Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ó Ríordáin welcomes funding for Fairview pedestrian bridge

Press Statement Aodhán Ó Riordáin
Labour Party TD, Dublin North Central
Tuesday, 31st January 2012

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has welcomed new funding made available for the pedestrian footbridge in Fairview.

The Dublin North Central TD was speaking after the Department of Transport made €500,000 available for improvements to the footbridge. The funding was part of a package of measures to improve transport infrastructure throughout the country.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: “I greatly welcome the monies made available to upgrade the footbridge in Fairview.

“The bridge has been a fantastic addition to the area for local residents in a bustling neighbourhood with several small businesses and amenities. Moreover, the foot-bridge provides safe access for many students from schools in the area to Fairview Park for various sporting activities.

“This €500,000 will prove vital to improve the pedestrian bridge which has not been appropriately maintained over the last few years."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Media Appearances and Dáil Speeches Wed 25th and Thurs 26th

Please see below some of my activity from the week gone past including appearances on Morning Ireland, Newstalk Lunchtime Show and Today with Pat Kenny.

Also my contribution to the Promissory Note Debate on Wednesday evening:


Thursday January 26th
Morning Ireland Interview on Guidance Counsellors and School Chaplains


Thursday January 26th
Newstalk debate over Religious Ethos in Education:

Friday January 27th
Joining Pat Kenny and guests for ‘The Gathering’



Also speaking on the Promissory Notes in the Dáil on Wednesday

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

€9M school Chaplaincy expenditure must be re-examined

Statement from Aodhán Ó Riordáin
Labour Party, Dublin North Central
Wednesday, 25th January 2012

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called on the Minister for Education to re-examine the payment of €9million for a Chaplaincy Service in Community and Comprehensive Schools, after receiving confirmation today that such funding is to be made available again this year.*

"Considering the difficult decisions which were taken in the education budget this year, and in the context of possibly more difficult decisions to be made next year, the allocation of €9million per annum for the provision of a chaplaincy service must surely be re-examined.

"It is impossible to make cuts in the education service without directly impacting on schools and the day-to-day running of educational institutions. Therefore such decisions will always come down to a painful value judgement by the Minister and his departmental officials.

"In that context, and in the context of guidance counsellors across the country re-iterating their valuable contribution to school life in parliamentary meetings last week, it is now arguably justifiable to discontinue this payment in order to protect other services.

"I understand that such a discontinuation may result in the deeds of trust of all community and Comprehensive Schools being re-visited, however this work is worthwhile if a large portion of the €9million can be recovered.

"I hope to work with the Minister and his officials with a view to examining this matter in the coming months to ascertain if my proposal is a viable one", Deputy Ó Ríordáin concluded.

*Further Information:

Parliamentary Question

Uimhir: 186

To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the financing of chaplaincy services in secondary schools and the cost of this service to the Exchequer per year; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 24th January, 2012.
Reference Number: 3376/12
Minister Ruairí Quinn

Chaplain posts are allocated in respect of Community and Comprehensive Schools

There are currently 152 whole time equivalent posts allocated in respect of
chaplaincy services at a cost of approximately €9m for the 2011/2012 school

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Statement from Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
Labour Party, Dublin North Central
Tuesday, January 24th 2012

The Government Report Card launched by the Children's Rights Alliance yesterday shows the government are making encouraging moves, but that there is no room for complacency, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said.

Attending the launch yesterday, Deputy Ó Ríordáin said: 'The overall C+ grade highlights the government's commitment to construct the Children's Hospital, the continuing focus on Child literacy and also the determination to hold a Children's Rights Referendum this year. The C+ grade is the highest grade awarded to any government since the initiative was started four years ago, which is encouraging'

'However the stark reality is that our child poverty rates are alarmingly high, with 19% of children living in poverty and 9% of children living in persistent poverty. It is clear that a re-focusing on the well-being of our children is incredibly important and immediately necessary as childhood is so precious and so short.'

'A re-balancing of child benefit payments to the most poor, as well as other strategies focusing on housing, support services and educational resources will surely assist in improving the plight of our most vulnerable children'

'The ongoing scandal of the incarceration of children in St Patrick's in the Mountjoy Prison complex must also be addressed as a matter of urgency.'

'I would encourage the Minister for Children and other relevant Ministers to examine the Children's Rights Alliance Report Card carefully and to act to protect our children, with particular focus on those who have started their living living in persistent poverty.' Deputy Ó Ríordáin concluded.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Labour Party Update – Bin Changeover

Labour Party Update – Bin Changeover

As you will already be aware the Dublin City Council bin service was handed over to Greyhound Recycling from the week beginning 16th January.

 The Labour group on the City Council opposed the privatisation of this service, but under the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, which was enacted by Fianna Fail and opposed by the Labour Party in the Dáil at the time, the power of Councillors to control the bin service was removed and given instead to Dublin City Council management.
 All Labour Party representatives on Dublin City Councils have voted three times in the last nine months to oppose this privatisation, but our wishes were ignored by the Council management.

It is now clear that there are significant issues with the handover of the bin service. We have received complaints on a wide range of issues, including the requirement to pay up front, the effective monopoly now enjoyed by Greyhound in Dublin City, and the limited methods of payment available to customers. As your Labour Party representatives in this area we have been working on these issues since they arose with the following results:

• The Labour Party group on Dublin City Council demanded an urgent meeting with the City Manager to discuss the shambles of the bin handover. This meeting took place on Thursday 19th January in Civic Offices.
• On the same day, Greyhound announced that the €100 charge could now be paid in two equal instalments. However, this is only available to those who agree to a direct debit and many other issues relating to the new service still remain.
• The Labour Party group have called a special meeting of Dublin City Council to be held on Monday 23rd January. At this meeting, all complaints and queries we have received will be raised with City Council officials. This meeting is webcasted live from the Dublin City Council website.
• At a national level discussions are ongoing with the Department of Environment in respect of a national waiver scheme.

Please be assured of our continued support on this matter.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Councillor Jane Horgan-Jones

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Speaking on provision of guidance counselling in schools

Private Members Debate: Tuesday January 17th 2012

Aodhán: I thank the Minister for his contribution. In keeping with the tone of the previous speaker's contribution, it would be easy to list cuts implemented under previous administrations but that would not be fair to the people affected by this change. A few weeks ago, the Minister addressed students in the gallery and it was one of the most inspirational things I have seen in my short time in the House. Many developments in education are incredibly exciting such as reform of the junior and leaving certificates, tackling the dreaded points system, addressing vested interests in the context of school patronage and admissions policies and tackling the issue of literacy and numeracy and the fact that Ireland is slipping down the league table, as the Minister correctly stated. In a short time in the Department, he has, therefore, tackled a significant number of issues that are fundamental to how our education system is structured.

It is impossible to make a cutback in the education system without affecting the quality of provision, which no Member would deny, and nor would they deny that when a €3.8 billion budgetary correction is made, education cannot be ring-fenced. I wish that could be the case but it is not possible.

I spent time yesterday in four of my local schools and I spoke to the members of a particularly impressive student council in Manor House school, who referred to junior and leaving certificate reform, their hopes and dreams and what lies ahead of them. They referred to how important guidance counselling provision is to them in their school. It is not easy to be a young person in modern day Ireland facing into the leaving certificate and university life in the current circumstances. It is not their fault if they happen to be aged 16 or 17 attending secondary school in the middle of a recession and budgetary corrections. A number of the guidance counsellors I met spoke about the impact of the recession on their students and the fact that they hear discussions about what is happening in their kitchens and bedrooms at home. They are aware of financial pressures and their parents have lost jobs. They hear about people in their classes doing stupid things and getting involved in behaviour that they should not.

A guiding hand is important. If we take the sense of vocation out of schools, then we will lose pretty much everything. The position of guidance counsellor is important but it would have been easier to increase the pupil-teacher ratio in secondary schools, as happened previously, which would have result in the guidance counsellor having fewer things to guide the students on because they would have had fewer subjects to study. That is one of the choices, unfortunately, the Minister and the Government faced.

This is a great opportunity for the Government and the Parliament, given the Minister has been so open about the challenges in the education system. It would be easy to say we have the best system in the world but the PISA results say otherwise. It would also be easy to say we are the land of saints and scholars but some of our results do not stack up. Spending on education is an open book. For example, it does not make sense to spend €178 million on rural school transport but I have an urban bias and the Minister does not agree with me. Many of us might say it is a great deal of money. However, in the area of guidance, €9 million is spent on school chaplains. It is difficult to unpick this allocation because it is provided for in the deeds of trust of many community schools. We have to unpick aspects of the education budget that do not stand up to scrutiny. As Deputy O'Donovan correctly said, we are talking about students who are our future and who are going through a difficult time. They depend on us, their schools and on teachers who, like all public servants, have been incredibly vilified over the past number of years. They had 14% of their pay taken from them by the previous Administration and they understand why their pay packets are smaller and their days longer.

However, the Minister and I know, and the Government understands, that we have to focus fully on children's capacity to achieve their educational potential and education is a liberator.

If one has nothing else, if one's family falls apart or if one is from a dysfunctional community and there are elements in the area that are not working, the only solution that will always work is education and the school in which one has the chance to thrive.

I support the Government amendment to the motion. I accept the Minister's bona fides in this area. I agree with the previous speaker, Deputy O'Donovan, that we must look at and justify some of the matters on which we are spending money in order to ensure, hopefully, that in the future measures such as this can potentially be overturned or lessened. I am not sure that anybody in this House would justify spending €9 million on chaplains.

I commend the Minister on what he is doing to education. This is probably the most exciting time in education in a generation when everything is up for grabs, everything is being challenged, everything is being refocused upon, we are getting down to what really matters - literacy, numeracy and making a junior certificate and leaving certificate that work - and we are challenging the vested interests in terms of the patronage and looking at admission policies so that no child is turned away from any door of any schools.

Raising issue of forced labour under Topical Issues

Speaking Under 'Topical Issues' Tuesday January 17th 2012

Aodhán: I had hoped the Minister for Justice and Equality would be present but I am quite sure the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, will deal with the matter and take it to the Minister's desk.

I will not dwell too long on the issue of forced labour as the Minister of State is very familiar with it. She understands the industries involved. There is an urgent need to criminalise forced labour. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, some of whose representatives are in the Visitors Gallery, has recorded 169 cases of forced labour over the past six years, but we know this is just the tip of the iceberg. Without a law against forced labour, victims will not be identified and unscrupulous employers will continue to engage in their current behaviour. Asking a victim of forced labour to pursue his rights through the existing legislation, be it health and safety legislation or employment legislation, as has been suggested, is deeply problematic. The experience of victims to date is that they do not receive protection or justice, despite these so-called protections being in place. Not one person has been prosecuted for any of the offences in forced labour cases. This reinforces the requirement for a stand-alone offence of forced labour.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, is due to make a decision shortly regarding any legislative and administrative measures required to address deficiencies in the law in this area. We need clarification in this regard. We need to bring Ireland into line using its legal commitments at EU and international levels. The Minister of State understands what these commitments are. We ask that the Minister outline urgently the Government's plans to criminalise forced labour in Ireland and protect the most vulnerable of workers in this Republic.

Minister Kathleen Lynch: I thank both Deputies for raising the issue. As they rightly said, it is very serious. I am responding on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter.

There are a number of measures in place to prevent exploitation and forced labour in Ireland. The International Labour Organisation's definition of forced labour comprises two basic elements: the work or service is exacted under the menace of a penalty and it is undertaken involuntarily. Forced labour cannot be equated simply with low wages or poor working conditions.

In addition to the range of employment law enacted to protect workers from exploitation generally, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which came into effect on 7 June 2008, criminalises the trafficking of persons for the purpose of labour exploitation, including forced labour. The term "traffics" is broadly defined in the Act. For instance, an offence may be committed under the Act by providing a person with accommodation or employment in order to exploit that person for forced labour if coercion or deception is used. An offence does not require cross-border movement or illegal entry into the State. The human trafficking investigation and co-ordination unit of An Garda Síochána works closely with labour inspectors attached to the National Employment Rights Authority on cases where there are allegations of labour exploitation. Since 7 June 2008, a number of cases of alleged human trafficking for labour exploitation have been investigated by An Garda Síochána - 19 cases in 2009, 19 cases in 2010 and 12 cases in 2011. To date, no proceedings for the offence of human trafficking for labour exploitation have been commenced in this jurisdiction. Three investigation files having been submitted to the law officers. Directions for no prosecution have been received in two of these cases. Additional information has been sought and provided in respect of the third investigation file.

An Garda Síochána works closely with other police forces. For example, an intensive investigation was conducted in Ireland and evidence was transferred to Romania, where three Romanian men were sentenced to imprisonment for seven years, five years and five years, respectively, in December 2009 for the trafficking of Romanian nationals into Ireland for labour exploitation on farms in Wexford.

There is a wide range of training and awareness-raising activities ongoing with personnel in the public and private sectors likely to encounter victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation. In addition, since 2010, my Department has sanctioned over €25,000 in funding to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland to assist it in its work in assisting migrants who may be victims of trafficking for labour exploitation or forced labour.

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) 2008 Act is primarily an anti-trafficking measure and was never intended to address all the exploitative phenomena outside the context of human trafficking. In some cases that have been referred to An Garda Síochána as human trafficking for labour exploitation, prospective evidence of other offences including immigration offences, employment permits offences, false imprisonment and assault has been uncovered. These matters remain under investigation. An analysis of allegations of forced labour coming to the attention of An Garda Síochána since the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 came into effect is currently being examined in my Department so that any legislative and administrative measures required to address deficiencies, if any, in the protections against forced labour can be identified. In the event that a need for additional legislative measures is established, proposals will be brought to Government in the usual manner and as quickly as possible.

Aodhán: I know the Minister of State will take our comments back to his office. What I get from the answer is positive in that the Minister is not saying no legislative change is needed but that it may be needed and that, in due course, it may happen. However, the Minister of State can understand that, as Deputy Dowds said, we are effectively talking about slavery in this Republic currently. While the legislative process must take its course, that gives little satisfaction to those who are suffering. While we are talking about slavery, about 2012 and about a Republic, what we need to do is to ensure that any investigations into the necessity for legislation take place immediately and that legislation which we know is necessary is introduced as soon as possible. A dateline for that would be greatly appreciated.

Minister Kathleen Lynch: The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and other such organisations are not so much the first port of call for people who find themselves in difficulties but usually the only port of call. It is amazing that we have four statutory agencies charged with responsibility in this area - four different units with wide-ranging roles - namely, the Legal Aid Board, the Garda Síochána, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality.

There is a huge issue in regard to information and communication around all of this. In the event that people are granted a work permit, which is usually how they come into the country, there must be information available in their own language. As the Deputies rightly said, these people probably have very limited English, although they might have much more grasp of it than our grasp of their native language. We must ensure the information that is necessary to keep these people safe in very vulnerable positions is distributed to them.

With regard to the legislation, while the governing Act may need to be tweaked, perhaps this can be done by alteration to existing legislation and may not require the sort of over-arching legislation we assume is necessary. However, there has to be a penalty for people who exploit others in this way.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Companies must adhere to guidelines when communicating with customers

Statement Issued : Monday 9 January, 2012

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central, has called for strict adherence to the guidelines laid down by the Commission for Energy Regulation in order to protect home-owners from intimidation by service providers and financial institutions in relation to payment arrears.

"It has come to my notice that some service providers are effectively harassing bill-payers who are in arrears, including sending text messages - a practice that is covered by the current guidelines but which some charitable organisations have stated is pushing some clients over the edge. Moreover, current guidelines state that companies are forbidden from contacting their customers on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, but unfortunately there have been instances of companies breaking this rule. I will be writing to the CER detailing these breaches of existing codes of practice.

"Unfortunately, the number of bill payers who are experiencing financial hardship is at an unprecedented level and their mental health is of serious concern to those who are attempting to help and assist them in their distress.

"Last September, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, announced that families in financial difficulty will not have their electricity or gas disconnected this winter if they agree to a pay plan or the installation of a pay-as-you-go meter. This has not however succeeded in preventing some providers acting in an intimidating and inappropriate manner.

"We are in an era where families are under huge financial pressure and are finding it difficult to cope. Suicide rates are high and must be at the forefront of the consciousness of all in Irish society.

"It is clear that households in difficulty with utility bills must engage with their utility company to enter an affordable payment plan in order to manage their debt. However, inappropriate and unnecessary contact from service providers or financial institutions must also be tackled to ensure that citizens can deal with their financial obligations in a calm and measured fashion, and with a stable frame of mind. I would also like to see the practice of contacting customers by text message revisited as I believe this is a step too far and I will suggest this to the CER and the Minister for consideration.

"I will be raising this matter with the Minister again and I hope to ensure that the strict guidelines are fully adhered to into the future."