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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Docklands Business Awards

Government Chief Whip celebrates accomplishments of Dublin Docklands Business Community

Chief Whip Regina Doherty at the Dublin Docklands Business Awards

Meath East Minister of State and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has joined the Docklands Business Forum in recognising and celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments of the area’s business community.


The Meath based Minister said “I was delighted to speak this evening at the Docklands Business Forum’s awards ceremony which has recognised an impressive scope of achievements, ranging from excellence in innovation, lifestyle, local business and responsible business.


“These awards do not only demonstrate the community activity evident in the Dockland area but also displays to the wider national and international audience the level of vibrancy and economic activity that inhabits this area of Dublin.

“Despite living in Meath for over twenty years, as a Dublin native, I know that this part of the city was not always the shining example of city living and business activity that it is today. This area of the Dublin docks had for centuries been the hub around which the commercial life of the city revolved. The great, Gandon designed, Customs House was built as a gateway to dockland Dublin, and one of the many fine buildings dotted around Dublin which stand as examples set in stone of the ambition and optimism with which Georgian Dublin viewed its future.


“The members of the Dockland Business Forum are the inheritors of the ambitions of the past, both ancient and recent, for this area and this city. Chairman Michael Noel Harte, CEO Alan Robinson with the staff and members of the Docklands Business Forum are providing the leadership, hard work and vision for the future which is essential for this area to not just survive but thrive in the current economic climate.


“I know that the Forum is looking towards the future and how the untapped potential of the river Liffey and the wider Dublin Bay area, central to the historic function of the docklands, can be used to encourage tourism and the economic development of boating and marine activities. It is fitting that the river that was the life blood of the economy of the docklands in the past now has the potential to again contribute to the economic growth of this area in a different and innovative way. I wish those involved in developing that potential well.”

Concluding, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State, Regina Doherty said “It would be naive not to accept that the economic crisis of the last decade had a significant impact upon those working and living in the Docklands area. Like every part of our country the business people, employees and local residence in this area felt the devastating consequences of economic downturn. The businesses in the Docklands have been central to driving our economic recovery not just in Dublin but nationwide. The results of this recovery can be seen most clearly in the continuing decline in the number of people on the live register. We are now seeing the benefits of five years of focusing on job creation through initiatives such as the Action Plan for Jobs and that is thanks to the efforts of businesses such as those based in the Docklands and people such as those honoured here tonight.”

Friday, November 18, 2016

ESB Update - Ashbourne

Letter received from Seán Murphy, Manager Public Affairs, ESB



Dear Minister Doherty,


I write to brief you on the fault that occurred this morning.

At 7.15am this morning, a power outage occurred to the north of Ashbourne, with the initial loss of power to 2,915 customers.  This was quickly reduced to just under 200 customers who remained off until before 12:00 when the problem was rectified.  

This was not a transient fault, but was as a result of a line coming down in a field. ESB Networks are working to establish the root cause of this at present.
 
In recent months, ESB Networks has undertaken significant works to improve the quality of supply within the Ashbourne area, in particular it has implemented improvements which mitigate against transient faults and also, help to isolate and return supply to customers faster.  

Whilst this was not a transient fault, these modifications helped isolate the fault and expedited the return of supply to the majority of customers.  
 
ESB Networks is committed to improving the supply in this area and will be undertaking further improvements in the Ashbourne area over coming months.  

We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for any inconvenience caused by this fault.  
 
Sincerely,
Seán Murphy,
Manager Public Affairs, ESB

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Agri Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Update

Progress on low cost agriculture loan scheme is good news for Meath farmers

Minister of State and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has confirmed that progress has been made on the establishment of the ‘Agri Cashflow Support Loan Scheme’, which she says is good news for Meath farmers.

“The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, has confirmed to me that important progress has been made in the establishment of the ‘Agri Cashflow Support Loan Scheme’, which is very positive news for farmers in Meath. The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) has now invited banks and other lenders to take part in the new loan scheme that will make €150 million available to primary agriculture SMEs, including farmers. It is hoped that loans will be available through the participating financial institutions early in 2017. Minister Creed has spoken to the main banks and urged them to participate.

“Under the scheme, farmers will be able to borrow up €150,000 for up to six years, at a low cost interest rate of 2.95%, which is far cheaper than the rate they would get if they pursued other forms of finance. The loans will also be flexible, with interest only facilities of up to three years.

“The long period of lower commodity prices has had a real impact on the cashflow of many farmers here in Meath and this low cost loan scheme is going to be hugely beneficial to them in mitigating that. The whole idea of this scheme is to help farmers improve the management of their cashflow and reduce the cost of their short-term borrowings. 

“Fine Gael is working to ensure that the economic progress we have made in Government is used to benefit everyone in society. This means prioritising our agri-food sector and supporting farmers to face the challenges caused by price volatility, particularly in light of the Brexit vote.

“The ‘Agri Cashflow Support Loan Scheme’ forms part of Minister Creed’s ‘three pillar strategy’ in response to income volatility, announced in the recent Budget.  Along with tax measures and farm payments, it will alleviate some of the pressures being caused by the current market difficulties, including currency fluctuation in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.


“We are determined to support farmers here in Meath to improve their working capital position and provide them with longer-term financial stability”.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Meath Towns and Villages to benefit from €380,000 under Renewal Scheme

Minister Regina Doherty TD
Government Chief Whip
Meath East

4th November 2016
Meath Towns and Villages to benefit from €380,000 under Renewal Scheme – Doherty

Meath East Minister of State and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has said that towns and villages in Meath are to benefit from funding under the €10m Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

“My colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys, has today (Friday) announced that 172 towns and villages across the country are set to benefit from €10 million in funding under the 2016 Town and Village Renewal Scheme. 

“The delivery of an enhanced Town and Village Scheme in time for Budget 2017 was a commitment in the Programme for A Partnership Government. Under Budget 2017, Minister Humphreys also announced that she has secured increased funding for the scheme for 2017, when €12 million will be made available to towns and villages in Meath and across the country. 

“The funding awarded to towns and villages in Meath is being used for a wide variety of projects, identified by Meath County Council, in conjunction with local community groups and businesses in Meath. These include improving playgrounds and footpaths, tourism amenities, public art pieces and a wide range of works to improve the streetscape and public realm of towns and villages nationwide, to help make towns and villages in Meath more attractive and more sustainable places in which to live and work.

The following local projects are to receive funding:
    - Duleek - €63,300 for Streetscape and Traffic management
    - Dunshaughlin - €31,450 for footpaths
    - Ratoath - €31,450 for Signage, road surfacing and footpaths
    - Skryne - €31,450 for footpaths
    - Stamullen - €31,450 for pedestrian crossings & footpaths
    - Dunderry - €63,000 for provision of footpaths
    - Enfield - €62,900 for footpaths
    - €65,000 – final project TBC with Meath County Council

“We are determined to get this funding out to rural Meath as quickly as possible. Now that the projects have been approved, work can get underway on improving Meath’s towns and villages.

“This scheme is an important part of Fine Gael’s commitment to rejuvenate and revitalise rural Ireland. We are also rolling out a range of other initiatives, including the REDZ scheme, the recently reopened CLÁR scheme and the Rural Recreation Scheme. In addition, work on the Action Plan for Rural Development is progressing well.

Rural development is a key priority for Fine Gael. Our towns and villages are the heart of our rural communities, but many of them are still recovering from the economic downturn. The Town and Village Renewal Scheme is designed to help breath life back into our rural towns and villages here in Meath.”

Significant investment in Ashbourne will prevent future power outages

    Minister Regina Doherty TD
    Government Chief Whip
    Meath East


    4th 
    November 2016

    Significant investment in Ashbourne will prevent future power outages - Doherty

    Meath East Minister of State and Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has said that Ashbourne is to receive significant investment which will prevent future power outages in the town following a meeting with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughton.

    The local Minister said “We have recorded a total of 25 power outages in Ashbourne town throughout the summer months of June, July and August, which is the known peak time for outages nationally throughout the calendar year. Hundreds of Ashbourne based businesses and residents were affected as a result of this high occurrence of power outages. 


    “I have been working closely alongside local Councillor Alan Tobin with the key stakeholders affected by these power outages including business owners, residents and the Ashbourne Chamber with a view to collecting information as to how the intermittent supply of power to Ashbourne has been affecting people’s daily lives. 


    “I subsequently arranged a meeting with Minister Denis Naughton and invited his Department Officials and representatives from the ESB with a view to establishing a solution for Ashbourne and eliminating such high instances of power outages in our town. 


    “Both the Department and the ESB were incredibly co-operative and accommodating as to the concerns presented to them at our meeting in Government Buildings yesterday. Minister Naughton and his delegation presented us with a number of reasons identified as the cause of our outages and the solution and investment which is already underway with a view to eliminating future power cuts in the town.


    “The nuts and bolts of this solution will see a separation of supply between rural and urban Ashbourne to allow for greater continuity on the basis of needs of a particular demographic.  


    “Some of the 25 outages were due to lightening, others due to bird strikes, whatever the reason there is no doubt about it – this issue can be rectified and will be. 


    “I await a complete breakdown from the ESB as to the investment in our local critical infrastructure, however, Ashbourne is without doubt a priority for the Department and the ESB with on the ground works and network amendments to be completed no later than the second quarter of 2017. Without the provision of a long-term solution for Ashbourne’s power supply issues will see hefty regulatory fines placed on ESB which I know they are keen to avoid. 


    “Many of the technical and infrastructural solutions currently in progress by the ESB could be implemented much sooner, however, due consideration must be given local landowners to allow for seasonal tillage and construction projects.”


    Concluding, Minister Doherty said “I will circulate the specifics of the solution for continuity of power supply for Ashbourne as soon as I have received them from the Department. I look forward to next summer when these works will be completed and we will see a noted reduction in power outages during its peak season. This is a priority for the Minister, his Department and the ESB and I will continue to make representations to all bodies until we see this solution through to its fruition.”