue to ensure that the mechanisms of the state are equipped with the necessary laws to deal with threats to individuals and communities across Meath. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with Minister Fitzgerald and my other Fine Gael and independent Ministers in my role as Government Chief Whip to ensure the delivery of just that.

Minister McGrath visits Prosper Meath

Funding needed for an expansion of services for disabilities in Meath


Regina Doherty meets Minister Finian McGrath to seek funding for expansion of Prosper Meath services for people with disabilities
I extended an invite to Minister of State with special responsibility for disabilities, Finian McGrath, to visit Prosper Meath on Monday 27th February. I was delighted that Minister McGrath took the time to visit Prosper Meath and its service users in Ashbourne to witness first-hand the incredible work that takes place there every day. We made a compelling case to the Disabilities Minister for much needed capital investment.

I have been working closely with Prosper Meath for several years. What is clear is that there is a rapidly growing demand on the services provided by the Prosper team. We have already secured planning for 5,000 ft2 of land in Navan with a view to expanding services throughout the county. What is needed now is the necessary Capital Funding from the Department of Health – and that’s where I am doing everything in my power to bring the necessary capital investment to Meath.

I can say with confidence that my job has been made a lot easier following a stellar presentation by the Prosper team and its services users during the Minister's visit. The support that Prosper Meath provides is truly second-to-none. I have seen first-hand the impact that these services can have on the individual and indeed their family. The team behind Prosper provide gentle and encouraging care to service users hailing from Ashbourne, Meath, Dunshaughlin and Dunboyne.

It certainly did not take long for Minister McGrath to realise the value that this service has on an individual, family and community level. We had a very positive meeting with the Minister in Ashbourne who listened attentively to the needs of Prosper. I will continue to work closely with Minister McGrath and his officials with a view to procuring the necessary capital funding.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Upcoming Legislation - Week 6 2017

We have two pieces of upcoming legislation that I am very excited about. They are the Domestic Violence Bill and the Mediation Bill.

Domestic Violence Bill

  • This Bill represents a very important piece of legislation for our country. It is intolerable in this day and age that people are allowed to suffer mental and physical abuse. We need to take a firm stand against domestic violence, which is why this Bill is very welcome. 

  • This Bill will make it easier for those affected by domestic violence to find the protection they need. Let us not forget that women and children are disproportionately affected by violence in the home. 

  • Measures included in legislation include the provision of a new emergency barring order which can last for up to eight working days. There will also be changes to the current law allowing victims to avoid appearing in court in person and can giving evidence via video link instead. 

  • A further aspect of the Bill will make underage marriage a thing of the past.Fine Gael in Government is committed to the implementation of the Istanbul Convention on tackling Domestic Violence and the commitments contained in the recently published Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

Mediation Bill

  • The aim of the Bill is to promote mediation as an alternative to court proceedings, thereby reducing legal costs, speeding up the resolution of disputes and relieving the stress of court proceedings.

  • The Bill obliges legal advisors (lawyers and barristers) to inform their clients as to the availability of mediation.

  • Mediation can take place on agreement by both parties involved in a dispute.

  • Mediation is a much quicker pathway to resolving disputes thus significantly reducing the cost of legal fees (court proceedings are often lengthy)

  • Mediation is available to all and any parties willing to engage in the process.

  • Agreements on the outcome of mediation, once agreed upon by all parties and the mediator, will be put in writing and are legally binding.

  • The Mediation Bill makes provision for the future establishment of a self-financed Mediation Council which will be responsible for the regulation of mediation and mediators.

If you have any questions about these bills, you can contact me at Regina.Doherty@Oireachtas.ie

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Action Plan for Education 2017

Action Plan for Education 2017

The quality of an Irish education has been one of the secrets to our success in the global economy. That reality has not changed, and education is still central to our ambitions as a nation. The Action Plan for Education is based on a simple goal - to make Ireland's education and training system the best in Europe within a decade. To achieve that, we will focus on a number of key areas.

Wellbeing


  • Every school will be required to have dedicated guidance counselling time available for students
  • A Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme will be implemented
  • 10 additional NEPS psychologists will be appointed
  • A wellbeing steering committee will be established to develop a policy statement and identify gaps in existing services, which we will then rectify


Technology in Education


  • The implementation of computer science as a leaving cert subject is being brought forward 12 months to September 2018
  • A new primary level maths curriculum will see students taught computational thinking and coding
  • A new advisory group led by industry and educational experts will be established to develop new plans for greater use of technology in education 


Disadvantage


  • We will shortly be publishing our plan for future supports to tackle educational disadvantage
  • We will be building on existing DEIS supports, with new schools being phased into DEIS from next September
  • A School Excellence Fund will be developed and a pilot commenced, and commence pilot, initially in DEIS schools


Skills: 


  • 13 new apprenticeships and 2 new traineeships will be developed in 2017
  • Work experience at post primary level will be reviewed
  • Innovative responses will be developed to address skills shortages in ICT languages and biopharma
  • Quarterly meetings will be held between education and enterprise 


Research


  • New initiatives to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland, particularly in the context of Brexit


Costs


  • We will be publishing a strong circular with an emphasis on reducing costs to parents, including school uniform costs


After School Care Provision


  • Guidelines will be published for the use of school buildings out of hours, following engagement with property owners and school authorities (e.g. to provide afterschool care provision for school age children to offer more options and flexibility to parents)


Languages


  • A new foreign languages strategy will be published to outline new languages options, with ambitious targets
  • Consideration will be given to greater use of “CLIL”, or teaching of mainstream subjects through second and third languages, as means of teaching Irish and other languages in a more effective way at primary and secondary


Gaeltacht


  • The Gaeltacht Education Strategy will be implemented, and arrangements for a Gaeltacht school recognition process will be published


Infrastructure


  • 46 large-scale building projects will be completed
  • 6,000 additional permanent post primary places will be provided in 2017


Special Educational Needs


  • The new model for allocation of teachers in mainstream schools to support children with SEN will be introduced
  • A new Inclusion Support Service will be established
  • A comprehensive assessment of the Special Needs Assistants (SNA) scheme will be completed


Third level


  • A new higher education funding model (RGAM) will be in place for the 2018 budget
  • A policy review will be published to design and implement a multi-annual funding model involving increased Exchequer and employer contributions from 2018
  • Drafting of Higher Education Reform Bill will be finalised

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Meath's Roads make a "Compelling Case" to Minister Ross



      Regina Doherty meets with Minister Shane Ross about funding for Meath Roads
    This week I was delighted to invite Meath County Council (MCC) CEO Jackie Maguire, Minister English, Minister McEntee, Senator Butler, Fine Gael Whip Cllr Gerry O'Connor and a number of MCC planning and engineering officials to Government buildings to meet with the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross. We were there to address the issue of funding for Meath's roads.

    There was fantastic energy in the room from the Meath contingent who presented a thorough and realistic case to the Minister. There are several vulnerable points in our road network in Meath primarily that of our regional and local roads which are under growing pressure.

    The nature of our transport needs in Meath is entirely unique to that of other counties, given the rate of our economic and population growth - the fastest growing in the country. Minister Ross showed a great interest in our country's situation, which he indicated to be a ‘compelling case’. He will be considering any further assistance his Department may be able to provide.

    For the last number of years Meath has received funding and investment which has regularly been increased by between €1-2 million on the basis of appeals by MCC and public representatives. While I welcome the continued positive response from the Department and its respective Ministers over the years, this is not a sustainable means of addressing our deteriorating local and regional road networks in Meath.

    A long-term county wide plan is something which was requested at this week’s meeting – a recommendation which was certainly welcomed and agreed on in principal. MCC has committed to working closely with the Department to ensure that this plan is as efficient and comprehensive as is necessary.

    Meath’s population continues to grow which, coupled with recent national and multi-national investment from companies such as Facebook, Shire and Avoca, is in urgent need to be met with adequate investment on our road network. This critical national infrastructure is paramount and is the basis on which people travel to work, goods are transported to and from the county and visitors arrive from near and far. If we want our economic growth to continue we must provide the necessary foundation upon which this growth will take place – connectivity.