N-S Interconnector “Review” falls far short of what is needed and what was promised

N-S Interconnector “Review” falls far short of what is needed and what was promised – Matt Carthy TD


The latest government commissioned review of the North South Interconnector falls far short of what is needed and of what was promised.  So, said Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy this week as the review group is expected to commence its work.


Deputy Carthy said that the requirement for a full independent feasibility assessment of an underground option for the interconnector is required.  Fianna Fáil, he said, had committed to such a study prior to the last General Election.  Instead, government have commission ‘a review of previous reviews’ which, Carthy said, inspires little confidence in the communities affected by the proposed interconnector.


Deputy Carthy said:


“It has been clear for several years that the only way that the North South Interconnector can proceed with the public acceptance of affected communities is if it is developed underground.  Such an approach is feasible and credible, according to previous government commissioned studies.


“In advance of the 2020 General Election Fianna Fáil promised an independent review into North South Interconnector.  In spring Micheál Martin told his party’s parliamentary party that such a review would be commissioned, to much fanfare from local representatives.


“But, the terms of reference of the proposed review does not constitute a meaningful consideration of the underground option – it effectively limits the group to reviewing a select number of previous reviews.


“This falls far short of what is needed and what was promised prior to the last election.


“It took nearly a year from that election for the review to be announced and it has been another half year before the review even begins.  The review itself is expected to be completed within 8 weeks.


“All the while, EirGrid are pressing ahead with this project at full speed – it would certainly seem that they have no sense that the review will deliver anything other than a reaffirmation of the status quo.


“Such a rubber-stamp exercise will not address the concerns of local communities or those of us who want to see the interconnector proceed with maximum public acceptance.  It is clear, a decade and a half on from the original proposition, that the only way that acceptance can be delivered is by developing the project using underground technology.


“I have tabled an oral question to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, who is before the Dáil this coming Thursday and I plan to put it to him that he must take this opportunity to expand the terms of reference of this review, and provide the expert panel with the widest possible remit in order to deliver the interconnector in an efficient, cost-effective manner that will have the support of affected communities.”


British sheep meat was mislabelled as Irish

British sheep meat was mislabelled as Irish – Matt Carthy TD


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said that the Department of Agriculture must release the full information regarding a confirmed case involving ‘mislabelling UK ovine as Irish origin.’


He was speaking following the receipt of departmental emails following his FOI request.  The response confirms that the department are aware of one instance this year whereby sheep meat imported from Britain was mislabelled as Irish.


Teachta Carthy said:


“Anecdotal reports earlier this year suggested that imported sheep meat was being incorrectly labelled as Irish.  Spring 2021 was notable for Irish sheep farmers as, while usually a time of respectable prices, prices actually slipped by as much as 40-60c/kg, at least partially in response to British imports.


“We now know that in at least one instance imported beef was mislabelled as Irish.


“What we do not know is if this was an intentional act, the scale of the mislabelling, or the companies involved.


“This is an incredibly serious matter.  Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue must instruct his department to immediately release all known information on this case and its implications.  There is very real prospect that Irish farmers lost money as a result of this practice.


“The Minister must also clarify whether any sanction was applied to those involved in this practise and the measures employed to ensure that it never happens again.”


Fine Gael narrative on Zappone appointment ‘in tatters’

Fine Gael narrative on Zappone appointment ‘in tatters’ – Matt Carthy TD

Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that the Fine Gael narrative regarding the appointment of Katherine Zappone is ‘in tatters’ following the release of documents relating to the scandal.  He said it was astounding that Minister Simon Coveney would before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs again and reiterate a position that flies in face of all the available evidence.  Carthy said that it was now up to the Taoiseach to restore whatever little credibility the government have left.

Teachta Carthy said:

“For the second time in a week, Minister Simon Coveney came before an Oireachtas Committee with an elaborate narrative that flies in the face of all available facts; quite frankly it is unbelievable.  The Fine Gael narrative is in tatters yet they continue to take the people for fools by repeating it.

“Due to the documentation released this week we now know for sure that Katherine Zappone approached numerous Fine Gael Ministers looking to get a job at a UN level.

“They facilitated her by creating a job for her and went so far as to allow her to write the job description.

“They got caught out and tried to cover it up by deleting information, breaking countless government protocols.

“It appears that they see nothing wrong with what they did – no more than they see anything wrong with Ministers moving from government to lobby for high finance, or suggesting that someone would be a good candidate for a Supreme Court position.

“The question now is what is the Taoiseach going to do about it?  Only definitive action on his part can restore whatever little credibility the government has left.

“The hallmark of Fine Gael in government has been cronyism.  The decisions they make and the taxpayers money they spend is too often decided by those who have inside access – that doesn’t include ordinary workers and families.

“This entire debacle just reaffirms why we need a change of government.  Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael clearly cannot be trusted” he concluded.


Government must protect local employment services

Government must protect local employment services – Matt Carthy TD


Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, this week joined staff from Local Employment Services and Job Clubs as they protested in Dublin against ‘dangerous’ proposals to privatise these vital employment supports.  Carthy accompanied Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, who has called on Minister Heather Humphreys to urgently engage with sector representatives about the future of Local Employment Services and Job Clubs.


Deputies Carthy and Kerrane spoke with representatives from around the country including Monaghan representatives to hear their genuine concerns about current government plans.


Speaking after Monday’s protest, Teachta Carthy said:


“For 25 years Local Employment Services and Job Clubs have been providing invaluable supports to those seeking employment, particularly vulnerable groups and those returning to the workforce after longer periods of time, including Carers and Lone Parents.  Following the financial crash when many workers found themselves unemployed for the first time in their lives, this services provided the assistance people needed to find new careers and training.


“The government have moved to remove the community element of these programmes and instead privatise the services.  The recent Request for Tender (RfT) has put forward a commercialised, profit-driven model of employment services which not only threatens the crucial wrap-around supports these organisations currently offer, but which has also locked many existing services out of the tendering process.  It is a dangerous proposition in my view.


“Concerns about the impact of these proposed changes were raised repeatedly with the government before and throughout Phase One of the tender process, which concerned seven Counties.  While the deadline for applications for this phase of the tender has now passed, these concerns continue to grow as the second phase approaches.  Phase Two calls for applications regarding provision of employment services in all other Counties in the State, including Monaghan.


“Shifting to an employment service model which is profit-focused, has no proven results and quite literally places quantity over quality.  This approach is unacceptable and will not support sustained employment.


“The proposed changes encourage a ruthless shift to ‘services’ which focus on profit over people.  This is not the person-centred approach so successfully fostered by the LES and Job Clubs.


“Sinn Féin have long campaigned against privatisation of job activation services, like the disastrous JobPath scheme, which has cost close to €300m since 2015.  We remain strongly opposed to the government’s most recent move to commercialise those seeking employment.


“As the representatives I met at the protest in Dublin so eloquently put it – employment services and the people they support are not for sale!


“Unfortunately, the government has still not responded to calls to revoke the tender and to engage with those who are delivering these vital employment services.


“Their resistance tells us that they knows that the proposed changes are not welcome, and that this proposed model puts profit margins above the needs of ordinary people.


“I support the call from the Sinn Féin spokesperson in this area, Clare Kerrane, that Minister Humphreys engage with representatives working in employment services immediately to put a stop to this harmful process of privatisation.  It is imperative that the Minister come to the table to hear at first hand from those who have been delivering these services so effectively for so long.”


Minister must avoid €8 million BEAM clawback

Minister must avoid €8 million BEAM clawback – Matt Carthy TD


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has called on the Minister for Agriculture to intervene to avoid over 3,634 farmers facing clawbacks amounting to a potential €8 million.


The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) provided famers with temporary financial aid in response to a prolonged period of depressed beef prices.  To avail of the scheme, farmers were required to commit a 5% reduction of bovine livestock manure nitrogen.


However, the scheme was beset with confusion and delays from the offset as to how the 5% would be calculated, resulting in farmers being offered an updated reference period last February, effectively facilitating an extension in meeting the 5% target.


Teachta Carthy said:


“The issues that arose with the BEAM scheme were apparent from the very beginning.  Sinn Féin highlighted this at the time but warnings fell on deaf ears.


“In February of this year we warned the Minister that while flexibility with regard to the reference period was welcome, in many respects he would only be kicking the can down the road.


“It has now been reported that 3,634 farmers who did not avail of the deferral did not reach the required 5% reduction.


“On a pro-rata basis, this would amount to the Department of Agriculture seeking to recoup some €8 million from these farmers.


“It is worth recalling that at the time the extension was secured reports suggested that the crux of the issue was that Teagasc and other agricultural advisors differed from the Department of Agriculture as to how to calculate nitrate figures.


“Given the confusion surrounding the scheme, I believe it would be unfair and callous to place the blame and burden for this debacle laden scheme solely on those individual farmers alone.


“Given that many other farmers who entered the scheme on the same basis will now be continuing to work towards meeting the reduction over an extended period, I am calling on the Minister to find an alternative solution to simply penalising these farmers.


“The fairest solution would seem to be to implement a blanket extension across the board for those farmers who have not yet met the schemes requirements.


“As such, the first question that needs to be asked is whether the Minister even bothered to ask the European Commission about such an extension in the weeks leading up to the deadline?


“At a time when we have not yet emerged from the pandemic, and with new Brexit challenges on the horizon, the idea of removing such a significant sum of money from family farmers and rural communities would be unfair and frankly inexcusable”.



Department of Agriculture strangling forestry sector

Department of Agriculture strangling forestry sector – Matt Carthy TD


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has said the recently published forestry figures expose a department that is ‘strangling a forestry sector it should be fostering.’


Teachta Carthy said:


“A proper forestry strategy should be good for the environment, good for the economy and good for local communities.  In Ireland, we have a set of policies that deliver none of those things.


“The forestry sector has been in utter chaos for a number of years and this government, after over a year in office, is proving wholly incapable of addressing the challenges.


“At the start of the month Minister of State Pippa Hackett told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that reduced productivity within the department relating to the issuing of licenses was the result of a new 30 day consultation process that would be negated during August.


“Considering the nature and the duration of the crisis the sector did not have a ‘free month’ to gift to the government, but they should have at least had expected that that period would have led to a substantial improvement in terms of delivery.


“However, Week 4 forestry figures show that August was actually less productive than July!  Licences granted for both new afforestation and felling were just over half of what they were for the August 2020.


“It seems that the department is incapable of addressing one issue without creating another.


“Much time is spent in the agricultural community discussing the need to meet emission targets – farmers are up for this challenge assuming that they are treated fairly and adequately supported.  Afforestation can play an important role in this but it is increasingly disheartening to see government continue to utterly fail.


“While government have commissioned a report on how licensing is handled in other EU states, this itself raises the question of, if a solution is found elsewhere, why weren’t our own department competent enough to determine this in advance of implementing those EU regulations supposedly responsible for the delays?


“What this government seems to be failing to grasp is that even once the licensing issue is resolved, they will face an uphill battle trying to convince farmers to enter the sector due to a legitimate perception that poor governance will mean that in ten, twenty, or thirty years’ time if regulations change or new related disease reach our shores, they alone will be left holding the can again.


“Sinn Féin has facilitated government legislation and initiative despite reservation in order to provide for a future for our domestic forestry sector and environment.  The department, though, have consistently squandered the goodwill from opposition and stakeholders.


“Ultimately, responsibility for this lies with Minister for Agriculture.  I have written to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine to request that an urgent hearing be held with the Minister at the soonest opportunity on this subject.”


Matt Carthy brings Dáil Bill to regulate school contributions and end unfair pressure on families

Matt Carthy brings Dáil Bill to regulate school contributions and end unfair pressure on families


Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has this week published legislation which will regulate voluntary school contributions which, he says, are placing unfair financial pressure on families.


Deputy Carthy wrote the legislation alongside his party’s Education spokesperson, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.  Among other measures the new law would prevent families being singled out for not being able to meet these often crippling costs associated with ‘voluntary contributions’.


The Sinn Féin representatives have also called on the government to fund the education system properly, so that schools do not feel the need to fundraise to cover basic costs.


Teachta Carthy said:


“Too many families are facing a cost of living crisis.  On top on high rents and mortgages, high insurance costs and increasing energy bills families with school-going children are also faced with the costs of books, uniforms and school transport.  This time of year can be an absolute nightmare.


“This week, I and my colleague Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire have published legislation to ease one pressure on families by tackling so-called voluntary contributions.


“This week, as children return to school, thousands of families will be getting requests from schools for voluntary contributions, which can put huge additional pressure of their finances.


“Year on year, families are being crippled by requests for contributions of very often well over €100 or €200 per child, and even as much as €300-400 in some cases.  These are huge sums for families to be expected to pull together in a matter of weeks.


“We know that in reality, these contributions are voluntary in name only.  In some parts of the country, students and families can be denied certain services and extra-curricular activities and they can face stigma.


“The legislation we have published would bring an end to the pressure on families to make these donations.  Our Bill will place an obligation on schools to make clear to families that these contributions are voluntary.  It will ensure that no child is stigmatised or denied opportunities because their parents are not in a position to make a contribution.


“Our Bill will prohibit schools from contacting parents more than once per school year looking for contributions, and will work to end the stigma by disallowing any reminders of these contributions to be sent home with their children.


“It will ensure transparency, by placing an obligation on schools and the Department of Education to publish online the total amount collected in voluntary contributions and how this has been spent in each school.


“Crucially, our Bill sets out a pathway for bringing about an end to voluntary contributions for good once capitation levels are adequately restored by Government”.


Schools are underfunded


Teachta Carthy continued:  “The reason that families are being put under this financial pressure is because the government has consistently underfunded our schools to the point that they feel they have to fundraise just to cover the basics. It has to end.


“I am calling on the government to do the right thing and finally give our schools the funding and resources that they need to give our children the education that they deserve.  These unfair voluntary contributions must stop.


“Sinn Féin will stand up for families and ensure our education system is fit for purpose.”


Sinn Féin TD supports call from Childcare sector for increased funding in Budget 2022

Sinn Féin TD supports call from Childcare sector for increased funding in Budget 2022 – Matt Carthy TD


Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has called on the Government to increase funding to the childcare sector in Budget 2022 and reform the sector in a way that is fairer for parents, providers and staff.


Teachta Carthy said:


“Childcare costs continue to spiral to levels that are neither affordable nor sustainable for ordinary working families.  It is representative of just how bad this crisis has gotten that it is now common to hear the cost of childcare referred to as a second mortgage.


“Ireland has some of the highest childcare costs in the EU.  This is unfair and unsustainable.  All the while, the professionals who work in the sector are underpaid.


“An effective childcare system would benefit the broader economy, as the current dysfunctional system forces many parents, especially mothers, out of the workforce.


“Last year Sinn Féin called for a sustainability fund for the childcare sector which was opposed by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.  Without proper supports we will continue to hear reports such as that pregnant mothers are having to register for places in creches before their children are even born.


“Highly qualified childcare workers are often paid little more than minimum wage.  This is clearly a significant part of the reason why workers are leaving the sector in droves.


“Equally, we are continuously hearing from creche managers about problems they are facing to insure their businesses, in some instances with premiums having more than doubled in recent years.


“Our childcare system simply isn’t fit for purpose.  Fees are far too high and wages are far too low.  The system doesn’t work well enough for parents, staff or providers.


“Sinn Féin therefore fully support calls by those working in the sector for a serious increase in Government spending in this area.  Budget 2022 is the natural opportunity to address the gross underspend in this sector.”



Latest rent report shows government failing to tackle the rental crisis in hitting County Monaghan hard

Latest rent report shows government failing to tackle the rental crisis in hitting County Monaghan hard – Matt Carthy TD


Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that the latest Daft.ie rental report for the second quarter of 2021, which indicates that rents in County Monaghan have increased by 12.8% across the state, shows that government housing failures are hitting every community.  The state-wide rent increases of 5.6% represent the biggest increase since the middle of 2019.


Teachta Carthy said:


“The latest Daft.ie report makes for grim reading and reflects that hardships faced by many families.  It shows that the average asking rent across the state is now €1,477, 5.6% higher than the same period last year.


“But, while rents in Dublin are up 0.5%, across the rest of the state, in 17 counties, rents have increased by more than 10% in one year.


“But, in County Monaghan, rents have increased by nearly 13%.  The report also indicates that rental supply is low with only 800 homes available to rent outside of Dublin, an experience familiar to many people in this county who have lived the reality of the outworking of Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael’s housing policies.


“Darragh O’Brien has now been in office for over a year and the rental crisis is worse than it was under both Fine Gael housing ministers Simon Coveney and Eoghan Murphy.


“If the government had done what was necessary and banned rent increases at an earlier stage, and backed two Sinn Féin bills, which would have done so, many hard-pressed renters would have been saved from these rent hikes.


“As it stands, we do not know how many of the 390 cost rental units promised for this year will actually be delivered.


“The Minister’s Housing for All Plan has been delayed due to wrangling between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.


“The government must commit to a dramatic increase in capital investment in affordable housing to rent and buy.  They must also ban rent increases for three years, and introduce a refundable tax credit for renters that would put one month’s rent back in every renter’s pocket.


“We need to see affordable cost rental homes delivered at scale where they are needed.  We also need the Minister to commit to investigating the disorderly exit of landlords from the market.


“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael representatives need to take this crisis seriously as, under their watch, things are getting worse, not better.”



Restricting suckler cow numbers counterproductive

Restricting suckler cow numbers counterproductive – Matt Carthy TD


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy, has said that moves by the Department of Agriculture to artificially restrict suckler numbers will hurt family farmers and will be environmentally counterproductive.


He was speaking following revelations that the proposed Carbon Efficiency Programme will prevent suckler farmers from increasing herd size.


Teachta Carthy said:


“This is a non-sensical proposition.


“Irish suckler farmers produce some of the most environmentally sustainable and natural beef in the world.


“This should be celebrated and capitalised upon to enhance family farm incomes for those who have been operating on margins much too tight for far too long.  The sad reality is that our premium product is also the least profitable.


“The environmental credentials of Irish suckler beef are so strong that Sinn Féin have long advocated for a dedicated suckler PGI that we believe could deliver a real premium for suckler farmers.


“It is ludicrous that, rather than adopt such an approach, the Minister for Agriculture intends to instead artificially restrict herd sizes at home.  At the same time his government continues to support the EU-Mercosur trade deal which will see an additional 99,000 tonnes of less sustainable beef flooding the EU market.


“While schemes understandably limit the number of units that farmers receive payment for, based on previous production, only our suckler farmers have faced compulsory limits to qualify for schemes.  The Minister has never proposed a mechanism to restrict the production of much less sustainable Factory Feed Lot beef, for example.


“Sinn Féin have long called for a single suckler scheme and welcome the governments adoption of this position.  However, while a Sinn Féin scheme would deliver up to €300 per cow/calf pair with degraded payments up to 100 pair, the government have yet to clarify what their payment schedule will be.  And yet, they confirm that they will penalise farmers if they produce additional sustainable beef in the future.  It beggars’ belief.


“I am particularly concerned that if there is inflexibility with the reference year this could unfairly penalise younger farmers who might have only been in the process of building up their herds during a proposed reference period.


“The Minister must immediately clarify this situation.  He must categorically rule out restrictions that penalise sustainable suckler farmers.”


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