Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dáil suspension a taste of Independent 'government'

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday) said the chaotic behaviour of Independent TDs in the Dáil this afternoon, which led to the suspension of Dáil business for the rest of today, reminds voters of the petty squabbling that is the hallmark of the independent benches. Deputy Doherty said that while the independents say they want to run the country, this episode demonstrates they cannot resolve their own issues among themselves.

"Legislation on strengthening the powers of GSOC, statements ahead of the Taoiseach's attendance at the European Council and the continuation of Fianna Fáil's private members' time on water charges have all been sidelined by political play-acting today. 

"The Independents have allowed their turf war to spill into the Dáil and derail the democratic business of the house. In doing so they are giving everyone a taste of what the result would be if they got the chance to run things - paralysis. This group likes to strike a holier-than-thou stance but the halo slipped a little today when they put individual self-interest ahead of the work of the parliament. There is a time and a place to sort out the issues around speaking time and this wasn't it."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New regulator for charities will reinforce public trust

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has said today (Thursday) that the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority is a critical first step in reforming and strengthening the charity sector in Ireland. 

“The new Charities Regulatory Authority, announced today by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, will be an independent regulatory agency for the charities sector and will reinforce confidence and trust in our charities.

“The charity sector plays a vital role in our society and economy, and contributes so much to both. The new Authority will, among other important functions, register and regulate all charities operating in Ireland and ensure they deliver public benefit and are accountable to their donors and beneficiaries.

“The Charities Regulatory Authority’s functions include the establishment and maintenance of a register of charitable organisations. An additional €500,000 has been allocated to the Authority under Budget 2015 which will bring the total budget for this agency to €1.4m in 2015. This represents an increase of over 50 per cent on the initial budget provided for its establishment phase and will support the reform and strengthening of the regulation of this sector.

“The charity sector as a whole has been unfairly tarnished by some recent controversies and the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority will ensure that these great organisations can carry out their work transparently and effectively.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Extension of BreastCheck will save lives

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty has today (Tuesday) said the extension of BreastCheck to women aged 69 will save lives.

“The extension of the successful free national breast screening programme, BreastCheck, to women aged 65-69 will save lives.

“I have been calling for this change for quite some time and I strongly commend Minister for Health Leo Varadkar for fulfilling the commitment we made in our Programme for Government to extend BreastCheck to women over 65.

“Unfortunately breast cancer has touched a huge number of families in this country. According to the Irish Cancer Society, the incidence of female breast cancer is second highest amongst the 60-69 age group. It is great that BreastCheck will now include these women and will increase early detection rates.

“Early detection is key to good outcomes for women affected by breast cancer. With early detection and the right treatment there is hope for women who have received a diagnosis. As such today’s announcement to extend BreastCheck to women aged 65-69 is really positive for women’s health in Ireland.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why did Fianna Fáil wait until now to show their budget hand?

Regina Doherty, Fine Gael TD for Meath East, has today (Friday) questioned why Fianna Fáil has only now come clean and published their pre-Budget proposals.

“The Budget is next Tuesday and Fianna Fáil has waited until midday today to provide their proposals on Budget 2015, allowing no time for the Government or the Irish people to consider what they propose. 

“Fianna Fáil has been absent from and irrelevant to the public and parliamentary debate ahead of Budget 2015. Their finance spokesperson appeared on television on Tuesday night to discuss their unpublished proposals, but since then Fianna Fáil has absented themselves from the debate. 

“The fact that Fianna Fáil published its budget proposals on a Friday, four days before the Budget, and in the middle of voting in two bye-elections says a lot about the weakness of Fianna Fáil and shows a lack of confidence in its own policy positions. Their apparent belated acceptance of the Local Property Tax which they first proposed in 2010 is a case in point.

“For Fine Gael and the Government, the overriding objective of the upcoming Budget is to secure recovery by introducing measures to incentivise new jobs, more work and investment. The Government will make sure that recovery to date will not be threatened or wasted. In contrast to absent Fianna Fáil, people can trust us to make the necessary decisions to build a strong economy that can provide quality jobs and quality of life for the Irish people.”

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Pathways to Work strategy targets youth and long-term unemployed

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has welcomed the publication of the Pathways to Work strategy 2015 by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, Kevin Humphreys.

“The Pathways to Work strategy and the Action Plan for Jobs, both launched in 2012, work side by side in creating new jobs and in accelerating the tran sition to work for people on the Live Register. These schemes are working; more than 50,000 people who were long-term unemployed are now at work and over 70,000 new jobs have been created. 

“The strategy published this week is important in ensuring that the performance of Intreo employment centres will be publicly benchmarked for the first time. Intreo centres will be obliged to ensure they are meeting targets to help jobseekers return to work. 

“Pathways to Work is extremely progressive in tackling long term unemployment through JobPath; this is a system by which professional recruitment companies will be tasked with finding jobs for people who are long-term unemployed. These recruitment consultants have targeted plans and they will not get paid if they don’t find work for these people. JobPath shows that this Government is serious about getting people back to work, about defining a route to employment.

“The Pathways to Work 2015 also commits that at least 50% of candidates considered for interview will be taken from the Live Register, a new accounts manager within the Department of Social Protection will interact with businesses and the rollout of Youth Guarantee initiatives will continue. This scheme also targets the welfare trap by introducing a Working Family Dividend which will allow people returning to work to retain, for a set period, welfare payments. 

“Unemployment has fallen from a crisis peak of over 15% to 11.1% now.  I realise that there are still far too many people out of work but the economy is recovering and that is because the Government’s plan is working, and because of the sacrifices made by the Irish people

“It is this Government’s priority to secure the recovery to make sure that those who have still not felt the benefits of recovery can look forward to a better future. The Pathways to Work scheme is a key part of this plan as it specially targetS youth and long-term unemployed.

New entrepreneurship plan to support start-ups in creating 93,000 jobs

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, says a new plan aimed at creating 93,000 jobs, launched today (Thursday), by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD and Minister of State for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD, should act as a kick-start for local entrepreneurs.

“Having started my own business in 2001, I am keenly aware of the challenges that new businesses face. However, as start-up companies in the first five years of existence account for two thirds of all new jobs created in Ireland, they must be supported in every way possible.

“The plan launched today aims to increase the number of start-ups by 25%, meaning 3,000 new businesses will be created every year. It will provide additional support to improve the survival rate of new businesses, assisting 1,800 companies in their first five years, and the plan will improve the capacity of start-ups to grow.

“This Government is committed to job creation and so far over 70,000 jobs have been created. One of the biggest problems we face however is making the recovery local and spreading job growth throughout the regions. That is why the Government’s National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship in Ireland launched today is so important. Start-up businesses provide essential employment in all parts of the country and I am delighted that a plan is in place to make this support available.

“Key measures in the plan include new mentoring services, entrepreneurship programmes, new marketing plans and doubling the funding to start-ups from angel investors, who are successful entrepreneurs reinvesting in other companies.

“This plan will specifically focus on promoting under-represented groups including women, young people, migrants and older people and it will introduce measures to assist start-ups to sell abroad.

“Taxation and administration have been barriers to starting a business. This plan has laid out taxation measures that would assist new business and I support Minister Bruton in his submission for Budget 2015 on these issues. Minister Bruton has called for relief on income tax, capital gains tax, incentives for employment and investment among other measures.

“This plan has drawn on expertise from people who have done it before, from academics and Government departments. In Ireland we have great entrepreneurs but we don’t have enough of them. The plan launched today is a very important step towards creating 93,000 additional jobs.”

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ireland is a world leader in the fight against smoking

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty has welcomed the news that France is to introduce standardised packaging for cigarettes, saying that Ireland is a world leader in the fight against smoking.

“The news that France is to introduce standardised packaging for cigarettes is remarkable and highlights Ireland’s position as one of the world leaders in the fight against smoking.

“We were the first European country to commit to standardised packaging for cigarettes in 2013 and the second country in the world to do so. The fact that France, a country considered to be tobacco friendly is now following in our lead, just proves how successful the measure is considered to be.

“I hope that many more European countries follow the Irish lead on this. It is good to see that the UK has also produced draft regulations on this matter.  Plain packaging was introduced in Australia in 2012 and the measure has been shown to have had an impact on the marketing power of tobacco companies and help reduce the numbers of young people taking up smoking.

“We must do whatever it takes to curb the numbers of young people smoking and plain packaging is a  good first step. It is great to see other countries following the Irish example on this.”

Ratoath GAA Club plays key role in Govt decision to extend rate exemptions to sports clubs

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has hailed the role of Ratoath GAA Club in helping to push for an extension of rate exemptions to sports clubs. This follows the announcement today (Wednesday) by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Simon Harris TD, that an amendment is to be made to ease the rates burden on many local sports clubs. 

“Ratoath GAA Club, which is my local club, started the grass roots campaign to reform rates for sports clubs and deserves a serious pat on the back from other clubs around Ireland who will now benefit the change.  

“I am glad to have played a role in this process. I met with Larry McGowan, the then Chairman of Ratoath GAA Club soon after I was elected as a TD and listened to his concerns about how rates were unfairly affecting sports clubs. I then approached Conor Tormey, the Chairman of Meath County Board who played an important role in helping to get the support of all GAA clubs in the county on this matter. More recently Donal O’Grady, the current Chair of Ratoath GAA Club contacted me to support the legislation which was announced today. 

“At a national level, I raised the issue as a Topical Issues debate in Dáil Eireann and then met with the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, about this issue. Having backed this reform from the start, I am delighted to see it come to fruition. 

“An amendment to the Valuation (Amendment)(No.2) Bill 2012 will mean sports clubs that previously paid rates on its bar and on sporting buildings, will now only pay rates for the part of the building that generates income i.e. the bar in most cases. In practical terms this will reduce significantly the size of the building for which sports clubs must pay rates and it will provide a welcome boost for clubs provided by volunteers for volunteers. 

“This measure introduced by Minister Harris will mean that buildings that are used for the sale of alcohol or food, retail outlets etc. will be subject to rates but buildings that are used for community sport will be exempt. If a sports club’s only commercial facility is the bar then it is only the bar and ancillary facilities that will be rated. 

“This is an example of a piece of legislation that will have a very real impact on local communities. The Government is committed to improving facilities and services in all regions of the country. The economy is improving because the policies pursued are working and changes such as the amendment announced today are another indication of our dedication to supporting local communities across the country.” 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

We must extend Breastcheck

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty has today (Tuesday) said that it is imperative we extend the successful Breastcheck programme to women over 65 in order to save more lives.

“Today I attended the launch of the campaign to have Breastcheck extended to women over 65. I fully agree with this proposal, as to extend the free national screening programme will certainly help to save lives.
“The Breastcheck programme, has been incredibly successful in Ireland so far. However unfortunately it is not yet reaching everyone. According to the Irish Cancer Society, the incidence of female breast cancer and deaths from breast cancer is second highest amongst the 60-69 age group. Only half of this group is currently covered by Breastcheck.
“Every family knows somebody who has been touched by breast cancer. The cost of extending Breastcheck is only in the region of €3 million and it is estimated that 87 lives will be saved every year; you can’t put a value on that.

“The Programme for Government lists extending Breastcheck to women aged 65-69. I would very much like to see this happen as soon as possible and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Government calling for this change to be made.”

New Investigations Division will raise standards and protect Ireland’s reputation

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has today (Wednesday), welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, that a new Investigations Division is to be established in the Department of Agriculture.

“As part of the modernisation of the Department being undertaken by Minister Coveney and in keeping with the public service reform process currently underway, it was found that an Investigations Division was needed. This Investigations Division will ensure a process that is strong, cohesive and effective.

“I am very supportive of an Investigations Unit in the Department of Agriculture that will ensure transparency, streamline processes and deliver the best service to those affected. Many high profile investigations have taken place in the past in the Department of Agriculture, most recently relating to the horsemeat crisis. The new Investigations Division will ensure that issues such as these will be dealt with in accordance with the highest levels of legal compliance to protect the health of consumers, to promote the Agri-food industry and to protect Ireland’s reputation at home and abroad.

“The Investigations Division will determine whether an investigation is warranted and if so, whether this should be conducted by the Investigations Division or referred to the Garda Síochána. The new Investigations Division reports to an Investigations Steering Group which is headed by a Senior Superintending Veterinary Officer and supported by a team of investigators. This new Investigations Division will perform the functions previously undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit and brings all investigation capability, both internal and external, into one Division. 

“The establishment of an Investigations Division enhances our capacity to protect Ireland’s international reputation.

“The Department of Agriculture carries out very important, sensitive and technical work in investigating issues that arise relating to the agri-food sector. I am pleased that the new Investigations Division will assist the Department in carrying out this work, while also developing the public service reform agenda.”

New jobs and falling unemployment rate show Govt jobs policies working

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday), said that the positive CSO Live Register figures show clearly that the Government’s jobs creation policies is working and that the economy is improving. 

“In 2012, the unemployment rate was at a record high of 15.1%, this figure has dropped to 11.1% with employment now at its highest level since 2009. 

“In Meath’s Mid-West region, the CSO figures indicate that 3,793 more people are back at work than this time last year.

“It is also extremely encouraging that in the past twenty four hours, 690 new jobs have been announced at three locations across the country. The jobs created range from manufacturing to engineering, finance, data science, as well as sales and customer operations.

“These jobs will benefit many regions across the country, in particular Dublin’s commuter belt which includes County Meath.

“The significant amount of jobs created in the last two years is no accident. The Government has committed to creating jobs and to pursuing policies that are focused on job creation. Positive changes in the tourism and construction sectors are a clear example that these policies are working. 

“The 9% VAT rate in the hospitality sector and the abolition of the Air Travel Tax has contributed to the creation of 8,000 jobs in the tourism sector over the past year. Overseas visitor numbers are up by 9.4% for the first eight months of 2014 and today we learned that the number of domestic holidays increased by 6.7%.

“In addition, measures introduced to boost the construction sector such as the Home Renovation Initiative have helped bring about an increase of 3,500 jobs in the sector.

“While the growth in the economy is now very real and to be very much welcomed, there are still 370,000 people on the Live Register and too many families have yet to feel the benefit of the recovery. The Government remains focused on creating 100,000 jobs by 2016 and to bringing the recovery to all regions of the country through the new Regional Enterprise Strategy.”

Doherty urgently calls for new temporary planning guidelines to deal with wind farm application

Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has today (Thursday), called on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly TD, to immediately implement new temporary planning guidelines to deal with Wind Farm applications, specifically in relation to an application made for a vast wind farm in North County Meath.

“I am calling on Minister Kelly to immediately and urgently issue new temporary planning guidelines. This was supposed to be done by the end of this year but due to the number of submissions received, I have been informed that it will be January or February 2015 before this happens. In the interim I believe it is essential that temporary guidelines are issued without delay to deal with applications.
“This week an application was made for a huge wind farm in North County Meath consisting of 46 turbines with a maximum height of a massive 169m and a permanent meteorological mast of 80m. It is proposed that this industrial project would be located in what is a rural, but highly residential area, and I find it totally unacceptable that a vast project such as this would be allowed to slip through the net without proper scrutiny.
“In recent years the size of wind turbines has increased threefold and it is accepted that the planning guidelines as they stand are not fit for purpose. The process is fundamentally flawed and it would be wrong for major decisions, such as this one, to be made in accordance with guidelines that do not work. All applications made should be cognisant of the impending new regulations.
“I take serious issue with such a substantial application being made on behalf of a shelf company affecting the rich heritage and hundreds of families in North County Meath.
“I have been very clear about my feelings on the current planning regulations and I intend to express to the Minister in no uncertain terms the gravity of this situation as it stands. Temporary guidelines are needed now to fill the void before the official new regulations are ready to be implemented. We cannot allow applications to sneak through a broken process.”