Sinn Féin leader & local Deputy raise Shane O’Farrell case with Taoiseach

Sinn Féin leader & local Deputy raise Shane O’Farrell case with Taoiseach

 

The Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, and local Dáil Deputy, Matt Carthy, raised the ongoing calls for an independent enquiry into the circumstances of the death of Carrickmacross native, Shane O’Farrell, with Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, in the Dáil last week.

 

Shane O’Farrell was just 23 when he was killed in a ‘hit and run’ on 2nd August 2011, by Zigimantas Gridziuska, a known criminal who had breached several bail conditions at the time and had 42 previous convictions in three different jurisdictions.

 

Since his death, his family have sought an independent enquiry as to how and why Zigimantas Gridziuska was at large at the time.  Through their efforts, wholescale failures regarding the handling of this case by an Garda Síochána, by the prosecuting solicitor and barrister, by the DPP and by the courts services, have been exposed.

 

The Dáil and the Seanad have previously adopted resolutions calling for a public enquiry to be established but the previous Fine Gael government instead initiated a scoping enquiry currently being conducted by the respected former judge Gerard Haughton.

 

Speaking during questions to the Taoiseach last Thursday Sinn Féin leader, Marylou McDonald, said:

 

“I wish to raise the case of Shane O’Farrell.  This December will be the tenth Christmas for the O’Farrell family without Shane.  As the Taoiseach will know, the circumstances that led to his death have been very well voiced in the Dáil and Seanad in recent years.  In 2018, the Dáil voted in favour of the immediate establishment of a public inquiry into the death of Shane O’Farrell and this was followed by a unanimous vote to the same effect in the Seanad in early 2019.

 

“Instead of acting on the instruction of both Houses, the previous Fine Gael-led Government announced the establishment of a scoping exercise.  Nearly two years have passed, and completion of the final report has been delayed for the fifth time.  When announcing the establishment of the scoping exercise the former Minister for Justice and Equality committed to the completion of an interim report within eight weeks on the commencement of the exercise. The family noted that the Guerin report took weeks to complete.

 

“We are coming up to Christmas.  The efforts of the O’Farrell family have been nothing short of heroic.  They have the majority support of the Dáil and the Seanad.  We need a public inquiry into the death of this young man.  We all support that.

 

“When the Taoiseach was on the Opposition benches, he led the charge in calling for that inquiry.  When will we see the outcome of that scoping exercise and when will we have that public inquiry?”

 

“Inspirational”

 

In his remarks, Deputy Matt Carthy said:

 

“I thank Deputy McDonald for raising the case of Shane O’Farrell and I reinforce her message to the Taoiseach.

“On several occasions, the Taoiseach met Shane’s parents, Lucia and Jim, who are among the most inspirational people one could meet. They are now facing their tenth Christmas without their beloved son, Shane. As Deputy McDonald said, they have been seeking justice for Shane and for the wrongs perpetrated on their family to be addressed. The previous Government announced a scoping inquiry, which has been subject to several delays.  The most recent information is that the retired judge intends to complete his report by, I believe, 21 January.

“On behalf of my neighbours, the O’Farrell family, and the wider community in Carrickmacross, I ask the Taoiseach to liaise with the Minister for Justice to ensure that the outcome of the scoping exercise is published and completed by that date in January so that we can move on to the implementation of the resolution of the Dáil and Seanad for a full public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Shane O’Farrell’s death”.

Responding the Taoiseach confirmed that he had met Lucia, Jim and the entire family on a number of occasions. He paid tribute to Deputy John McGuinness, who he said has been with the family on their long journey, and the other Deputies in the House who have raised these issues consistently.

 

He said: “I have been in touch with the Minister for Justice and I am anxious that the scoping inquiry be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible, so that we can then take a decision regarding an inquiry in the context of the output of the scoping inquiry, its analysis and recommendations and whatever additional information and guidance it will provide us with”.

 

Speaking afterwards, Deputy Matt Carthy commented that the O’Farrell family have waited long enough for truth and justice.  He confirmed that he would continue to raise this matter until such time as a full independent inquiry was established.

ENDS

Sinn Féin crusade to tackle high insurance costs continues – Matt Carthy TD

Sinn Féin crusade to tackle high insurance costs continues – Matt Carthy TD

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that his party’s crusade against high insurance costs will continue in 2021.  He was speaking after his colleague, Pearse Doherty, published new legislation that will ban dual pricing from the insurance market and empower the Central Bank, courts and Financial Ombudsman to enforce the new laws.

 

This comes after the Central Bank found that the majority of customers are paying significantly more than the expected cost of their policy, with some policyholders being overcharged by as much as 35% every year.  Sinn Féin have long called for a ban on the practice, which leads to consumers being charged artificially high premiums.

 

Deputy Carthy criticised Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments will have let the insurance companies ‘run amok’ for too long saying that any actions taken have been slow coming and inadequate.  Carthy said that he expects insurance costs to reduce somewhat in the coming year largely due to Pearse Doherty’s campaign.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The Insurance (Restriction of Differential Pricing and Profiling) Bill 2020, which Pearse Doherty has published, is a landmark moment for the Irish insurance market.

 

“This legislation will ban dual pricing in the insurance market, reduce prices and increase fair competition in the market.

 

“Dual pricing involves insurers using big data and complex pricing practices to target costumers who are less likely to shop around, before charging them artificially high premiums at renewal.

 

“Last week’s Interim Report by the Central Bank on the use of dual pricing by the insurance industry is a shocking indictment of the industry and how it price gouges its customers.

 

“The Central Bank has found that renewing customers are paying significantly more than the actual cost of their policy.

 

“This affects more than 70% of insurance customers.

 

“The report shows that 2.5 million policyholders are paying a total of €187 million more than the actual cost of their policies as a result of dual pricing.

 

“In motor insurance, customers are being overcharged by as much as 25% a year, while in home insurance customers are being overcharged by as much as 35%.

 

“The average motor insurance customer who has been with their provider for five years will have been overcharged €362 by their insurer.

 

“The Central Bank also found that this disproportionately impacts older and more vulnerable customers.  This has to stop.

 

“In Britain, the FCA found that 6 million policyholders were overcharged a combined total of €1.3 billion as a result of dual pricing in 2018 alone.

 

“That is why the British regulator is banning the practice. It is why dual pricing has been banned in 20 US States since 2014.

 

“Dual pricing discriminates, it overcharges customers and distorts the market.

 

“Sinn Féin, through Pearse Doherty, has published legislation that will ban the use of dual pricing by insurance companies.  This legislation will reduce premiums, resulting in significant savings for consumers.

 

“It will also require insurers to inform customers of the factors they have used to calculate their premiums at renewal.  This legislation will require the Central Bank to regulate this ban on dual pricing, and publish a Code of Practice that will assist both the Courts and the FSPO where an insurance company has broken these new laws.

 

“Sinn Féin vowed to end the rip-off by the insurance industry.  Banning dual pricing was a commitment we made in our General Election Manifesto.  This legislation will ban the practice and reduce prices for consumers.

 

“For too long Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments have allowed the insurance industry to run amok.  Companies have closed as a result while many others have been strangled by insurance costs.  Motorists and home owners have been fleeced.  Any government actions have been too slow and inadequate and only brought about by the campaign led by Pearse Doherty.

 

“Due to Pearse Doherty’s work it is very likely that insurance costs will come down next year.  But, there is still much work to do.

 

“Sinn Féin’s crusade to tackle high insurance costs will continue in 2021!”

ENDS

 

Carthy & McConalogue debate Brexit supports for Farmers and Small Businesses

Carthy & McConalogue debate Brexit supports for Farmers and Small Businesses

During a Dáil debate with the Minister for Agriculture Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, queried the level of supports and preparation in place for farmers and small businesses upon the ending of the Brexit transition period.

Deputy Carthy raised the issues that will present to small agri-food business that export to and through Britain, claiming that many were unprepared and needed additional support from government.

The Sinn Féin TD commenced the Debate by asking the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the contingency measures he will put in place, including financial support, to support farmers and the agri-food sector to deal with the outworkings of Brexit from 1 January 2021.

Deputy Matt Carthy: We have been talking about the countdown to Brexit and we are now potentially within hours of knowing whether we dealing with a deal or a no-deal scenario. As the Minister knows, nobody is set to lose more than Irish farmers and the agri-food sector in the broadest terms. I would like the Minister to take this opportunity to convey to the House the contingency measures that his Department has been working on to protect that sector that is obviously of the utmost importance to our regions.

Minister Charlie McConalogue:  I thank Deputy Carthy for the question. Whatever the outcome of the EU-UK future relationship negotiations, significant changes will take place from 1 January 2021. These will have considerable implications for the agri-food and fisheries sector and will require considerable adjustment, particularly for businesses trading with Great Britain. The focus of my Department has been on getting all sectors as ready as possible for all Brexit scenarios, with a key focus on protecting primary producers. For example, the work that has been done on infrastructure in ports and airports, increasing staffing resources, developing robust IT support systems and communications with stakeholders has been to ensure that we support the continuation of trade post transition and, by doing so, that we support farmers and the agri-food sector.

My Department has also ensured that financial and other support measures have been put in place over successive budgets to support farmers and the agri-food sector to deal with Brexit.

In addition, I secured in budget 2021 a total of €62 million for Brexit-related agri-food measures, and a new recovery fund of €3.4 billion will be available as required across all sectors of the economy to deal was the twin challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit. Furthermore, the EU budget agreement reached in July by Heads of State and Government includes a €5 billion Brexit adjustment reserve for those member states and sectors most affected by Brexit. We are working with colleagues across government to secure significant allocations from this fund. I am fully committed to protecting our farming and fishery sectors regardless of the outcome of Brexit and these sectors have done, and continue to do, a great deal for our economy. All my efforts are looking to protect our food producers in the time ahead.

We are working with our European colleagues and hoping that there will be a successful conclusion to the Brexit negotiations in the days ahead but we are prepared in regard funding and contingencies to support our farming and fisheries sectors, regardless of the outcome to those negotiations.

Matt CarthyI thank the Minister for that reply. There are many varying and competing concerns for the agriculture sector in the event of a no-deal Brexit or a less than perfect Brexit deal. The biggest of those will be access to the British market.

I will ask the Minister about the exploration of other markets and, particularly, the importance of the land bridge and what will be put in place. There is a huge difficulty with regard to direct shipping and air transport to the rest of the EU. Air freight has increased dramatically in price recently and shipping capacity is also an issue. There are only approximately eight roll-on, roll-off sailings per week. Roll-on, roll-off is the preferred method of shipping transport for most businesses, including agri-food businesses. I would be interested in the Minister’s outlining how he will support getting Irish food into the wider EU market post-Brexit.

Charlie McConalogue: We have been working closely with all agri-food companies, and exporters in particular, to ensure they prepare for 1 January because, regardless of what happens in the next number of days, there will be significant changes from that date when Britain becomes a third country. For every company that exports to Britain, that will mean additional customs checks and, for the agri-food sector more than any other sector, there will be sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, checks as well, which will add additional administration and challenges to the logistics of exporting to Britain. Companies must prepare for that in the time ahead

On the land bridge, we have been engaging with the European Commission and Britain in every way we can in preparing for that. The fact that a deal has not been done yet poses a challenge in bringing final certainty to it but between now and 1 January we will continue to work with companies, our European colleagues and Britain to try to smooth those preparations.

Matt Carthy: Regarding exports, one way or another we need to find new markets and exploit the markets that are there. At a meeting of Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine an hour or so ago we learned that Ireland is the only significant exporter at EU level that does not provide export credit insurance. Is the Minister working with his counterparts in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that minimum step is taken? I would also like to hear of the Minister’s work with Revenue to ensure customs formalities are loosened and additional supports are provided to small agri-food businesses that need to get their product into Britain post-Brexit.

There is an issue of financial guarantees that have to come from third-party insurance or a bank. Many businesses, including some small agri-food businesses, do not have time to organise this for January. Some of them are not even aware of it. Will the Department be in a position to support those small agri-food businesses in that regard?

Charlie McConalogue: On supporting companies to prepare for the additional requirements in terms of customs and SPS, significant financial support has been put in place by the Government.  In particular, there is a €9,000 grant for all businesses to avail of to ensure they have a member of staff in their company who will have knowledge, understanding and responsibility to prepare for customs checking.

 

The issue of export insurance is something on which my Department has engaged with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. We have been looking at what contingencies will be required in the eventuality of a deal or no deal. We hope it will be a deal. Funding has been put aside to back that up and we will engage in the time ahead with companies and the agri-food and marine sectors and support them to prepare for 1 January and the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

ENDS

Carrickmacross Group Home will be ‘litmus test’ for Government rhetoric on Disability Services – Matt Carthy

Carrickmacross Group Home will be ‘litmus test’ for Government rhetoric on Disability Services – Matt Carthy

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, has said that the government must ensure that services at the Group Home for people with physical disabilities, at the Convent Lands, in Carrickmacross, must commence immediately in the new year.

 

Deputy Carthty said this week that the families of those who will be residing at the group home have been treated scandalously by the HSE and successive governments.  The home was first committed to in 2006 but has been subject to ongoing delays ever since.  It was finally constructed in 2016 but has remained idle ever since because the funding necessary to operate it has not been released.

 

The matter was raised again in the Dáil last week by Deputy Carthy who asked the Minister for Health if it will be ensured the group home for persons with physical and sensory disabilities at Drummond Otra, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan will be operational in January 2021.

 

Responding on behalf of the government, the Junior Minister with responsibility for disabilities, Anne Rabitte said:

 

“The Government is committed to ensuring the most effective interventions are provided for people with a disability to ensure the best outcomes.

 

“The HSE currently provides funding to support over 8,100 residential places for people with a disability and actively engages with families to ensure that those with the greatest need are prioritised for a residential place.

 

“In the Budget for 2021, an additional €100m has been made available for new disability developments, which will see the budget for specialist disability services exceeding over €2.2 billion next year.  The increased allocation includes additional funding which will enable the HSE to provide and plan for more residential places and to further progress decongregation next year.

 

“The National Service Plan for 2021, which is a detailed operational planning process, will outline the key commitments in relation to the delivery of services in the coming year.As the Plan has not been finalised, I cannot provide details of any commitments in relation to developments in particular locations at this stage in the process.

 

“In relation to the specific development referred to by the Deputy, I am advised that the HSE is continuing to liaise with the families involved and is working with relevant agencies, including Respond, the housing agency, to explore all avenues to make this facility operational as soon as possible in the context of available resources”.

 

Speaking afterwards Deputy Carthy said it would be disgraceful if the group home is not operational at the beginning of 2021.

 

He said:

 

“It is simply not tenable that we could now see this state-of-the-art building lie idle for a fifth consecutive year.  Previously Junior Minister, Anne Rabbitte, had indicated that she would endeavour to ensure that it would be operational early next year but the response I received last week is less than clear.

 

“The delivery of this facility will be a litmus test for the government.  We have heard substantial rhetoric about the prioritisation of disability services.  Let’s see that rhetoric put into action.

 

“It is an indictment on successive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments that the families of those people with disabilities who will reside in this home have had to fight every step of the way.  Their ordeal must end now – the Group Home must open in January 2021!”

ENDS

Government failure to hear message on Pension Age ‘disappointing’ – Matt Carthy TD

Government failure to hear message on Pension Age ‘disappointing’ – Matt Carthy TD

 

Local Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that the government’s failure to hear the clear message from the electorate on the pension was disappointing and telling.  He was speaking after government TDs rejected a Sinn Féin Dáil motion that would allow those who wish to retire at 65 with the state pension.

 

Teachta Carthy said:

 

“The pension age became a defining issue of February’s General Election.  The proposition, that was shared by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, to increase the pension age to 68 over coming years was roundly rejected by voters.  In fact, people clearly stated that they wanted to have the right to retire with a state pension at the age of 65.

 

“Instead, the government have established The Pensions Commission and many fear that this is a ruse to force the pension age to 67 in the coming period.

 

“That 65-year-olds have been forced to apply for jobseekers was in of itself a scandalous situation.  Keeping people approaching 65 in the dark as to what they can expect while we await yet another report is just cruel.

 

“Not all workers will want to retire at 65, and of course they should equally be allowed to continue working if they wish to do so without facing mandatory retirement.

 

“The governments commission isn’t due to report back until the middle of next year.

 

“The 4,000 65 year olds currently receiving either Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit deserve to be treated with more dignity than the further six month wait this government proposes.

 

“People need to be able to plan for their retirement but that is being robbed of them during the current hiatus.

 

“The government failure to support Sinn Féin’s motion was disappointing.  It was also telling – they still haven’t understood the strength of feeling on this issue among ordinary workers.  Sinn Féin, for our part, will continue to press for the restoration of the state pension for those who wish to retire at 65.”

ENDS

Carthy cautiously welcomes New Investigation into Covid outbreaks in Meat Plants

Carthy cautiously welcomes New Investigation into Covid outbreaks in Meat Plants

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy, has cautiously welcomed the commitment he secured that an investigation into the transmission of Covid-19 in meat processing plants.

He has called on the Minister to outline the intended timeline of the investigation, saying that ‘while the investigation must be thorough, time is also a critical factor here given the real implications for many workers in these plants and the wider community.’

Teachta Carthy said:

“Ideally such an investigation would have begun months ago.  Much of our time at the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 was taken up dealing with outbreaks at meat plants, so it has been apparent this was necessary.

“While I welcome that this investigation has now commenced, I do have a number of concerns.

“The parliamentary question that confirmed this investigation indicates that environmental sampling was carried out in the course of a pilot study in July/August, but makes no reference to further sampling.

“There were a number of outbreaks in Meat Plants since that period and if sampling was not carried out at these factories it will limit the potential of this investigation from the beginning.

“An investigation is also only as good as the action it delivers, and I am cognisant that this government has chosen to disregard recommendations of several studies carried out with regard to meat plants in the past.

“The National Outbreak Control Team recommended in July that the Minister for Health enact legislation to allow for the closure of meat plants, this advice was rejected by this government.

“I would also particularly surprised that while the Minister chose to focus on the likely significant transmission vector of chilled air re-circulation, no reference is made to any other potential modes of transmission such as the working and living conditions of workers.

“The Minister references a research group involved in a large scale study of an outbreak within a meat plant in Germany.  It appears that he is alluded to research I cited at the Covid Committee, carried out by Thomas Günther et al.

“I would therefore draw the Ministers attention to the finding that while other factors such as shared accommodation or travel to work did not appear to play a role in the initial outbreak, they may well have been a ‘confounding factor in the context of the second, larger outbreak.’

“The Minister should not seek to pre-empt the findings of this investigation, and certainly not when the case may be that part of the solution may be improving the lot of those workers at risk within these meat plants.

“In a week when Covid-19 restrictions have been eased it is crucially important that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past that led to severe clusters.  That must mean that there is a robust monitoring process of the meat processing sector”.

Parliamentary Question

QUESTION – Matt Carthy TD

To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the retrospective environmental investigation that has been carried out to further explore the potential underlying reasons for outbreaks of Covid-19 associated with meat processing plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY – Minister Charlie McConalogue TD

My Department participated in a National Outbreak Control Team (NOCT), convened by the Health Services Executive (HSE) to oversee the investigation of COVID-19 in Meat Processing Plants (MPPs) and agreed to co-ordinate further studies of factors that might have contributed to within-plant transmission of COVID-19 – focusing on operational and environmental factors in affected meat processing plants (MPPs).

 

In the first instance, my Department conducted a pilot study (during July/ early August 2020) in a single affected plant as a feasibility assessment of in-depth retrospective investigation. This pilot study was undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team, comprising officials from different state agencies, academic researchers from three universities and technical managers at the pilot plant and it encompassed expertise in occupational health, medical microbiology, aerosol science, food safety regulation and meat processing operations.

The investigative team assembled documents describing the layout and operation of the plant, the sequence of events that had occurred and the distribution of COVID-19 cases. This was followed up by a site visit, which included a semi-structured interview with local managers (primarily to clarify how COVID-19 risk was assessed and managed on site) and a walk through different working areas of the plant to observe key operational steps and risk mitigation measures.

A subgroup of the investigative team spent several days undertaking physical and environmental measurements, including measuring bio-aerosols.  Bio-aerosols were measured in the boning hall and compared with similar measurements in the abattoir. A gradual but steady increase in the concentration of bio-aerosols (and the concentration of CO2) was measured over the course of a working shift in the boning hall but not in the abattoir.

Although, these findings are preliminary and only represent one affected plant at one specific point in time, they corroborate other international findings highlighting a particular risk in MPPs relating to the re-circulation of chilled air in those working areas where meat is cut and packaged (an industry norm to comply with food hygiene regulations).

Further studies are warranted to establish if this is a consistent pattern in affected Irish meat plants and to validate additional mitigation measures.

In this context my Department, senior UCD academics and other partners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and overseas made a grant application to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) seeking funding for further studies in reply to their latest COVID-19 rapid research call. This research consortium includes the research group and meat processor involved in investigation of a large outbreak in a German MPP.

As a result of this application, funding will be made available from 1 December to hire dedicated researchers to work with relevant state agencies and meat plant operators on a comprehensive suite of solutions to control and prevent COVID-19 in food businesses and other workplaces.

 

ENDS

Carthy challenges Cavan Monaghan colleagues on failure to support Student Nurses

Carthy challenges Cavan Monaghan colleagues on failure to support Student Nurses

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has called on his constituency colleagues in Cavan Monaghan to explain why they supported the continuation of ‘the exploitation of student nurses’ when they voted against a motion to provide pay to them last week.

A Dáil motion calling for government to commit to paying student nurses was narrowly rejected last week.  Deputy Carthy and his party colleague, Pauline Tully, supported the motion.  However, it was rejected in favour of a government amendment that refused to pay student nurses which was supported by Fianna Fáil TDs Niamh Smyth and Brendan Smith and Fine Gael Minister Heather Humphreys.

Teachta Carthy said:

“The votes of the three government TDs from Cavan Monaghan was pivotal.  Had they supported our student nurses, the motion calling for them to be paid would have been passed.

“Many people then further were shocked and astounded to see a Fianna Fáil statement subsequently state that student nurses don’t do ‘real work’.

“The nurses I’ve spoken with over the past number of months have outlined workloads that would put many politicians to shame.

“Student nurses and midwives deserve to be paid – they are a critical part of our healthcare infrastructure, and it is not acceptable, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, to leave them out in the cold like this.

“The work they carry out goes much farther than what is required in their studies. Anyone involved in healthcare will be familiar with student nurses providing cover well beyond what their placements ask of them.

“Our student nurses have delivered everything that has been asked of them this year.

“Over 11,000 healthcare workers contracted the virus including student nurses.  They have been unable to work the part-time jobs they normally would have due to fears of cross-contamination and have not complained.

“Any ask that has been made of them has been met.  The only thing they are asking for in return is to be paid for their work, and this governments response is that they don’t do ‘real work’.

“Those Cavan Monaghan TDs who refused to support our student nurses most explain their actions.  For our part, we in Sinn Féin will continue to support all our front-line healthcare workers, including our student nurses.”

ENDS

Carthy welcomes progress on Transport Managers’ Brexit complications

Carthy welcomes progress on Transport Managers’ Brexit complications

 

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, has welcomed progress secured to ease the burden facing Transport Managers in the face of Brexit.

 

Transport Managers, which every Road Haulier is obliged to have, must have a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).  However, many of these certificates, especially issued to companies based in border counties such as Cavan and Monaghan, were issued in the north.  The Department of Transport had previously indicated that in all of these cases a Transport Manager would be required to resit an examination and undo a new application for a CPC at considerable cost and bureaucracy.

 

However, the issue appears to have been resolved following the intervention of several border county Dáil Deputies, including Matt Carthy.

 

Last Thursday Deputy Carthy raised the issue in the Dáil alongside his Sinn Féin colleagues, Darren O’Rourke and Ruairi O’Mhurchada.  The matter was also raised by Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh.  In response on behalf of government Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildergarde Naughton confirmed that a new process would allow operators affected to transfer the northern based CPC for an Irish issued certificate.  However, questions remain regarding the position of Transport Managers who reside in the north but work for operators in the south.

 

Transcript from Dáil Debate

 

Deputy Darren O’Rourke: I raised this issue previously with the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan.  I look forward to hearing from the Minister of State, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, on the matter.  We are 36 days from Brexit.  Regarding certificates of professional competence, CPCs, there is an element of bureaucracy here that needs to be straightened out. We will have the same people on 2 January as we have now, with the same qualifications and the same experience.  They will be equally as competent.  We need to do away with this bureaucracy.

 

The requirement for transport managers to be resident in the EU is blind to the Good Friday Agreement and the relationship with the North. It is a significant issue that needs to be resolved.

 

Deputy Matt CarthyThat this situation has been allowed to get to this last-minute point is deeply concerning.  It is my view that the matter can be easily resolved with political will. What we need to ensure is that transport management CPCs that were issued in the North of Ireland or in Britain will be recognised post Brexit.  In terms of the residency clause referred to by Deputy Darren O’Rourke, we need that to be amended to ensure that Irish citizens who happen to live in the North are recognised as being able to hold this position.

 

As a former MEP, it is my absolute belief that there will be clear willingness at European level to facilitate that. The Government just needs to make sure that it happens.

 

Deputy Ruairí Ó MurchúIt has already been said that this issue is absolutely straightforward.  We have been dealing with Brexit and we all realise there is no good Brexit for Ireland.  We have looked at mitigation, which is what the withdrawal agreement and the Irish protocol are about. We hope that we will have them.

 

What we have here is hauliers who are currently operating with recognised CPC qualifications that will not be recognised post Brexit.  We have to introduce sensible solutions and mitigations. We also need to deal with the residency issue. I put it to the Government that this issue needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible.  Deputies referred to conversations they have had with other Ministers.  Deputy McHugh and I raised this issue with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Thomas Byrne, at the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs.  The Government knows about the issue.  We just need to ensure that a solution is provided for the people who require it for their livelihood.

 

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton):

I thank the Deputies for raising this matter. EU legislation sets out several requirements that must be satisfied in order to be eligible to hold a road transport operator licence, one of which is professional competence. In order to fulfil this requirement, every road transport undertaking in Ireland or, indeed, any other EU member state must have a nominated transport manager to effectively and continuously manage its transport activities. The transport manager must hold a certificate of professional competence in either road haulage or road passenger transport, depending on the nature of the operator’s business. This certificate must be issued by an EU member state and is ordinarily obtained by passing a written examination. As highlighted by the European Commission in 2018 and, more recently, in July of this year, after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, transport managers’ CPCs issued by an authority of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, or a body authorised by the United Kingdom will no longer be valid in the EU.

 

As part of the Government’s Brexit preparations, the Department of Transport carried out a review and identified approximately 200 individuals with a UK-issued transport manager CPC who are currently nominated as transport manager for Irish road transport operators.  The Department recently wrote to these transport managers and the relevant operators to ensure they are aware of the position as outlined by the European Commission.

 

There are steps that affected transport managers and operators can take to ensure they continue to be in compliance with the relevant EU legislation. Individuals who hold a UK-issued transport manager CPC and who wish to act, after the end of the Brexit transition period, as transport manager for a road transport operator based in the EU, including Ireland, will need to obtain a transport manager CPC issued by an EU member state. This affects UK-qualified transport managers working for Irish operators, but also those working for other operators based in other EU member states.

 

As outlined in the Department’s correspondence to those UK transport manager CPC holders who work as transport manager for Irish-based transport operators, the Department has communicated with the European Commission on this important issue. I am pleased to inform the House that the Commission yesterday evening indicated that before the end of the Brexit transition period we may issue a corresponding Irish transport manager CPC to those UK-qualified individuals working for Irish operators. This is extremely welcome news for those affected transport managers and operators as it means that the transport managers will not now be required to undertake an Irish exam in order to continue to work as transport manager for an Irish operator.

 

In light of this clarification received from the European Commission, my Department is now examining as a matter of urgency the arrangements that must be put in place in order to allow for the issuing of corresponding transport manager CPCs to affected individuals. A further communication will shortly be issued to affected transport managers and operators to inform them of this recent update from the European Commission and to outline what needs to be done in order to obtain an Irish transport manager CPC.  We will advise impacted transport managers to apply before the end of the year to avail of these new arrangements, and will communicate this as soon as possible. It is important to note that those affected will not need to sit an exam to secure an Irish CPC.

 

Deputy Joe McHugh (Fine Gael):  I do not know what to say. I am delighted. There is no doubt that the operators and hauliers who take their business really seriously and have many challenges ahead of them will be absolutely delighted with this news.

 

I thank the Minister of State for the follow-up. Obviously, Deputy Ó Murchú and I value the fact that the message put across the table yesterday at the meeting of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, of which we are both members, reached the ears of people in the European Commission.  I am absolutely delighted and very much look forward to how this will work out with the Department of Transport.

 

Deputy Darren O’Rourke: The Minister of State provided a welcome update regarding one of the elements of this issue, namely, the CPC. I would like to hear from her regarding the requirement for transport managers to be resident in the EU. There is a specific Irish context in terms of the North, the Good Friday Agreement, and the way people live in one area but commute across the Border to work in another. That is an anomaly that still needs to be addressed. I have not heard anything from the Minister of State on that issue.

 

Deputy Matt Carthy: I was not aware that raising a Topical Issue matter could have such an impact. I certainly was not aware of the power of the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. All of those are welcome.  It is good news that those concerned will not have to sit a test.  It is really important that the process the Minister of State is initiating is free of bureaucracy or a financial penalty or cost on those involved.  Like Deputy Darren O’Rourke, I urge the Minister of State to ensure that Irish citizens who happen to live across the Border are not discommoded as a result of a decision which they completely opposed in the first place.

 

Bearing in mind that the majority of people in the North voted to remain in the European Union, it would be a travesty if they were discriminated against.

 

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú: I thank the Minister of State for her response. We also need an answer on the related issue of residency. Like Deputy McHugh, I obviously put this completely down to our interaction at the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs yesterday. The constituent of mine who approached me on this issue thanks the Minister of State and me, as well as Deputy McHugh for the small part he played in my game.

 

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: I thank the Deputies for their contributions and for raising this issue. It is welcome news that will come as a relief to many transport managers around the country. On the EU residency requirement for transport managers, in accordance with Article 4 of Regulation (EC) 1071/2009, the transport manager for a road transport operator based in the EU must be resident in the EU.

 

That was communicated to the transport managers in that communication by the Department. As I stated, my Department is working very hard to communicate this news to transport managers and the fact that they will not need to sit the exam, which is very welcome in the run-up to Brexit at the end of the year.

ENDS

Government ‘Gone to Ground’ amid School Bus chaos – Matt Carthy TD

Government ‘Gone to Ground’ amid School Bus chaos – Matt Carthy TD

Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has accused Minister for Education, Norma Foley, and government TDs of having ‘gone to ground’ on the problems many families continue to face in accessing student transport.

Deputy Carthy this week reported that he was dealing with more families now than at the beginning of the school year, as some students have been ordered off their school buses despite being eligible and having paid for their tickets.

Teachta Carthy said:

“We are nearly half way through the school the year, and many parents are worn out from the problems around school transport.

“My office is being contacted daily by parents who are struggling to get any communication, let alone an answers or assistance from Bus Éireann or the Department of Education.

“Last Summer I had asked Minister Foley to provide assurance that every student that was eligible for school transport would be provided with a seat on their bus.  She indicated at that time that this would be a priority for government.

“Yet since September, many students in Counties like Monaghan have been unable to access school transport because of bureaucracy and government failure.  The bulk of the cases I have been dealing with in Co. Monaghan were those who were late paying their fees.  There are several reasons for this including, in many cases, where families didn’t have the funds at the time or where they couldn’t access the website.

“Recently, students in Co Monaghan who have been travelling to school by bus since September have been ordered off their school bus!  In other instances, students have been denied access to school transport since the beginning of the school year despite the fact that they are eligible and their bus fees have been paid.

“This is scandalous.  All the while the Minister with responsibility has gone to ground while local government supporting TDs have been silent on the issue.

“This is an issue that primarily affects rural communities.  It is discriminatory because it places a burden on some families to access education for their children.

“The government must act now to ensure that those eligible for school transport get a seat on their school bus.  I will continue to challenge Minister Foley on this issue.  Government silence while families struggle to manage their children’s transport to school is not acceptable”.

ENDS

Matt Carthy TD welcomes new supports for Agricultural Students

Matt Carthy TD welcomes new supports for Agricultural Students

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD has welcomed a commitment from the Minister for Agriculture to provide funds to support disadvantaged agricultural students who have been excluded from the Student Hardship Fund and the €50 million Covid-19 Support Scheme.

Students at Teagasc Agricultural Colleges, which fall under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, have been prevented from accessing support schemes which are administered by the Department of Higher Education.

Teachta Carthy said:

“I welcome the response from the Minister for Agriculture that Teagasc is looking to put in place dedicated supports for these students by the end of the year.

“For some time now, I have been calling on the Ministers for Agriculture and Further Education stop the exclusion of these students.

“Students who choose to study agriculture are as deserving of supports as all others.

“I do however have concerns that this scheme has been pulled together at very short notice and may pose a challenge in the delivery of these funds by the end of the year.

“Only last month the Minister stated to me in response to a parliamentary question that he was engaging the Minister of Higher Education to make the case for the inclusion in the new Covid-19 Support Scheme, and made no reference to student hardship supports.

“Given that the most recent update indicates that the Department of Agriculture is now instead planning to directly fund these students via comparable schemes administered by Teagasc, and via funds not accounted for in Budget 2021, it seems these plans have been pulled together at very short notice and will require a brand new system of administration.

“It is critical that the Minister works with Teagasc to ensure that these student supports can meet the Department’s goal of delivering support to students this year.

“Direct funding via the Department does also offer the opportunity to permanently secure these supports.

“At tomorrow’s meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, I intend to ask the Minister to commit to this permanent funding, and seek an update on how the outworkings of administering the scheme are progressing.”

ENDS

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