Monday, December 19, 2011



Should you know of any DEIS school seeking clarification or advice regarding the measures undertaken by the Government in Budget 2012 please don't hesitate to contact me at any time to discuss.

Constituency Office: (01) 857-4020
Dáil Office: (01) 618-3209

Let children be children

Statement Issued : Monday 19 December, 2011

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Government to tackle the growing problem of the sexualisation and commercialisation of children and young people in Ireland. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after raising this matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs on the floor of the House.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin states: "The issue of the sexualisation and commercialisation of our children and young people is an enormous problem in this society which often goes unnoticed. Too often we are finding that the youth of this society are being targeted by large companies and retailers with increasingly explicit clothing and products. I witnessed this first hand as a former school principal when some students would attend class with pencil cases and school bags brandishing a 'Playboy' logo.

"Fundamentally, what this process amounts to is an attack on childhood. Our children and young people should not be subjected, in any way, to the type of manipulative marketing that rationale adults are so often subjected to. Thus, it is incumbent on all of us in this society to do everything we can to protect the innocence of childhood.

"I was very encouraged to hear the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs affirm that the solution to this problem should be a cross-community one, involving parents, guardians, public representatives, business, media and the Internet industry. It is not my belief however that we become overly restrictive as a society. Rather, what I would like to see is a comprehensive analysis of this problem to be carried out by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in order to ascertain how we properly regulate this growing problem.

"We need look no further than the UK for a starting point where the Bailey Report Letting Children Be Children recommended numerous measures to tackle this issue. In addition, I was greatly encouraged by the Minister's comments in which she cited the new guidelines laid down by the authorities in Great Britain which spelled out a comprehensive programme for the responsible retailing of children's wear. Further, the authorities in the UK required all of the major retailers to sign up to these measures. Taking into account the fact that many of these stores such as Tesco, Debenhams and Marks & Spencers operate in the Irish market, I see no reason why the Government here cannot enact similar guidelines.

"The absence of a retailer code of conduct in this regard or even basic guidelines in this country is greatly hindering our progress in this area. I will continue to pursue this issue with the Minister and the Government and it is my wish that basic measures similar to the guidelines in the UK become a reality here in the near future."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It is an absolute privilege to be one of the recipients of the Diverse Ireland Awards 2011 from the Integration Centre.

The Integration Centre carries out tremendous work in the field of integration and inclusion for people from immigrant backgrounds and I am extremely proud to be associated with their organisation.

Nobody in this country should ever have to apologise for who they are and I believe it is incumbent on all of us, as citizens of this republic, to stand up and challenge discrimination and injustice wherever we encounter it.

I will continue to work closely with the Integration Centre into the future to highlight the issues of immigration in this country.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Clarification re: Community Employment Schemes


Following changes to Community Employment schemes announced in this weeks Budget, I wanted to reassure you that the Government is fully committed to the protection and development of community and social employment initiatives.

Community Employment schemes provide a very important and valued contribution to social employment, training and progression for unemployed people. Furthermore, many Community Employment schemes provide vital community services right across the country.

As part of the entry of the employment services division of FAS into the Department of Social Protection on the 1st of January 2012, I have directed that a review of CE schemes will commence immediately.

No Community Employment scheme will close pending the outcome of this review.

The purpose of the review will be to establish the ongoing viability of each scheme in the context of the overall objectives of the CE programme and recognising in particular the community and social value of each CE scheme.

In the event that the reduction in the training and material grant announced in the Budget creates financial difficulties for schemes that would otherwise be viable, the Department of Social Protection will be in a position to fund such schemes from within the overall Departmental Vote.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Labour committed to tackling fuel poverty

Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that recent initiatives launched by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte emphasises the fact that the Labour Party are committed to tackling fuel poverty in Ireland.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "The Affordable Energy Strategy to deal with fuel poverty is a comprehensive programme to address the pressing needs of the most vulnerable citizens to make their homes more energy efficient and to provide them with a more comfortable living environment. In addition, those homeowners who bought their houses before 2002 will be able to avail of facilities to insulate their homes and bring them up to better energy regulations. This is a very positive initiative which will aid those who were unfortunate enough to acquire homes which were not subject to stricter regulatory guidelines.

"Further, this Government will make energy improvements in approximately 60,000 homes across the country to the tune to €100 million. This is the largest ever spend on such an initiative by any Irish government. Moreover, the Minister's commitment that there will be no disconnections for families struggling to pay their energy companies shows further Labour's influence in government.

"I believe these are fair and progressive steps which the coalition parties have taken. Furthermore, I am positive that they will lead to better and smarter energy efficiencies in homes across this country whilst protecting those most at risk of fuel poverty. "

Decision to review proposed changes to disability allowance welcome - Ó Ríordáin

"I welcome the decision made today by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., to review the proposed changes to the Disability Allowance.

"I know that there has been a lot of unease regarding the measures outlined in the Budget, and the fact that it will not feature in the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow, means there will be more time to assess the merits of the proposed changes.

"I thank the Minister for listening to the concerns of individuals and interest groups who have voiced their disquiet over the past two days, and it is my hope that a more suitable resolution can be found."


“I welcome the decision made today by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., to review the proposed changes to the Disability Allowance.

“I know that there has been a lot of unease regarding the measures outlined in the Budget, and the fact that it will not feature in the Social Welfare Bill tomorrow, means there will be more time to assess the merits of the proposed changes.

“I thank the Minister for listening to the concerns of individuals and interest groups who have voiced their disquiet over the past two days, and it is my hope that a more suitable resolution can be found.”

BUDGET 2012 UPDATE: Minister Pat Rabbitte's speech on behalf of the Labour Party

A Cheann Chomhairle,

I do not stand up here today to make the claim that this is by any means a great Budget.

I do not seek to pretend that this is a Budget which will instantly fix the problems faced by our economy or the problems faced by so many families across this country who are going through difficult times.

What I do say is that this is a necessary Budget – and that it as good as it can be in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

That it is a Budget that prioritises jobs.

That it is a fair and balanced Budget.

That it is an honest Budget.

That it is a reforming Budget

That it honours the political commitments the Labour Party made: not to cut welfare rates and not to increase income tax on working people - to protect carers and standardise Child Benefit are considerable achievements.

And that it is a Budget that will move our country closer to economic recovery and the restoration of our sovereignty.

I, like all my colleagues in the Labour Party, believe that the task of Government is to build an Ireland which affords more opportunity, more social solidarity and a fairer society.

But to realise those ambitions, to create that better future, we must first rescue our economy from this crisis, create jobs and restore our economic sovereignty.

History will some day record the full extent of the crisis that this country faced at the time of the General Election earlier this year. The banking system was broken, the public finances were in tatters, Ireland’s reputation was at its lowest ever ebb and national morale was devastated. Hard working families were, and still are, suffering as a result of unemployment, distressed mortgages and loss of income.

At that moment, the Labour Party had a choice. We could have walked away. We could have chosen to sit on the opposition benches and avoid the duties of Government. Or we could roll up our sleeves and set to work in fixing the problem, in the full knowledge that it would take not one Budget or one year, but several over several years before our economic problems would be resolved.

In that situation, there was only one option that the Labour Party would ever take. For nearly one hundred years, the instinct, tradition and spirit of Labour have been to work, day in and day out, to make this a better country.

And that is what we are doing in this Budget. Our over-riding commitment to the Irish people is to restore the economy, promote job creation and restore our economic sovereignty.

A crisis with so many components has required Government to work on several fronts at once. Shortly after coming to office, we re-constructed the banking sector and provided the banks with the means to lend – even if they are still limiting their response. We brought forward a jobs initiative, with a particular focus on tourism and hospitality. We implemented the difficult Budget for 2011 that had been left behind by the outgoing administration and which had significant gaps in its arithmetic. And we reversed the cut in the National Minimum Wage

In addition, we began a major campaign to restore Ireland’s reputation abroad, through Ministerial and official endeavours. At the same time, we brought a new strategic focus to economic governance and management, through the setting up of the economic management council.

Twelve months on from the arrival of the EU/IMF, we have seen some improvement. Our position has stabilised. In fact, while 12 months ago we were Europe’s problem, now the European problem hangs over our recovery.

We are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the decisions we are taking, tough as they are, are as fair as we can make them in the circumstances. We are making progress. Ireland will see a return to economic growth this year, and next. Our exports are performing well. Tourism is recovering. The banking sector is managing to raise modest amounts of funding without Government guarantees and our bond-spread has fallen significantly in secondary markets. Our reputation abroad has been tremendously enhanced.

To move forward now, we must make further progress on a number of fronts.

First, it is clear that the continuing turbulence in the eurozone is placing a limit on our progress. It is urgent that we find a resolution to the crisis at European level.

Second, while the export sector is booming, in order to achieve a broad based recovery and employment growth we need to restore our domestic economy. That requires action to boost both investment and consumption, including direct measures to promote investment and to restore confidence among consumers and investors.

Third, we need to reform our welfare and training systems, so that people who lose their jobs do not drift into long-term unemployment. We need to shift from a passive welfare system to a far more active approach. The Government will shortly publish Pathways to Work, which will set out our approach in this area, and which is designed to ensure that, when recovery comes, those on the live register can take up the work that is being created.

Fourth, we need to continue to rebuild our reputation abroad and to work on expending our trade links into new markets. As the global centre of economic gravity shifts to the east, Ireland must be ready to build new trade links with emerging economies.

And fifth, we need to continue restoring our financial position, in respect both of our public finances and in implementing our reforms of the banking system.

We have been forced to make difficult and unpalatable decisions. But we as a Government are committed to being honest and upfront with people, in the hard choices that we must make.

Our country has suffered the greatest economic crisis in living memory, leading to a huge fall in revenue. Tax revenues fell from over €47 billion in 2007 to nearly €31 billion in 2010, a fall of one-third in just three years. We are now re-building but the truth is that we do not have the resources to fund all the services that we want to provide.

Ireland’s deficit for 2012 stands at €16 billion. To fill the gap between our spending and our revenue, we have had to borrow from the European Union and the IMF. The last Government was forced into that deal because, given their disastrous mismanagement of the economy they had created, no private financial institution would lend to us.

The reality is that the loans that are financing our day-to-day spending are subject to the condition that we reduce our deficit to 3% of our Gross Domestic Product by 2015.

At the moment our deficit stands at 10.1% of GDP. In order to reduce that deficit, the further reality is that we have no alternative but to reduce spending and to raise taxes. And, for 2012, the combined measures must in this Budget add up to €3.8 billion.

Both parties in Government resisted pressure to make additional adjustments to achieve savings of as much as €4.4 billion. This would have been too much for the economy to bear and would have placed too great a strain on people who are already struggling.

So, having identified the need for savings of €3.8 billion, our only room for manoeuvre was to strike the balance between reductions in spending on our public services and increases in taxation.

Of that €3.8 billion, we decided on a reduction of €750 million in the capital programme. That means that projects like Metro North and the A5 road through Northern Ireland will have to be put on hold.

We did, however, prioritise spending on job intensive and vital projects such as school building.

The remainder of the €3.8 billion adjustment is made up of current spending reductions and tax increases.

Fianna Fáil’s plan was for cuts to be double the amount of tax increases – a 2 to 1 ratio.

Labour resisted cuts on that scale, because we believed that doing so would mean we couldn’t provide for necessary front line services.

In the event, the Government decided on a ratio between current spending and taxes of 56% (spending cuts) to 44% (tax increases)

In Budget 2012, the Government has protected the most vulnerable in our society – children, the elderly and people with disabilities – by:

· not increasing income tax for working people
· maintaining core social welfare payments including jobseekers allowance and state pensions
· maintaining FIS, carers’ entitlements and disability allowances,
· maintaining our support for special needs children in our schools
· maintaining the pupil teacher ratio in the primary sector and
· ensuring that disadvantaged schools will be exempt from staffing schedule changes

In deciding this Budget and given our strategic imperatives, the Government has used the resources it has to prioritise Jobs, Reform and Fairness.
Jobs are central to everything we do in Government. Creating more employment is critical to the success of our economic strategy and to improving the position of families in difficulties.

Our job is to get the country to recover – we have stabilised the patient, we now need to get it into recovery and that’s by keeping people working and getting others back to work. Already this year the Government has:

· provided for a Capital Programme of €3.9bn
· restored the minimum wage
· invested €500m in the Jobs Initiative and
· reduced VAT reductions for the tourism sector
· extended incentives for research and development
· increased investment in the Retrofit Scheme – Better Energy

The clear focus of the Budget is on protecting family incomes, as part of a strategy to restore confidence in the domestic economy. It is well known that the savings ratio has increased rapidly in recent years and is now a drag on growth and employment. By protecting family budgets, and by not increasing taxes on work, we providing space for a return of confidence and spending.

While we will never see a return to the construction boom of the recent past, the normalisation of the property sector is still an important part restoring the domestic economy. The measures taken by the Minister for Finance in the Budget will assist that sector on the path to normalisation and encourage a greater level of activity.

The Government has also taken a number of other steps to encourage investment, through its Strategic Investment Strategy. We have established NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund, which will be the forerunner of a strategic investment bank, and we will work to use these mechanisms to channel investment into the domestic economy.

Through Pathways to Work we will provide more and better opportunities for people who lose their jobs to re-train and re-skill. Building on that in this Budget, the Government has decided not to increase income tax for working people and to ring fence €20 million for a new Labour Market Activation Fund targeted at the long-term unemployed. This fund, which will be specifically targeted at the long-term unemployed, will deliver upward of 6,500 places next year. What is critical in this area, however, is the implementation of a new and integrated approach to service delivery.

Reforming how Government works to reduce costs and protect front line services is also a guiding principle. This Government is a reforming government. Several key decisions have been taken as part of our reform agenda while reducing costs and protecting front line services. Already this year the Government has:

· reduced the pay of the Taoiseach and Ministers
· abolished severance payments for retiring Ministers
· changed pay and conditions for senior public servants
· Introduced a significant programme of agency rationalisation
· cancelled many parts of the ill-conceived decentralisation programme and
· announced the most ambitious programme of Public Service reform since the foundation of the State, to improve customer service and reduce costs.

Throughout the budgetary process, the Government has been determined to ensure that, despite the difficult decisions that must be made, those decisions are fair. The burden of recovery must be shared fairly and we need to maintain social solidarity in the face of difficult times. The Government has therefore decided not to reduce any weekly rate of social welfare payments and not to reduce the rates of child benefit for the first and second child. The core child benefit remains intact at €140 per month.

We have delivered on our commitment to maintain social welfare rates. There have been no income tax increases for working people and we have removed the lowest paid from the USC. Pensions have been protected and people with disabilities have received top priority from this government.

Expenditure Cuts
The vast bulk of the Government’s current spending is accounted for by the departments of Health, Education and Social Protection. Together the three departments make up over 80% of total current spending and it is therefore impossible to make the kind of necessary savings needed without touching these sensitive policy areas.

The demand for health services has increased, and the number of medical card holders has increased by more than 400,000 since 2007. While reducing spending, the Department of Health will reduce the negative impact on front line services while allowing real reform of services. Doing so will improve the quality and quantity of services in the coming years.

In the Education sector, demographic pressures mean that we need more teachers and more class rooms, to accommodate more children. This is unavoidable. The Department of Education is committed to prioritising its limited resources on programmes that will deliver the best results for children and parents from all backgrounds. Capital funding has also been promised for over 200 schools.

The pressures on our social welfare budget are enormous. The financial allocation for jobseeker’s payments alone has increased from €1.4 billion in 2007 to €3.9 billion this year: an increase of 176%. The provision for State Pensions has increased from €3.75 billion in 2007 to €4.7 billion this year. We will need to continue to increase this financial allocation year-on-year due to our demographic profile. In 2012 an additional allocation of €175 million will be required.

This Budget also marks a new direction in the approach to taxation. One of the great lessons of the boom years is that good public services must be based on sustainable tax revenues. The dislocation of our economy and the curtailment of services in recent years have been the direct result of enhancing public services on the back of unsustainable revenues. For the future, we must move to a revenue base that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Fairness and sustainability also require that we broaden the tax base so as to keep rates as low as possible, while ensuring that everyone makes a reasonable contribution to society. Above all, the greatest inequality in our society is the divide between those who have work and those who do not, or who have had to leave the country to find a job. By re-building our revenue base in a more sustainable manner, we can support work and employment creation, now and in the future.

This Budget marks a significant departure in Irish tax policy, towards a broader and more sustainable revenue base. At the same time, the Budget includes a number of important measures to enhance the fairness of the tax code.

There is a tendency in discussions of taxation to focus solely on rates of tax, as though that were the only measure of fairness. By that rubric, the Irish tax code is now strongly progressive. The key issue, however, is to ensure an equality of treatment of different income sources and to ensure that high rollers cannot shelter their income from fair taxation.

While reducing spending and increasing the tax take, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to provide the safety net of social protection in what these challenging times. In order to do so difficult choices must made to help reduce the budget deficit.

We have already had to take decisions that none of us ever thought we would have to make, but progress is being made.

We will see a return to economic growth this year. We have drawn a line under the banking crisis. We have renegotiated the interest rate on Ireland's bailout, even though some said that was impossible. We have ring-fenced €17 billion for investment in capital projects, including the National Children’s Hospital and over 200 primary and secondary schools. We have ensured that the trend for exports remains positive. We have introduced Labour Activation measures in training and education which will continue into next year, with a focus on the long-term unemployed. And we have stimulated the job-intensive sectors of the economy such as tourism and services and energy efficiency.

Despite the tough decisions we have had to take, we have not increased income tax for working people. We have maintained core social welfare payments including jobseekers allowance and state pensions. We have maintained the Family Income Supplement, carers’ entitlements and disability allowances. We have maintained our support for special needs assistants in our schools and the pupil teacher ratio in the primary sector. And we have ensured that disadvantaged schools will be exempt from staffing schedule changes.
Turning briefly to my own Department in respect of which gross provision of some €437m has been made. As regards capital spending some €76m, inclusive of €13m carryover, is provided for energy efficiency measures in 2012 and will support 4,500 direct and indirect jobs.

I am especially pleased to have secured funding for the rollout of 100mbs broadband to second level schools. I believe that over the coming years this scheme can make a real contribution to the promotion of a knowledge society by equipping our 2nd level students with the necessary digital skills and in the process improve overall competitiveness.

For 2012 we have preserved the split in licence fee revenue as between RTÉ, TG4 and the Sound and Vision Fund. However, during 2012 I will have completed the review of funding public sector broadcasting. The big project next year is the switch off of analogue on October 24th and €3m is being provided to ensure a comprehensive information campaign to promote a smooth transition to digital terrestrial television.

It should of course be noted that the vast bulk of capital investment in Energy and Telecommunications comes from our State energy companies in the case of the former and the private sector in the case of the latter. In the specific case of broadband whilst real strides have been made we have a deficit, especially in relation to the availability of high speed broadband, which must be addressed. The Task Force on Next Generation Broadband which I chair - and also comprises the CEOs of the major telecommunications companies - will report very early next year. There is a strong commitment in the Programme for Government to rollout high speed broadband nationwide. Informed by the work of the Taskforce I will bring proposals to Government early next year on implementation of the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Fianna Fáil has discovered a shiny new clean-cut spokesperson with an accountancy degree. He can’t believe the scale of the crisis visited on the country and nobody has explained to him how it happened. But he sticks to the new Fianna Fáil mantra: this Government can no longer blame Fianna Fáil. Why not? Does he seriously suggest that this Government would introduce a Budget such as this if we were starting with a clean sheet? We are attempting to cope with the disastrous legacy left behind by Fianna Fáil and their alternating partners, the PDs and the Green Party.

Of course, the battered clapped out remnants of the once great Fianna Fáil Party is under siege from new improved Sinn Féin. Beneath the radar, Sinn Féin is beginning to shed the wilder reaches of what has passed for their economic policy. Apparently no more does Sinn Féin advocate abandoning the Euro and walking away from our debts. While retaining the populist rhetoric, the new Sinn Féin now accepts that €3.8 billion must be taken out of the economy even if they have no credible idea of how it should be done. The nasty mean spirited speech by Deputy Doherty was a diatribe of criticism and abuse without a single positive idea other than raid what’s left in the National Pension Reserve Fund and soak the rich. And what do we do next? Something will turn up – hopefully things will get worse because the worse they get the better for Sinn Féin. Or so they hope.

Yesterday the country waited with bated breath to see who would be selected from the dolly mixture that is the Technical Group. Which brand of competing eccentric populism would emerge to respond to the tax measures? In the event it was Deputy Mick Wallace – it could only happen in Ireland.

This Government had better succeed because the Pick ’n’ Mix assortment on the opposite side of the House have nothing to offer.

Monday, December 05, 2011

BUDGET 2012-Information leaflet regarding changes to education

Introduction by Ruairi Quinn, TD
Minister for Education and Skills

Over the next 6 years, we will see an extra 70,000 pupils in our primary and second level schools. This surge in numbers comes at the most challenging time possible for the education sector, and will demand that all of us achieve more with fewer resources.

This Government has prioritised the protection of education within a very difficult budget. While overall Government spending will reduce by 2.2%, the reductions to the education budget will be 1.7%.

Within the education budget, my focus has been on protecting those who are most vulnerable. There will be no reductions in the overall number of Special Needs Assistants (SNA) or Resource Teachers in this budget. We have also protected to the greatest extent possible primary and disadvantaged second-level schools from changes to teacher allocations.

It is important that we continue with our reform agenda. Funding for the national literacy and numeracy strategy, for an overhaul of the Junior Cert, and for roll-out of high-speed broadband to all second-level schools has been secured, and will allow us to continue to improve the quality of the education system in Ireland.

Overall Allocation

2011 - €m 2012 - €m 2013 - €m 2014 - €m
Total allocations for gross voted current expenditure* 8,387 8,242 8,163 8,091
Net savings, after new expenditure measures and upward pressures are taken into account 76 157 241
Further savings required
68 138
% Reduction compared to 2011 1.7% 2.7% 3.5%
* There will also be an annual allocation of €362 million under the National Training Fund.
Teacher allocations

The pupil-teacher ratio at primary level is unchanged for the 2012/13 school year. The overall number of Resource Teachers and SNAs for children with special needs will also be protected at primary and second-level levels.

At primary level starting in 2012, phased adjustments will be made to the staffing schedules for 1, 2, 3 and 4 teacher schools (schools with less than 86 pupils). These adjustments will increase the minimum number of pupils required for allocation of teaching posts, and will affect about 100 posts next year. This measure is being phased in to encourage small schools to assess their options for amalgamation.

At second-level level, guidance provision will be managed by schools from within their standard teacher allocation. In this way, the main teacher allocation can be maintained at 19:1 for schools generally, while schools will have discretion to balance what they allocate for guidance against the competing demands of providing subject choice. There will also be a 1 point increase in the staffing schedule for all fee-charging schools.

During 2012, the Department will conduct an analysis of funding for the fee-charging school sector to inform policy decisions in future years. We will facilitate discussions with any fee-charging school that wishes to consider moving into the non-fee-charging sector.

There will be a phased withdrawal of 428 posts that were allocated to schools under ‘legacy’ programmes prior to the rollout of the DEIS initiative in 2005. This will ensure fairness in the distribution of available resources under the DEIS scheme.

When account is taken of additional teacher posts for demographics at primary and second-level level the number of teacher posts in primary schools will increase by an estimated 250 and the number at second-level level will reduce by 450 for the 2012/13 school year.

Funding for schools

• Overall there will be a 2% reduction in the funding for capitation and related grants to primary and second level schools in each of 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% reduction in each of 2014 and 2015.
• The reduction will be applied to the basic capitation payment and will return the funding of schools for basic capitation to 2007 levels – when costs in the economy were at their highest. We are continuing to work with schools to help them devise shared procurement models that will deliver savings for schools.
• Other grants including extra capitation payable to DEIS schools and book grants have been protected.
• Changes will be announced early in 2012 to the current operation of the school book grant in order to incentivise the establishment of book rental schemes in schools. This forms part of our ongoing work to reduce school-related costs for parents.

Teacher Allowances

Pending completion of the public service-wide review of allowances and given the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances, the Government has decided to make changes, with immediate effect, to the rules governing payment of qualification allowances to teachers.

Teachers will hold their existing allowances, but will not receive additional allowances for further qualifications. New teachers will be eligible for allowances up to honours degree level only.
Higher Education and Student Grants

The 2007 National Skills Strategy set down a target of 72% participation rate in higher
education by the year 2020. At 65%, we are well on our way towards achieving that goal.

In the context of overall demographic and budgetary pressures a number of savings measures will be necessary over the coming years.
Third-level funding

There will be a 2% reduction in pay and non-pay funding for third-level institutions in 2012, a further 2% reduction in 2013, and a further 1% reduction in each of 2014 and 2015.

We acknowledge that this will cause challenges for the third-level sector in the coming years.

The savings delivered by these measures will amount to €24 million in 2012, and €69 million in a full year. Student Contributions

The Student Contribution will rise by €250 next year to €2,250.

About 41% of students were exempt from paying the Student Contribution in 2011. Similar proportions of students are expected to be exempt in 2012.

The contribution of €2,250 next year will remain considerably lower than the fees of £3,465 payable in Northern Ireland, and up to £9,000 in England and Wales.
Student Grants

Student grants will be reduced by 3% from 1 January 2012.

There will be no maintenance payments for new entrant postgraduate students, but over 2,000 students on the lowest incomes will have their fees paid and another 4,000 students will receive a fee contribution of €2,000.

A Capital Assets Test will be introduced in 2013, allowing certain capital assets as well as income to be assessed as part of all grant applications.

Further Education and Training

• The capitation grants paid for participants on further education programmes will be reduced by 2% in 2012 and 2013 with a further reduction of 1% in 2014 and 2015. This is in line with reductions to non-pay funding for schools and third-level institutions.
• The two existing allowances paid to 16 & 17 year olds participating in Youthreach, Community Training Centre and FÁS courses are being merged and reduced to one standard rate of €40.

School transport

The charge for primary school transport will increase from €50 to €100. The family maximum at primary level will increase to €220 from €110. These measures will be offset by a reduction in concessionary charges at primary level with the charge reducing from €200 to €100.

The overall family maximum charge of €650, and the second-level charge of €350 remain unchanged.

Protection of disadvantaged schools

A key priority is to continue to prioritise and target available funding at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage.

At primary level, a new staffing schedule for all DEIS Band 1 schools will be based on a general average of 1 teacher for every 22 pupils, compared to 1 teacher for every 28 pupils in mainstream schools. This will replace the existing approach of giving a “top up” allocation on the existing standard staffing schedule to enable DEIS Band 1 schools to implement reduced class sizes of 20:1 in junior classes and 24:1 in senior classes.

All DEIS second-level schools will be given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools. 195 second-level schools are included in DEIS.

The basic capitation reduction will apply to all schools but DEIS schools will continue to receive the enhanced DEIS grant which has not been reduced

The five existing scholarship schemes for higher education are being replaced with a single bursary style, merit based scheme with awards set at €2,000 per student. The bursary will be an additional support to incentivise and reward high achievement for students from DEIS schools. Over 370 students will be awarded the bursary in the next four years, and they will also be eligible to apply for higher education grants.

New spending measures

€9.4 million is being provided in 2012 to commence implementation of Programme for Government commitments. This includes:

• Implementation of actions in the literacy and numeracy strategy (€6m 2012)
• Funding the reform of the junior cycle, which will completely overhaul the Junior Cert starting in September 2014 (€1m in 2012)
• Roll-out of high-speed (100mbps) broadband to every second-level school in Ireland by the end of 2014 (€2.4m 2012)

€30 million is being provided in 2012 to fund more targeted Labour Market Activation Measures. This includes:

• €20 million is being provided under the National Training Fund for a new Labour Market Activation Fund. This fund, which will be specifically targeted at the long-term unemployed, will deliver upward of 6,500 places in 2012.
• €10 million is being allocated, also under the National Training Fund, to support a further roll-out of the Springboard initiative to increase the part-time higher education opportunities for unemployed people.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that addressing the pressing issue of forced labour in this country must be a priority for the Government. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after representatives from the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) briefed Oireachtas members in Leinster House this afternoon.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: “I really believe that this issue must be tackled head on by the Coalition and it must be tackled urgently. Unfortunately, over the past number of years a vacuum has developed in our judicial system and enforcing the laws has become quite difficult because there is no clear law to deal with the problem of forced labour in Ireland.

“It was quite harrowing this afternoon to listen to some of the victims of forced labour explaining what they were subjected to as migrant workers. These people were promised a better life and a chance of a fresh start, only to see these prospects shattered through deceit. In several instances, victims were forced to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week with no opportunity to even leave their place of work. In one case which we heard today, the only day off which was provided by the employer was Christmas Day. This is a disgrace and it is grossly inhumane to treat anyone in this fashion.

“I would call on the Minister for Justice to urgently address this issue and to bring forward legislation similar to what has been enacted recently in the United Kingdom and I will be making enquiries to the Department of Justice as to when this can be done. Unfortunately, the problems of forced labour are compounded in times of economic turmoil so I believe it’s imperative that we act sooner rather than later.

“Finally, I believe the issue of forced labour is one which can be tackled given the level of cross party support involved. It was very heartening to see representatives of the Government and Opposition at today’s briefing and it is crucial now that we harness that support in order to eradicate forced labour in this country.”

Speaking on social welfare rates in Dáil Éireann

Watch Aodhán's speech here:

Aodhán: I appreciate the sentiments in the motion. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention my uncle, Micheál Ó Ríordáin, whom I buried earlier. He was proud of my achievement in being elected to the House in February. He had campaigned with me since my first election. I reflected earlier as we sat in the church about the life chance he had been given by this Republic. He moved out of the tenement house in which he was brought up to a corporation estate in the 1940s. The Republic owes a life chance to every child, regardless of who they are, where they are from, their religion, the colour of their skin or the income bracket of their parents.

It keeps me awake at night - I am sure this is shared by others - that if we do nothing in the next number of years we will take away the life chance from our children because they had the misfortune to be born over the past few years or in the coming years. We need to change the language we use to describe the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves. I find it offensive that people constantly state that people who are unemployed are costing the Exchequer €20,000 a year and they are a supposed drain on the social protection budget. This is a societal cost, not an economic cost. The impact losing a job and being unable to go to work has on an individual and, by extension, on his or her children is immeasurable. It should not be measured in economic units.

I am proud to be a member of the Government because of the some of the initiatives we have taken. The reversal of the cut in the national minimum wage was not easy and it has not resulted in a huge change but we said we would do it. We are determined to defend the Croke Park agreement because it defends the rights of low paid public servants. Many Members have different views on the joint labour committee system but when we were targeted by representatives of the conservative Catholic right who suggested that members of my party and other parties were in some way anti-Catholic, I wish they had been so vociferous when we protected the rights of those who worked on a Sunday, the traditional day of rest, because they had to work to put bread on the table for their children, and ensured they would be compensated for giving up their Sundays. Commentators on the conservative Catholic right were silent on that issue, which has had more of an impact on the family unit than any of the other stuff they go on with. Poverty has the biggest impact on the family and I wish they would realise that.

I appreciate the motion and I welcome the opportunity to discuss matters relating to children. We are trying to correct the mistakes made in respect of our economy. There is only one chance to be a child. Unlike my uncle, Michéal, and my father, many children do not get the opportunity to fulfil their potential. The social welfare system does not, in many respects, act as an enabler. In many circumstances, it almost acts as a cage. Everyone knows a cage will protect one from the wolves. However, it does not enable a person or set him free. In the context of what we are trying to deliver in respect of the education budget, one of the things of which I am extremely proud is the literacy strategy. We are determined to push that strategy forward because if one cannot read, one cannot play a full role in society.

People must take the totality of what the Government is doing into account when discussing the possibility of maximising children's potential. As already stated, people only get one chance at childhood. It is not a person's fault if he or she happens to be born in the middle of an economic crisis. That fact must be taken into consideration when discussing the concerns raised in the motion. I wish that every child could have the opportunity to grasp the life chances of which my uncle, Michéal, managed to avail, to live the kind of life he lived and to maximise their potential. This is why I hope that next week we will be able to stand up and be proud of the direction the Government proposes to take.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Growing problem of illiteracy is not just confined to the classroom- Ó Ríordáin

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has stated that the pressing issue of illiteracy in Ireland today cannot be addressed within the classroom alone. Rather, this is a matter which must be tackled nationally in people's homes and in the workplace. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after facilitating a briefing from the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) for the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said: "First of all I wish to thank the representatives from NALA for taking the time to brief the TDs and Senators of the Labour Party today. I know from discussing this matter with my colleagues following the meeting that there is a real urgency within Labour about addressing this growing problem in our society.

"I believe that in order to tackle this issue we must create a culture of literacy in this country. We as a people have to create a climate where literacy is ingrained in every aspect of our lives. From the home to the classroom and on into the workplace, we must promote and strengthen our literacy standards. This is imperative for the simple reason that every citizen in this country should have a high standard of literacy to go about their daily lives. Whether it be reading the instructions on medication or reading a signpost on a motorway, we all benefit when citizens are equipped with the skills to make them more productive in this society.

"Further, I believe we can achieve our goals in this respect and I believe the Government can drive the change we all seek. This can be done by ensuring that every Government department and agency has a comprehensive literacy and numeracy policy in place. This can be achieved through extensive consultation with stakeholder groups such as NALA and the Department of Education. In addition, we can integrate literacy and numeracy into all publicly funded education and training.

"It is my belief that literacy is fundamentally a matter of equality and empowerment. I know from my time as a school principal in the North Inner City of Dublin how trapped and hopeless people can become. However, if we really tackle this issue by fostering a vibrant and comprehensive literacy strategy for both young and old, we will be giving people more opportunities to improve their lives and allow them to play a more active role in Irish society.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Statement on Cllr Darren Scully

Statement on Cllr Darren Scully:

I would like to outline the rationale for my actions in relation to Cllr Darren Scully today. I understand he has tonight resigned as Mayor of Naas.

Cllr Scully made remarks which to my mind were tantamount to incitement to hatred, as he announced his policy of not engaging with constituents of a 'Black African' background.

As a result, I reported Cllr Scully's actions to An Garda Síochána for them to investigate.

I have received many messages of support through twitter, email and phone messages for my actions.

I have also received many messages condemning my actions, and supporting the views of Cllr Scully. A sample of those emailed messages, without names, can be seen below.

One Fine Gael member contacted me to congratulate me, a Labour member told me he is resigning from the party as a result of my actions.

When I first ran for election in 2004, it was the time of the controversial Citizenship Referendum. That referendum aroused some vile and poisonous attitudes at many doors that I knocked on and I vowed at that stage to challenge racism at every juncture in my political life.

As this issue is now in the hands of the Gardaí I now intend to return to the pressing issue of the upcoming budget and the reasons why I was elected to Dáil Éireann in the first place - to build a real Republic that we can be proud of.

E-mail 1:
Sadly Mr Scully spoke the truth come to our school in Dublin 15 to pick up our irish childern and you will see the ignorance we have imported. Can I now go to the garda station to report you and the labour party for the lies told to the Irish people to get elected. If you even bothered to look at this article and public opinion you may see that the vast majority support Mr Scully. Maybe you would be better off doing the job of looking after the interests of Irish people instead of this publicity stunt for these uninvited visitors. Well done Mr Scully at last a public figure saying what the public think. If we Irish open our mouths we are racict. God help Ireland and the way we are heading. Irish Citizen

Email 2
Darren Scully is dead right to step away from representing certain groups of people if they have accused him of racism. he should have reported them to the guards as this is clearly a racist tactic that certain groups use if they dont get there way...i have heard it myself on a number of occasions over the years being used and being said in a aggressive manner to the person that if they were white they would get what they wanted...and if you have reported darren scully to the guards then going on national newspapers and calling him a racist is Prejudicing any fair investigationand on another note have you resigned your teaching post or is it being kept open for you if and when you loose your TD`s seat

Email 3:
Dear sir, I would like to say to you that I believe that Darren Scully is a realist not a racist. You should be charged with wasting Garda Time, Why don't you find something useful to do with your time. Unlike him you must always say what you think is the populist thing to say. Actually you should be fired (of course not possible) for wasting state finances. Grow up

Email 4:
Mr Ó Ríordáin.
I write as a member if the Labour party.While I abhor the stupid comments made by the mayor Scully about dealing with blacks what upsets me more is your attempt to twist it in to a more sinister level; racisim. The ignorant comments by Mr Scully were not racist, they were free speech. Something you should know the difference between. There is something truly nasty in what you have to done or at least attempted to do. It is an insult to those who suffer racisim in this country.You have made me ashamed to be a labour party member and I will be resigning from the Labour party over this matter.

Text on my mobile today at 1.31pm in relation to Cllr Darren Scully

Text on my mobile today at 1.31pm in relation to Cllr Darren Scully:

'Tha mayor is right what exactly are black africans doing in Ireland anyway? Playing the race card for all its worth and milking the system. You PC police really are pathetic pity you arent down here in Clare where your Dublin 4 values would go down like a lead baloon.'

(I have kept name to myself)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time

"I believe that marriage equality is, without doubt, the most important civil rights issue of our time.

"I am proud of the Labour Party's record of supporting same-sex couples and the steps taken to advance the rights of these couples over the last number of years must be greatly welcomed. However, they simply do not go far enough.

"Same-sex couples still face enormous discrimination in this society. For example, gay or lesbian partners still cannot apply to jointly adopt and parental rights cannot be conferred where a civil partner is not the biological or adoptive parent to the child. This is not just discriminating against same-sex couples, but this represents discrimination against the child as well.

"Further, civil partners face enormous challenges when it comes to property and legal procedures which married couples do not. These are issues which I believe need to be seriously addressed at the proposed Constitutional Convention.

"Finally, I wish to state that I am absolutely convinced of the arguments laid out by the Marriage Equality organisation, with whom I met today, and I would like to sincerely thank their representatives for taking the time to meet with Members this afternoon to address this vital issue."

Child poverty must be a priority for Government - Ó Ríordáin

Labour Party T.D., for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has stated that confronting child poverty must be a top priority for Government. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after a briefing by the children's charity Barnardos revealed alarmingly high figures of children in the State are at risk of poverty.

"Figures supplied to TDs and Senators today at the launch of Barnardos Children's Budget 2012 revealed that approximately 90,000 children in this country are at risk of poverty. This is completely unacceptable and I would call on the Cabinet to make this a top priority on their agenda.

"It is absolutely crucial, in these difficult times, that we ensure that the most vulnerable in this society are cared for. Unfortunately, young children are a group that are particularly at risk of poverty in recessionary times. It is my belief though; that providing supports for children does more than just lift them out of poverty, but it also empowers children and provides them with a better future.

"Therefore, I would like to see a more focused and multifaceted approach to tackling child poverty. I would echo the sentiments from Barnardos in relation to the new Child and Family Support Agency in this regard; however this new agency must be seen to deliver if we are serious about confronting this issue as a society."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Extensive literacy & numeracy programme badly needed in Irish prisons- Ó Ríordáin

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today urged the Minister for Justice to formulate a comprehensive literacy and numeracy programme to be placed on the curriculum of penal institutions throughout the country. This programme should be compiled in conjunction with the Department of Education and experts in the field of literacy and numeracy.

The Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central was speaking on foot of a reply to a Parliamentary Question from Minister Shatter's department which stated that 52% of the Irish prison population are at Level 1 or Pre-Level 1 literacy standards.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: "Upon reviewing the details and having undertaken visits to institutions such as Mountjoy and St. Patrick's, I believe it is imperative that every penal institution in the country must have a formal literacy policy which is regularly reviewed and updated .The figures supplied to me from the Minister for Justice are really startling. The fact that over half of the prison population are at Level 1 or Pre-Level 1 standard really indicates the failure of the system and our society to tackle this problem.

"I would like to see the Minister entering into discussions with the Department of Education in order to formulate a programme that would ensure all prisoners engaged in educational programmes are literate and numerate by the end of their stay. This is not just about rehabilitating our prison population, but it is also about supplying inmates with the basic right to learn that they may have missed out on in their early years.

"The Department of Education has a pivotal role in this regard. The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has embraced the cause of literacy and numeracy so readily and the comprehensive Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life initiative is a real game changer for our education system. My hope is that the same vigour for literacy and numeracy will be embraced by the Department of Justice and the benefits of this programme can be extended to our prison population."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Raising the matter of sports funding with Minister for Finance

Aodhán: I appreciate the opportunity to raise the matter of the horse and greyhound fund in the context of overall sports funding and promised legislation on online gambling.

Approximately €30 million a year is raised through a levy on gambling in Ireland. Regardless of what one’s bet is placed on, the levy goes directly to the horse and greyhound fund under the terms of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001. This is despite the fact that only 10% of bets placed relate to these two industries. A total of 80% of the fund goes to the horse racing industry and the vast bulk of this is spent on prize money. The prize money on offer in the Republic of Ireland is 60% higher than that in the UK. Also, the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland received a pre-tax bonus of €57,000 in 2009.

This year, Irish Sports Council funding amounts to €25.6 million for 57 national governing bodies, 32 local sports partnerships and 18 high performance sports. Given our sporting endeavour, next year’s Olympic Games and the fact we all enjoy sports so much, one could argue that in the current recession sport is one of the only things keeping communities alive. It keeps children occupied and families entertained and gives us all a lift. This Friday, everybody’s eyes will be turned towards Tallinn hoping the Irish soccer team can go halfway towards qualifying for the European Championships.

The Minister for Justice and Equality indicated a levy on online betting will be introduced in spring next year. We believe this could raise approximately €90 million. Can I have a commitment that it will be spent on sports funding? Does the Minister intend to investigate the current funding criteria for the horse and greyhound industry? Has he asked the industry for indications of how the money is spent? Everyone accepts that the horse racing and greyhound industries are of great benefit, are fantastic employers and act as wonderful tourism magnets. At the same time, can we justify a situation where the vast bulk of the funding goes to prize money and the money spent on prize money is 60% higher here than in UK? I also referred to the figures on bonuses for the chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland.

There is inequity in sports funding, with €25 million going to the Sports Council, which looks after so many national governing bodies, local sports partnerships and high performance sports. At the Olympic Games next year we will talk about the performance of our athletes, how they are funded and how well they have performed. Is it justifiable that €25 million of our taxpayers’ money goes to that while €30 million of taxpayers’ money goes to the horse and greyhound industry? Is it justifiable that 100% of the levy raised on betting in this country goes to an industry when only 10% of the bets placed relate to that industry? If Paddy and Joe put €5 on Manchester United versus Chelsea, the levy raised on the €5 bet goes to the horse and greyhound industry.

Will the proposed levy on online gambling be funnelled back into the sports industry? Can we be assured it will not go in the same manner to the horse and greyhound industry and that it will be more equitably distributed?

Minister for Finance: Some of the issues raised by Deputy Ó Ríordáin are more appropriate to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I will reply to the matter in respect of a levy on online gambling and we can have a conversation about the other issues.

I am pleased to take this opportunity to speak on the subject of extending the betting duty to remote betting firms, including betting exchanges that offer their services to consumers in the State. Work has been ongoing in the context of the draft betting (amendment) Bill towards widening the tax base in respect of betting duty with the view to extending the duty to remote bookmakers and betting exchanges. This widening of the base has always been regarded as difficult to do from a legal and practical perspective because online and phone betting services are primarily offered by offshore, out-of-State entities.

The main provisions of the betting (amendment) Bill are to amend the Betting Act 1931 with the objective of bringing remote betting, including betting exchanges, within the existing regulatory framework, including measures to enforce the regulatory framework. It provides that any remote bookmakers or betting exchanges that wish to offer their services to consumers in the State must obtain a licence to do so. A condition of that licence will be to pay betting duty or betting intermediary tax in respect of bets accepted that originated in the State.

Betting duty of 1% on turnover has applied to bets placed with traditional bookmakers since 2006. The 2006 legislative provision also moved the liability for the tax from the punter to the bookmaker, the context for this being an attempt to stem the migration of consumers from traditional bookmakers to remote bookmakers. However, the lowering of the rate to 1%, together with a significant reduction in betting activity due to the downturn in the economy and a growing share of bets being placed over the phone or online with offshore non-taxed entities has seen betting duty receipts fall from a high of €54 million in 2007 to an estimated €30 million this year.

Historically, betting receipts have been tied to funding for horseracing through the horseracing and greyhound fund. This fall in betting receipts has widened the gap between the level of Exchequer funding seen as desirable for the sector. Some €57 million has been provided in 2011, along with the receipts from the betting duty. What is now being proposed will allow us to recapture much of the revenue lost to online or remote outlets. The extension of betting duty to remote bookmakers is necessary to ensure, first, that firms that offer their betting services to residents in the State, regardless of what platform is used, are treated equally in terms of the taxation of that activity and, second, that the extension of the betting duty will widen the tax base and protect the Exchequer from the leakage of potential tax revenue.

The Deputy will be aware that what is being prepared by my Department for the provision of a regulatory and licensing regime to enable the taxation of remote betting is an interim solution, pending the outcome of the major overview on the regulation of all gambling in the State being conducted by the Minister for Justice and Equality. In this regard, in July the Government approved proposals from the Minister for Justice and Equality for the preparation of a comprehensive Bill on gambling, which will include, inter alia, the regulation of remote gambling services, including betting services, and provide for the repeal the Betting Act 1931, as amended.

Consequently, the Finance Act 2011 contained measures to allow for the extension of the betting duty to remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, including respective licence fees, which are based on the level of turnover, and annual commission earnings, respectively. The provisions in the Finance Act 2011 are subject to a ministerial commencement order. The provisions in the Finance Act cannot be commenced, however, until the betting (amendment) Bill, which contains the necessary regulatory and licensing provisions, is enacted.

The level of taxation provided for in the Finance Act is 1% on turnover in respect of remote betting firms, the same level that currently applies to their bricks and mortar counterparts. To take account of the particular business model of betting exchanges, a tax on the commission an exchange charges its customers will apply. This is in line with the level of tax elsewhere.
Enforcement and compliance will be a key aspect to the successful regulation and taxation of remote betting firms. Those potential difficulties in that regard should not be underestimated, especially with regard to firms that have no presence in the State. However, it is desirable to make such offshore providers subject to the betting tax.

Aodhán: A cross-departmental response is required. What is the Minister’s instinct in respect of the equity of sports funding? The Minister’s response shows that €57 million has been provided this year for the horseracing and greyhound fund. No one wants to question the justification of funding for that industry, which is a wonderful industry and one Ireland is famous for. However, how does the Minister square giving €57 million to that industry in the current crisis, in view of the prize fund amounts, with the €25 million given to the Sports Council, which looks after 57 national governing bodies, 32 local sports partnerships and 18 high performing sports? Does the Minister accept there is an anomaly and will he commit to investigating a way in which we can address it?

Minister for Finance: These are the figures in the Estimate put together by the previous Government in the last budget in December 2010 for 2011. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, is negotiating with line Departments on the appropriate amount for each head for next year. In that context, he has had discussions with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I am sure discussions included this issue. My responsibility is simply to enact legislation and it is up to the two other Ministers to decide what the expenditure should be. Up to now, the principle was that whatever was raised by the levy went into the fund. There was a shortfall and, instead of the Estimate of €47 million being raised, the fund dropped to €30 million. That was as a result of what happened in 2006, when the then Minister for Finance reduced the levy from 2% to 1% without applying a new tax to the online aspect of the betting industry which was then taking much of the activity. In the last Finance Bill, my predecessor sought to correct this but the correction was subject to separate legislation being brought in for on-line betting. Those sections in the Finance Bill would be implemented subjected to a ministerial order. The on-line betting Bill has not been produced yet and obviously the new Government will have to have sight of it before the issues of principle and detail in it are ratified. I will try to get things done quickly and, if possible, in advance of the budget.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ó Ríordáin welcomes €10 million flood relief fund

“I greatly welcome the €10 million flood relief fund announced today by the Government which will aid those homeowners affected by the recent flooding. The fund will be of most comfort for those families left without house insurance since the last major flooding problems of July 2009.

“I have been campaigning on this issue for many years and I know too well the enormous hardship that so many homeowners and small businesses have experienced because of flooding.

“I also wish to point out that this new fund has come about because the Labour Party are in Government. I want to thank the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton for listening to the concerns of residents, particularly in areas in my own constituency like Donnycarney and Artane.

“I will continue to work hard on this issue and I also plan to continue to push for a comprehensive flood defence programme to be initiated, which is ultimately the end goal.”

Monday, November 07, 2011

Clontarf Flood Barrier Update

Dear Clontarf Residents,

As you may be aware, Dublin City Council have revised their plan for flood defences in Clontarf and my colleague Cllr Jane Horgan Jones may have already contacted you with an update on the flood defences issue.

The following is a summary of the situation as we see it:

- The original plan cannot and will not go ahead. It was the result of a consultation process that we exposed to have been completely unacceptable and deeply flawed.

- My demand that the consultation process be declared null and void has already been made on the floor of Dáil Éireann and is still being pursued.

- Continued efforts are being made to ensure funds are ring fenced so decisions can be taken without artificial time pressures.

- The new plan as presented is still not acceptable to me or to Cllr Jane Horgan-Jones

The new plan will be on display in four separate information sessions, to be held in St. Anthony’s from 7-9pm on the 16th, 17th, 21st and 23rd November. I understand that the information will include detailed visual representations of what is proposed.

I would urge you to go and view the new plans and we will be there personally for the duration of each session to take your reaction to them.

I will meet as many people as possible at the information sessions to listen to the response of the community to the revised plans.

I can also be contacted by phone or email at any time. I look forward to hearing from many of you soon.

For your information, I am also including the interim report on the Clontarf Flood Defences that will be given by Council officials to the full City Council meeting tomorrow evening (Monday). The meeting starts at 18:45 and can be viewed live online by webcast at the following link.

I have secured a written commitment from the City Manager that no further steps will be taken in advance of full consideration of the proposal at the December City Council meeting.

Please be assured of my continued support for the community on this issue.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Greater Efforts Needed To Increase Rates Of Participation In Education In Irish Prisons

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central, has called for greater efforts to be undertaken to increase the participation rates in education throughout Ireland’s prison system. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was one of several Deputies and Senators who undertook a visit to Mountjoy Prison and St. Patrick’s Institution this afternoon.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said: “I wanted to state that I really enjoyed the visit to Mountjoy and St. Patrick’s today with the Justice Committee, as it was a great opportunity to see first-hand the state of our prison services.

“However, this tour only reaffirmed my belief that our society should be doing much more to encourage the men and women currently in our prisons into the education system. To think that, on average, just 35% of the prison population take part in education is extremely worrying. Moreover, this figure drops as low as 14% for Mountjoy Prison here in Dublin City. These figures are simply unacceptable if we are serious about altering the climate and culture in our prison system.

“From speaking with some of the officials in Mountjoy and St. Patrick’s this afternoon, it is clear that we can and should be doing more to improve the prison education system. In addition, a particular emphasis on literacy would be invaluable to any education programme.

“We are all aware that a first class education can have enormous benefits in a society and there is no reason why we can’t extend these benefits to the prison population in order to ensure that inmates can rebuild their lives when they are released.

“I understand that the Inspector of Prisons recommended in his annual report last year that an independent audit be commissioned by the Irish Prison Service and I eagerly await the conclusion of this review. It is my hope that when this review is published that the Department of Justice and Department of Education undertake greater measures to drastically improve the levels of participation over the lifetime of this Government.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aodhán raising the issue of the Dublin floods in Dáil Éireann

Aodhán: “I share the anger expressed already and also express my condolences to the families who have lost family members. I will limit my comments to the emergency relief fund and its potential. I understand the complications that might be involved in who oversees and administers it. Ultimately, that is a decision for the Government.

“I ask the Ministers to focus on the central issue that most concerns me for the future, house insurance. Deputy Finian McGrath and I were in Donnycarney this morning. I was in Clontarf last night and residents in Artane were on the telephone to me all day today. Since the Wad River has burst its banks on previous occasions the insurance companies are now refusing to insure homes in the Donnycarney area. Those houses are de facto worthless. One cannot sell one’s house if one cannot get home insurance because a potential buyer cannot get a mortgage if they cannot get house insurance. The houses are worthless and the owners are liable for all the work that must be undertaken in those homes. Families not only have the emotional trauma of having to move out for the couple of months required to fix things again, but there is also the huge financial heartache.

“The city council has let them down time after time. Although moneys have been provided by both the previous Government and this Government for the works to be undertaken, people are still waiting for those works to be carried out. Meanwhile, they are left exposed to the elements. Today, women, children and families are in floods of tears because now they must bear the financial cost. I have a direct question for the Minister. Those families are financially liable because, through no fault of theirs, they have no home insurance. They have been left high and dry by the insurance companies. Can we find a mechanism to support them at this time? They must keep an eye on the skies every day of their lives until the next flood, which is inevitably only months away unless those essential works are carried out.”

Deputy Brian Hayes: “On the last question raised by Deputy Ó Ríordáin about floods and insurance, I have visited many parts of the country and spoken to many communities. A number of them have seen important work carried out by the local authority or the OPW but they still cannot get insurance. I have already met with the Irish Insurance Federation and I hope to be in a position to announce a new protocol over the next month which will give a measure of better communication with the Irish Insurance Federation and the insurance companies, whereby they will know the work we have done and will take account of that. Where the State invests colossal sums of money it is utterly wrong that the insurance companies do not provide the insurance cover.

“The Deputy spoke about people being unable to get insurance cover. That is a very real issue for communities throughout the country. My officials are in discussion with the Insurance Federation to see whether we can make some progress on this issue because I am determined that we have a much better means of communication between our Department and the insurance companies that they understand that funding is being put in place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Statement from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Cllr Jane Horgan Jones re: Clontarf Flood Defences Meeting

Statement from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Cllr Jane Horgan Jones re: Clontarf Flood Defences Meeting

There are new developments in the Clontarf Flood Defences campaign every day, and we are endeavouring to keep you abreast of them as they happen. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us so far with your views – your correspondence on this issue is always very welcome and helpful.

As many of you will already know, City Council officials met with representatives from the Clontarf Business Association (CBA) and Clontarf Residents’ Association (CRA) last Friday evening. Local councillors were also in attendance. At this meeting, the Council officials outlined some changes to the defences that could potentially be made to address the real concerns raised by people in our community about the flood defence works.

· No clear plans or concrete proposals were put on the table by the Council on Friday, so there is no question of anything being accepted or rejected at this stage.
· Cllr Jane Horgan-Jones specifically said at the end of the meeting that nobody should be asked to indicate their position on these proposed changes now, and that wider and further consultation would be needed before any clear positions could be taken by the stakeholders involved, including the CRA, the CBA and public representatives.

As your local Labour Party representatives, we have received many emails over the past two days inquiring about our position after Friday’s meeting. Some local representatives spoke to the media afterwards indicating they would support ‘the revised plan’.

· This is not our position. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Right now, there is no ‘revised plan’ in existence, so talking of accepting or rejecting the suggested changes is premature in the extreme and, in our view, undermines the whole process.
· We did not speak to the media after Friday for precisely this reason. Neither of us has any interest in making political hay out of this issue. We are happy to support the CRA and the CBA in their engagement with the process that is currently ongoing and then to evaluate the results, along with Clontarf residents, to see if the Council can propose an acceptable solution to this crisis. If the Council cannot provide such a solution, then no tactic is off the table.

Neither of us represented this area when the planning process regarding these works was in train. Planning permission was granted in July 2008. Aodhan was first elected to represent Clontarf in 2009, while Jane became a councillor in April 2011. However, we are now working extremely hard every day to find the solution that residents all want – one that protects our homes from flooding but also preserves the amenity of our prom.

Please keep in touch with us on this issue.

Aodhán and Jane

Friday, October 21, 2011

Welcoming Scoil Neasain's 6th Class to Leinster House

It is always a privilege to be able to welcome students and teachers from across the constituency of Dublin North Central to the Oireachtas.

Most recently, it was a real pleasure to be able to bring the boys and girls of Scoil Neasain's 6th class around Leinster House and for them to witness proceedings in the Chamber up close and personal.

Should any class or school wish to come in and visit the Houses then please don't hesitate to give me a call and I will go about arranging a tour.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

VOTE YES on Judicial Pay Referendum

In 2009 the salaries of public servants were reduced twice by way of two emergency pieces of legislation. The judiciary, by virtue of article 35.5 of the Constitution were excluded from these measures, placing the judiciary in an invidious position vis a vis others paid from the public purse. Many judges made voluntary waivers of their salary in line with these reductions.

The referendum on judges pay allows the Oireachtas to reduce judicial pay in the context of general salary reductions. It seeks to preserve and reaffirm the important principle of judicial independence.

The principle articulated in Article 35.5 is an important one. Unilateral reductions in judicial pay could be perceived as an attack on their independence by Government. The new article 35.5 allows that when- and only when- reductions have been made or are in future made by law to public service pay in the public interest, the Oireachtas can make proportionate reductions to judges' remuneration.

For more information visit

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VOTE YES for proper public inquiries

In each EU country national parliaments have the power to conduct full inquiries. In Ireland, since the 2002 Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara case, that is not the position here. This is the issue that the people of Ireland are being asked to change in the forthcoming referendum.

The case for allowing parliamentary committees to conduct full inquiries is a sensible one. Parliamentary committees have a central role in overseeing the performance of our public administration. Parliamentary committees will prove less expensive than tribunals or other inquiry methods. Prior to the Abbeylara decision we already held successful inquiries like the DIRT inquiry.

Labour Minister Brendan Howlin has already published a Bill which explains how the process will work if the people pass this amendment.

Our aim is to have inquiries that are fair, effective and efficient. If approved by you, they will be an important tool in our armoury to ensure our public administration is fully accountable.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Raising the Clontarf Flood Defences under Topical Issues

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Flood Defences

Aodhán: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise a local issue, namely the proposed Clontarf flood barrier, which will have a citywide impact.

In September 2005, Dublin City Council’s Clontarf promenade steering committee considered different options for the flood defence-arterial water main works and chose option 5, comprising walls and bunds containing water mains. No public representatives, residents' groups or business groups were represented on this committee. However, the environmental impact statement, EIS, states the main stakeholders were present. The minutes of the meeting indicate that council officials realised, even at that point, the need to provide clear images and drawings for the public consultation process. This recommendation was not pursued, however.

A consultation evening was held in St. Anthony's Parish Church in Clontarf on 12 June 2006 to deal with the scope of the information to be included in the EIS. Residents' groups were invited to the meeting. According to a council e-mail of Tuesday, 11 October 2006, the public consultation process on the flood defences-arterial water mains did not commence until 3 December 2007. Accordingly, this meeting cannot be considered to have been part of that process. Indeed, the EIS had not even been completed at that stage.

In November 2007, all residents' groups were written to informing them that Dublin City Council was about to apply to An Bord Pleanála for planning permission through the submission of an EIS, as yet unseen by residents, businesses or local representatives. The letter also informed them a period of public consultation would take place and that full details of the project would be on public display for eight weeks in Dublin City Council’s civic office, Marino library, none of which are in the Clontarf area itself, and on the council’s website. On 3 December 2007, this submission and public consultation was further advertised in the Irish Independent and this date was the commencement of the public consultation period.

One day later, on 4 December 2007, Dublin City Council applied to An Bord Pleanála for permission for the works as outlined in the EIS and first advertised to the public one day previously. Subsequently, in July 2008 planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála.

There is no evidence of any involvement of either public representatives, residents or local businesses, prior to a decision being made in September 2005, that the preferred option for the works was for bunds-walls rather than four other options under consideration. Although the council has accepted the height recommendation changed after plans were first presented to local councillors in 2006, this was not communicated and no supplemental presentation was made detailing the alterations or the reasons held by the council for departing from the original proposal.
Prior to the planning application being made to An Bord Pleanála in December 2007, no public representatives or residents groups had sight of a completed environmental impact statement, EIS, or had an opportunity to provide feedback or comment on it. The EIS was made available on 3 December - the application was made to An Bord Pleanála on 4 December. As a result, the only opportunity these stakeholders had to make an input into the process was that afforded them by the An Bord Pleanála system at a cost of €50. Although the EIS was made available after the application had been made to An Bord Pleanála, it was never available at any public location in Clontarf. My point is that the process was deficient from the beginning.

I wish to bring the Minister of State's attention to another matter. The development is in close proximity to a number of special protection areas and a special area of conservation, namely, north Dublin Bay. I direct the Minister of State to Article 6(3) of the habitats directive and the guidance provided by the Commission, those being, EC (2000), EC (2002) and EC (2006). Any plan or project that may have a significant effect on a special area of conservation shall be subject to an appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site's conservation objectives. This appropriate assessment should include, where appropriate, obtaining the opinion of the general public and must comply with the requirements as set forth by the directive and clarified by the Commission's guidance notes and the European Court of Justice, ECJ, cases C-127/02 and C-418/04.

The EIS on the works in question does not comply with the requirements of the directive and relevant explanatory documents, since no appropriate assessment was undertaken. In taking the decision under An Bord Pleanála reference 29N.JA0008, the competent authority - Dublin City Council - has failed to take account of the appropriate assessment of the implications of the development for the designated Natura 2000 site in light of the site's conservation objectives and has not made certain that the development will not affect the integrity of the site.

Like the council, will the Minister of State accept that the consultation process was deficient? Will he accept the documentation that I will provide him for his officials to examine? Will his officials examine the relevant European legislation and the ECJ cases I have outlined? Will the Minister of State engage with the Irish Insurance Federation, IIF, to ensure that the question of these works proceeding or not proceeding in the immediate future will not have a negative impact on householders on the Clontarf promenade?

Deputy Brian Hayes: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I know the area well, having played there as a young boy before going to the west side of the city. I also know of people's concerns, but I must point out that this is a Dublin City Council scheme. The objective of the Office of Public Works, OPW, which has national responsibility for providing policy and funding, is to work with local authorities in the delivery of such schemes.

I will set out the facts. The Clontarf sea front area was identified as one of the areas most at risk of flooding in the Dublin coastal flood protection project study, which was completed in 2005 by international expert consultants Royal Haskoning and commissioned by Dublin City Council with funding from the OPW. Following the study's completion, Dublin City Council appointed Royal Haskoning to design a flood relief scheme for the area. The scheme was designed to the normal standards required for coastal flood protection, including protection against a flood with an annual exceedance probability of 0.5%, typically known as a 200-year flood event, with an allowance for climate change.

The OPW understands that Dublin City Council made available full details of the flood defence project to residents, local businesses and elected representatives at the various informal and formal public consultations in 2006 and 2007 leading up to the submission of a full EIS to An Bord Pleanála in 2007. The submission was also advertised in the national press, site notices were erected and the project details and EIS report were put on public display in the council's civic offices and in Marino Library. The EIS took full account of all aspects of the project, including the visual impact of the flood defence structures. The EIS and the project were subsequently approved by An Bord Pleanála in 2008.

Dublin City Council has since advanced the scheme as part of the north city water main project. The procurement process for the overall scheme, which includes the north city water supply scheme phases 1 and 2 and the flood defence works, has been progressed as one contract for reasons of efficiency and economies of cost. The OPW has agreed in principle to provide the funding to undertake the flood defence aspects of the works, amounting to approximately 46% of the overall costs. This is Dublin City Council's scheme, not the Government's. We provide the money for schemes and set national policy frameworks.

This scheme incorporates the use of landscaping rather than extensive wall construction. This is designed to minimise the impact and, in so far as it is possible, retain the character of the Clontarf sea front. The council accepts that there will be a loss of visual amenity. Without this project, however, the area will continue to flood, which the Deputy knows it has done frequently.

I understand that, in response to concerns raised by residents and members of the business community in recent weeks, Dublin City Council made a presentation to a special meeting of councillors of the north central area committee yesterday afternoon. At that meeting, the council agreed to arrange meetings with the residents for next week with a further area committee to take place on 7 November. The OPW had a member of staff at the meeting who explained that the rationale for the OPW providing funding for the scheme was based on the scheme being cost beneficial and that it would conform to the normal standards applying to such coastal schemes. The OPW awaits the outcome of the further consultation process

Aodhán: I thank the Minister of State for his reply, although the matters it addressed differed from those that I raised. Will he accept the documentation? If I forward it to his Department, will he ask his officials to investigate under section 21 of the Planning and Development Act on An Bord Pleanála whether every statutory box was ticked in respect of the consultation process? Will his office also take into consideration the European legislation to which I referred? I will forward it to his office and to other Ministers with responsibility in this regard. Will the Minister of State take into consideration the insurance implications of these works going ahead or not going ahead and engage with the IIF? If his office commits to doing so, it would provide solace to the residents and wider community affected. These are three simple suggestions and I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle's indulgence.

Deputy Brian Hayes: The suggestions are good, but they will not make any difference. The key issue is that this is a Dublin City Council scheme. The council is looking for money from us. To obtain that, it must show that the State will get value for the money we spend. We are prepared to consider any alternative arising from the consultation with local councillors last night and with residents next week. If the council makes an alternative proposal, we are prepared to consider it.

The only criterion we have when an application is made is whether it is worth spending money. There is no point in spending money if it has no value when an event occurs. All of the EU legislation in the world will not make a difference. This is a question of getting value for the State's money. If an alternative proposal is brought to our attention by the council, we will consider it.

We have set money aside for the scheme. If it is not spent this year, I cannot guarantee the people of Clontarf that it will be spent next year. If a flooding event occurs, I ask people to realise that the houses, businesses and communities along the long Clontarf Road will suffer the brunt of it.

The only way to stop the floods is to build a wall or a variety of other schemes that may help. We are open to considering all alternatives, but time is of the essence. Given the fact that we are not the party conducting this process, our task is to fund something if it has value and will stop a flood. Otherwise, the money will not be provided. The next time a flood occurs, Deputies will ask me why we did not do something.

Dublin City Council must sort this issue out with the local community and local councillors in the first instance. Assuming it does, I will consider any alternative proposal. We have a clear model on which we determine cost-benefit analyses. If an alternative delivers value for the State's investment, we will consider it and progress the scheme. I hope I have been fair, honest and forthcoming in responding to the Deputy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Clontarf Road Flood Defences

ROLLING UPDATES: Clontarf Road Flood Defences

Following a meeting yesterday with Dublin City Council, officials have accepted that the consultation process prior to their An Bord Pleánala application was “minimal” and “didn’t work”. They have pledged to re-engage with the OPW and An Bord Pleánala to ascertain whether significant changes can be made to the proposal. In the meantime, no contract will be signed.

This morning, myself and Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones have submitted a document to Minister for Housing and Planning Willie Penrose outlining the deficiencies we see in the process to date. He has undertaken to examine the document carefully.

We will continue to work diligently on the issue on behalf of residents and will do our best to keep you informed every step along the way.