Monday, April 30, 2012

Important to remember Anne Lovett-pregnant 15 year old who died beside a grotto in 1984

Department enrolment circular & policy support needed immediately while legislation is prepared

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Vice-Chair of Jobs, Social Protection & Education Committee
Labour Party TD, Dublin North Central
Monday, 30th April 2012

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today called on the Department of Education to immediately issue a circular with guidelines and policy frameworks to all schools in relation to the educational needs of pregnant students.

The Dublin North Central Deputy was speaking after it emerged that a secondary school in Munster refused entry to a prospective pupil on the grounds she was pregnant.

“The Department of Education needs to support teenage parents and their schools in these situations. Last month, the Jobs, Social Protection and Education Committee, of which I am Vice-Chair, undertook a visit to the Lorien Project Tallaght where we were briefed on the remarkable work being done by Barnardos in helping teen parents.

“Barnardo's Teenage Parents Support Programme is leading the way in intervening at a point in life where dropping out of education and long term dependency on income support payments are very likely. The programme provides a response to the needs of the parents, fathers as well as mothers, including encouragement and support to remain in or return to education with a view to pursing career options.

“Schools need guidance and policies in place to be able to deal effectively with such cases. It needs to be stated categorically that most students are dealt with compassion by teachers and school authorities. Twenty years ago a member of my family was refused re-entry to school as a result of a pregnancy. Ireland has changed, but schools need direction from the department to help them deal effectively and sympathetically with teenage pregnancy.

“The Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has been assured that legislative action is pending in relation to the area of enrolment policies as she outlines in her report.

“Students need compassion, not condemnation. The Department must take the lead in this regard as we await the important legislation.”

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Raising the matter of flooding and flood protection under Topical Issues in the Dáil

Topical Issues debate regarding flooding and the OPW's long-term flood prevention plans
Wednesday, 25th April 2012

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: I appreciate the attendance of the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, in the Chamber.

I want to bring to the attention of the Minister of State the level of panic heavy weather warnings bring to areas in my constituency and others. My colleague, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, from Dublin South-East has said the same. Heavy weather warnings have been issued for today, but by 2.15 p.m. Dublin City Council had downgraded the threat. That said, areas across Dublin city and throughout the country have major flooding flashpoints whenever heavy rainfall occurs.

In my constituency, areas such as Artane, Coolock and Donnycarney are at risk and in the past 18 months I have witnessed the same families being moved out of their homes on a number of occasions. When we have heavy rain warnings now, panic ensues and people contact local authorities to see what plan is in place. They also contact their local representatives to find out whether there is a plan in place. It is disconcerting that families have to huddle around radios and televisions for the weather forecasts in their worry about where they may end up living the following week.

I accept that the responsibility in this regard falls to the local authority but I hope the Minister of State will address the issue. Is he satisfied that the various programmes that have been outlined by his Department for flood relief and flood risk assessment have been rolled out? Is he satisfied that in terms of the local authority response, his Department and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government give adequate support to that response? It is only when one is faced with the chaos of a flooded street or home that people quickly realise that despite the bravery of local council workers and the fact they work around the clock and they put their own safety in danger, resources and plans should be in place that automatically come into play when these situations arise. Are there weather alerts that will ensure these plans will be activated and that the various agencies will know how to respond?

I am aware the local authorities are responsible for these issues but they are concerned with the long-term strategic view and plan of the Government, which is to ensure that investment is put into infrastructure in local areas so as to ensure when there is heavy rainfall - which may be a climate change issue to which we must get used - local authorities are fully equipped to deal with that. Not alone that, we must ensure the State has taken its responsibility seriously and has made the interventions and investments required to correct any flood risks that exist.

I urge the Minister of State to respond to these points. We cannot allow a situation where some of our citizens are terrified at the prospect of heavy rainfall. This is what I face this week for my constituents. They want to know that they will not have to live under this cloud. There are other implications to this, such as house insurance. The Minister of State has been proactive previously in dealing with the Irish Insurance Federation on this but people whose houses are continually flooded cannot get house insurance. Incoming buyers will not get insurance either, rendering the property effectively worthless. This is the situation I face in my constituency and other Deputies face the same. I would appreciate a response on this.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Brian Hayes): I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to address the House regarding the action being taken to deal with flooding and on the activities of OPW to reduce future flood risk.

The Office of Public Works was designated by Government as the lead agency to implement the national flood policy and to deliver on the requirements of the EU floods directive dealing with management of flood risk. In this role, the OPW works closely with other State bodies, including local authorities. However, the principal response agencies for major emergencies, including flood events, are the Garda Síochána, the HSE and the relevant local authorities. In such emergencies, the OPW provides assistance to these agencies if requested to do so, often in the form of technical input or the supply of equipment. The local authorities and other agencies will have made preparations to respond appropriately and quickly to any flooding incidents arising from the rainfall experienced in the south and east of the country today and with further rain expected tomorrow.

Since the severe flooding event in the city and the east coast in October 2011, a working group of relevant agencies, including the OPW, was established under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, to carry out an in-depth review of emergency response procedures actions and mechanisms, with a view to identifying improvements within the emergency framework. The Government task force in emergency planning has been briefed on the group's draft report which will shortly be submitted to Government for its consideration.

The OPW principal areas of activity for dealing with flooding include (1) major capital works schemes; (2) minor coastal and non-coastal schemes; (3) national catchment flood risk assessment and management, CIFRAM, studies; and (4) arterial drainage maintenance. The total allocation included in the OPW Vote in 2012 for the above flood relief programmes is €60.78 million. Under its major capital works programme, OPW currently has nine major flood relief schemes at construction stage. It is expected that another six schemes will commence construction before the end of 2012, subject to completion of procurement and other preparatory formalities and availability of funding. There are also a further 11 schemes at various stages of design and planning. Approximately €29 million is expected to be expended on all of these schemes during the course of the year.

Under the minor works and coastal protection scheme, OPW provides funding to local authorities for smaller scale, more localised mitigation measures they may wish to undertake in their areas. It is open to any local authority to submit an application to OPW for funding under the scheme. The standard application forms, guidelines and eligibility criteria, are available on the OPW website. Each application will be assessed in accordance with the criteria now in place and having regard to the overall availability of financial resources for such works in 2012. To date this year, funding of almost €1.5 million has been approved under the scheme for 13 local authorities in respect of 36 projects. Total funding of €21.4 million was approved in 2010 and 2011 combined, for 32 local authorities in respect of 265 projects.

The relevant local authority is responsible for the procurement, planning, detailed financial management and day-to-day implementation of all aspects of the projects approved under the scheme. Local authorities are continuing to undertake a number of the projects approved in 2010 and 2011 and are expected to commence further projects in 2012.

In addition to the specific flood relief works, OPW is continuing with a major national initiative to systematically identify, assess, document and report on the most significant flood risks throughout the country. This is the ongoing CIFRAM study. Under the arterial drainage maintenance programme, OPW will continue in 2012 to undertake ongoing maintenance of completed arterial drainage and flood relief schemes.

In conclusion, I wish to assure the House of my commitment, and that of the Government to ensuring that the strategy currently being implemented by OPW and other agencies to reduce national flood risk throughout the country will continue despite the unprecedented budgetary constraints and pressures.

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: I thank the Minister of State for his reply and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing this matter to be raised. I have some questions about how the OPW is assessing climatory change and the risk of flooding in the future.

I am delighted to note the level of investment at a national level. I know he joins with me in sympathising with residents who are concerned about weather reports. I ask the Minister of State to provide an update on his discussions with the Irish Insurance Federation regarding the difficulties in obtaining house insurance experienced by residents whose homes have been affected by flooding.

Deputy Brian Hayes: I thank Deputy Ó Ríordáin for raising this very important matter.

I understand the heightened state of fear that exists particularly along the east coast, given the substantial rainfall expected over the next few days and given that last October, this city experienced a flooding calamity in various parts of the city. People are understandably frightened. I wish to assure the Deputy, however, that the Dublin city authorities have taken a number of actions to deal with the situation. There have been recent inspections of all river schemes to ensure drainage systems are operating fully. Closed circuit television systems are used to identify problems in the city. The roads department is monitoring the network and will mobilise if necessary. Dublin fire brigade is on hand to respond if required. Additional staff have been placed on standby. We have learned lessons from the events of last year. Local authorities in Dublin and elsewhere have been working with the Government to prepare an immediate response if this is required.

The Deputy has raised the important issue of climate change. The CIFRAM study will identify 250 hot spots around the country which have experienced historic and more recent flooding. This study is mapping the entire country segmented into six regions. When this is completed we will be in a better position to use resources and to avoid the planning and development mistakes which were made in some of those flood plain areas.

In reply to the Deputy, I have had two meetings with the Irish Insurance Federation and I have instructed my officials and the Irish Insurance Federation to produce an agreement on first principles, particularly with regard to residents who do not have flood insurance but where a flood defence has subsequently been installed. This is not acceptable and I have made this patently clear to the insurers. I hope they will take this opportunity to reach an agreement with the Government on a set of guidelines and principles as has happened in other jurisdictions and with regard to expenditure and the completion of insurance premiums. If people cannot get insurance in areas where a flood defence has been installed, I want to know about it because the Irish Insurance Federation has informed me that insurers do not currently note a demand. Our hand will be strengthened by having more information when negotiating with the insurers.

Ó Ríordáin welcomes publication of Children First Bill

Statement by Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Vice-Chair of the Jobs, Social Protection & Education Comittee
Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central
Wednesday, 25th April 2012

Labour Party TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin today welcomed the publication of the heads of the Children First Bill. The Bill will put the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children on a statutory basis which is a key commitment in the Programme for Government.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: “I welcome the news today from the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that the heads of the Children First Bill are to be published. It has been over a decade since the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children was established but so far it has only been able to operate on a voluntary compliance basis.

“The Children First Bill will correct this anomaly and place the guidelines on a statutory basis which was one of the key recommendations of the Ryan Report in 2009 and one which was not followed up on by the previous administration. I wish to commend the Minister and her department for their efforts in this regard.

“Child protection is something which should have been a priority for previous governments but tragically was not. Various reports and investigations into child protection have shown how flawed our laws were in tackling this problem. However, it was not just our laws or justice system which were deficient. As a society, we failed to make child protection a major priority and for too long we failed to act.

“This new Bill will seek to change this by ensuring that every sector of society takes responsibility for child protection.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Flood Warning

Dear Resident,

As you may be aware, MET Eireann have issued a weather advisory warning of extremely heavy rainfall in the east of the country from Tuesday 24/04/12 through to Thursday 26/04/12.

Rainfall of between 12mm-15mm is expected in some areas bringing with it the risk of flooding.

I know residents in areas such as Artane and Donnycarney, and small business owners in Raheny and Clontarf, will be particularly concerned about this given that they have been the victims of heavy flooding in the past. I want to assure residents that Cllr. Jane Horgan-Jones and I are currently liaising with officials in Dublin City Council to ensure that absolutely every measure is being taken to protect home and business owners in these areas.

Further, over the coming days I would ask residents to take a moment and consult useful websites such as Dublin City Council and Here you will find advice and tips on preparing flood plans and emergency contact numbers.

I would also encourage residents to check in on relatives and neighbours who may be elderly or have limited mobility.

In addition, I received confirmation from the Ceann Comhairle today that I will be allowed raise the matter of flooding in the Dáil tomorrow.

Finally, should you have any queries regarding flooding or should you require assistance then please don't hesitate to contact me at any time.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Congratulations Raheny United Ladies

I wish to congratulate the Raheny United Ladies team on an outstanding first season in the National Women's League.

I had the privilege of attending a number of the home games in Morton Stadium and their displays were nothing short of fantastic. The 4-1 drubbing dished out to Peamount and a 5-5 thriller with Castlebar are just two games that come to mind.

Unfortunately, Raheny missed out on the league title this year by the narrow margin of just three points. However, the team and the club should be extremely proud of the immense effort which everyone put in this season.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work closely with officials at Raheny United throughout the season and I look forward to maintaining a close relationship with the club for many years to come.


Monday, April 16, 2012

In Tackling Racism We Must Return To The Innocence of Childhood


‘Anti-Racism Educational Work With Young People’
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Dublin North Central
Marino Institute of Education
Monday April 16th 2012

I am delighted to have been given an opportunity to speak to your Conference on this very important issue concerning ‘Anti-Racism Educational Work With Young People’.

I would first like to pay tribute to the sterling work continually being done by the ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ Campaign and in particular Garrett Mullen who co-ordinates this important movement.

It is important to reference the fact that today marks the beginning of the trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. The fact that we have Norwegian delegates here today, and that his victims were members of a sister political party of the Irish Labour Party, reminds us all of the potentially poisonous and murderous effects of racism.

We remember the victims of the awful events of July 22nd last year today and those events only make us more determined to build a world devoid of fear, racism and discrimination.

We have much work to do and sport can play a central role in achieving our aims. This year promises to be a magnificent celebration of sport with the European Championships upcoming, and of course the London Olympic Games this summer.

It is important to remind ourselves of the oath that is taken on behalf of all participants before the games themselves:

In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams

And I suppose those are the types of ideals that we hope all our citizens would aspire to:

To play an active role in community and society.
To respect the rule of law while advocating against injustice
Pursuing happiness and natural highs
In the true spirit of humanity and citizenry
For the glory of the human spirit and for humanity as a whole

We are not just advocates of removing racism from sport; we believe that the promotion of sport is key in the fight against racism.

In my previous existence as a primary school teacher, the greatest moments of joy for me where days on the sideline of a football pitch, cheering and encouraging our school teams alongside parents and families. It is a microcosm of what we want to achieve in education – children of different abilities, playing together, with a singular goal, encouraged by their families and mentors.

Of course it is even better when you win!

Sport and politics are inextricably linked. Team sports represent areas and by extension countries. As a result mixing sport and politics is inevitable and therefore can lead to positive re-evaluation of a country’s identity.

The great French soccer side of the late 90s with players of various ethnic backgrounds was a powerful rebuttal of Jean Marie Le Pen’s far right agenda.

The boxer Barry McGuigan, a Catholic from the border town of Clones, who represented Northern Ireland and briefly united a sectarian divide during the murderous period of the 1980s as he reigned as a World Champion.

However Nationalism often leads to a rigid interpretation of identity, one that is exclusive not inclusive; one which can promote a toxic mix of religion, politics and triumphalism that celebrates hate and separation.

We cannot merely rely on words to encourage our young people to aspire to be tolerant and broad-minded. We need legislative muscle to underline our intent.

Our Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act dates back to 1989, has proven to be totally ineffectual, and does not reflect the nature of our modern Irish society. There has never been, to my knowledge, even one successful prosecution under this Act. We need robust legislation to tackle those who will cheaply and lazily incite hatred against minorities for whatever motive, personal, monetary or political.

I want to work with interest groups like the Show Racism the Red Card Campaign to devise and to draft new legislation that will help us all to re-evaluate what is most important about living in a modern-day Republic.

Education is key. Our children are not born with hatred in their hearts but they learn it from adults that surround them.

We need to return to the innocence of childhood.

If you listen to Yoga instructors they will tell you to re-learn how to breathe as a child breathes.

If you read Christopher McDougall’s excellent ‘Born to Run’ he explains how sports manufacturers now accept that the most effective way to run is barefoot, as comes naturally to children.

My experience in the classroom, in an area of acute disadvantage, taught me that there is no such thing as a stupid child, and no such thing as a bad child.

And also that ‘Impossible’ is only an opinion.

I wish you every success over the coming days in your endeavours. Racial harmony is possible. We must make it possible.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

#Paisti2012 - Join the Conversation about Children's Rights

This is a short video from Labour Party Conference in Galway after Eamon Gimore's Address - My thoughts on the conversation Ireland needs to have about Children's Rights.

The conference was the start of the conversation that I'm hoping to help to lead around the issue of Children's welfare and the important Children's Rights Referendum at the end of 2012.

Lets start the conversation on Facebook, Google Hangout and Twitter using #paisti2012.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central
Thursday, 5th April 2012


Ó Ríordáin Pays Tribute to Famous Dubliner

It was with great sadness that I learnt today of the passing of the great Barney McKenna, the legendary banjo player from 'The Dubliners'.

It is especially poignant to think that the Dubliners are celebrating 50 years this year and recently were commemorated with a tree-planting ceremony in Fairview Park last month by Dublin City Council.

I first met Barney McKenna when he played for local schoolchildren and parents in a Luke Kelly memorial concert in Sheriff Street in 2004. His good-humour and musical talent was a joy to behold for the entire evening.

His Donnycarney origins are a source of great local pride and it will be fitting in the coming months to remember Barney and his legacy locally in the area where he first learnt his love of music. Legend has it that he turned to the banjo in his early years because he couldn't afford to buy a mandolin!

I wish to extend my sympathies to his partner, his family and his colleagues in the Dubliners at this sad time.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Speaking on the Mahon Report