Budget failed farmers & rural communities

“Budget failed farmers & rural communities” – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has told the Dáil that the government’s budget failed to give people the certainty they deserved.

 

Deputy Carthy hit out at the failure of the budget to recognise, in particular, the challenges facing Irish family farmers.

 

Speaking during the budget debate in the Dáil, Carthy said:

 

“This budget has not given people the certainty they needed.  People on middle and low incomes who were worried about energy costs at the start of the week will are still going to be worried at the end of this week.  There is great concern across the board that we will see increases in rent in the coming months.

 

“It is incredible that, at a time there has been so much talk about the squeezed middle, 1.8 million workers will not get a single cent from the Government’s main tax proposal.

 

“In the midst of a health crisis, there is not a single additional acute bed delivered and the situation in housing is just as appalling.  This budget was about political choices and many of the choices the Government made were the wrong ones.

 

“Now, more than ever, we need a change in direction.  We need a fresh start, but the Government has failed to provide.

 

“Budget 2023 offers little for Ireland’s family farmers.  We heard all the rhetoric last week at the National Ploughing Championships but the Government has completely failed farming families in budget 2023.

 

“Behind all the repackaged announcements we have heard about from the Minister, the fact is that just €11 million of additional resources have been allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, beyond what was pre-committed in non-core Brexit-related funding.

 

“Sinn Féin had outlined in our alternative budget a suckler farm payment of up to €300 per cow and calf pair.  We had provided for an increased sheep improvement scheme of €20 per ewe.  We had allocated an additional €25 million for farms in areas of natural constraint and €15 million of additional funding for organics. We had also provided for all of the non-core expenditure included in the Government’s figures.

 

“However, we had also provided for young farmers, including the so-called forgotten farmers, and had provided for key environmental measures through Exchequer funding that would allow farmers to deliver on climate action targets.

 

“The Government’s budget, on the contrary, will not provide sufficiently in any of those areas. It will mean little for our farming families.  At a time when farmers face multiple challenges from Brexit, rising input costs and climate obligations, this is clearly a budget from a Government that fails to recognise the scale of these challenges”.

ENDS

Carthy expresses disappointment as government vote down amendments to reduce cost of fuel/ heating oil

Carthy expresses disappointment as government vote down amendments to reduce cost of fuel/ heating oil

 

In the first vote following the announcement of Budget 2023 Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, moved amendments to the Financial resolutions which would, if passed, have reduced the cost of petrol, diesel and home heating oil.

 

Moving the amendments on the night of the Budget, Deputy Carthy told the Dáil:

 

“I have to say that the commentary during today’s budget that probably caused workers to shake their heads today more than any other was that of the Minister Donohoe announcing that the carbon price hike of next month was to proceed as planned.  He placed a caveat on that by indicating that what Peter gives Paul will take away and that the other element of excise duty will reduce by a proportionate amount.

 

“I do not know if the Minister or the Government realise it, but fuel prices are still a significant factor in the lives of those families that are finding it difficult to make ends meet.  Many people still do not have any alternative option but to use their cars to drive to work, drop their children to activities or engage in their daily business.  Public transport options are not there, they do not have any prospect of being able to afford an electric vehicle.  Yet the Government has not provided the level of support that is warranted to those workers and families at any point.

 

“The measures the Government has introduced have been far too slowly introduced and they have been countered by the Government proceeding, against all logic, with carbon tax hikes. The Sinn Féin amendments will provide an opportunity for members of the Government, particularly for the backbench Deputies who have indicated that they recognise that the cost of petrol and diesel is still too high.  They can support our amendments which would see a further decrease of in and around 2 cent per litre on both petrol and diesel.

 

“Amendment No. 3 represents another opportunity for Members of Government to recognise that a huge proportion of our population, particularly those who live outside of our main urban centres, are reliant on home heating oil in order to heat their homes.

 

“Throughout this cost-of-living emergency, the Government has provided precisely zero supports to families who are in that position.  Once again Sinn Féin will move an amendment to remove excise duty in its entirety from home heating oil during this crisis period.  It would save the average family about €120 per tank, a support they desperately need.

 

“My appeal to Members of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party is to finally realise the pressures people are under with fuel and energy costs. Support our amendments to further the reduce the cost of petrol and diesel and to finally bring in a measure on home heating oil”.

 

Government moved a counter-motion which annulled the Sinn Féin amendments.  That motion was adopted by 85 votes to 67 with the support of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Independent TDs failing to support the reductions in fuel and home heating oil as advocated by Deputy Carthy and Sinn Féin.

ENDS

Social Housing Incomes Limits denying Monaghan families any chance of their own home

Social Housing Incomes Limits denying Monaghan families any chance of their own home – Matt Carthy TD

 

The current income limits that apply are preventing thousands of individuals and families from ever securing housing supports, Deputy Matt Carthy told the Dáil last week.

 

He said that the limits in place in County Monaghan, the lowest in the state, meant that some people who were offered council housing tenancies subsequently had the offers withdrawn.  Deputy Carthy told the Housing Minister that a long promised review of the limits must be implemented and that flexibility must be included to allow for those who were on the brink of same.

 

Deputy Carthy told of one case he had recently dealt with, he said:

 

“The people in need of social housing supports do not want to hear about reports or promises.  They want to see the Government take action that has been long-promised in respect of income limit thresholds.  The income limits were introduced, in my view, as a measure simply to reduce the waiting lists.  In the interim, they have caused undue hardship to those people who are waiting for housing.

 

“My office advocated for a single parent who is working in a low-paid job.  She is currently living in her parents’ home, sharing a box room with her child.  She was provisionally offered a house this month, which was a huge relief.  She completed the paperwork only to be then told that she exceeded the income limits by €1,500 a year or €28 a week and the offer of housing was withdrawn.

 

“Worse than that, she has been removed from the housing list altogether and she was told that when she gets back on it if her income reduces, she will go to the back of the queue.

 

“That is a scandal that needs to be addressed.  We need to know when that scandal will be addressed”.

 

Ministers response

 

In a response on behalf of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, junior Minister Malcolm Noonan, said:

 

“Housing For All was published in September 2021 and, as part of a broad suite of social housing reforms, committed to reviewing income eligibility for social housing.  The review, which examined inter alia the efficiency of the current banding model and income limits applicable to local authorities, has been completed.  Minister O’Brien recently approved implementation of its recommendations.  This included the commissioning of work to scope and develop options for a revised or new social housing income eligibility model.  This work will commence shortly under the aegis of the Housing Agency, which has been tasked with commissioning it.  It is expected that this work will be completed by the end of 2022.

 

“It is now appropriate to await the report I referred to before considering the appropriate income threshold levels for all counties and the potential impact of the changes that might arise.  The November 2021 report has been published – I am aware some Deputies have read it – and is available on our Department’s website. In a previous reply to a question by Deputy Naughten, the Minister, Deputy O’Brien, has given a commitment to looking at transitioning measures for families going over the threshold.  The Minister is not happy with the report but he is looking to the review of the Housing Agency and to have that completed by the year end.  We are conscious there is an absolute sense of urgency on this, as highlighted by the number of questions and the comments from the Deputies. Minister O’Brien is committed to resolving this and looking at those transitioning measures for families who might be just marginally going over the threshold in some areas.

 

Monaghan families locked in rental market

 

Deputy Carthy told the Ministers in attendance that the current limits mean that, for any couple seeking housing support, either one working prevents them from doing so.

 

He told the Dáil:

 

“I have lost count of the number of couples I have been working with who have been removed from the housing waiting lists because they exceeded limits by just a couple of hundred euro in some instances.

 

“The system as it applies to County Monaghan is designed so that any couple, of which a single party is working, will not make it onto the social housing waiting list.

 

“The income limit for County Monaghan for a family of two adults and two children is €27,500 per annum.  Those people will never qualify for a mortgage!  The prospect of private homeownership is not available to them.

 

“The Government has provided for precisely zero affordable homes in County Monaghan under the affordable housing scheme.

 

“What are we supposed to say to those families who fall into that trap?

 

“Should we tell them to rent forever and face the ever-increasing rent prices and costs?  Should they essentially remain nomadic for the rest of their lives?

 

“My appeal to the Minister of State is not only to review but to create a system so that flexibility can be allowed for those people who breach income limits that have been set too robustly up until this point.”

ENDS

Urgent need for radical reform of retrofitting grant schemes

Urgent need for radical reform of retrofitting grant schemes – Matt Carthy TD

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that the government’s retrofitting schemes discriminate against ordinary workers and families who cannot afford to avail of them.  Speaking ahead of a Sinn Féin Dáil motion on the subject this week he said that the current scheme often prevents those who have most to gain from retrofitting from actually receiving supports

 

Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget will, he said, include a significant increase in the retrofitting budget, and will crucially redirect the focus and resources of retrofitting to those living in energy poverty and in greatest need of energy efficiency upgrades.

Teachta Carthy said:

“The government’s current retrofit schemes are deeply inequitable; they prioritise wealthier households over those in greatest need.

“It excludes a huge cohort of households; those who don’t qualify for free upgrades, but also don’t have the significant cash reserves needed to access the One Stop Shop service.

 

“Sinn Féin advocate for a fair retrofit plan that will help meet our climate targets while also delivering wider social and economic benefits for workers and families.

 

“We are proposing to significantly increase the retrofitting budget for 2023, and to target that funding at the poorest, coldest, and most carbon intensive homes.

“Currently, those with adequate means can access €25,000 of taxpayer-funded grants for a deep retrofit, irrespective of their income, while the best that most people on lower incomes can hope for is a roll of subsidised attic insulation.

“The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme is aimed at the most vulnerable households, but there are now 9,000 people on that waiting list and the wait time is almost 27 months.

“Sinn Féin would replace the Better Energy Warmer Homes with a new scheme for low- and middle-income households with increased.

“This scheme would see free home energy upgrades for currently eligible social welfare recipients continue, but also introduce tiered grant support ranging from 65% to 100% funded deep retrofits for low and middle-income households, dependent on income.

“We would also increase the budget for local authority retrofits by 50% from €85m to €127.5m, as those in social housing are more likely to be at risk of energy poverty and therefore in greater need of home energy upgrades.

 

“Whereas the government’s approach to solid fuel homes is defined by punitive action, from turf bans to carbon tax hikes, Sinn Féin will help put the alternatives in place first.

“We propose a new €50m retrofitting scheme for homes that rely on solid fuels for heating, which will particularly benefit households in rural areas, improve health and air quality, while also reducing energy poverty.

“We would establish a Local Energy Action Fund that would provide €8m for Sustainable Energy Communities to fund local community-led group retrofits.

“Finally, we will be proposing a 75% increase in funding for the solar PV budget, bringing that budget up to €24.5m for 2023.

“We recognise that due to the high initial upfront cost of installing solar panels, even with the current grant, this option remains unaffordable for many people, specifically for those who would benefit the most from lower electricity bills.

“Therefore, we will restructure the funding of solar PVs by providing tiered supports, ranging from 100% to 10% of the cost depending on household income. This would help thousands more households install solar PV next year, bringing down their bills and emissions.

“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a host of costed, climate action initiatives, that would both cut our carbon emissions and reduce energy poverty and inequality in our society.

 

“The approach of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green party to Climate measures has been punitive, unfair and counter-productive – we intend to change course by supporting families to make the transition.”

ENDS

 

Systemic & fundamental reform of forestry policy required

“Systemic & fundamental reform of forestry policy required” – Matt Carthy TD

 

Matt Carthy TD addresses Timber and Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) AGM

 

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that systemic and fundamental reform of forestry policy is required.

 

Carthy, told the AGM of the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) that forestry policy should “be good for the environment, good for communities and good for the economy.  At present, our strategy is not delivering in full on any of this metrics”.

 

Addressing the TIMCON conference in Dublin on Tuesday morning on ‘Current and future policy challenges for the timber sector’, Deputy Carthy said:

 

“A good forestry strategy is one that delivers for the environment, for local communities and for the economy.  At present, government strategy is not delivering in full on any of these metrics.

 

“We know that Forestry will be pivotal aspect of meeting our Climate Action targets.  If we don’t deliver on forestry – then we won’t deliver on Climate.  At the moment we’re nowhere near delivery.

 

“The Programme for Government sets a target of planting 8,000 hectares of new afforestation each year.  Last year we reached about a quarter of that – this year could be even less.

 

“All the numbers that are recited about 2030 and 2050 climate targets work under the assumption that we have actually met our 2021 and 2022 targets.  So, in reality, every year of missed milestones results in the need for even greater numbers in the coming years.  Nobody within the sector has the slightest confidence that this will be realisable within the current framework.  The implications for our Climate Action and biodiversity plans are incredibly worrying”.

 

Carthy also referenced the hostility to forestry that has developed within many communities and within farming as a result of a failed policy.

 

He said:

 

“In some parts of this country, forestry has become a dirty word.

 

“The failure to adequately engage with local communities, the concentration of forestry (especially the blanket planting and subsequent clear-felling of Sitka Spruce) within a few regions, and the failure to ensure that local families, farmers and wider communities see the economic benefits of afforestation; has led to widespread hostility and ill-feeling in those regions.

 

“This was and is entirely avoidable.  A forest is something that people should want to live beside.  They should have the benefits of clean-air, good living and economic benefits that afforestation can represent – when it is done correctly.

 

“And those economic benefits can only happen when there is a functioning, vibrant timber industry.  And, that means that you have to have a sustainable, constant, free-flowing supply of wood”.

 

On farmer participation in forestry schemes, Deputy Carthy said:

 

“Farmers have become resistant to participation in forestry – primarily due to past negative experiences.

 

“The failure, sometimes the refusal, of successive governments to ensure that the process of engagement of farmers in forestry was a positive one – has meant that their friends and neighbours largely now refuse to even contemplate forestry as an option for their lands.

 

“The lack of support for those affected by ash die-back disease is a case in point.

 

“Unless this is turned around we will be fighting a losing battle”.

 

And, in outlining a new course, the Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson insisted that systemic and fundamental change is required:

 

“It appears evident to me that the problem is rooted in the fact that the implementation and delivery of forestry policy rests within the same section, of the same department, with the same culture – that has overseen the development of the crisis in the first place.

 

“Therefore, unless there is systemic and fundamental reform of the forestry services then old mistakes are bound to be repeated until the crisis becomes an emergency.

 

“A commitment to that reform of forestry policy and services in Ireland will be the essential first step”.

 

Full text of Matt Carthy Address to TIMCON, timber industry and pallet confederation, AGM 13th September 2022.

 

A chairde,

 

Go raibh maith agaibh as an cuireadh go dtí an gcomhdháil inniu – chum labhairt ar an ábhar tabhachtach seo.

 

I am delighted to have been asked to address this important conference which is taking place at a crucial period in a perilous economic cycle – one that I know is of concern for those gathered here, for your suppliers, your customers and for your employees.

 

The timber industry is an important part of our economy and society.  Its value is particularly evident during times of uncertainty and volatility.  Forestry and timber manufacturing don’t just up and leave when recession hits.  They are an integral part of the communities in which they are based.

 

Many of the companies represented here today played a crucial role in restoring growth following the financial crash, for example, and acted as economic drivers for regions that desperately needed them at that time.

 

Likewise, as we face the new realities and challenges of post-pandemic supply strains, post-Brexit complications, a cost-of living emergency, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and ambitious Climate Action targets – your industry will be called upon to be a beacon of sustainable, and stable, economic activity.

 

I know that your members are up-to, in fact eager-to, play your full role in that regard.  It is important that public policy is equally up-to providing the framework in which you can operate and expand with confidence and certainty.

 

That is why, at the heart of getting things right, is a forestry strategy that works.

 

I have often said that a good forestry strategy is one that delivers for the environment, for local communities and for the economy.

 

At present, our strategy is not delivering in full on any of this metrics.

 

Climate Chane is happening; and every individual, company and state must take action.

 

The bigger the entity, the bigger the responsibility.

 

For Ireland, we know that Forestry will be pivotal aspect of meeting our Climate Action targets.  I would go so far as to say, that if we don’t deliver on forestry – then we won’t deliver on Climate.  And, at the moment, we’re nowhere near delivery.

 

The Programme for Government sets a target of planting 8,000 hectares of new afforestation each year.  Last year we reached about a quarter of that – this year could be even less.

 

All the numbers that are recited about 2030 and 2050 climate targets work under the assumption that we have actually met our 2021 and 2022 objectives.  So, in reality, every year of missed milestones results in the need for even greater numbers in the coming years.  Nobody I know or have spoken to within the sector has the slightest confidence that this will be realisable within the current framework.  The implications for our Climate Action and biodiversity plans are incredibly worrying.

 

So too, is the fact, that in some parts of this country, forestry has become a dirty word.

 

The failure to adequately engage with local communities, the concentration of forestry (especially the blanket planting and subsequent clear-felling of Sitka Spruce) within a few regions, and the failure to ensure that local families, farmers and wider communities see the economic benefits of afforestation; has led to widespread hostility and ill-feeling in those regions.

 

This was and is entirely avoidable.  A forest is something that people should want to live beside.  They should have the benefits of clean-air, good living and economic benefits that afforestation can represent – when it is done correctly.

 

And those economic benefits can only happen when there is a functioning, vibrant timber industry.  And, that means that you have to have a sustainable, constant, free-flowing supply of wood.

 

Of course, there will be a growing need for soft-wood.  If for no other reason than that we will need it to build the houses that my party want government to deliver.  And for furniture, for pallets, for the vast array of products that can be produced most sustainably when they’re produced with timber.

 

So, my view has always been, that when the required timber can be sustainably produced in Ireland, that this is where it should be produced rather than Irish companies being reliant on imports.

 

The balance needs to be a correct one.  One or two counties should not be expected to accommodate wildly disproportionate levels of mono-culture afforestation.  There must be a regional balance as well as a species balance across the board.

 

So, how do we get to the place where we deliver a forestry strategy that delivers for the environment, that delivers for communities and delivers for the economy and your industry.

 

The simple answer is that we plant trees – but how do we get there, considering the current dismal numbers?

 

Primarily, we must get serious.

 

I want to tell a tale of two countries and two governments.

 

The Scottish Government employed the services of a consultant, James Mackinnon, to make recommendations in relation to resolving their forestry crisis.

 

An Irish Government did the same.

 

Following the completion of the Mackinnon report in Scotland, within 24 months the Scottish forestry sector saw the annual afforestation rate rise from 4,600 ha to 12,200 ha. They are now setting targets of upwards of 18,000 ha.

 

The Irish Government commissioned a Mackinnon report.

 

They then received the completed Mackinnon report.

 

What happened?

 

Following the report, there was a review of the report, followed by an analysis of the review of the report.  The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine carried out a series of hearings and made its own report with recommendations – which essentially said implement the Mackinnon report.

 

And, government continue to carry out reviews, assessments, analyses and audits.  All the while Ireland, since the commissioning of the Mackinnon report has seen numbers plumet to the point that this year we are set to witness the lowest rates of afforestation since the middle of the second world war.

 

I know that there are people here today who could tell me that the Scottish system isn’t perfect or point out the obvious and real differences in Scottish and Irish land-ownership models.  The point I am making is that where there is a determined will on the part of government and stakeholders to deliver a change in policy – then it can happen.

 

So, to get to the crux of the situation in Ireland today we have to get to the source of the resistance to change.

 

I believe that government mean it when they say they want to reverse the current trajectory – it was they, after all, that set the targets that they are missing.

 

It appears evident to me that the problem must be rooted in the fact that the implementation and delivery rests within the same section, of the same department, with the same culture – that has overseen the development of the crisis in the first place.

 

Therefore, unless there is systemic and fundamental reform of the forestry services then old mistakes are bound to be repeated until the crisis becomes an emergency.

 

A commitment to that reform of forestry policy and services in Ireland will be the essential first step.

 

That must be followed by leadership at public level.  Every government department, every state agency and semi-state body, every local authority – should be obliged to adopt a tree-planting strategy, especially in respect of our Climate Action targets, utilising public lands for tree-planting projects and setting the example for all others to follow.

 

You have heard this morning the outline of Coillte’s programme of future work – it contains ambitious and laudable objectives that I hope it can meet.  But I’m sure Ms. Hurley will acknowledge that a significant factor in Coillte’s ability to achieve them will be their ability to source land.

 

Because, of course, you can’t plant trees if you don’t have land.

 

And, farmers are the crucial landowners that we need as partners in afforestation schemes.

 

But, farmers have become resistant to participation in forestry – primarily due to past negative experiences.

 

The failure, sometimes the refusal, of successive governments to ensure that the process of engagement of farmers in forestry was a positive one – has meant that their friends and neighbours largely now refuse to even contemplate forestry as an option for their lands.

 

The lack of support for those affected by ash die-back disease is a case in point.

 

Indeed, we have reached a point now whereby a significant portion of even those farmers who seek afforestation licences don’t actually proceed to planting.

 

Unless this is turned around we will be fighting a losing battle.  Some important progress has been made in shaping the new CAP in a way that allows forestry schemes to align with other measures.  But, we have to go much further.

 

There must be a substantive consultation with farmers and their representatives in order to map out a route to large scale farmer buy-in to forestry.  Every farm should have a tree planting element to its work but this needs to be on the basis of partnership rather than on punitive threats to payments.

 

Without such partnership, every afforestation strategy is doomed to fail.

 

The entire licencing framework must be reassessed.  This can be done in a manner that protects environmental standards, upholds the principles of good planning practice and ensures that communities voices are heard in the process.

 

The legislative changes to the appeals system were welcome and necessary.  More is now required.

 

Considerations around thinning, road construction and felling licences should form part of the initial planting licencing and planning processes to ensure that we don’t have substantial delays at every stage of the forestry life-cycle.

 

As soon as the current backlog is under control, we must implement a statutory timeframe into the licensing application and appeals process to provide certainty to applicants. As the Mackinnon Report recommended there should also be a Customer Service Charter which could assist in building confidence for all stakeholders.

 

None of these suggestions are ground-breaking; but none of them will happening easily.

 

As I said, if we depend on the same institutions to resolve the problems they themselves created then we are going to run around in circles.

 

We can deliver a forestry strategy that works for the environment, communities and the economy.

 

The role of your industry will be critical and I welcome your eagerness to engage with policy makers.  I look forward to our future conversations and discussions.

 

Above all I look forward to a new beginning for Irish Forestry and timber sector.

 

Go raibh maith agaibh go leor.

 

ENDS

Monaghan Students facing accommodation crisis as government shrug their shoulders

Monaghan Students facing accommodation crisis as government shrug their shoulders – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has warned that the government is forcing young people from his constituency out of university education through the failure to tackle the housing crisis.

 

Deputy Carthy said that the student accommodation crisis was ‘all-too-predictable’ but once again government have failed to prepare.  He was speaking after Sinn Féin published the results of survey, undertaking by the party’s Higher Education spokesperson Rose Conway Walsh, on how accommodation shortages are impacting students.  The responses expose a shocking crisis in access to third-level education.

 

Speaking this week, Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The all-too-predictable crisis in student accommodation in the major university centres will mean, I fear, that some students from my constituency will be forced out of university education next year.

 

“For students from counties like Monaghan, which has no university, commuting isn’t always a viable option.  Either they find a place to stay while studying or they cannot attend university.

 

“But, once again the failure of government for prepare for an obvious occurrence is causing hardship on our families and students.

 

“The results of Sinn Féin’s survey of students affected by the housing crisis are shocking.  They expose the dire and worsening crisis at the heart of our education system.  It is clear that accommodation shortages are forcing young people out of third level education, as many are planning to defer a college place or to drop out altogether as they struggle to find a suitable place to live.

 

“Throughout all of the stories shared is a clear sense of desperation and panic, as students battle against the clock and against the odds to secure any accommodation that they can.  Students shared heart-breaking stories of missing out on having a social life or being involved in their college community, due to working long hours to pay for sky high rent or travelling for hours every morning and evening from their family homes to college.

 

“77% said they can’t do their course to the best of their ability due to exhaustion or missing classes due to long commutes or due to working long hours or multiple jobs to pay for rent. 66% told us they are considering dropping out altogether or else taking a gap year due to problems securing appropriate accommodation.  92% said that they are experiencing stress or anxiety due to the student accommodation crisis.

 

“The government must act to end the student housing crisis and ensure all students can live in a suitable, affordable place near their college if they need it.

 

“We need capital investment to enable institutions to progress shovel-ready building projects and provide affordable accommodation.

 

“We need to fully examine the use of rapid build construction units in the here and now as students need immediate action.

 

“The Minister must also initiate a national awareness campaign on the rent-a-room tax relief to encourage homeowners to participate.

 

“There can be no more dithering from government. Students deserve better. They should be able to focus on their courses, without the unnecessary stress of navigating this worsening crisis”.

ENDS

Carthy hits out as Bus Eireann tells TDs it won’t seek additional school bus capacity

Carthy hits out as Bus Eireann tells TDs it won’t seek additional school bus capacity

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has described as ‘unacceptable’ a commication he received from Bus Eireann this week that stated: ‘Additional capacity is not being sought for concessionary pupils who did not secure tickets for the 22/23 school year’.

 

Carthy, who last week said that his office has been inundated with parents at crisis point because their children have been denied places on their local school bus has hit out at the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, who has refused to attend the Oireachtas Education committee to discuss the issue.

Teachta Carthy said:

“I am aware of dozens of Monaghan families whose children are still denied places on their local school bus.  The latest response I received from Bus Eireann amounts to ‘tough luck’.  Government, whose incompetence led to this situation, have gone into hiding.

 

“The Minister for Education, Norma Foley, has refused to attend the Oireachtas Education committee to discuss the crisis, despite being offered five alternative dates for a meeting.

“The implications are wide-ranging for many families.  In some instances that I am aware of, one parent will have no option but to quit their job to order to drive and collect their children from school.  All the while the local school bus passes by their front door.

 

“The failure by government to expand capacity on the School Transport Scheme, in conjunction with the elimination of fares, was monumental failure that epitomises the current Fianna Fáil/ Fine Gael government.

“The removal of fares has resulted in unprecedented numbers applying for the scheme, but because of the strict criteria in place, thousands of children who are categorised as ‘concessionary’ are now being refused a seat.

 

“Families who expected to realise savings of €500 now look set, instead, to be heaped with additional costs as they try to find alternatives to the school bus that is driving past their front door, yet denied to their children.

“It’s a spectacular failure of planning and turned what should be a good news story on fares into a nightmare for many who will now be left without a seat.

“Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for the School Transport Scheme to be expanded and have proposed that 10,000 extra places should be added for 2023.

“Bus Eireann have now stated that they will not seek additional capacity – a position that will be devastating news to many families.  Government apparently think the can hide away from the issue.

 

“But, we in Sinn Féin won’t allow that.  We will continue to press this issue until a school bus seat is secured for every child that needs one”.

ENDS

“Another fine mess from chaotic government” as Monaghan families endure school bus crisis

“Another fine mess from chaotic government” as Monaghan families endure school bus crisis – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that his office has been inundated with parents at crisis point because their children have been denied places on their local school bus.  Deputy Carthy said this was the latest misstep by the ‘government of choas’ who eliminated school transport fees without expanding capacity.  He called on the Minister for Education to urgently intervene to expand capacity to allow all children who need a place on their bus to receive one.

Teachta Carthy said:

“Over the past week I have been contacted by dozens of Monaghan families whose children have been denied places on their local school bus.  Indeed, it appears that a record number of students will be refused a school bus seat this year due to a total lack of planning by Government.

“The failure by government to expand capacity on the School Transport Scheme, in conjunction with the elimination of fares, is causing a crisis for families.

“The removal of fares has resulted in unprecedented numbers applying for the scheme, but because of the strict criteria in place, thousands of children who are categorised as ‘concessionary’ are now being refused a seat.

“To make matters worse, many of those who are being refused have used the scheme for years and this leaves their parents in a very difficult position, as they cannot do the school run due to work commitments and totally depend on the school bus.  In some cases in County Monaghan there are families where some children have received bus tickets while other have been refused.  It is a typical misstep by a government of chaos that, once again, impacts on ordinary families.

 

“Families who expected to realise savings of €500 now look set, instead, to be heaped with additional costs as they try to find alternatives to the school bus that is driving past their front door, yet denied to their children.

“It’s a spectacular failure of planning and turned what should be a good news story on fares into a nightmare for many who will now be left without a seat.

“Sinn Féin has repeatedly called for the School Transport Scheme to be expanded and have proposed that 10,000 extra places should be added for 2023.

“Government intervention is urgently needed.  Additional capacity must be provided to ensure that no child is left without a bus seat.

“It is not acceptable for government representatives to ignore this issue – they must act now.”

ENDS

Irish Government must end any prospect of Mercosur trade deal now

“Irish Government must end any prospect of Mercosur trade deal now”  – Matt Carthy TD

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that it is unacceptable that the EU-Mercosur trade deal remains an open prospect.  He called on the Irish government to end any further progress of the agreement, which would allow for the importation of one hundred thousand additional tonnes of beef into the EU market, now.  Otherwise, government parties lose all credibility on their Climate Action rhetoric, he said.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“It is beyond ironic that while, in Ireland, there was a sustained discussion on the role of agriculture in our domestic carbon emissions, the Brazilian meat industry was unveiling plans to increase the cattle herd there by 6.5million in order to meet projected export demand.  This increase represents the equivalent of this state’s entire beef and dairy herd.

 

“Meanwhile, EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius has indicated that he expects the EU-Mercosur trade deal to advance by the end of this year, thereby facilitating the importation of a significant amount of that Brazilian beef into Europe.

 

“Irish Farmers can and must take measures to reduce emissions.  But we cannot expect those actions to be taken while the European Commission is preparing to sign off on a trade deal that will undo any positive impact that our domestic actions have.

 

“Due to pressure from farm organisations and Sinn Féin, government Ministers have told the Dáil that they are now opposed to the EU-Mercosur trade deal.  But, it appears, that they have yet to tell the European Commission.  Ireland has a veto on this trade deal – government must inform the EU that we intend to use it and thereby end any further progress on this disastrous agreement.  Otherwise, government parties will lose all credibility on their recent Climate Action rhetoric.

 

“The Mercosur trade deal offers nothing positive for Ireland.  It is bad for our most important indigenous sector, bad for our overall economy and disastrous for the environment.  It must be rejected, now”.

 

ENDS

National Broadband Plan rollout continuing to falter

National Broadband Plan rollout continuing to falter – Matt Carthy TD

 

Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said he expects that National Broadband Ireland will be invited to appear again at the Public Accounts Committee in the autumn to account for ‘the continued woeful progress of broadband rollout’.

 

The €2.7 billion 25-year contract is intended to build and operate high-speed broadband services to 544,000 predominantly rural homes.  However, the scheme has been plagued by delays and missed targets since day one.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The rollout of the National Broadband Plan has been marked by delays, missed targets and a lack of transparency.

 

“For most families and businesses in rural communities, their primary concern is the time-frame for a long awaited connection.

 

“Initially, the National Broadband Plan had a target of 180,000 homes passed by the end of January 2022; this was the subject of multiple revisions, eventually reduced to as low as 60,000.

 

“This minimal target was also rendered meaningless as only 32,680 were passed by the end of 2021.

 

“The first months of 2022 saw similar revisions and failures to meet promised milestones.  The target for January 2023 now stands at102,000 homes passed – 80,000 less than the original target for 12 months previously!

 

“According to the most recent Parliamentary Question responses I have received, as of July 15th, the number of premises passed stood at just 70,700.

 

“Far from exploring how the National Broadband Plan can be accelerated as promised by Minister Eamon Ryan when launching the governments plan for rural Ireland – serious questions remain as to if NBI have the capacity to deliver this plan at all.

 

“The Public Accounts Committee has been highly critical of the approach taking by NBI and the Minister Ryan’s department to date.  I expect that they will be appearing before PAC once again in the coming months to account for their dismal performance.”

 

Responses to Parliamentary Questions:

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 26/07/2022
Question Number(s): 160 Question Reference(s): 41722/22
Department: Environment, Climate and Communications
Asked by: Matt Carthy T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

[Ref No.: 41722/22]

*  To ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of premises that have been passed to date by the National Broadband Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Matt Carthy.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 26th July, 2022.

(2659  Received on 19th July, 2022.)

REPLY

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in almost 560,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.

I am advised by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) that, as of 15 July 2022, over 313,600 premises are design completed and over 70,700 premises can order or pre-order a high-speed broadband connection across 23 counties. NBI has further advised that over 63,600 premises are passed with a high speed fibre broadband service across 23 counties and available for immediate connection. Construction is underway across 26 counties demonstrating that the project is reaching scale. To date, the level of connections is increasing on a daily basis and is in line with projections with some areas exceeding expectations.

Further details are available on specific areas through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. NBI has a dedicated email address, reps@nbi.ie, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.

NBI has made recent improvements to their website to enhance the provision of information to Oireachtas members. NBI has now completed a suite of changes, creating a portal that will serve as a means for Oireachtas members to proactively search for information relevant to their county/local area. The portal provides an up-to-date picture of NBI’s deployment schedule across the 227 Deployment Areas (DAs) in all 26 counties. A particular county can be selected to view an update of the overall number of premises in the Intervention Area, the overall NBP investment in the county, the number of premises passed to date and the status of each of the Deployment Areas with the anticipated date for connection over the lifetime of the project. The dedicated webpage can be accessed here: www.nbi.ie/rep.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. Some 657 BCP sites have been installed by NBI, as of 15 July 2022, and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly accessible sites and the Department of Education for school BCPs.

Some 380 schools have been installed by NBI to date for educational access. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband, within the Intervention Area. Further details of schools in scope are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 26/07/2022
Question Number(s): 161 Question Reference(s): 41723/22
Department: Environment, Climate and Communications
Asked by: Matt Carthy T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

[Ref No.: 41723/22]

*  To ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the current milestones related the delivery of the National Broadband Plan for which the failure to meet would result in penalties being applied to National Broadband Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Matt Carthy.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 26th July, 2022.

(2660  Received on 19th July, 2022.)

REPLY

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) contains a number of targets and milestones to be completed by NBI in order to deliver the rollout of high-speed broadband services to all premises in the Intervention Area by the end of 2026.

NBI is entitled to claim the payment of relevant subsidy only when contract targets and milestones have been achieved and independently verified. Subsidy payments are therefore held until NBI meets these milestones. Failure to meet these milestones has financial impacts for NBI as the company is not able to draw down subsidy.

The sanctions regime, which came into effect from the start of Contract Year 3 on 1 February 2022, relates to performance levels that NBI is required to meet for both the connection of premises and the operational performance of the network.
Under an Updated Interim Remedial Plan (UIRP) for 2022 concluded between NBI and my Department, a revised target was agreed of 102,000 premises passed by the end of Contract Year 3, i.e. 31 January 2023. The contract provides that sanction provisions relating to delays to delivery of the network are applicable to any delays that occur from 1 February 2022 and will be calculated and imposed in line with the contract and the UIRP.

Sanctions around Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relating to operational performance levels of NBI, including time to connect premises, minimum upload and download speeds and performance around fault repair are also part of the contract. Should NBI’s performance not be in accordance with the requirements contained within the NBP contract, performance points and consequently performance credits will accrue which will reduce the value of subsidy payments received by NBI.

 

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