Tuesday, July 30, 2013

McDowell takes an elitist and undemocratic approach to save the Seanad he wanted to ‘terminate’

17 years in power since 1989 and no Seanad reform by PDs

Meath East TD and Fine Gael’s Deputy Director of Elections for the Seanad Abolition Referendum, Regina Doherty, has accused Michael McDowell of taking an elitist and undemocratic approach after he called for the Seanad, which was elected by just 1% of the population, to be saved, and suggested that unelected individuals should be parachuted into Cabinet.

Deputy Doherty added that although it was PD policy to ‘terminate’ the Seanad, during his 17 years in Government Michael McDowell did nothing about it.

“Michael McDowell once described the Seanad as ‘a cross between a political convalescent home and a creche’. As a leading figure in the PDs he said his party was committed to ‘terminating the Seanad’ but had ‘failed to convince Fianna Fáil that the time was ripe for comprehensive constitutional reform’. During all his time in Government, Michael McDowell did nothing to either reform or ‘terminate’ the Seanad. Yet now he has become its avid defender.

“Michael McDowell, a former Government Minister, Tánaiste and Attorney General, is protecting an elitist system, where a tiny minority of the population elect a second chamber of parliament, and he wants unelected individuals with no accountability to the public to be appointed as Ministers. You could be forgiven for thinking that Michael McDowell doesn’t trust the Irish electorate.

“Michael McDowell argued today that unelected Party appointees should be given roles as government Ministers, without any say by the voters. I absolutely believe that those sitting around the Cabinet table making crucial decisions should be fully accountable to the public. And I believe 100% of the electorate should have a say in who runs this country, not the 1% Michael McDowell wants to protect.

“I expect the public will see that Michael McDowell is being disingenuous and opportunistic. He will continue to make his elitist argument, but the Government wants the people to decide. The choice on October 4th is a simple one; do we want to reduce our number of national politicians by a third, bringing us into line with every other small country in Europe; do we want a more representative and transparent parliament; and do we want to save €20 million a year that could be better spent on other important areas? I believe the answer is Yes, and that’s why I will be encouraging as many people as possible to vote Yes to abolish the Seanad on October 4th."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Doherty appointed Deputy Director of Elections for Seanad Abolition Referendum

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) said that the public will have an opportunity later this year to reduce the number of national politicians by 30% and save €20 million a year by voting Yes to abolish the Seanad. Deputy Doherty was speaking after she was appointed as Fine Gael’s Deputy Director of Elections for the Seanad Abolition Referendum.

“I am delighted to have been appointed to work on this campaign alongside Minister Richard Bruton TD, who is Fine Gael’s Director of Elections for the Seanad Abolition Referendum. Every family in Ireland has had to make sacrifices over the last number of years, and I think it is only right that the political system does the same. By abolishing the Seanad we can save €100 million over the course of a Dáil term; a considerable sum of money which could be spent on public services, like schools and hospitals.

“Voting Yes to abolish the Seanad will also reduce the number of national politicians by 30%, and it would bring us into line with our European counterparts. Almost no other country of our size has two separate chambers of parliament. Progressive small countries like Denmark and Sweden have shown that they can have a better democracy at less cost with single chamber parliaments. This is the time to make that change in Ireland too, and put the money where it is most needed.

“The Seanad is shockingly undemocratic; in fact just 1% of the population voted to elect the current Seanad, and it doesn’t do anything that isn’t already done in the Dáil. And the last time the Seanad actually rejected a draft law was 50 years ago. I fundamentally believe that this is a luxury the political system can no longer afford.

“Those opposing the Referendum will claim that the Seanad should be reformed. But ten reports have been published on reforming the Seanad, and yet we still have the same undemocratic, ineffective Upper House. Rather than putting forward another plan to find a purpose for the Seanad, this Government is asking a much more fundamental question; do we actually need the Seanad?

“The first time I became aware of the Seanad was back in 2007, when I was asked whether I would like to run in the Seanad elections because I hadn’t gotten elected to the Dáil. I declined because I didn’t think the Seanad played any meaningful role in our democracy. And now after spending two and a half years as a TD, I am convinced that we should bring ourselves into line with every other small country in Europe by abolishing the Seanad and saving €20 million a year in the process.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Doherty welcomes improved bus link between Drogheda and Ashbourne

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Friday) welcomed confirmation from the National Transport Authority that changes are being made to improve the bus service between Drogheda and Ashbourne.

“I was glad to get confirmation from the National Transport Authority (NTA) that route 189 and the northern section of route 103 are being merged. This will allow for a through service from Grangebellew and Clogher village via Drogheda town centre and hospital to Ashbourne via Duleek.

“I’m sure these changes will be welcomed by commuters in these areas. As we try to encourage more people to leave the car at home and take public transport, it is important that we adapt services to meet the community’s needs. As well as providing a more customer focused timetable, the changes will also facilitate changes to route 103 for service between Ratoath and Ashbourne to Dublin.

“The NTA has also confirmed that route 188 and 190 will be merged to provide a through service from Laytown and Bettystown via Drogheda train station, town centre and hospital on to Navan and onwards to either Trim or Athboy.

“The changes to these services improves the connectivity between Louth and Meath, which is great news for commuters in the towns served by these routes.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Doherty welcomes expansion of programme to tackle child deprivation

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has welcomed the decision by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald TD, to expand the new child poverty programme, which targets areas of deprivation. Minister Fitzgerald confirmed the move during a meeting of the Select Sub-Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

“The new Area Based Response to Child Poverty Programme will build on the work already carried out by the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme, which has been in operation since 2007 in Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale in Dublin. Thanks to extra funding of €2.5 million, the programme will now be extended to three more locations.

“It is well established that if we want to achieve the best possible outcomes for our children, early intervention is essential. This is true both in terms of early education for toddlers, and early help and support for children who may be growing up in areas of deprivation.

“The success of the three existing programmes in Dublin would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the local organisations who help to run the initiative. Indeed, Minister Fitzgerald has said when it comes to deciding on the next three locations, it is vital that there are already good community organisations in place, who can take up the reigns to deliver the new programme.

“A list of locations is currently being reviewed under the deprivation index. The aim of the programme is to achieve better outcomes for children, their families and their communities. It’s hoped that the establishment of the Child and Family Agency this year will allow for the mainstreaming of these programmes, which would be a positive and progressive step.

“The programme is being co-funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, which helped to fund the original programme, and as a result will have a total funding allocation of almost €30 million over the next three years.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kelleher's criticism of health service only reminds us of FF’s tragic health legacy

FF ran away from problems in health for 14 years while the system imploded

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has criticised Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher, after he launched an attack on the Government for not implementing changes to the health service quick enough.

“Billy Kelleher’s criticism of the health service is like someone starting a fire and then criticising you for not putting it out quickly enough. This mirrors Fianna Fáil’s approach to the economy.

“Deputy Kelleher attests that, ‘Fianna Fáil is committed to bringing forward radical proposals on creating a fairer health system.’ However, they had their chance to provide a decent health service and they blew it – spectacularly. During 14 years of Fianna Fail Government our health system deteriorated inexorably, despite the Government throwing money at it.

“I was staggered to hear Deputy Kelleher’s attempts to blame the Government for the fact that thousands of people being forced to give up their health insurance cover. These people have been severely stung by Fianna Fáil’s economic policies and can now no longer afford insurance cover. It is cynical and unwise of Deputy Kelleher to use these people’s depleted economic circumstances to score political points.

“Instead of running away from the problem, Fine Gael in Government is delivering health reforms and improvements unheard of under the previous government, despite having to operate under the economic constraints left behind by Fianna Fáil.

The number of patients waiting on trolleys was 24% lower in 2012 compared to 2011. So far this year, the number of patients waiting on trolleys has been reduced by a further 10%
1,759 children were waiting over 20 weeks for inpatient or day case surgery at the end of 2011. Within a year, this waiting list was reduced to 89 children.
3,706 adults were waiting more than 9 months for inpatient and day case surgery at the end of 2011. Within a year, this waiting list was reduced to 86 adults.
The number of cancelled operations has halved and is now at its lowest level since 2006
The Children's Hospital location has been selected
The Hospital Groups system, which will enable hospital users around the country to access better and more efficient services, has been created.

“Health reform documents on Money Follows the Patient and Path to Universal Healthcare have been published and the key building blocks are now in place to provide Ireland with a fair, modern health service.”

“Deputy Kelleher’s effort to score political points only serves to remind us of the tragedy of Fianna Fáil’s treatment of our health service. As Minister for Health, Micheal Martin’s stock in trade when facing problems was to commission but not implement endless expensive reports – over 110 in total. He hid behind these reports while our health system buckled and Irish patients suffered unnecessarily. He also created the HSE which was cynically used by the Government to divert blame away from its doorstep.

“Having passed the buck for years, Fianna Fáil then washed their hands entirely of the health system by handing the health portfolio over to Mary Harney. When the government was criticised for the state of our health system, Fianna Fáil levelled the blame at the PDs.”

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Thousands of euro can be recouped on exported cars

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) highlighted the fact that car owners are entitled to claim back VRT if their vehicle is exported overseas. The information was contained in documents prepared for the Finance Committee, of which Deputy Doherty is a new member. 

“Many people may be unaware of the existence of this scheme, which is operated by the Revenue Commissioners. It allows for the repayment of Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) after a car has been exported out of the country. This can amount to several thousand euro in some cases. 

“The scheme applies to cars registered in Ireland with a selling price of €2,000 or more and a valid NCT certificate. The car must be examined before it is exported, and then removed from the State within 30 days. Once the owner can prove the car has been registered in another EU country or permanently exported further afield, the VRT paid on that vehicle can be claimed back, minus an administration charge of €500. 

“The scheme has only been in place since April of this year, and early indications suggest that take-up has been low so far. To date, 335 vehicles were presented for pre-export examination and 21 payments totalling €128,681 were approved. That’s an average of more than €6,000 per vehicle. The repayments were primarily paid to vehicles exported to the UK.

“In my view, many people could stand to benefit from this scheme; whether they have sold their car in the UK, or perhaps moved to another European country and taken their vehicle with them. It is important that people are aware of this scheme in advance, as VRT can only be reclaimed if vehicles are presented for examination before exporting. 

“I am delighted to have been co-opted onto the Finance Committee, not least because there are very few female representatives on it. I look forward to discussing and examining a range of issues under the Committee’s remit in the coming months.”

Monday, July 01, 2013

Alternatives to Slane bypass must be explored before resubmitting application

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) said that alternatives to the Slane bypass must be fully explored before an application is resubmitted to An Bord Pleanala. Deputy Doherty added that a rushed re-submission would be risky and counter productive, and it would be much wiser to exhaust other options first.

Last week Fianna Fail's Thomas Byrne expressed his "outrage" because the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar TD, wasn't in a position to drop everything and appear before the Seanad to answer Senator Byrnes' queries regarding the Slane bypass. This is a blatant attempt to play politics on a topic that is close to the hearts of everyone who lives and works in Slane village.

Rather than trying to point score, we should look at the reality of the current situation, and examine how it can be moved forward. An Bord Pleanala has already rejected one submission on the bypass, and the last thing we need to do is rush a second submission and do the entire campaign an injustice in the process.

It is clear to me that we must explore the alternatives to the bypass, as this was one of the primary reasons the original submission was rejected. The National Roads Authority and Minister Varadkar have consistently stated what everyone in Slane knows; the best solution for the village is a bypass. So what we all need to do is find a way to satisfy An Bord Pleanala.

For this reason I think Meath County Council will have to push ahead with a HGV ban, to see how it works and what impact it would have on the surrounding area. It is clear to me that only through exploring and exhausting the alternatives, will we be able to deliver the bypass the village needs.

Minister Varadkar has engaged personally on this issue and has met with the Slane Bypass Action Group, Meath County Council and elected representatives to discuss the best way to approach the issue. I will continue to work with local interests and the Minister on this issue, and in the meantime I would encourage Thomas Byrne to stop wasting time by staging a charade in the Seanad.