Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Doherty welcomes appointment of Judge Murphy to symphysiotomy process

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) welcomed the appointment of Judge Yvonne Murphy to the resolution process for women who underwent symphysiotomies. Judge Murphy’s appointment was announced by the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, this evening. 

“I am pleased that Judge Murphy has been appointed to help bring closure to the women who have been waiting for decades for a resolution. Symphysiotomies were barbaric procedures, which have left hundreds of women in pain for decades. Lives were irreparably damaged by this medical procedure, which was carried out in most instances without any permission sought from the women concerned. 

“Judge Murphy will work with each of the women on an individual basis, in a bid to reach a just outcome with the State Claims Agency and the insurance companies. After this consultation process, Judge Murphy will provide a report to the Government, which will inform its final decision. 

“I know many of the women will be disappointed by the Government’s decision not to lift the Statute of Limitations. However, I support the Government’s view that whatever funds are available should be directed towards the women who have suffered, and not towards paying legal costs. Many of the women involved are older, and I do not believe that a lengthy court battle, which would ensue through the lifting of the Statute, would be in their best interests. 

“Because much of these procedures were carried out such a long time ago, many of the women do not have medical records or other relevant pieces of information. This means that the legal route would be littered with risks. What I hope can be achieved for the women involved is a fair resolution, where they receive all of the payments available, rather than scarce money being absorbed by legal costs. 

“I hope this process can finally be brought to a close in the coming months. These women have been failed by previous Governments, and they have waited long enough for some form of justice. They won’t be failed by this Government.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Doherty welcomes maintenance of Pay and File deadlines

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) welcomed the decision by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, not to introduce any changes to the pay and file regime for next year. 

“This is the vindication of the consultation process that has taken place between the tax industry and members of the Oireachtas in recent weeks. Through representations at the Finance Committee, members of the Irish Tax Institute made it abundantly clear that a change to the pay and file regime would have a detrimental impact on small businesses and self-assessed taxpayers. 

“The consultation process worked, and I am very pleased that the Finance Minister has taken the very real concerns on board of those who would be affected by any changes. It was made clear to TDs that small businesses have no money to pay their tax earlier, and a change to next year’s pay and file date could cause serious cash flow difficulties and potentially put businesses in jeopardy. 

“The old adage of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it springs to mind. Self-assessed tax payers account for just 4% of the total tax take. But last year a compliance rate of 98% was recorded. In my view, the negative fallout that could be brought about by a change to the system far outweighs the benefits. 

“While I note that the Minister has said that any changes would be made by way of the Finance Bill, not coming into effect until 2015, I would hope that this issue could be taken off the table for good. The concerns expressed in recent weeks will not have diminished by next year.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Local govt reform welcome but funding issues need to be addressed

Outstanding issues related to legacy debt of Town Councils and an increase in funding in line with population

Speaking on the Local Government Bill 2013 in the Dáil, Fine Gael Meath East Deputy, Regina Doherty, said that while local government reform is long overdue, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to ensure that Meath is operating on a fair and equal playing field to other jurisdictions.

“The radical reform of the local government system that is underway represents the biggest shake-up of local government in the history of the State, which will result in greater efficiencies and improved service delivery for the people. There are a number of issues, however, relating to funding that need to be addressed in county Meath.

“In a move which will see the number of Councillors reduced by 42% nationally and the number of Councils being reduced from 114 to 31, at a cost saving of €420 million, Meath County Council will at last have our population size reflected in the number of Councillors that will be elected, with 40 members set to be elected to the Council. Unfortunately, this proportional representation is not being extended to our funding allocation which remains the same.

“As one of the fastest growing ‘commuter belt’ counties which ballooned in population over the last 10-15 years, and especially so during the Celtic Tiger years, the local government funding for Meath has not seen a corresponding increase in financial resources for the administration of local government functions. If comparisons are made with other counties of much smaller population size, it is often the case that they get the same amount of funding as Meath; a situation that is wholly unacceptable. 

“When it comes to the dissolution of Town Councils, the responsibility for which will be subsumed into the County Councils, legacy debt is a cause for concern in some instances. Meath currently has three Town Councils which will be abolished next May. Each of them carries quite considerable deficits which, if carried over to the County Council will significantly hinder the new administration, placing a millstone around its neck.

“I am calling on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, to take these issues into consideration so that the best path forward can be chartered for the people of Meath. For decades, reform of the local government structure was ignored by Fianna Fáil. The whole point of local government reform is to ensure that our local Councils deliver better services for their citizens.  Confidence in local government needs to be restored and this Bill genuinely lays the foundations for that to happen. In order to maximise the impact these far-reaching reforms have on the people of Meath, these legacy debt and funding issues will need to be addressed.” 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Launch of 3rd Be Winter Ready campaign highlights the importance of being prepared during winter

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) welcomed the launch of the 3rd annual Be Winter Ready campaign, which encourages people to be prepared, stay safe and know where people can go for help if they need it in the event of extreme weather.

“With the launch of the third annual Be Winter Ready campaign, I am encouraging everyone in Meath to be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help if you need it. As we head into another winter, it is now more important than ever to be prepared for any inclement weather conditions we may face. 

“The public service is well prepared and on high alert so that in the eventuality of extreme weather conditions, members of the public will still be able to go about their daily business without too much disruption.

“Lessons have been learned over the last number of years. Keeping our major roads, airports and rail systems functioning is imperative during the winter months. The transport operators all have plans in place to deal with inclement weather conditions and the Department of Transport will be publishing on its website a Severe Weather Transport Information Guide to inform commuters on roads and transport options available to them during poor weather. 

“Substantial stocks of salt are already in storage for immediate use to treat roads during icy weather and frontline emergency services have been planning and training for any eventualities we may face this winter.

“I would also encourage people to get involved in local community groups and identify any vulnerable members of society who may need assistance as the cold weather sets in. 

“More information can be found at www.winterready.ie which has a host of tips to get everyone ready for the winter ahead.”

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Doherty welcomes Ministers Noonan’s amendment on Single Parent Tax Credit

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, of his intention to amend the Finance Bill at Committee Stage to allow for the Single Parent Tax Credit to be used by a non-primary carer in situations where the primary carer has no tax liability.

“Following the announcement of Budget 2014 last month, it was announced that the One Parent Family Tax Credit was to be replaced with a new Single Person Child Care Credit from 1st January 2014 and that the payment would be restricted to the primary carer only in accordance with current arrangements for child benefit.

“As an unintended consequence of this measure separated fathers would have been discriminated against;  as the designated ‘principal carer’ is usually the mother. The proposed change did not take account of the increasing role fathers play in the care of their children.

“I was very pleased to hear the Finance Minister state in the Dáil yesterday that he would amend the Finance Bill to allow a change to his Budget proposal to replace the Single Parent Tax Credit. Having spoken to the Minister, he informs me that he will bring forward an amendment to the Finance Bill at Committee Stage which will allow the credit to be used by a non-primary carer in situations where the primary carer has no tax liability

In practical terms it will be of significant financial benefit to a great many people, mainly separated fathers, as it will mean that every family, regardless of its make-up, will be entitled to claim one benefit.

“There is a long way to go in terms of equality for separated fathers but this change provides certain recognition and affirmation of their position. In that sense it is progress and I congratulate the Minister on his decision. Most separated fathers, while not principal carers take a significant role in the care and welfare of their children, and it is my firm view that they need to be supported in this task.”

Doherty urges Meath clubs to register on new online Sports Capital facility

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) urged Meath sports clubs and organisations to register their interest on the new online system for Sports Capital Funding.

“Many clubs hoping to access the next round of the Sports Capital Programme may not realise that they need to register their interest now using the new online system known as OSCAR (Online Sports Capital Register). This new system has been designed to streamline the process, and will also allow clubs to track their applications.

“But it is important to point out that before applications are invited, clubs wishing to avail of Sports Capital funding in 2014 must register now. OSCAR will allow groups to view previous grants and payments, change contact details, seek payment of a grant and otherwise communicate with the Department online.

“The OSCAR system will be the only way to apply for Sports Capital funding in the future, so it’s worth getting used to the new system now. If you don’t register now, you won’t be able to apply for 2014 funding.

“A Tax Registration Number (TRN) is required for all organisations wishing to register on OSCAR. You need written confirmation of the TRN from the Revenue Commissioner prior to completing the registration process either in the form of a tax clearance certificate or a letter from Revenue confirming your TRN. For more information see https://www.sportscapitalprogramme.ie/.

“Details on the next round of Sports Capital funding are expected to be announced shortly. It’s great news that the Programme is being extended again next year, after being suspended by Fianna Fáil. I am sure that many clubs in Meath will be very keen to avail of funding when it becomes available, so it’s important to register online now.”

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New HIQA guide provides practical info on how disability service inspections will work

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) welcomed the publication by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) of a new guide about the regulation and inspection of disability services. It is being published on HIQA’s website today and copies will be available for distribution to the public and organisations working with people with disabilities.

“As and from this week, HIQA is in charge of a new inspection and regulation system for residential services for people with disabilities. This is a very positive change, and is something which those within the disability sector have been seeking for a number of years. I am very pleased, therefore, that HIQA is publishing this new guide to provide helpful and clear information on how the new system will work.

“The new inspection regime should lead to a higher quality services for people with disabilities. It is hard to believe that inspections of residential disability services were never carried out during the boom, when we had more money and resources to carry them out. Regardless of the delays, it is very positive that inspections will now be carried out, and I think anyone who has any queries about how the new system will work will find HIQA’s guidebook very useful.

“The guide provides information on what services are covered, how inspections will work and how to identify an inspector from HIQA. Residential services covered by the new regime include institutions, supported community living and residential respite services for people with disabilities. The HIQA guide also runs through some of the questions people may have and provides details on how to get further information.

“In the past, people with disabilities, have not had the benefit of an inspectorate to ensure that the highest standards of care are being delivered to them in residential settings on behalf of the State. The new system addresses this problem, and I hope that the guide provided by HIQA will provide reassurance and helpful information on how the inspection and regulation regime will work.”