Thursday, January 30, 2014

Doherty calls for lower charges for homeowners with hard water

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has written to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), urging it to take issues such as hard water into account when it sets rates for water charges, which are due to be introduced at the end of this year. Deputy Doherty also raised the issue in a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan TD.

“Meath has a significant hard water problem, which has an impact on pipes, kettles, irons and washing machines. If scale builds up on heating elements it can shorten the life span of expensive home appliances. 

“Rather than just being an inconvenience, hard water has a financial impact on homeowners, not only because appliances need to be replaced earlier than normal, but also because it requires the purchase of water softeners, descaling devices and water filters. 

“This problem has been acknowledged by Meath County Council, which has issued a leaflet to homes offering advice on how to deal with hard water. 

“I have written to the Chairperson of the CER, Dermot Nolan, asking him to enforce regulations which will ensure that the pricing structure agreed for Irish Water will take heed of issues such as hard water. I believe that slightly lower tariffs should be agreed for homeowners dealing with hard water. I have also raised the matter with Minister Hogan. 

“I look forward to hearing back from the CER and Minister Hogan in relation to this matter.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Doherty welcomes commitment from Minister Hayes of €350k investment in heritage sites

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) welcomed a commitment from the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Brian Hayes, that €348,000 is to be reinvested in heritage sites. Minister Hayes made his comments at a meeting of the Select Sub Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform.

“This money was generated by Heritage Services last year, but rather than allow it to be swallowed up in the OPW’s general budget, Minister Hayes has promised that it will be invested back into heritage sites in 2014, which is a very welcome commitment. 

“The investment of this €348,000 will create a strong incentive to increase activity at heritage sites and improve business opportunities for locations around the country. With regards to my own constituency, I raised the issue of the visitor centre at the Hill of Tara directly with the Minister. 

“The Tara visitor centre is closed more weeks than it is open due to staffing problems, and I am pleased to have received a commitment from the Minister that he will look at the situation in a bid to ensure that it could be open year round. The opportunity to improve access to Tara must be taken now, at a time when an increased national investment is being made in heritage sites. 

“I also raised the prospect of private sector involvement in heritage sites, which I believe could pump some life back into some of the struggling sites across Meath. Minister Hayes was open to the idea, and I intend to pursue this matter with him further. 

“The Minister also confirmed at the Finance Committee that after an absence of a number of years, the OPW is to reintroduce its apprenticeship programme. This will result in 20 places being offered on the apprenticeship programme in areas such as stonemasonry and craft carpentry.”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Change to rates system will provide a boost to local businesses – Doherty

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday) said that a change to the law on rates will provide a welcome boost to local businesses in Meath. Under legislation put forward by Deputy Doherty’s colleague, Waterford TD Paudie Coffey, businesses will no longer be forced to pay rates arrears from the previous tenant when they take on new premises.

The legislation has been accepted by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, and is being included in the Local Government Reform Bill 2013.

“This is a very positive and proactive measure, which I know businesses in Meath have been seeking for some time. Under the old legislation, which dates back to 1838, tenants who vacated a property with rates due are not be liable and instead the new tenant is forced to pay the rates arrears. This law is still affecting Irish businesses in the 21st century despite being brought into effect before the Famine.

“Now, thanks to a change in the law, new tenants will no longer be liable for the rates arrears of previous tenants. This will allow new businesses to take up new premises and existing businesses to change premises without the fear of having a massive rates bill hanging over them after they move in.

“I am pleased that the Government has taken this step in recognition of the great difficulty being faced by businesses around the country – this will go some way to make the rates system fairer.

“The unfair practice where new business tenants were held liable for the rates arrears of previous tenants will no longer apply; a move which will improve the business environment in towns and cities around the country.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Health Comm hears no evidence that plain packaging would increase cigarette smuggling

Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty TD, has today (Thursday) said representations made to the Committee have made it clear that there is no evidence to suggest that the introduction of plain packaging would increase the rate of cigarette smuggling. 

Today’s Committee heard representations from Derek Byrne, Assistant Garda Commissioner; Gerard Moran, Assistant Secretary, Revenue Commissioners; and Gavin Maguire, Assistant National Director, National Tobacco Control Office.

“The evidence provided at the Committee meeting should help to dispel some of the rumours surrounding the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes. Assistant Garda Commissioner, Derek Byrne, reassured the Committee that there is no evidence available to the Gardaí that introducing plain packaging would lead to an increase in the trade of illicit tobacco. 

“The Committee also heard that customs officials in the UK and mainland Europe have indicated clearly that there is no evidence to link plain packaging to an increase in counterfeit cigarettes. Assistant Commissioner Byrne also gave a commitment that the Gardaí will closely monitor the black market after the introduction of plain packaging, and implement any changes to control measures if necessary. 

“Authorities here are closely watching the impact of the introduction of plain cigarette packaging in Australia. I found it particularly interesting to hear from the HSE that initial figures from Australia indicate that the number of young people taking up smoking there has fallen by 15%. This is extremely encouraging, and something which would be very welcome if we could replicate it here. 

“I absolutely believe that the introduction of plain packaging is a positive step forward and will help in our fight to reduce smoking rates here. The evidence given at today’s Health Committee further strengthens this view.”

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Doherty welcomes 60% drop in trolley figures at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan since 2011

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) welcomed new figures which show that the number of people waiting on trolleys at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan has dropped by 60% since 2011. Deputy Doherty added that the positive results were a clear endorsement of the work of the Special Delivery Unit, which was set up by the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, to tackle the high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys.

“It is fantastic news that the number of people waiting on trolleys at Navan Hospital has fallen by 60% since this Government took Office. This is a clear sign that the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), set up by the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, to tackle trolley waiting figures, is working. And it is also testament to the hard work and determination of the management and staff in Navan, who must be commended for their efforts.

“Nationally, the number of people waiting on trolleys has fallen by almost 30,000 since 2011. It’s is eight years since the number of patients waiting on trolleys on a given day exceeded 500 and Mary Harney declared the problem a ‘national emergency’. For the following five long years, the problem spiralled out of control.

“The reforms implemented by this Government have tackled a problem in less than three years, that Fianna Fáil failed to get a grip on for fourteen long years in Government. In their last term of office, the number of patients waiting on trolleys increased by 49%. During the last three years under this Fine Gael-led Government, the number of patients on trolleys has reduced by more than a third.

“This has been achieved despite considerable pressures on the health sector, which has experienced a 20% budget reduction, a 10% reduction in staff numbers and an 8% increase in population demands. Significant progress is also being made in a number of other areas. We are on target to reduce both inpatient and outpatient waiting lists. MRSA rates have fallen by a fifth and drug costs have been cut by a third.

“It is vitally important that we constantly strive to make our hospitals more efficient, so we can care for patients better. The reform programme will continue apace in the year ahead, as we continue to roll out the Money Follows the Patient model and the establishment of new Hospital Groups.

“I am very pleased that such positive progress has been made in Our Lady’s Hospital and I look forward to further progress in the year ahead.”