My week in the Dáil
7th of May 2017
The Dáil resumed on Tuesday after the Easter Recess and we went straight into a busy schedule of clinics and meetings before I headed to Dublin. In the Department on Tuesday evening I had a number of engagements for people from Limerick. Wednesday morning I attended the annual 1916 Commemoration in Arbour Hill. Later on I met with Minister Heather Humphreys on projects that would be beneficial to the rural economy in Co. Limerick.
Thursday morning I attended the regular Department management meeting before heading to launch the agreed program of work between the Gaelic Players Association and the Government. Friday morning I launched the national Local Sports Partnership funding by Sport Ireland in the Sports Hub in Croom. This is a fantastic local facility and it was great to be able to give national recognition to a local facility. Afterwards I opened an exhibition organised by OPW for the Desmond Castle in Newcastle West. It is great to see numbers in the Castle continuing to go upwards.
Saturday Newcastle West RFC played host to the Junior Inter Provincial between Munster and Leinster. The pitch and facility looked fantastic as Munster went on to record a win. A great end to a busy week.
26th of March 2017
The week began with a busy round of constituency clinics after returning from the St. Patrick’s Day activities in New Zealand and Australia. This continued on Tuesday morning before I headed to the Dáil. On Wednesday I took oral questions on Tourism and Sport in the Dáil. Later on Wednesday evening I had a very successful meeting with Leo Varadkar on the issues facing Community Employment Schemes in parts of Limerick.
Thursday morning I headed to the Sports Campus in Abbotstown to launch the annual anti-doping report. It shows a number of challenges that need to be faced by Ireland, both nationally and internationally. Later on Thursday evening I went to Cashel to launch the Tipperary Tourism Strategy and Marketing Plan. It was a great event and a huge turnout of local people were there to celebrate the launch.
Friday was a great day for Newcastle West with the official launch of the Longcourt House Hotel in the town. This is a fantastic addition to the town and I was proud as the local Minister to turn the sod on the hotel. Saturday I visited Kanturk Rugby Club to see their facility before heading back to prepare for the Dromcollogher Strictly Come Dancing in Charleville. A fantastic night for the community and great credit must go to the organisers. Sunday I presented the Killeedy Cup to the winners of the All Ireland Junior B Hurling Final, Whitechurch from Cork, who overcame Upperchurch Drombane, from Tipperary. Another very busy week in the Dail!
19th of March 2017
I haven’t updated my usual post for last week as I was travelling for the St Patrick’s Day festivities in New Zealand and Australia. The schedule took me to Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. This is an overview of the visit during which I was accompanied by our Ambassador.
The official engagements in Auckland started on Thursday morning with a Business Network Meeting of Irish business people in the region. It was a very engaged meeting and a wide range of questions were asked after I spoke. After that I headed to New Zealand High Performance to get an overview of the success that they have had in recent years particularly in the Olympics. I then went to a Tourism Ireland lunch to meet many of the industry leaders in New Zealand and to discuss how we might grow numbers to Ireland.
I had a very positive meeting with the New Zealand Minister for Sport Jonathan Coleman. We discussed a wide range of policy issues and things of mutual interest. After that i headed off to meet an Enterprise Ireland client who has struck up a very important relationship in New Zealand. Afterwards I went to the Emerald Ball, a charity event in aid of Mercy Hospice, Auckland took place later on and I was delighted to be asked to speak.
Saturday I went to watch the Ireland Wales match and met several from Co. Limerick before meeting with representatives of the GAA across New Zealand. It was a chance for them to discuss the development of the games with me and their plans for the future. Later on I headed to the Auckland Irish society and got to meet many first generation Irish there. I went from there to Eden Park as guest of Auckland Rugby for the Blues against Highlanders which was a fantastic event. Unfortunately the parade in Auckland had to be cancelled because of rain and then I headed to Wellington.
After arriving in Wellington I went to the Greening of the Michael Fowler centre. This is a simple but effective initiative and was done in several cities I visited. I also visited the Wellington Irish Centre. The following morning I held meetings with New Zealand Rugby before heading to Melbourne for an Enterprise Ireland event. I was treated to tea and scones at the Melbourne Irish Centre after I had attended a Tourism Ireland round table discussion on the Australian market.
Then it was on to Canberra for official functions in the Australian Capital. I attended a function for over four hundred in the Embassy before going to the Greening of the National Carillon. The following day I opened an exhibition in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs on the 70 years of Irish Australian Diplomatic Relations.
It was then onto Sydney where we started with a Tourism Ireland working lunch with the trade representatives. I then headed to meet the CEO of the Australian Rugby Union before hosting a reception for the Irish Community in the Irish Consulate in Sydney. Later on we had the Greening of Sydney Town Hall.
The following morning we had an Enterprise Ireland product launch at the Irish Consulate before I laid a wreath at the Irish Famine Memorial. I then visited the Irish Support Agency in Bondi before I addressed a large lunch gathering in Sydney Harbour organised by Enterprise Ireland.
From Sydney I headed to Brisbane to meet the Irish Community there. I also went to the Greening of Queensland Performing Arts Centre before being guest of honour at their annual Irish Ball in Brisbane.
The following morning it was back to Sydney again for a Tourism Ireland meeting with local trade representatives before I addressed over 1500 people at the annual Lansdowne Lunch. There was time left to go to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House before heading back to Ireland. A packed schedule of events for me which I really enjoyed. It was a privilege to represent the Country and the Government in New Zealand and Australia for the celebrations of St Patrick’s Day.
19th February 2017
My week started with a great meeting on Monday evening in Kilmeedy for the Deel District of Fine Gael. It was very lively and a range of national and local issues were raised at the meeting. We are always anxious to see new members so anyone that wants to join can do so by contacting my office.
Tuesday I had Department meetings in the Mid West and later I went to Rathkeale to congratulate Martin Keenan on his boxing title. I attended the launch of the West limerick Drama Festival in Knockaderry. Wednesday and Thursday were busy days in the Dáil. I met with the Irish Ambassador to Australia on my St. Patrick’s Day visit and also had meetings with the Department on upcoming capital schemes.
Friday I had a busy round of clinics in the office before heading to Limerick for Council meetings. Friday evening I was guest of the West Board for their annual All Stars. It was a fantastic evening and great to see so many West Limerick people present. Saturday I headed to Dublin to participate in the Clare Byrne show before going to the Aviva to see Ireland win against France. Afterwards I went to Croke Park to be present for the Congress Banquet. I received a great welcome and was honoured to be invited to speak. A great way to end a busy week.
12th February 2017
Monday started with a busy day of clinics across the county before I headed to a very positive meeting around community development and opportunities in East Limerick. Later on we had a very constructive meeting of the Fine Gael branch in Castletown with a wide range of national and local issues raised.
Tuesday I headed to launch Snowdrop Week with Minister Sean Canney in Altamont House in Carlow. It’s a beautiful place and should be on any itinerary of the South East. Later on I met the Irish Hospitality Institute in my office to discuss challenges and opportunities for Irish Tourism.
Wednesday I was delighted to welcome the legend Barry McGuigan with Minister Heather Humphreys to the Dáil. We had a great meeting on the opportunities for Irish Boxing. Later on I was in the Dáil for oral questions before welcoming locals from Caherline to the Dáil.
Thursday I addressed a conference on the development of swimming pools internationally. Later I welcomed Coláiste Iosaef to the Dáil. Friday was an exceptionally busy day in the office and Saturday I spent the morning with Joe Carey TD in East Clare. A great morning and fantastic sports and tourism opportunities. Later that evening I presented medals at the Gerald Griffins social in the Devon Inn. The county junior champions from Loughill and Ballyhahill danced the night away. Sunday was time to recharge and get ready to start again!
My week started off with the launch of the Great Limerick Run in the Strand Hotel. This event has grown to be one of the premier events in the Mid-West and it’s great to see its success benefit the local area in terms of accommodation and visitor numbers, so my tourism and sport hats were on for the event. Later on I attended at a meeting to review the draft of the five year development plan for Newcastle West.
Tuesday morning I met representatives of our regional airports to hear plans of how air access to the regions and as a result build our regional tourism product.
Wednesday I met with Limerick City and County Council to discuss the development of their tourism strategy before heading to the Oireachtas Committee to answer questions on the development of sport. Later on I addressed a seminar in Boston College, Dublin on the linkages between the State and sport.
Thursday I was delighted to welcome visitors to the Dáil from the constituency before heading home to carry out constituency clinics. Friday I spent travelling through the constituency for clinics and individual meetings with constituents in their own homes.
Saturday evening I was guest of honour at the Patrickswell GAA social in the Woodlands House Hotel. It was a great night for the club and shows the strength of volunteerism in our local communities.
29th January 2017
It was an extremely busy week this week, starting off with a Department BREXIT forum in Dundalk. It was a very positive engagement and a wide range of issues were raised as to how we as a Department need to address the issue for the Irish Tourism Industry.
Tuesday I held a meeting with representatives of Meath County Council on the development of their tourism product before I headed to view the Book of Kells in Trinity and to see the College plans as to how they visitor experience will be enhanced.
Wednesday I chaired our regular round table of the officials from the sports and tourism divisions in the department. It’s one of the aspects of the job I really enjoy. We’ve fantastic civil servants in small divisions delivering for us and this meeting is a chance to see how initiatives on policy and delivery are progressing. I also held a number of meetings with stakeholders on Irish Tourism all pointing to further need to improve our offering.
Thursday I was honoured to be at the opening of the National Indoor Arena by the Taoiseach at the National Sports Campus. This really is a world class facility and I was proud to be invited as Minister for Sport to speak of the importance of the arena to high performance and participation in sport in Ireland.
Friday was constituency clinics across the county and the range of issues and diversity continued. Later on Friday I was guest at the Adare Tidy Towns ball. This was a fundraiser for the local committee on the work that they are doing and I used the opportunity to update the community on the work I’ve started in Limerick as Minister for Tourism.
Saturday I headed to Mayo for a constituency visit with An Taoiseach. It was a chance for us to look at a number of sports and tourism projects with Minister Michael Ring including investments from sports capital and Fáilte Ireland. We visited sites across the county over the course of the day and everywhere we went we met local community people who are delivering in their areas. A great day.
22nd January 2017
The Dáil returned this week after the Christmas recess. I had been using the time after Christmas to work on issues in the constituency and this week started off with a very busy schedule of clinics across the county on Monday before I headed to Rathkeale for the Arthur Griffith Fine Gael AGM. A great discussion on a range of local and national issues took place on the night.
Tuesday I headed to Dublin for return of the Dáil. Throughout Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I held Department meetings with officials to be updated on progress we are making on a number of policy issues. On Friday back in Limerick I had a number of meetings with the Council before heading to Mary Immaculate College for the Primary Science Fair organised by the RDS. I went to the fair as well on Saturday and it was fantastic to see so many Limerick schools present. Well done to everyone involved. On Friday evening I went to the installation of the new priest in the Church of Ireland in Rathkeale, Rev. Patrick Comerford. It was a very enjoyable service and great to see a crowd.
On Saturday evening I was delighted to be invited to Glenroe for the presentation of the proceeds of fundraiser for Milford Hospice. Well done to everyone involved in the organisation of the event.
11th and 18th December 2016
The last two weeks have been very busy in the Dáil. Monday 5th December I started off with a visit to Sarsfield Barracks limerick for presentation of medals to those that participated on 1916 commemorations. From there I went to Curraghchase to launch an initiative with Coillte that I have been working on. It will see €550,000 invested by my department through Fáilte Ireland in works that see preparations for capital works in six forest parks. After that I headed to Askeaton to meet Fáilte Ireland, Limerick City & County Council and Clare County Council for a meeting which would be used in the official launch of the Shannon Estuary Drive. After that I presented the Limerick finalists of the Young Entrepreneur awards in the Castletroy Park Hotel.
Tuesday evening I attended the new launch of the new book on Connacht Rugby, The team that refused to die. Wednesday was a busy day of meetings with Kilkenny County Council, before a meeting on the 2017 Sports Capital Program with Minister Paschal Donohoe. After that I presented the Philips Sports Manager of the Year. It was a fantastic look back of 2016 and later I went to the Fine Gael end of year gathering to mark 1916. Thursday morning I had a series of meetings in the Department before heading home.
Friday morning I hosted the national launch of Go for Life, a grants scheme from Sport Ireland, at the Desmond Complex in Newcastle West. It was a fantastic gathering of active retired groups from Limerick and Clare and a very enjoyable morning. Later on I opened the Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town in Newcastle West.
Monday 12th I had a very busy clinic in my office in Newcastle West. Tuesday morning I launched the end of year report for Tourism Ireland in Dublin. A record breaking year for tourism on the Island of Ireland.
Wednesday morning I headed to Croke Park with the Taoiseach for a special event that I had been working on for several months, the launch of a €6.9million scheme for the Gaelic Players Association. This scheme will make a major difference to our inter-county hurlers and footballers and I was delighted to be able to deliver it within six months of my appointment. Later on I headed to Teelings Distillery in Dublin. This is one of the most important visitor attractions in Dublin 8 and it was great to get a tour.
Thursday morning I headed out to meet the City and County Managers Association to discuss the development of tourism at a local level and how the local authorities can be part of it. Later on I hosted the first athlete’s forum for our Olympic and Paralympic Athletes. This was a very good engagement and it gave me and the Department and Sport Ireland a chance to engage with the athletes in an informal way. Friday the Dáil sat all day before I headed back to Dublin again for the annual RTE and Sport Ireland awards. A hectic end to a a busy fortnight.
4th December 2016
I started the week off with a busy round of clinics across the county which carried through to Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon and evening I held a number of meetings in the department on policy areas that I’ve been working on during my appointment.
Wednesday morning I spoke at a conference in Griffith College on women in sport before heading to two of the country’s most visited tourist attractions, Kilmainham Gaol and Guinness Store House. Both locations offer a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed the trip, chatting to the guides and other visitors.
Thursday evening back in the constituency I launched the Limerick GAA 2017 season ticket and I spoke of the importance of financial support for our inter county teams. On Friday I went back to Dublin to visit the NCBI head office and congratulate athletes with vision impairment who represented Ireland at the Rio Paralympics. I was guest of the Paralympic Council of Ireland later that evening at the Ballsbridge Hotel where I spoke of my experience at Rio 2016 and the place of Paralympic Sport in Ireland.
Saturday I was guest of the President of Garryowen FC in Limerick for the visit of Terenure to Dooradoyle. I was delighted to be able to speak at an event organised by fellow Newcastle West man and Garryowen President Seamus Downes and I wished the club well in their future development.
27th November 2016
Last week was a very busy week both in the constituency and in the Department. It started on Monday with a very positive meeting with Newcastle West & District Chamber of Commerce before a long schedule of clinics in my office.
Tuesday I held very productive meetings with Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy on policy areas that are of interest to both of us. Later on I attended a briefing with Minister Michael Creed on some of the programs that the Department of Agriculture are working on.
Wednesday I met a delegation from Paralympics Ireland before receiving a briefing on the most up to date situation in the Dublin Hotel sector. Thursday morning I attended the launch of Euro 2020, which will see Dublin being one of the host cities of the championship. I had a number of constituency meetings in Leinster House before heading to the Irish Hospitality Institute Awards where I was guest of honour for their 50th anniversary dinner.
Friday we had a very different charity initiative in Newcastle West, a match between a selection of Gardai from Kerry versus a selection from Limerick. The Limerick lads won out. Later on Friday I brought all of my election team for an end of year get together. It was a great night and was fantastic for the team to meet up and chat.
Saturday I headed to Dublin to be one of the guests on the Saturday with Claire Byrne show before I went to the Aviva to see Ireland beat Australia. It was an absolutely brilliant way for the IRFU to finish off a very busy few weeks for the Union both on the playing field and in the planning rooms as we prepare our bid for Rugby World Cup 2023.
15th November 2016
The week started for me with Tourism Ireland at the World Travel Market in London, one of the worlds largest trade events. It was an opportunity for me to meet over seventy groups and businesses from the island of Ireland that were busy promoting Ireland. While we have obvious challenges facing the sector, it is clear that we also have a very strong level of interest and 2016 promises to be a massive success with over 10million people expected to visit ireland this year. I’m really enjoying working with the industry at this level and seeing how it engages with customers of promote Ireland as a visitor destination.
Later on Tuesday after coming back from London; I headed to visit Epic Ireland at Customs House Quay. It gives a unique insight into the impact of emigration from Ireland over generations. Later I met the vintners representatives on their plans for tourism before I headed out to open a Sport Ireland conference on governance. There was a strong presence of National Governing Bodies in attendance at the event and I laid out my views for changes in codes for governing bodies. From there it was to the US embassy reception on the US election. We’re all still looking at the results!
Wednesday I headed to Belfast to be part of the pool draw for the women’s rugby world cup which will be held in Dublin and Belfast. It was a chance for me to informally meet representatives of the Northern Ireland Executive together with representatives of the IRFU. Later on I held a meeting with the Chair of Tourism Ireland, Brian Ambrose and got an update on the progress that they’ve made over time.
Thursday I was honoured to officially open the new Special Olympics Headquarters in Dublin. It was a fantastic occasion and given that I had been one of the founders of Limerick West Special Olympics, it was a particular privilege for me. Afterwards I took the National Tourism Development Authority Bil through all stages in the Seanad where we had a very positive debate before I met the City and County Managers Association on local tourism strategies.
Friday was a very busy day in the constituency with exceptionally busy clinics across the county. Afterwards I called to External in Limerick on their work in disadvantage parts of the City with Senator Maria Byrne before heading to Ballina, Co. Tipperary, to launch the 2017 Caravan and Motorhome Guide for Ireland in the Lakeside Hotel.
Saturday I went to a really positive event, the Bank of Ireland enterprise day in Askeaton. It was a great opportunity for the local businesses in the area to showcase their businesses and also for local community groups in the area. Daithí Ó Sé was on hand to MC the event before I headed off to Dublin to see Ireland overcome Canada in the Aviva. A great and positive end to a busy week!
06th November 2016
Last week was a busy week both in the constituency and in Dublin. I will start at the end of the week, where Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited us in Adare. This was to acknowledge the contribution of Michael Finucane TD, Dan Neville TD and Cllr. Sean Broderick to the Fine Gael Party. It was also an opportunity for our organisation to once again reflect on the General Election where we won two seats in the Limerick County Constituency.
Earlier in the week because of the Bank Holiday I held my clinics on Tuesday. It was a busy morning with a large range of issues across the county. Wednesday morning I held meetings with other constituents in Limerick before heading to the Dáil. On Thursday evening we had a very fitting event in Angelesboro to acknowledge the contribution of long standing members of Fine Gael to the local branch.
On Friday I launched the FAI Development Officer for Limerick in Rathkeale. This is a joint initiative with Limerick City and County Council and has over the last number of years helped build the number of young players enjoying soccer in the Limerick Area.
Saturday I headed to Dublin to present the 2016 Camogie All-Stars. It was a fantastic event and a great celebration of the best of the 2016 Camogie championships. Sunday I went to the FAI Cup Final in the Aviva to see Cork City overcome Dundalk. I was honoured to present medals at the match as well as giving the Pitch of the Year award to the team from Limerick FC at half time, I definitely finished the week on a high.
23rd October 2016
The week started with the very sad news of the sudden passing Anthony Foley, a national sporting hero. Anthony received a very respectful and dignified send off and it was very memorable to attend the match in Thomond Park on Saturday. It was also very fitting that he was remembered at the Limerick Senior Hurling Final on Sunday which was won by Patrickswell. Go ndéana Dia trócaire air.
Monday afternoon I joined the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in turning the sod for the new CareBright centre in Bruff. This promises to be a fantastic facility for the care of people with Alzheimer’s in the community. Following that I had my weekly clinic schedule which saw a wide range of individual, local and some national issues.
Tuesday I had a busy day of department meetings and also met some of the industry representatives before taking part in a round table radio discussion. Wednesday morning I launched the New Year’s Eve Festival at the Customs House before heading to the Dáil where I answered a topical issue debate and concluded report and final stages of the National Tourism Development Authority Bill in the Dáil.
Thursday I held a very good meeting with Fáilte Ireland to look at specific issues that I had been raising with them before going to meet Colaiste Iosef from Kilmallock, whose visit to the Dáil I arranged. Later on Thursday night we had a very good meeting of Newcastle West Fine Gael and discussed a range of issues. We are always welcoming of new members and it was great to see new members there on the night.
Friday afternoon a special meeting of Limerick City and County Council was held to discuss the issue of the need for a junction on the new proposed N21 at Croagh. The need for a junction is supported by all local representatives in the area. Sunday evening I attended the launch of the Maureen O’Hara collection at the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes. Great credit needs to go to Margaret O’Shaughnessy and the staff of the museum for bringing the collection to West Limerick.
16th October 2016
This was a very busy week and it kicked off after clinics on Monday with a journey to Kells to present the awards at the Irish Country Hotels and the Manor House Hotels in the Headfort Arms. I was delighted when the overall award on the night went to the Fitzgerald Woodlands House, Adare. It was great to meet Mary and the family at the event and to see what the award means to them.
Tuesday was budget day and after the main speeches I undertook some of the media work on behalf of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport while also addressing local constituent queries in the evening.
Wednesday I headed to the Sports Campus in Abbotstown to officially open the National Cross Country Track and also to launch the SPEAK Report, a report into the effectiveness of the Local Sports Partnerships. Afterwards I went to Aras an Uachtarain to be present for the Presidential reception for our Paralympic athletes. I was delighted to attend such a fantastic ceremony as the Minister for Tourism and Sport.
Thursday I spoke in the Dáil on the Budget and what it meant for my constituency and my brief as Minister. I also co-chaired a meeting with Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor on issues that affect both departments before meeting groups on the issue of hotel accommodation.
Friday I met with the CEO of Limerick City and County Council to discuss a number of local issues before my weekly clinics. Afterwards I headed to Dublin to open the Holiday Inn Express. Saturday I attended the open day at the new Troy studio in Limerick before going to Foynes for the unveiling of the Boeing monument in front of the museum. Later it was on to the Gaelic Grounds for the Limerick Senior Football Final with Monaleen beating Dromcollogher – Broadford to claim the Senior Football title.
On Sunday it was with great shock and sadness that I learned of the sudden death of Munster legend and Head Coach Anthony Foley in Paris. Go ndeana Dia trocaire ar Anthony agus go dtuga Se siochán do.
9th October 2016
The week started with a busy round of clinics before I attended a meeting of the Newcastle West five year plan implementation team.
On Tuesday I headed to Sligo to carry out a number of engagements for Tony McLoughlin TD. It was brilliant to see some of the projects that the Department have funded in Sligo.
Wednesday I headed to London for the Flavours of Ireland. This was an opportunity for me to engage with the industry in London and to hear first hand the experiences of tour operators to Ireland and the importance that they have in developing our tourist industry.
Thursday morning I held a meeting with the Irish Ambassador in London before heading home for a series of department meetings. On Friday morning I went to Westmeath where I opened the latest section of the Royal Canal Greenway. I headed back to Limerick for the opening of the Leben Building in University Hospital by Minister Simon Harris. After the official opening Simon came to Dromcollogher with me to visit the Respite Centre and to mark 5000 admissions. This was a fantastic event and I was delighted to see such a huge crowd there to welcome Simon.
Afterwards I went to Broadford for a charity auction for cancer care before heading to Croagh to attend a community meeting on the proposed new Limerick to Foynes road.
On Saturday I was invited to a very special event. The first Football for All Blitz at Newcastle West Rovers Club field in Newcastle West. This was a brilliant occasion and I was honoured to be invited. It was fantastic to end such a busy week on such a high.
2nd October 2016
The Dáil returned this week after a very busy summer both in the constituency and in my role as Minister. The week started and finished with two very busy clinic schedules where I had a huge number of callers to my office and dropping into my clinics across the county.
Monday afternoon I headed to Dublin for the Tourism Leadership Group. This was a great meeting and we discussed many of the issues affecting the sector and the many issues which we are planning to take action on. Later on that evening I was guest at the Grow Dublin Advisory Board, a group aimed at boosting tourism numbers in the Capital. It was a great event and certainty gave other places plenty to think about how we should work together on a regional basis.
Tuesday I had several meetings in the Department before I went to the annual IFA briefing on issues facing Irish family farms. Later that evening I headed to Kilkenny for the Keelings Farm Fresh Gold Medal Awards. This was an event to honour the hospitality sector and it was great to meet so many people who are so passionate about the industry and the growth of it.
Wednesday morning I took the National Tourism Development Amendment Bill through the Oireachtas Transport Committee. It gave me the opportunity to outline my priorities on a number of tourism related initiatives to Deputies from all parties.
Thursday I launched the National Tourism Careers Program, and in the process spoke of the opportunities in the tourism sector that exist. Later on I chaired a meeting of officials from the Department where we looked in detail at many of the initiatives in Tourism and Sport that are currently under way and plans for the future. I then headed to Adare to join with the Fitzgerald Family and friends for the relaunch of Dick’s bar in the Woodlands Hotel. We really enjoyed the night and wish the Fitzgerald’s well for the future.
Friday morning I was in the Strand Hotel, Limerick to open the Department of Social Protection Mid-West Job Shop. This was a brilliant event and had representatives and exhibitors from State and Local Agencies, together with employers and representative groups all ready to give a hand to hundreds of people who turned up looking for work from across the region.
Saturday morning I launched the Newcastle West Park Run in the Demesne. There was a very good turnout for the event and great credit must go to the organisers. Later on I headed to Croke Park for the All Ireland Football Final. It was a complete heart break for Mayo, but credit has to go to Dublin for putting two titles back to back. A great finish to Championship 2016.
24th July 2016
The last two weeks have again being packed with meetings I’ve held with representatives and organisations from the sporting and tourism sectors. On Monday I attended the launch of the Feasibility Study for the proposed Newcastle West Swimming Pool. I had been involved with the committee in the preliminary work of the study.
Tuesday I launched the Custom House Gardens at the Hunt Museum in Limerick. It’s a fantastic project and will see the front of the Museum facing out onto the River Shannon.
Wednesday I launched the Sport Ireland investment for GAA, FAI and IRFU. This is a major injection by Government through Sport Ireland into our principle field games. Following that I launched the 2016 Morton Games taking place in Santry and that afternoon I launched the 2016 Ladies Gaelic Football Championship. Later that night with my tourism role, I welcomed delegates from the California Ireland Caucus on a visit to Ireland. I stressed the importance of the Irish American connection to the development of our economy.
Later that week I continued to receive briefings from different agencies within the Department and to meet representative organisations, which I posted on social media. Friday after a busy day of clinics I launched the Abbeyfeale Cycling Club cycle in aid of St Gabriel’s in Limerick.
Sunday was the Foynes Air Show. This is a major tourism initiative hosted by the museum in Foynes and I was delighted as Minister to welcome people to Limerick. Monday again was a county wide circuit of clinics and I had preparation work to do for oral questions in the Dáil. Before that I took a commencement debate in the Seanad.
Wednesday I represented the Government at an event to mark the opening of the RDS Dublin Horse Show. Later that evening I chaired a meeting of the local authority and local development companies in Limerick to put a plan in place for the future development of the tourism product in Limerick. Thursday I held a number of meetings in the Department for Oireachtas members with specific issues.
The Dáil went into recess on Thursday and for that reason I won’t be blogging until September. However my constituency office is going to be open as usual throughout the summer and we are there to help people throughout Limerick. I will also have a number of engagements for the Department that I will be doing and I will keep regular posts on social media. If for any reason you need to contact us just give my office call.
10th July 2016
My week began in Malahide, Dublin for the meeting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I spent five years as a member of the Assembly and it was great to go back to be present for the meeting in my role as a Minister of State. I spoke on the importance of the tourism industry to Ireland and specifically the importance of UK visitors to the Irish Economy.
Late on Monday night I launched the Captain Tim Madigan Sports Field Project in Shanagolden. I was delighted to be able to help in the delivery of €95,000 for the field development through Sports Capital.
Tuesday morning I headed to Dublin City Hall to launch Ireland’s Paralympic Team. This was a fantastic event and great to be there to wish all our Paralympians well in Rio. I’m really looking forward to heading out there to support them.
Wednesday was a busy day of meetings for me in the Department continuing to get on top of my brief and Thursday morning I met with more governing bodies including the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and the Gaelic Players Association. I also met with the Irish Tour Operators Association who went through the challenges that they face.
Friday I was a guest at the conclusion of Gaelcolaiste Cill Churnáin. Great credit must go to the organisers for putting together an Irish language program in Kilcornan and from speaking to the young participants they all seemed to enjoy it. Later that evening I went to Foynes to launch the BT Irish Peat Wine. This is a fantastic initiative and I really hope that they investment that they have made will be rewarded. The weekend I spent going to matches. Unfortunately it wasn’t a great weekend for us but hopefully there will be better days ahead.
3rd July 2016
The Dáil reconvened on Monday to discuss the result of the British referendum to leave the EU. There is no doubt but the decision to leave will have an impact on Ireland and the importance of result is being taken very seriously in Leinster House. I hope to speak on the debate in the coming week and will outline my experience as a member of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
Later on Monday evening I was in the Courtenay School, Newcastle West for the graduation of the students who I taught as a teacher in the school. I was delighted to be there to wish the boys well as they prepare to head off to second level. Tuesday morning I headed to Kilkenny to launch the Bus Éireann schedule for Ireland’s Ancient East. The rain didn’t dampen the occasion and later I met the OPW staff in the Castle who were busy showing tourists around. Wednesday, I went to Cork to speak on the importance of the growth in tourism from China. I was guest of the Asia Matters. Thursday morning was spent in the Department meeting delegations who wanted to meet me to discuss my new role.
Back in the constituency on Friday I had a busy day of meetings in Newcastle West, Hospital, Limerick and Doon before I headed to Roscrea to relaunch the Racket Hall Hotel. I was delighted to be guest of honour at the reopening, Saturday morning I had a busy schedule of clinics before I went to UL for the Swim Ireland Championships. It was a fantastic event in a world class facility. I was delighted to meet some Olympians who are training there, recognition of the facility we have locally.
Sunday we went to the annual Garden Fete at Rathfredagh Cheshire. There was a fine crowd there to support a wonderful local facility. Well done to all involved.
26th June 2016
The last few weeks have been hectic for me in my new role so I’ve missed a few instalments of this report so apologies about that. The last few weeks have been very busy for me both locally and nationally as I’ve gotten stuck into my new position. The areas of tourism and sport are of major importance both to the country and locally in Limerick, and so far I have to say I am really enjoying the position while also carrying out my local constituency work, which as you can imagine has gotten very busy.
Since I last posted a report I’ve carried out a number of roles and attended a large amount of functions. It started off by opening a cruise conference in Dublin. Later that week I met Jason Harty from Rathkeale before he headed off to the European Boxing Championships. My Constituency office was officially opened that Friday by Mayor of Limerick, Liam Galvin and we all had a great day. A huge crowd turned up and it was great to meet many of the people who helped me get elected and put me where I am. Later that night I attended an IFA function in Adare to congratulate Richard Kennedy on his election as Deputy President of IFA. It’s a great honour for Limerick and for IFA locally to have Richard in that role and I wish him well at it.
Later on during the week of the 4th I presented the prizes for the Bruff Rugby Club Golf Classic. It was a great fund raiser for the Club and I was delighted to be with them for the night. On the Sunday of that weekend I dropped into the scout jamboree in Pallaskenry after the 25th anniversary celebrations of the ordination of Fr Seamus Madigan in Croagh before presenting prizes for the Circuit of Munster Rally in Rathkeale. These were great community events and it was fantastic to see so many out enjoying the fine weather and to chat amongst friends. Huge praise has to go to all involved in organising them.
My constituency office is very busy and my clinics are still being held. On top of that I’m meeting groups and public bodies from all over Limerick who are anxious to promote both tourism and sport and it’s great to have the support in particular of Limerick City and County Council who are working very closely with me.
I also launched the National Fáilte Ireland Capital Investment Programme. It’s a hugely important scheme and I believe will have a very positive impact on communities across the country. Back at home I was delighted to be asked to attend the launch of the Dromtrasna National School Book. A huge amount of work went into the project in the school and credit must go to the children and teachers for their trojan commitment. Community was back at the heart of what I love later that night when I attended, along with hundreds of others, the finale of the Joanne McMahon fundraiser for St James’ in Dublin. Almost €210,000 was collected for the Burns Unit in the hospital by an unbelievable bunch of volunteers in West Limerick. Well done to all.
I had a busy weekend after that with clinics in Galbally, Kilfinane and Knocklong before heading to the Limerck County Camogie Blitz in Killeedy. It was a fantastic event and a huge number of volunteers were present. Later on I joined local FG members in helping Newcastle West Fine Gael take up our annual collection. Many thanks to everyone who supported the collection. it was a busy weekend and on the Sunday I headed to Doon for the last mass of the Convent of Mercy there. From there I attended the Limerick County Community Games Finals in Mungret where I presented medals to many of our young athletes. Later on I went to Newcastle West Golf Club to present their prizes for their annual golf classic. Well done to all involved.
The 13th of June was a very special day as I travelled to Paris for the Ireland v Sweden game. It was a huge honour to represent the Government at the game. Later on in the month I was also privileged to go back to the championships for the Ireland v France match. The whole tournament was a massive success for Ireland and our team together with our fans they really did us proud. It was one of the moments that I can safely say I’m delighted to have seen and been a part of. I’ve also used the settling in time as a Minister to meet as many of the representative organisations as I can from the areas of tourism and sport. I have to say that the agencies and organisations that I am working with are really top class people who have a great interest in the work that they do and are fantastic public servants and sectoral representatives.
The last week of the month I was delighted to launch the Newcastle West Show which takes place in July. I also got a preview of the work that’s going on in the refurbishment of Adare Manor a huge project of regional and national significance. Locally I was delighted to see Feile in West Limerick, a great initiative that promotes our national games and allows young people from across the country to make new friends.
So as you can see the schedule has been busy but I am really enjoying my role and looking forward to developing it further. Keep you posted.
29th May 2016
This week marked my first full week in my new role. I spent most of the week reading myself into the responsibilities that I now have within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. My brief is wide ranging and certainly is very exciting. There is a busy schedule of events that the Department are anxious for me to attend to and I am really looking forward to working with people in the areas of Tourism and Sport to promote both areas.
I went to Croke Park to attend the conference of the Federation of a Irish Sport. There was a great attendance at the event with a theme of leadership as their main discussion point. I was glad to have a chat with many of the delegates over a cup of tea and certainly came away with plenty of suggestions and a really positive view from everyone present.
On Friday I was delighted to be able to launch the Wild Atlantic Way Passport in my constituency. The route comes into Co. Limerick touching Glin, Loughill and Foynes. The initiative was a joint one between Failte Ireland and An Post and the post office in Foynes played host to the launch. This is a fantastic idea and will allow people to take a souvenir from their experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way home with them.
Sunday I went to the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick for the Limerick and Clare game. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted but there is a great team there for the future and I wish Limerick well in the championship ahead.
22nd May 2016
This was a very special week for me as I was appointed by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Minister of State for Tourism and Sport. I was absolutely thrilled when An Taoiseach called me with the news, particularly with the job he gave me. I spent most of the last term on the Oireachtas Committee that covers Tourism and Sport, so to be appointed as a Minister for the area was absolutely fantastic. It is a huge honour for me, my family and my supporters and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the job. 2016 promises to be a great year both for tourism and sport in Ireland and I hope to play a very active role both at home and abroad as Minister.
A great crowd of supporters, friends and family turned out in Newcastle West to welcome me home on Thursday night. I am the first Fine Gael TD from the old Limerick West or the current Limerick County constituency to be appointed a Minister and it’s over 24 years since rural county Limerick had a Minister. On Friday I called to Dromtrasna National School to present certificates to the sixth class girls soccer team who won the All Ireland FAI five aside soccer tournament. Afterwards I went to the GAA field in Newcastle West where the Courtenay National School played Gaelscoil O Doghair. As Minister for Sport it was great to be at local events for young sports people who one day might grace the Aviva or Croke Park. Later on Friday night I attended the Fine Gael constituency AGM for Limerick County. The members and Councillors from across the county were delighted to have a Minister in the constituency and there were plenty of suggestions for me locally!
Sunday I headed off to my first national event, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club. I met with Failte Ireland and many of the exhibitors at the event, hearing at first hand the importance of golf tourism to Ireland. There’s no doubting the potential of the sector to create and sustain jobs across the country and to boost visitor numbers to Ireland.
Sitting down to write this on a Sunday evening and looking back I can say it was certainly a great week in the Dáil.
8th May 2016
The waiting finally ended this week, after ten weeks since the General Election a Government was finally formed and Fine Gael was returned to office after an election for the first time in our Party’ history. It was a remarkable occasion on Friday when after weeks of negotiations and uncertainty when Enda Kenny was finally elected for a second time by the Dáil. On a personal basis I was thrilled for the Taoiseach. He has been a great support to younger first time TD’s since 2011 and has always encouraged us to be active members of the House. He recognised the intake from 2011 in his line-out of Minister’s with the inclusion of new members of the Cabinet on Friday night, giving a very strong regional balance with a strong number of women also included.
Earlier on in the week I spoke in the Dáil on the issue of crime. I used the opportunity to recall that it is now twenty years since Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was murdered in our constituency while escorting cash to Adare Post Office. I urged people to remember the fact that members of An Garda Síochána regularly put their lives at risk in the service of their community, and it was important as a State that we remember them.
I also spoke on the issue of free legal aid and the cost to the State. I raised an issue which has caused a huge amount of annoyance recently, the granting of free legal aid to people with good salaries and who I said could well afford to pay for their legal work. I know from the feedback I received that the issue is a very big one and people want changes in the allocation of free legal aid.
The Dáil will get down to proper legislative work now that a Government has been formed and I will be posting weekly updates here. In the meantime outside of my work in Dublin I am being kept very busy in the constituency with a huge volume of representations being channelled through my office. I’ve opened a new Newcastle West office and am in the process of having it kitted out. I’ll keep you posted on the developments. I’ll be back next week with my next instalment of “My week in the Dáil.”
13th March 2016
This week it was a huge honour for me to go back to Leinster House as a member of the 32nd Dáil. After a long campaign thanks to the thousands of people from across Co. Limerick I took my seat with 157 others on Thursday and can start again to share my thoughts on the week through this blog which I know has been missing for a few weeks, but thankfully I can write once again.
Over the last few months, I like many others have been out meeting people listening to their story and asking for their support. It was a massive undertaking across an enormous constituency and I couldn’t do it without the fantastic support I got from people across Limerick. I really had a great team of supporters who went out in all types of weather to help me. Whether they were out canvassing, driving, leaflet dropping or helping with posters or giving a hand in the office, I can safely say I have a first class team.
Speaking of posters, while I had great help putting them up, it seems I had even stronger, but more unwelcome, help taking them down. Literally hundreds of my posters vanished across the county, but luckily for me while this was an obviously organised effort by some politically to get at me, it didn’t work. Some people would have had me believe it was Storm Imogen! I never heard of a meteorological phenomenon with a particular desire to take down just one candidate’s posters; however it is an explanation that was given and had to be considered.
Everyday was almost a new adventure. I followed a simple but straight forward routine, and for me that was itself a challenge. And every day threw up something to be dealt with. Whether it was the weather, being chased by a puck goat, being bitten by a dog, or many other twists on the trail, the one thing that was constant every single day was the genuine warm welcome from people in every corner of Limerick. It was clear to me that five years of work across the County had paid off and people were very genuine when I met them. There was a rewarding and humbling recognition for the work that I’ve been doing, and I suppose that is the encouragement you need in this job to keep going.
One of the most unlikely difficulties I came across during the election was the tag of being “safe.” Bookies odds, polls and “expert” opinion can create the perfect storm for a sitting TD, but luckily I came through in the end. Like all elections I encountered many personal difficulties for individuals, and have a lot of work gathered as a result which I’m still getting through. There is no substitute for meeting people on the door step and it helps
Elections confront you will all sorts of emotions and on the morning of the count and later through that day when it became clear that I would retain my seat, while naturally I was relieved, I was very saddened for those friends and colleagues of mine who had lost their seats. They had all committed themselves to their constituencies and worked hard for people in their areas, however politics, while it is very rewarding and fulfilling, is also very tough and can have a really hard impact on candidates, their families and supporters.
But in the end it was worth it. When I headed off to the Count with my family, I had a fair idea from the tally men and women that I was going to be reelected. And driving into UL for the result I was reminded of the drive in 2011 and of the local election counts in 2004 and 2009. I remembered those that had helped me along the way to put me where I am and are no longer with us. My Dad would have loved to have seen me reelected but his words to me in 2011 still ring true for me when I said to him before the result in 2011; “Dad the next time you see me I might be a TD.” His reply was simple “Don’t ever forget where you came from.” That simple piece of advice has stuck with me over the last five years, and through some very difficult days it is a saying which I always rely on. This time round my mother was able to be with me. Five years ago she was a full time carer for my father, so to have her there at this count with Eileen and the family was very emotional.
After the votes were counted and the canvassers thanked it was time to get back to work. And before the Dáil sat I had to sign the register of Dáil Éireann. Seeing your name written out on the leather bound book waiting for your signature is a very emotional experience because it’s then you realise that you are following in the footsteps of men and women who have, since 1919, gathered to represent Ireland and its people in Dáil Éireann. With the formalities completed this Thursday the 32nd Dáil convened. I was delighted that John and Eileen together with Eileen’s parents were able to join with me and to be part of the experience. It’s a day for families of TDs who for most of the first day, at least, put differences aside in an atmosphere of congratulations.
What the next few weeks or months have in store is at best a guess. The people have elected a Dáil in which men and women with responsibility now sit. And our responsibility is like or mandate, it’s equal. That’s why it’s not acceptable that some individuals, groups and parties have arrived up to the Dáil to conquer the opposition and let decision making to someone else. This election shows that the old ways of doing politics have had to change, and that it does not just mean change for Government. The sight of deputies not casting a single vote during a whole day of votes for Taoiseach has to be something that their constituents must question. Being a member of Dáil Éireann and offering no opinion on who should govern is certainly something I would never have associated with TDs. But this week proved that anything can happen, and hurlers on the ditch have found themselves right at the centre of our democracy. Surely something of a contradiction.
There are too many people for me to thank here for the work and effort of the last number of months, indeed the years since I first became a Councillor in 2003. But to all concerned, my supporters, friends, family and voters, thanks so much.
23rd January 2016
The week began with a visit to Youth Reach in Shanagolden. It was great to see the work taking place there and the facility that is in place through the Limerick Clare Education Training Board. Tuesday morning I headed to the Dáil and met a number of interest groups that are anxious to engage with TDs before the election is called. In the Oireachtas Transport Committee we met with the National Transport Authority and Bus Éireann on bus routes. I raised the issue of people travelling long distances without access to a toilet on intercity coaches. I was told that the issue would be examined on foot of what I had said.
The Fine Gael Environment Committee held a very good meeting with the Department and Minister Coffey on the issue of waste tyres. It was a very positive meeting and progress was made.
Thursday Minister Kathleen Lynch was in Newcastle West to officially open the new Rehabilitation unit in St. Ita’s Community Hospital. It was a fantastic event and great credit must go to the friends of St Ita’s for their work. Over the last five years I’ve worked closely with the Friends, the HSE and others in working to develop St. Ita’s. During the Minister’s visit she announced funding for a further eight bedded unit in the Hospital. This is something I’ve been looking for since I knew that there was going to be a capital programme for the HSE in community hospitals. I was delighted with the news as this will make St Ita’s HIQA compliant.
Friday I was out and about before heading to Abbeyfeale to meet Mountcollins AFC on their development plans. Saturday I was off to the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Citywest. There was a great atmosphere at the event and the delegates are buoyed up for the upcoming election. It was nice to meet people that I hadn’t met for a long time and hear how the Party is going in different parts of the country. Sunday I was out meeting people again. Not sure if this is the last weekly report from the Dáil, but if it is I will maintain a report over the next few weeks on what’s happening on the election trail. Not long now!
20th December 2013
This is my last report before the Christmas break. This week the Dáil sat on Monday to complete legislation before it went into recess. I used the opportunity on Dublin to meet with organisations that advocate on behalf of a range of different groups including the Samaritans who do invaluable work in the area of suicide awareness and prevention. I was delighted to meet with representatives of the Limerick and Tipperary branch who updated me on the work that they are doing in our area.
The Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee met to agree our work programme for 2016. We also engaged with Gas Networks Ireland, the agency responsible for the operation and maintenance of our national gas network. I raised the issue of possibly extending the gas mains from Aughinish and Askeaton through the towns in West Limerick into Kerry. I know from previous meetings of the committee that the issue of extending the network to Listowel, Killarney and Tralee is something that has been looked at, and I believe that any possible extension could have obvious benefits to Limerick in terms of making the area attractive to foreign direct investment.
Friday morning back in Limerick, I had a number of meetings with Limerick City and County Council on behalf of constituents before heading to do my last clinics of the year. We’ve had an incredibly busy schedule of clinics and office work over the last twelve months. I’ve maintained my two offices in the constituency since I became a TD. Given the size of the constituency I always felt that it is important to have a permanent constituency presence, and not just at election time. So after calling to a few neighbours of my offices on Newcastle West and Kilmallock after the clinics I headed home. My office is open next week on Monday 21st , Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd already we have lots of people booked in for meetings, so even though I won’t have a blog next week I’ll be still working away.
My blog will be back when the Dáil resumes in January. My office will open after the break on the 4th of January. I’ve no doubt January will be busy, with so much talk about a certain election! I will keep in touch with those of you that read this post during the campaign. In the meantime can I wish you a very Happy Christmas and the very best for 2016, let’s hope it’s a good one.
13th December 2015
The week began with a meeting of some representatives of Credit Unions from across Co. Limerick who were anxious to provide Oireachtas members with some detail on the work that they do. Later on I attended the launch of the Limerick Programme for the 2016 Commemoration hosted by Mayor Liam Galvin. It was a fantastic event and a great schedule is planned for the year. Later on I was in Castlemahon for the launch of the Joanne McMahon fundraiser for the burns unit in St. James’ Hospital.
Tuesday morning was busy with constituency work before I headed to Dublin. I had calls to make in Limerick, Kilfinane, Bruff and Martinstown before I headed to the Dáil. In the Dáil the Oireachtas Transport Committee outlined our work programme for 2016 and prioritised the issues we wanted dealt with. The Public Accounts Committee had the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education before us.
Before heading back of Limerick I attended the Dublin launch of Club Limerick in the Red Cow Moran Hotel. This is a great initiative for supporters of Limerick GAA based in Dublin. On Friday in the constituency I was delighted to be in Abbeyfeale for the official opening of Colaiste Ide agus Iosaef. This is a state of the art second level school drawing students from parishes in West Limerick, North Cork and North Kerry. The official opening was carried out by Minister Jan O’Sullivan and it comes after the official opening of a new school in Doon, approval for a new second level school in Croom together with extensions to schools in Kilmallock and Newcastle West. Clear examples of the Government’s commitment to second level education in Co. Limerick.
6th December 2015
The week started with a very good meeting organised by the Doon Community Alert Service in Doon. The Chief Superintendent of the Limerick Garda Division attended the meeting and fielded questions from local people anxious to see the text alert service set up. It was a very positive meeting and several good ideas came out of it. Tuesday morning after meetings with the Council in Limerick I headed to the Dáil. The week had a busy committee schedule. In the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee we had an engagement with the EPA on the issue if tracking. I raised a number of questions on the issue of radon and how cracking would impact on that.
In the Dáil I spoke on the Harbours Bill. This is an important piece of legislation for Co. Limerick as it categorises Shannon Foynes Port Company as a Tier 1 Port of National Importance. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years working with both Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar on this issue. I am glad that it took another big step forward.
In the Public Accounts Committee we engaged with the Department of Finance. The exchequer figures for 2014 were high on the agenda. The figures clearly show that the recovery in the economy is continuing and that the Government’s policies are continuing to provide positive news for country. Later on Thursday night in the constituency, Newcastle West Fine Gael held a very positive meeting. Anyone interested in joining the party is welcome to do so. Friday was a busy day of meetings and the Saturday clinics across the county which I had arranged unfortunately were pushed off by Storm Desmond, but I’ve already started catching up with the people I missed!
29th November 2015
Monday evening after my clinics I was delighted to attend an event organised by the Limerick Youth Service on the issue of mobilising young people to vote. It was a great event and the attendance engaged very positively with the public representatives in attendance.
In the Dáil I questioned the Minister for Agriculture on the progress being made on implementing the new localised scheme for farmers with hen harrier designation. Also in the Dáil I spoke on the Burglary Bill, a bill being introduced to the Dáil by the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald. I used my speaking time to raise the issue of the cost of legal aid. In the Transport Committee we engaged with An Garda Siochana and the Road Safety Authority. I raised the issue of speed detection vans being located in areas that have not had a recent accident statistics and which are viewed by motorists as attempts to generate revenue.
Two schools from Co. Limerick visited me in the Dáil this week, Colaiste Chiarain from Croom and Hazelwood College from Dromcollogher. I was delighted to welcome them to Leinster House because I believe it is very important that younger people see the Oireachtas at work.
Back in the constituency on Thursday I attended the official opening of the Killarney Pole to Barnagh Road. Over the last number of years I had worked to secure funding for the completion of the road as a member of the Dáil Transport Committee. I was delighted when Minister Paschal Donohoe followed the decision of Leo Varadkar to allocate the money required and the second phase of the road cost €3.5million, which was funded by the Government through Transport Infrastructure Ireland, which was previously called the National Roads Authority.
Minister for Agriculture a Simon Coveney was in Limerick on Friday for the ICMSA AGM and later met the Fine Gael Councillors. Saturday was a great day in Newcastle West for the official turning on of the Christmas Lights. It was a great family event and credit must go to the Newcastle West Business Association and Chamber of Commerce for a great event. Later Saturday night I was invited to Kilmallock Library for the launch of Kilmallock GAA’s book, Our Proud Heritage. The book was launched by GAA President Aogan O Fearghail. A well organised event and great to catch up with so many locals in Kilmallock. Well done to all.
22nd November 2015
The week began in Rathkeale with the great news that the old Andersen Ireland plant in the town was officially reopened as the Rathkeale Enterprise Centre. I had worked with Cllr Stephen Keary, Brian McEnery, Mike Cantwell and the Rathkeale Community Council to secure the facility for the local community. Minister Michael Noonan opened the plant, part of which will also be used by the Butterfly Club which is based in Rathkeale.
Tuesday morning I headed to Abbeyfeale for the presentation of the National Flag and Proclamation. I went to Dromtrasna and Knocknasna National Schools where the Mayor of Limerick City and County Liam Galvin was also in attendance. In the Dáil I spoke on the current housing issue and used my limited amount of time to raise the issue of the rural one off houses that were previously built by local authorities. I asked that the building of these be recommenced as part of the State building programme.
At the Oireachtas Committee on Communications and Transport I had a very positive engagement with the Chair Designate of ESB. I used the opportunity to raise the issue of flooding and the relationship between Eirgrid and ESB. Back in the constituency on Friday I went to the Askeaton Expo. This is a business showcase organised for the businesses of the Estuary area by Bank of Ireland in Askeaton. It was a great event and there was a very positive presence of businesses from across the area in attendance.
Saturday I was delighted to be invited to attend the All Ireland Scholarships from JP McManus in UL. The young people in question, representing every county in the country, are certainly very lucky to have achieved such a huge honour. I know everyone in attendance wishes them well in their studies for the future.
15th November 2015
I started off the week with a visit to Colaiste na Trocaire, Rathkeale. I met Leaving Cert students who are undertaking a project on the migrant crisis. Later on in the afternoon I met with representatives of the preschool sector nationally. Tuesday morning I held a clinic in my Kilmallock office before heading to Dublin. In the Dáil I questioned the Taoiseach on upcoming legislation in the area of planning for ports. This is to make the issue simpler so that ports can undertake work in a more straightforward way. I used the example of Foynes and the impact that it is having on the economy of Co. Limerick.
In the Oireachtas Transport Committee I participated in a debate on the Ports Bill and how it will change how ports are run in Ireland. I strongly supported the Bill because it categories Shannon Foynes Port Company as a Tier 1 Port of national importance.
Wednesday a delegation of landowners from Doon came to Leinster House to meet Minister Simon Harris. I had been working on the impact that the severe floods of last year had on their lands for some time. We had a very constructive meeting and we agreed as to how the matter could be further examined.
In the Public Accounts Committee I questioned the Comptroller and Auditor General on procurement practices in UCD. The Committee decided that the issue should be looked at further with the Department of Education and the Higher Education Authority. Later on Thursday night I attended the 60th Anniversary of Co. Limerick IFA. It was a great evening and was a chance to meet up with farmers from across Limerick and to listen to them. There was general consensus that while there are problems in the sector, this Government has prioritised farming more than any recent Government.
Friday morning had an early rise for breakfast for Club Limerick. It was a brilliant event and guest speakers on the morning were Henry Shefflin, Liam Sheedy and TJ Ryan. There was a great buzz in the room and certainly the success of the under 21’s was celebrated by everyone. Later on the office was busy with constituents before I headed to the Hope Foundation table quiz in Lee’s, Newcastle West. Our regular Fine Gael line out of Michael Finucane, Paddy Riedy, Noreen Mulcahy and yours truly were lucky on the night and came out on top. A great event for a great cause. Saturday thanks to the weather, gave me a chance to catch up on paperwork. Hopefully there’s an improvement on the horizon!
8th November 2015
Monday was busy on the clinic circuit before Tuesday morning I headed to Kilbehenny National School to be present for the arrival of the representatives of the Defence Forces who brought the Proclamation and the National Flag to the school. The ceremony was fantastic and it was great to see so many parents and local being present. Wednesday morning at the Oireachtas Transport Committee representatives of Eirgrid were answering questions. Later the Fine Gael internal Health Committee met with representatives of rural GPs and the Irish Cancer Society gave a presentation on men’s cancer to members of the Oireachtas.
In the Dáil on Thursday I spoke on the Finance Bill which is the main piece of legislation for the Budget. I drew attention to the benefits of the Budget in rural constituencies like Limerick. Later the Oireachtas Transport Committee met with the National Transport Authority. I raised the issue of the M7 coach which has had their routes extended to Tralee and Killarney but which don’t stop in Limerick towns other than Adare. I was told that the company had applied for an amendment to their licence. I also raised again the issue of knowledge tests for rural hackney drivers. This is an issue I’ll be pursuing. In the Public Accounts Committee I raised issues that the Committee has been working on for a number of months within the Department of Education.
Friday morning was busy with meetings of Limerick City and County Council in their Planning Office. Saturday Mayor Liam Galvin brought the good news that the Council had made the decision to take on the management of the Great Southern Trail. This is a fantastic West Limerick asset and I had asked the Council to take on the role from the local voluntary committee. Sunday another wonderful Co. Limerick institution, St. Ita’s Hospital, Newcastle West celebrated the opening to the public of the new rehabilitation unit. It’s a massive investment by the HSE and the Friends of St. Ita’s and great credit is due to everyone concerned. A great way to end a busy week.
25th October 2015
The week started with a busy schedule of clinics and early Tuesday morning I headed to Doon to meet with Limerick City and County Council. Wednesday I went to Athlone with Minister Frances Fitzgerald for the announcement of the Garda station building programme. Newcastle West has been included in the programme for an extension and refurbishment. I have been working on the need for works there for a number of months and Minister Fitzgerald recently visited the station to see the conditions there. Newcastle West will get an extension and refurbishment and is the only major scheme of work in Limerick.
Later on Wednesday I held a meeting with the Department of Health and representatives of the Butterfly Club in Rathkeale. It was an opportunity to outline to the Department the work that the Club is doing in West Limerick. Thursday there was good news for Foynes with the announcement that the CPL project which will create 180 jobs was going ahead. This is huge news for Limerick and CPL acknowledged the role that I had played in helping to deliver the project to this stage. This announcement shows that the decision the Government made in relation to ports policy which I worked on as a member of the Transport Committee was the correct thing to do.
Friday morning I headed to Rockchapel for the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney of the new Hen Harrier scheme. This is a local environmental scheme which will run with the existing GLAS and GLAS+ schemes. I have been working on this since I became a TD, to get recognition for the farmers who have had their lands designated for Hen Harrier habitat protection. This is long overdue for the landowners concerned and is something that I know will be warmly welcomed by farmers in East and West Limerick who are affected. This was a great way to end the week with three schemes that I have put a big effort into over four years coming to fruition. These announcements show that having a national politician with a local focus can help deliver locally.
On the local front Saturday I headed to see Newcastle West RFC play Instonions in Cullinagh. The visitors got the better of the local lads but a good second half and positive crowd made it an enjoyable afternoon.
18th October 2015
The week began for me on Monday with a trip to Hazelwood College in Dromcollogher to meet third year students. They had a range of questions with national and local issues to put forward and we had a good discussion on what the life of a politician is like. Later that afternoon I headed to carry out my weekly schedule of clinics.
Tuesday morning I went to the Dáil for the first Budget in several years that was able to reward people who work. It was certainly a completely different atmosphere from the first time I sat in the Dáil for a budget speech and I was delighted that several areas I had spoken on many times including USC, pensioners, primary education, road hauliers, farmers and the self-employed, among other key groups were all included. Wednesday morning I did interviews for local media on the impact of the budget to Co. Limerick and how I believed it was going to bring very positive news for many families and individuals.
Due to the State Funeral of Garda Tony Golden the Dáil was not sitting on Thursday. This was a terrible crime against someone who gave his life in the service of the rest of us. Our thoughts remain with his family and friends. May he rest in peace.
Friday I attended a HSE briefing in the UL Hospital campus in Dooradoyle before heading to LIT for a briefing on the work of the college. I went on to Kilmallock and Ardpatrick for meetings with constituents before I headed to Corcorans Shop on Newcastle West for a Fashion Show for the hospice. Another hospice event, this time a walk, was held on Saturday morning in Askeaton and was organised by Jeremiah Roche from Caher, Abbeyfeale. I was delighted to be able to support both events. Sunday we headed to Kilmallock for a historic day for Newcastle West who won the minor and senior football championships. A great day for the town and the local club who bridged a 23 year wait to bring the Fr Casey Cup back to Newcastle West.
11th October 2015
The week began with a tour of the county for clinics on Monday and I had a very good meeting with local Garda management before I headed to Dublin Tuesday for the Dáil. Later on Tuesday I met with officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to raise issues of concerns to Limerick childcare and preschool providers.
Wednesday morning I met with a delegation of the retired public servants before I headed to the Oireachtas Communications Committee. We had Minister Alex White in the Committee and I raised issues relating to public service broadcasting. Later on a number of constituents who were in Dublin for the day called into the Dáil for a tour. I always encourage people to do that. Later on Wednesday evening I attended a meeting to prepare Fine Gael to celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
Thursday was Public Accounts day. We had a number of issues to deal with from last week’s meeting before I headed to meet groups who wanted to make their point in advance of next week’s budget. Later Thursday afternoon we got details of the 2015 Sports Capital Allocation. I was delighted with the projects in Limerick that were successful. I had met most of them in the weeks running into it and had worked hard to deliver the grants. I know from speaking to the clubs that the money will be put to good use and will help with the creation of employment in the communities that were successful.
Back in the constituency I went to Bruree National School on Friday. I was delighted to be able to help the school gets its extension and also was able to tell the assembled guests that the sports field was included in the sports capital. A good day all round for Bruree. Saturday was clinics and I had a good tour of the county. Next week will undoubtedly be busy as it’s the time of the year for Budget 2016.
4th October 2015
The week began with a round of clinics on Monday before I attended a joint meeting of the Newcastle West Business Association and Chamber of Commerce in the Community Centre. It was a very positive meeting and focused on preparing the town for Christmas.
Tuesday saw great news delivered to Limerick with the announcement of two projects that I had been working on included in the capital programme. The new road to Foynes from Limerick and a bypass of Adare are included. I have been using my membership of the Dáil and the Transport Committee to push the case for these and have worked closely both with the current Minister, Pascal Donohoe and his predecessor Leo Varadkar in making the case for these. I am delighted that in my first term in the Dáil that the Government has agreed to do this. It’ said huge boost for the county and later in the week in the Transport Committee I questioned the Minister on the process from here out. It will be a major focus of mine in the coming months, and if I’m re-elected to secure construction of these two projects.
Tuesday morning after meetings in office I headed to Dublin where the IFA and Craol, the representatives of the Community Radio sector briefed us. Briefings continued during the week with the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, Commercial Radio Stations and Vintners outlining concerns to us.
In the Dáil I spoke on the homeless issue and cited the number of local authorities that had refused houses from NAMA while at the same time reduced their own revenue streams from LPT. I continued to look at this issue at the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday when NAMA came before us. The number of houses that had been rejected by Local Authorities is very concerning given the number of people on the housing list. In the Transport Committee I questioned the Minister on the policy of awarding funding for festivals and he agreed to have a look at the issue.
Back in the constituency I carried out a second round of clinics across the county. I’ve started these by appointment so if you would like to make an appointment to meet me just give my office a call.
27th September 2015
This week began with the Fine Gael selection convention for the Limerick County Constituency in the Dunraven Arms, Adare. A huge crowd attended the convention and there certainly was a fantastic atmosphere amongst the massive number of delegates who turned up to vote. I was proposed by Peter O’Dea and seconded by Tom Dillane. I was very grateful for their words of encouragement and how they believe that I can play a role in the future at a higher level nationally. During my speech I spoke of the achievements of this Government led by Fine Gael in rescuing the country from economic ruination, which the last Government had led us into. I outlined my vision for Co. Limerick and for Ireland for the next five years and I asked people to stick with me on the basis that political instability is our greatest risk. I was thrilled to hear that almost half the delegates had voted for me and that I had topped the poll at the convention. This is just the first step on the road to the election, but a massively important one and I thank everyone who has helped me so far. I had been out on the road calling to the members, and some of their neighbours, over the summer and while I missed a few, I managed to make some contact with all of them. It’s a great exercise in democracy and I would encourage people to get involved for that reason alone. Congratulations to Tom on being selected with me and to Jerome and Bill for contesting the convention. On the night I extended my best wishes to Dan Neville who has announced his retirement and I wish him well for the future.
The Dáil reconvened on Tuesday and it was straight into a series of meetings with national organisations. Teachers, students, doctors and representatives of non-governmental organisations met us in Dublin. I was delighted to welcome my intern from the United States to Leinster House and I’m looking forward to working with him in the months ahead. The committee schedule was busy this week. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications had the chairman designate of Inland Fisheries Ireland. I raised questions that local anglers have asked me to and are concerned about. In the Public Accounts Committee we heard reports from LIT and other institutes of technology, and I used the attendance of the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Skills to seek clarity on issues that have been reported in the media in Limerick concerning UL. I also asked about colleges and universities inflating points for entry level students in order to make their courses attractive. The reply I received didn’t inspire much confidence in me, and I will be returning to it.
Later in the week I asked the Chairman of the Transport Committee, John O’Mahony TD to invite Volkswagen and officials from the Department of Transport to meet us at the earliest opportunity to discuss the recent news from Volkswagen and what it means for Irish owners. I’m hopeful that this will be done as soon as possible.
Back in the constituency I was delighted to meet Diarmuid Byrnes, Captain of the Limerick U21 Hurling Team in Newcastle West with the trophy. These lads have brought great pride to Limerick and fantastic credit is due to them on lifting the spirits of the whole county.
On top of being in the offices in Newcastle West and Kilmallock I had a busy number of meetings alongside my normal clinics, in Athea, Templeglantine and Kildimo. Sunday I attended the official opening of the Sailors Haggard in Newtown, Clarina, with local councillor Maria Byrne. It is a fantastic monument to those who ventured out on the River Shannon over many years and it is fantastic to see them remembered in such a fitting way.
19th July 2015
This was the last week of Dáil business before the summer recess and the schedule was dominated by votes in the House on finishing legislation. I met a number of delegations in the Dáil during the week representing organisations that are preparing pre-budget submissions. The Oireachtas Communications Committee focused on EU scrutiny of legislation and there was no meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this week. The FG environment committee met with Pat Spillane to discuss the Commission for Economic Development in a Rural Areas. The FG Parliamentary Party was told that our annual two day meeting during the summer will take place in Adare, a great recognition for our constituency.
Back in the constituency I had a busy schedule of clinics which I will be continuing while the Dáil is in recess. Thursday evening I attended the community meeting in Shanagolden on the proposals for the Gortadroma landfill site. I understand that Limerick City and County Council are planning further meetings on this proposal in the coming weeks. On Friday morning I had two meetings with the newly elected Mayor of Limerick City and County, Cllr Liam Galvin before I headed to Hospital and Bruff to meet locals. Saturday morning I accompanied constituents to meet Minister Jimmy Deenihan in Listowel on projects that are being looked at in Limerick to engage with the diaspora. Sunday we headed to the Newcastle West Agricultural Show which was a great success with the finals of the Donkey Derby headlining the family event at Ballynoe.
Over the Dáil recess I will continue to carry out my constituency clinics and my offices in Newcastle West and Kilmallock will operate a full normal service. I’m looking forward to attending community events across Co. Limerick over the summer which have been organised by volunteers from every corner of the county. My weekly report from the Dáil will be back when the Dáil reconvenes in September. In the meantime if you would like to contact me on any issue please give my office a call.
12th July 2015
On Monday evening after the weekly clinic schedule I was delighted to attend the Newcastle West Men’s Shed. This is a great initiative and an important social outlet for men in communities across the country. In the recent past several new ones have been established in the area and I hope that the latest addition will succeed.
In the Dáil the Oireachtas Committee on Communications published our report into the issue of Gas Installers. This is an important issue and one which I actively looked to be pursued. There are a number of recommendations contained in the report and the challenge for us now as committee members is to see how we can get them implemented. Over the coming months I’m going to use every opportunity I get to push the case for changes in this area to ensure that people, especially vulnerable people who may be in accommodation in places other than their family home, are protected from the silent threat of gasses like Carbon Monoxide.
I had a very interesting meeting with an academic from Queens University in Belfast under an initiative of pairing Oireachtas members with academics. Thursday NAMA were before the Public Accounts Committee and I asked a series of questions on the matters that were being reported in the media in relation to the Northern Ireland property portfolio. Later on Friday I had a very busy clinic schedule and on Saturday I headed to the Broadford Races before the Limerick match. The result was disappointing but I’ve no doubt that the team will build for the future. Sunday I was delighted to attend the National Commemoration in Limerick to remember all those Irish Men and Women who gave thief lives in past wars and on service with the United Nations.
5th July 2015
The week started on Monday morning with a reduced clinic schedule before I headed to Berlin for the Konrad Adenauer Conference to represent Fine Gael. It was a packed schedule of meetings and I got the opportunity to meet members of parliament from European Parties that are members of the European Peoples Party together with other representatives from political parties from across the world. I heard of how political parties are dealing with challenges in their countries and the strategies that they have decided to adopt. The week also marked the 70th anniversary of the CDU, the political party of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. The party was established after the end of the Second World War, and the party under Konrad Adenauer, led Germany from ruin to economic prosperity. I certainly saw a huge number of similarities between the stories of CDU and Fine Gael and how at particular times in our countries history that strong leadership is needed.
Back in Dublin the Public Accounts Committee engaged with the Revenue Commissioners on the issue of the local property tax. We also agreed that the issue of procurement which is coming up on a regular basis at our meetings needs to be looked at in a focused way by the Committee. We will have a report on the issue before the Dáil rises for the summer.
In the Dáil I spoke on the Environmental Miscellaneous Bill and in particular the €100 water conservation grant. I defended the Government decision to bring in the grant because it will be the first contribution by any Government towards the cost of private rural water supplies; something which I believe is being attacked by the opposition who have a very urban and anti-rural focus.
Friday I had a very positive meeting with Limerick City and County Council on issues in relation to tourism promotion and how visitor attractions can be better advertised in the County before I headed to a meeting with the HSE in Limerick on services for elderly people. The plans that the HSE have are very welcome and improvements in the Community Hospitals in Limerick are in the pipeline, something which I will be anxious to see delivered in the life time of this Government.
Saturday and Sunday were spent visiting the Munster Home and Garden Show in Croagh and the Rathfredagh Cheshire Garden Fete. They were both fantastic family days and I met a number of constituents rambling around all who were anxious to chat on local and national issues. Great way to end the busy week.
28th June 2015
The week kicked off with a busy clinic run and on Monday I arranged to meet people from Templeglantine and parts of Tournafulla at the Devon Inn Hotel. It’s a very convenient venue for meeting constituents across West Limerick. I then headed into East Limerick before hitting the road to Dublin late on Monday night for a meeting with constituents at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources early on Tuesday morning. Later on Tuesday evening I attended a briefing on the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme in Leinster House which was been given by officials from Limerick City and County Council.
Wednesday as usual was packed full of meetings and briefings. It started with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport where I raised the issue of penalty points and the need for a review of the current way in which points are attached, or not attached to licences. The Committee agreed with my request and there was acknowledgment that I had done a lot of work in the area over a period of time. The Union of Students in Ireland held their annual briefing and afterwards I attended the ecumenical service for those that lost their lives in Berkeley in St Ann’s Church, Dawson Street. It was a very moving service and was well attended by all parties from the Oireachtas.
Nursing Homes Ireland also briefed TDs on issues facing their sector on Wednesday and later the Public Accounts Committee launched our report into the HSE and Fishery Harbours. The Fine Gael Committee on Communications met the Postmasters and we had a very positive meeting where a number of issues were discussed. I spoke in the Dáil on Wednesday evening on a motion regarding Credit Unions. I paid tribute to the local voluntary involvement in the Credit Unions and I said that there needed to be caution on behalf of those that want to see lower levels of regulation. I suggested that the future for Credit Unions needed to be looked at in conjunction with the future of post offices, something which I have raised consistently in the Public Accounts Committee and the Oireachtas Communications Committee.
Thursday morning the Public Accounts Committee engaged with the Department of Environment. I questioned them on illegal fuel laundering and the cost of transferring waste South of the border from illegal landfill sites there.
Friday was a very special day with the election of my friend Liam Galvin as Mayor of Limerick City and County. I’ve no doubt that Liam will do an excellent job and we wish him well. I was delighted later on Friday evening to be in Abbeyfeale for his homecoming where Minister Michael Noonan was guest of honour. Saturday morning I called to meet the committee of the new preschool service in Kilmeedy and also dropped in to wish a new business in Newcastle West well. Sunday we headed to the show on Charleville where there was a great buzz and a big Co. Limerick presence there. Brilliant weather and a great way to end the week.
21st June 2014
After a busy day of clinics on Monday which finished off with a community meeting on Monday night I attended the Oireachtas Committee on Communications and Transport on Tuesday morning. The meeting was focusing on the North South Interconnector for electricity and I focused my questioning on the impact that the connector would have on the Irish Economy.
In the Dáil on Tuesday I raised the issue of the need to widen the availability of reading recovery to schools across the country. I asked Minister Jan O’Sullivan to consider widening the scheme and gave an outline of the benefit of the program in schools across the country. She accepted that the program was of huge benefit to individual children and committed to taking my points on board.
We had a follow up meeting of the Committee on Wednesday with the Minister for Transport in relation to the EU Council of Transport Ministers. I used the opportunity to raise specific issues of interest to Limerick including developments at the Port of Foynes and the future of the Cork Limerick road. I posted a video of the meeting on social media. Later I met with the Minister in relation to a specific issue which haulier’s across the country have been experiencing and progress was made.
In the Public Accounts Committee the Department of Agriculture was before us. I questioned officials from the Department on a number of headings including the implementation of the designation of lands for protection of the habitat for the Hen Harrier. I also questioned the Secretary General of the Department, on the accounts from the Department, specifically in relation to procurement, overtime and other costs.
Friday I had a very productive meeting with the Management of Limerick City and County Council on a wide range of issues that affect people across the constituency. I spent the rest of the day meeting individuals in Kilmallock and Newcastle West. Sunday we headed to the Gaelic Grounds. The result was disappointing but I know that the team has a lot of hurling still to play.
14th June 2015
My week began with meetings in the planning offices of Limerick City and County Council with constituents. One off rural houses are the backbone of housing in counties like Limerick and I’ve noticed over the last number of months a very strong increase in the number of inquiries for planning permission. This increase in activity together with the decision by Minister Paudie Coffey TD to look at the regulations after having been requested by me is something that I believe will contribute very positively to our rural economy.
After a run of clinics across the county I headed to Dublin Tuesday morning where I had a number of meetings scheduled with interest groups and organisations. The Oireachtas Transport and Tourism Committee met to discuss the recent news in the FAI. Later on Wednesday I welcomed children and teachers from Kilbeheney National School to Leinster House. I held a very positive meeting in the afternoon with officials from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. I also attended the Irish Water weekly clinic in Leinster House and resolved a number of outstanding constituency issues.
Thursday the Public Accounts Committee met with officials from the Department of Education and Skills. We also discussed our work program in some detail. Friday morning I was invited to the Limerick Education Centre to present certificates to teachers qualified to work as reading recovery teachers in schools across the Mid-West. The highlight of the event was to hear five children who had successfully completed their reading recovery programme read for us at the presentation. Later on I headed to meet constituents who couldn’t attend clinics in Ballyhahill, Foynes and Glin.
Saturday afternoon I gave a hand to the Newcastle West Community Council for this annual Flag Day. This is the main fund raiser for the Community Council who give so much voluntary time in our community. Later on we went to Newcastle West Golf Club for the Knights of West Fest fundraising dinner. It was a fantastic event and there was a great atmosphere at the dinner as we all wait to hear the line out for this year’s big gig. The Newcastle West Branch of Fine Gael also held our annual church gate collection. Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed so generously.
7th June 2015
The Dáil wasn’t sitting last week so I used the time in the constituency to meet a number of community groups and individuals. I held a number of clinics in smaller villages across the constituency and was delighted to see so many people attending. I also prepared for the visit of Minister Heather Humphreys TD, Minster for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht who visited Limerick during the week.
Heather carried out a number of engagements across the constituency. In Pallasgreen she visited a period house to see the difficulties facing owners and get a better understanding of the type of practical issues they have. In Ballingarry, Heather paid a visit to the Knockfierna Rambling House where she was treated to some local entertainment as well as seeing the sites connected to the Famine. On Saturday morning she started off in Newcastle West by calling to see the monument of the Old IRA in the town and she had a chat with the committee who maintain the monument and ensure that the annual commemoration takes place every Easter Sunday. This is a monument which commemorates all those who gave their lives during the years 1916 to 1923 from West Limerick. She then called into the Red Door Gallery in The Square Newcastle West before heading to Abbeyfeale to meet members of the Men’s Shed who recently received funding from her Department. In Athea she met the tidy town’s committee on their plans to develop a heritage trail in the village to include the very strong association to Con Colbert.
Later on she called to the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes to unveil a portrait to Brendan O’Regan who was very much associated with the development of the Flying Boat Station in Foynes and later the airport at Shannon. Her visit finished up with a trip to the Palatine Museum in Rathkeale where she got to see the artefacts in display and get an understanding of how the Palatine Community became so associated with Rathkeale and surrounding areas. She also met with representatives of Rathkeale Historical Society and heard of some of the work that they are involved in as one of the oldest historical societies in the area. It was certainly a packed two days of events.
31st May 2015
The week began with a busy schedule of clinics across the county on Monday. Tuesday morning I organised to meet several people in Limerick who were unable to meet me on Monday. I want to make it as easy as possible for constituents to sit down and have a chat with me, so meeting them on my travels can often fit. Later on Tuesday the Fine Gael internal committee on Agriculture met with the Minister for Agriculture. A variety of issues were raised by backbenchers from rural constituencies. It’s an important forum which is very helpful and the fact that it happens so regularly is very beneficial.
The Dáil schedule this week was dominated by a Government motion on Aer Lingus. I spoke on the motion as a member of the Oireachtas Transport Committee which has spent a huge amount of time looking at the issue. Also given the importance of Shannon to the Mid-West I also had a very obvious constituency interest in the issue. The reaction of the management in Shannon who welcomed the decision was very positive. I know from speaking to them and representatives of industry in the Mid-West that there were concerns from the first offer. But these concerns were addressed and in the Committee I was one of those who pressed Willie Walsh to extend the five year guarantee to Shannon and Cork Airports. I was glad to see my concerns addressed. The response of some members of the Opposition was predictable and unsurprising. Given that they have opposed all Government initiatives in the tourism sector up to now, which have been shown to be massively positive and successful, it was hardly surprising when they came out against this decision on Aer Lingus, which I believe will be good for the country as a whole. One of their former colleagues in the Senate put it best about them this week, when she said that they’re unfit to govern. And with some of their allies in the newly formed ranks of independents also coming out against the deal, it’s clear to people of the Mid-West and Limerick in the choice that’s on offer. Forward looking and progressive or backward looking and negative. My contribution to the debate is on my Facebook page.
Wednesday afternoon I was delighted to welcome pupils and teachers from Ballyhahill and Croom National Schools. It was great to see the schools in Leinster House so interested in the workings of the Dáil and Seanad. I have made a big effort to encourage Co. Limerick schools to visit Leinster House and I am glad that so many have taken up the suggestion. 2015 has been my busiest year so far with school tours and I’ve a few yet to visit in the coming weeks.
Thursday the Department of Social Protection were before the Public Accounts Committee and later on Thursday evening I hosted the first in three business seminars which I’ve organised in the constituency. I held it in the Desmond Complex Newcastle West. I invited Bernie Moloney from the Limerick Local Enterprise Office, Brian McEnery from BDO, Elaina Fitzgerald Kane from the Woodlands Hotel and Minister of State Damien English TD to speak on the night. They provided excellent insight into business in Ireland today and gave concrete examples of how the recovery is taking shape. The meeting was chaired by Michael Finucane and I will be using the feedback as chairman of the Fine Gael committee on Public Expenditure to form part of a pre-budget submission to Government from the Co. Limerick business community. Details of the other seminars in Adare and Kilmallock will be available on line, and anyone wishing to attend can do so by contacting my office.
Friday was a busy day in the constituency office with clinics and calls before spending Saturday calling around to a number of the community events that have been organised in the County by so many voluntary groups and individuals. Sunday we headed to Bloom in the Phoenix Park. It was fantastic to see so many Limerick producers and exhibitors at the event. Well done to everyone involved in organising it, just a pity about the weather.
24th May 2015
The week started on Monday in Mitchelstown for meetings with people from South East Limerick. I meet people there on regular intervals and this week I had a large number of constituents who wanted to meet me. Afterwards I headed to Adare of a Constituency meeting of Fine Gael. Jerry Buttimer TD was the guest speaker and he spoke on the marriage equality referendum which I was delighted was carried in all bar one of the Dáil constituencies.
Tuesday evening I held a very successful and informative meeting for the Tidy Towns and Community Council in Athea with Irish Water. They outlined the time frame of the works that will be commenced shortly to upgrade the sewage treatment works in the village. I was delighted that Irish Water openly confirmed that the project is going ahead and that the money is in place to deliver it. Final costs are not available yet but it appears that will be in the region of €800,000 which is a massive investment for a small community.
I was delighted this week to organise visits to Leinster House for John the Baptist Community School, Hospital and for Coolcappa National School. It is great to see students of all ages engaging positively during these visits. Friday morning I held a meeting with the executive of Co. Limerick IFA on a number of issues that they have. Later on in the afternoon Minister Tom Hayes visited Newcastle West to launch the Newcastle West Show. On Friday evening I attended the official opening of the new Newcastle West Youth Club Centre. It’s a fantastic facility and great credit must go to everyone involved in bringing it to completion.
17th May 2015
The week started on Monday with a round of meetings with Limerick City and County Council in Limerick. I then headed to the office in Kilmallock for meetings with locals before going to Bruree National School to be part of the schools Blue Star Programme. This is an EU initiative to help school children better to understand the workings of the EU. Later on it was further clinics before I went to the 1916 Centenary Consultative forum in Newcastle West Library. Everyone accepts that consultation is very important to make sure that the commemoration will include everyone and that the events will not be controlled by any one group. Further consultations will take place in Rathkeale, Kilmallock and Limerick. After this I went to Kilfinane for a Fine Gael meeting. I got a number of national and local queries to follow up on. Anyone interested in getting involved in the Party can just contact me.
Tuesday evening I spoke in the Dáil on a motion on planning. I stressed the importance of changing the practice for third party objections. I told the Dáil that I had no issue with objections being placed by people who were affected by applications or had genuine concerns. But I said that the practice of publicly funded Dublin-based organisations just deciding on a whim to lodge an objection to housing or commercial developments in rural communities because it doesn’t suit their narrative needed to stop. After speaking in the Dáil I headed out to RTE to participate in the Late Debate. We discussed the economy and the UK elections among other issues.
Wednesday morning I attended briefings from the Heritage Council and Volunteering Ireland. The Oireachtas Committee on Transport continued our pre-legislative scrutiny. The Public Accounts Committee had officials from the Department of Finance. Thursday evening I was honoured to be invited to Scoil Mhuire agus Ide in Newcastle West to speak at the graduation of the Transition Year programme. I told the students of my experience in SMI and my journey from school to Dáil Éireann.
Friday morning I headed to Limerick for a fund raising breakfast for Special Olympics hosted by Cllr. Maria Byrne. Michael Noonan was the guest speaker and gave an update on the Economic Recovery. Following the breakfast I had meetings in Limerick City Hall. Later I spent the afternoon on the road meeting constituents in their own homes. I used the day as a chance to meet people who weren’t able to come to one of my clinics. A positive way to end a very busy week.
10th May 2015
The week started after the bank holiday with meetings in Abbeyfeale with a number of constituents and Cllr. Liam Galvin. Later on in the afternoon I received news from Irish Water that they have decided to prioritise the design of the new sewerage scheme for Athea. This is fantastic news for the community and I posted details of it on my website. Later on I went to Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick where the 49th Infantry Battalion paraded before they head off to Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL detachment. There was a big Limerick contingent there and we all send them our best wishes.
In the Dáil on Wednesday the Transport Committee continued our work on the road traffic bill. The Bill focusses on drug testing for drivers and others. We met with the Gardaí and representatives of the Irish Road Haulage Association. I raised particular concerns on how the testing would take place and how much progress has been made in designing the instruments that the Gardaí will use. These meetings are part of pre-legislative scrutiny, a Dáil reform brought in by this Government. Our discussions will form part of the process leading up to the law being enacted and gives a chance for potential problems to be debated. Wednesday evening the Public Accounts met informally with a number of farmers who raised specific issues on the operation of investigative units within the Department of Agriculture. We agreed to look at this further in the coming weeks.
Thursday I was delighted to welcome sixth class students and teachers from Mahoonagh National School. It was great to meet them and for them to see the Dáil and Seanad at work. Later Thursday evening I went to Rathkeale where a group of transition years from the Colaiste Mhuire Askeaton were presenting a cheque to the Butterfly Club from the fundraiser. After Rathkeale I headed to the Devon Inn for a meeting with the Farm Contractors of Ireland. Earlier in the week the FCI had been with us in the FG internal committee on Agriculture to discuss issues that concern them. They play a huge role in rural communities throughout the year. I then headed home to glue myself to the TV for the UK election. I know several colleagues who were standing for election who are members of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly with me. Some were lucky to be returned and others who were fine representatives for their areas were unlucky to lose out. The pundits got it all wrong, proving the point that there is only one poll that matters.
Friday I spent in the office before heading to Hospital for the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the town. There was a great atmosphere on the street for the parade which included all elements of life in the community of Hospital. Saturday I spent canvassing for our candidate David Fitzgerald in the Carlow Kilkenny bye election. It was great to see such a huge crowd out in Callan to support David. He’s an excellent candidate and will make a fine TD.
3rd May 2015
The week started in Raheen for the Regeneron open day. Regeneron arrived in Limerick just a little over a year ago and already have made a huge difference in the regional economy. The Mid West Region has just over 16% of the population but we have over 30% of the IDA supported jobs. This proves that the economic recovery and the foreign direct investment element is spread across the country and our region is punching above its weight in this. The challenge is to get a greater amount of FDI into provincial towns and that is what the Government has set as the challenge for IDA. it was great to meet so many from West Limerick who are employed on site with Regeneron.
Later Monday evening I was in the Rathkeale House Hotel for the recording of Vincent Browne’s Peoples Debate from the Limerick County Constituency. There was a huge crowd in attendance and the questions and issues that were raised were very varied. Local and national issues were brought up and the consensus was that the debate was fair and balanced over all.
Tuesday morning I had a busy clinic in the office in Newcastle West before I headed to the Dáil for the Spring Economic Statement. The overall message of the Statement was that the sacrifices of people over the last number of years are beginning to pay off. Michael Noonan spelt out how the Government is hoping to be able to spread the benefit of the recovery across the country.
Tuesday night I spoke in the Dáil on mortgages. I stressed a point I have been raising for a number of months and that is the take up of mortgage to rent. I told the Dáil that I’d like to see real progress made on this and I suggested a number of possible measures to amend the existing scheme.
Wednesday the Transport Committee had the main bus companies before the committee to look at the new legislation in the area of drug testing for employees that drive busses. Thursday morning in the Dáil I raised concerns that people have in the region following comments from Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin who attacked the Governance model of Shannon Airport. His comments alarmed business and tourism interests here in Limerick and several of them made contact with me to ensure that there would be no reversal on the systems in place at Shannon.
The Public Accounts Committee considered reports on the issue of Wards of Court. Thursday evening I called to several houses on East and South Limerick on my way home in a jaunt through Oola, Herbertstown, Kilfinane and Ballyagran. Friday morning I had a busy clinic schedule before a date with a pliers to remove a wisdom tooth. Still wondering how something so troublesome gets a name of “wisdom.”
26th April 2015
The week started with meetings with groups from Ballysteen, and Newcastle West. later I went to Adare where I had arranged to meet several local people in the Heritage Centre. It’s a great facility and was bussing with tourists enjoying the fine weather and beauty of Adare. In the Dáil on Tuesday we met with representatives of those with Lyme’s Disease. They outlined a number of difficulties that they have in terms of diagnoses and treatments. They previously met with the Oireachtas Health Committee in relation to the issues that they have and believe that further work needs to be done to advocate on their behalf. On Tuesday evening, I met with Minister Simon Harris and the FG Research Team as part of my role as Chair of the FG Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform. We discussed a number of key elements of policy for the coming months and how the committee would best feed into the policy element of the party.
Wednesday I attended a number of presentations for young people in Co. Limerick. These were organised by the Limerick Youth Services who outlined the progress that they want to see in terms of resources for young people in the upcoming budget. Later in the Audio Visual Room in Leinster House, Dáil na nÓg gave a presentation on their campaign for 2015 entitled “Let’s go mental.” This is a very important campaign as it encourages young people to discuss issues of mental health openly and without the stigma that may have characterised them previously.
Thursday morning the Dáil Public Accounts Committee met with the HSE. I was lead questioner for the meeting and I focussed on a number of elements including section 38 and section 39 agreement institutions. A great deal of work has been done by the HSE in this area but as the answers to my questions pointed out more needs to be done. I have posted a video of my contribution to the committee on my website. on my way home from the Dáil on Thursday I planted a tree with John Noonan on the grounds of the Heritage Centre in Adare.
Friday I spent the day in my office meeting constituents and carrying out clinics. Saturday morning I was delighted to attend the opening of the children’s playground in Bruff. It’s a fantastic facility and great credit must go to the local community group which includes many local parents who led the project. I know that the children from Bruff and surrounding parishes will have many years of enjoyment with their new facility.
19th April 2015
The week started with a busy schedule of clinics before the constituency AGM of Fine Gael in Adare. It was a very lively meeting and it was great to welcome Áine Collins TD as the guest chairperson for the evening. The officers of the party give of their time on a voluntary basis and it was the widely held view that great work has been done by them over the last twelve months. The main topic for discussion was the recovery and how we need to ensure that every community feels the improving economic situation.
In the Dáil the Co. Limerick Civil Defence Active Retired group visited me. They went on a tour of the Houses of the Oireachtas and got to see the Dáil at work. Later on Wednesday the postmasters held an information session, which was of particular relevance to the rural constituencies.
In the Public Accounts Committee we examined the expenditure of money by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on a North South broadband plan which resulted in serious flaws in how the spending was overseen. I will be the lead questioner for PAC next week when the HSE come before us.
Later on Thursday evening I went to Callan in Co. Kilkenny for a meeting of the bye election team for Cllr David Fitzgerald. I have responsibility for Kilkenny City West so it was great to meet the members of the area there to see how the election is going. We have an excellent candidate, someone who is very articulate and would certainly make a strong representative for Carlow Kilkenny in Dáil Éireann.
Friday I had a number of meetings for people organised in Limerick, Patrickswell and Adare. Later on that evening the Newcastle West branch of Fine Gael held a table quiz in the Silver Dollar Bar. It was a great night and many thanks to all those who contributed. Saturday I went to Doon to mark 150 years of the Mercy Order in the community. Again it was a fantastic community event and it was nice to meet so many people enjoying the fantastic weather.
12th April 2015
The Dáil wasn’t sitting last week because of the Easter break, so I used the opportunity to meet people across the constituency. The weather certainly helped as I arranged meetings across the county.
Monday we went to see the RTE production of the Road to the Rising. It was a fantastic event and a very positive contribution by the Public Service Broadcaster to the commemoration. Also on Monday I attend a very positive meeting in Cappagh in relation to the proposed new road from Limerick to Foynes. A number of concerns were raised and these were addressed as best as I could possibly do.
Friday evening before heading to Croagh to the Fine Gael AGM, I went to Dromcollogher for the retirement of the responsible person in the Respite Centre, Frances Stack. Frances has made a massive contribution to the centre and will be missed by all there. Saturday I was in Broadford for the dedication of the Sports Field there to Archbishop Duhig, a native of Broadford. The Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Ruth Adler, was the guest of honour. She unveiled a plaque and spoke of the contribution made to the building of the modern Australia by Irish people from the generation of Archbishop Duhig, together with those who continue to make a home for themselves there. She also welcomed people living in the Broadford area who are originally from Australia. A great way to end the week.
5th April 2014
The week started with a number of Fine Gael AGM’s. Meetings of branches in Ballingarry, Dromcollogher, Broadford, Feohanagh, Casltemahon, Feenagh, Kilmeedy, Ashford and Raheenagh were held. Great discussions and debates were held and the members raised a number of local and national issues of concern to them. Tuesday morning I met with groups and individuals in Templeglantine and Pallaskenry before heading to Dublin.
In the Oireachtas Transport Committee we decided to meet with Virgin Atlantic to hear their views on the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus. It was clear to me that the impact that concerned them was that to their linkages to Aer Lingus passengers. It was an important meeting, but I still believe that we have to do what is best for Aer Lingus and Ireland to ensure the maximum benefit to the economy as an island nation. There will, I have no doubt, be many further meetings on this.
Also on Tuesday evening I attended the launch of the programme of events to mark the centenary of 1916 in Collins’ Barracks. The programme is very well put together and has sought to include the greatest number of people possible. The event at Collins Barracks was very well put together and my friend and colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys has certainly pulled out all the stops to ensure the best possible programme has been put together.
Wednesday morning I attended the launch of the awareness campaign for Cystic Fibrosis before I headed off to meet Enterprise Ireland on opportunities that exist to create jobs in Co. Limerick. Back in the Dáil chamber I asked the Tánaiste if there were plans to review the current operation of the TV Licence given the comments from the former Minister for Communications, when he spoke in the Dáil debate on Irish Water.
Good Friday I joined the local Tidy Towns group and other volunteers in Newcastle West for the Team Limerick Clean-up. It was a brilliant community event and Limerick Captain, Donal O’Grady called out to see how we were getting on. Great credit must go to the organisers of the event which did a huge amount to promote Limerick. I hope it will become an annual event. Later huge crowds gathered in Newcastle West for the annual Way of the Cross, which is led by students and teachers from Desmond College. It helps us keep in mind what Good Friday is really all about.
Saturday I helped out with the annual collection for Calvary Cemetery in Newcastle West before we headed off early Sunday morning to the annual commemoration of the 1916 Rising at the GPO. This is a wonderful event and certainly one of the annual highlights of the calendar of a TD. As I said earlier on I’m really looking forward to the 100th anniversary. A great way to end the week, topped off by fabulous weather, which I hope to be able to get out and enjoy this week.
29th March 2015
The week started in the Council with the Joint Policing Committee. We received a presentation on the progress that the Limerick Garda Division is making across the county. The work carried out and the changes that were made following the reorganisation of the Force in Limerick was discussed and it was clear that even with limited resources, progress has been made across the districts.
In the Dáil the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee had RTE before us. The issue of political bias was up for discussion. I used the opportunity to raise the issue of the use of the TV Licence and the definition of public service broadcasting. I think that this is something which should be looked at given the role that local commercial and community radio stations play in communities across the country. I also questioned the commitment of the national broadcaster to regional stories, and gave the example of Limerick City of Culture and the visit of Royal Deluxe’s Granny.
Colaiste Iosaef Kilmallock visited me in the Dáil on Wednesday. It was great to meet the students and teachers and to chat to them and answer the student’s questions. They were very engaged and a credit to their school. Thursday morning I hosted a briefing with Willie Penrose TD on the bill he has proposed to reduce bankruptcy conditions to one year. There was a good attendance of Fine Gael and Labour members and Ross Maguire SC gave a presentation on the bill and the benefits of it.
In the Dáil I spoke on the importance of the dairy industry to the national recovery. I said how disappointing it was that no opposition members were in the chamber for such an important debate that impacts on every rural county. Some opposition members have attempted to create a picture of rural communities being left behind, yet when an issue like this is debated, they choose not it turn up. I also asked Minister Tom Hayes if the Government would consider further resources for agricultural colleges. I said that agricultural colleges like Pallaskenry have a very important role to play in building strong rural communities and need to be invested In.
Later on I also spoke on the issue of Irish Water. I said that the conservation grant which the Government have announced is the first contribution by any Government to the cost of providing water for rural people who have dug their own wells and became members of group water schemes, and seeing rural TDs opposing it was disappointing for their constituencies.
Fine Gael AGM’s were held this week in Doon, Athea and Bruff. The three meetings were well attended and there was a good discussion in all three on local and national issues. At all three meetings I was asked if I would encourage people who would like to join Fine Gael to get involved locally. Anyone interested in becoming a member just needs to call my office.
Friday was spent in the constituency office meeting people from across the area. Saturday I called to houses of people who weren’t able to make it to one of my clinics before I headed to Limerick to see Munster take on Connacht. A great atmosphere, a great result and a great way to end the week.
22nd March 2015
This week the Dáil wasn’t sitting because of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. This is an annual opportunity for us to take the message of Ireland across the globe and no other country in the world gets that chance and I think that all our Government representatives did their job with great distinction.
St. Patrick’s Day was a little different for me. Instead of attending the parades I went to Croke Park for the All-Ireland Club Final. It was a great occasion for Kilmallock and while they were unsuccessful on the day, the represented their club and county with great distinction and we are all very proud of them. I know that they will be back.
I used the week to meet a number of organisations including the Council, HSE and the Education and Training Board. I also held my clinics in Abbeyfeale, Newcastle West, Askeaton, Croom, Kilmallock and Ballylanders. The week was a bit different because I also held a clinic in Mitchelstown for people from Kilbeheney and Anglesboro.
Earlier in the week I took part in the Knights of WestFest Strictly Come Dancing. As you can imagine I was fairly nervous in the build up to the big event but I was delighted that I took part, when it was all over! It was a great event and great credit needs to go to the organisers who I know have a packed festival program in mind for this summer. I know Killeedy Camogie and Adare GAA also ran Strictly’s and great credit should go to everyone involved in these fun events.
The OPW held their briefing session in Foynes on Thursday. It was a presentation on the likelihood of flooding in Foynes. This has been a major problem in the community there and I was glad to get a report from the OPW on the progress that they are making on the building of a flood barrier with the Council and the Port Company.
Thursday evening, Newcastle West Fine Gael held its AGM. We had a great attendance and a very vibrant discussion on national and local issues. The branch is anxious that new members would be invited to join. Anyone interested can give my office a call.
15th March 2015
The week began with a busy run of clinics across the county. Later on Monday I attended a public meeting in Askeaton on rural policing. The local Gardaí attended and gave a detailed presentation on what’s happening in the area. There was a very positive atmosphere in the hall on the night with some very good suggestions made. Later on Monday evening I attended the Glin Fine Gael meeting. Again a very constructive and positive meeting with local and national issues discussed.
Tuesday morning I headed to the Council in Limerick for a number of appointments for people across the county. After good outcomes I went to the South Court for the presentation of plans on the new Limerick to Foynes road. The most important thing that I took from the meeting is the need for people living near or on any of the routes to familiarise themselves with the plan and make submissions. I have already had a number of people contact my office on this and I’m sure more too will want information on what will hopefully be a very positive project for Limerick.
In the Committee’s Bus Éireann was before the Transport Committee and Revenue were at the Public Accounts Committee. Bus Éireann were in to discuss their route changes. I questioned them on the cost of the routes that they had proposed to change. It was disappointing that they had made the decision without providing us with the costs that the company had. I made that point to the company but they still refused to provide details of the money involved. In the PAC Revenue were answering questions on off shore investments. Revenue gave us a full presentation on their work and certainly showed us their effectiveness as Public Servants.
Later in the week in Dublin I used the opportunity to meet some constituents that I had arranged specific Ministerial meetings arranged for. It was a hectic schedule with a variety of topics and serious organisational juggling by my office in Newcastle West.
Friday morning was spent in the office in Newcastle West before I went to Kilmallock office. The queue seems to be getting longer in both places, the advice from one of those who turned up was simple, “you need to get more chairs!” Friday evening I had dance practice for WestFest Strictly Come Dancing. The brilliance of our routine was finally clear to be seen!
Saturday morning was spent with constituents in the Newcastle West office who couldn’t make it during the week. Sunday we headed of the first St Patrick’s day parade in the county, in Kilmallock. They moved their parade because the town will be heading lock stock and barrel to Croke Park on Tuesday. Best of luck to them on the day. I hope they bring back an All-Ireland title to Limerick.
8th March 2015
The week started with meetings on Monday with Limerick City and County Council. Later after clinics I attended the launch of the Newcastle West Men’s Shed. It was a good start and hopefully it will grow further. Tuesday the Fine Gael Committee on Education discussed the options open for international students in second level schools. We were told that great opportunities exist for families and students from these schemes, but there needs to be a structure in place.
In the Dáil I questioned the Minister for Education on the difficulties that schools have in delivering the curriculum because of the physical state of schools. I gave examples in Limerick of where schools were looking for extensions to school buildings and were being told that they could use their halls or multi-purpose rooms. I said that this would result in the PE, music, drama and arts element of the curriculum not being delivered and would mean that teachers would be at the mercy of the weather to deliver these parts of the children’s education. The Minister replying told me that a great deal of work in the area had been done, but more was needed. She did however say that the capital budget had been significantly increased recently for schools.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications met with West On Track, a group seeking to promote the use of railways in the West. The Public Accounts Committee discussed the tendering by the HSE of services for children and vulnerable adults. We looked specifically at an issue where a contract was alleged to be awarded without a tender process. We agreed to look at the issue in greater detail. Later procurement for school services and the impact on small business across the country was discussed.
Friday the Taoiseach was in Limerick for the Limerick City FG breakfast. It was an excellent event and the Taoiseach and Michael Noonan gave fantastic presentations on the progress that the Government has made. Friday afternoon it was time to take to the road to travel the constituency.
Saturday morning I attended a very positive event organised by Newcastle West Community Council and Chamber of Commerce on developing a way forward for the town. It was great to have so many good ideas and fresh ways of thinking. Later on I headed to Limerick to the Young Fine Gael National Conference. The Taoiseach and Michael Noonan addressed the gathering and again outlined to the younger members of the party, the impact that political instability could have on a very fragile recovery. I attended one of the sessions with TD’s Martin Heydon and Noel Harrington. We were all impressed with the contributions from the floor that were given.
Later on Saturday evening I went to Kilmeedy to present certificates to graduates of courses in Horticulture and Health and Childcare. The facility at Aras Ide in Kilmeedy is a fantastic venue and is home to the training courses now for over seven years. The training initiative in Kilmeedy has a great record in getting people into work. This is the true test of any course, and Kilmeedy certainly have a fantastic record on that front.
In between meetings and driving, I found time for some “Strictly” practice. Someone once said, a lot done more to do…… That could apply to the practicing!
1st March 2015
The week started in Dublin with the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. This was the fiftieth plenary of the assembly and it focused on closer cooperation North South and between Britain and Ireland. Among the issues discussed was fuel laundering and how closer relationships could be delivered through sport. We were hosted in Croke Park for one of our meetings where the GAA, FAI and the Northern Ireland Football Association as well as the IFA who addressed us on their priorities. We also visited the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square. This was an important part of the Assembly which has members from all across Ireland and Britain because here we commemorated those who have their lives for Irish Independence.
Later on Tuesday I was in Croagh for the launch of the Munster Home and Garden Show next summer at D&M Garden Centre before I went to Copsewood College, Pallaskenry. The President was in Pallaskenry to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Bosco the founder of the Salesians. Back in Dublin I spoke in the Dáil on the need to review the building regulations for one off rural houses. Minister of State Paudie Coffey agreed with my request and committed to completing a review in the first half of this year and to make changes if they are recommended.
In the Public Accounts Committee I was lead questioner to the Office of Public Works. I focused my questions on the property leases that the OPW have and how savings could be made particularly in decentralised office. I also asked questions about closed Garda Stations and how the OPW might better promote their heritage sites through social media.
In the Communications Committee we had representatives of the wind energy sector before us. I questioned the companies on how changes in the valuation process impacted on their companies. I also asked them what they thought of the idea of having commercial rates increased, which some political parties want. I wasn’t surprised at the response. It’s clear from meeting business leaders and employers that our recovery could really be wrecked by some of the mad-cap ideas of opposition and that was very clear at the committee.
Friday I headed to Limerick for the Joint Policing Committee. The structure of the Committee under a new joint authority was discussed and it was agreed that we would place more emphasis on district meetings. After meeting constituents in the South Court I headed to Pallasgreen and Doon for house calls before I went to Colaiste na Trionoide Naofa to meet second year students on the work I do. The class was very engaging and I was delighted to take questions from them. Friday evening it was on to Hospital for a Fine Gael gathering. A very positive and sociable end to a busy week. Oh and by the way the dancing is going well!
22nd February 2015
I’ll start at the end of the week for this week’s report. On Friday we headed to Castlebar for the Fine Gael National Conference. It was a great weekend with a fantastic atmosphere amongst the delegates. A very strong contingent made the trip from Limerick and the weekend had discussions on a range of issues from rural matters to law and order, the economy, healthcare, jobs and a range of other topics. The Taoiseach gave a great welcome to all the delegates on Friday and followed up with a rousing address on the Saturday evening.
Earlier in the week Paschal Donohoe the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport was in the constituency. It was a jam packed itinerary over day, starting in Foynes with announcements in excess of €50million. Then it was onto Dromkeen for the review of an €800,000 traffic calming project. From there we headed to Lough Gur to formally re-launch the interpretive centre there. Then it was onto Newcastle West for the sod turning of a €3.5million widening of the N21. Paschal then headed to Adare to meet locals on the bypass and West Limerick Tourism representatives.
Tuesday I met representatives of local development companies in the constituency and heard at first hand the work that is being done in the area. It was a chance to meet people in Kilmallock and Kilfinnane as well before I headed to the Dáil. Back in Dublin the Communications Committee had representatives of registered boiler installers and the Commission for Energy Regulation before us. I raised the issue of carbon monoxide detections in guest accommodation, residential homes and hospitals etc. I cited the case of Miriam Riedy from Ballyhahill who passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Cork Hotel and I called for tighter controls on those installing these devices.
The Chairs of Fine Gael policy Committee’s held a very productive meeting and agreed a work program for the time ahead. I am the new chairman of the Public Expenditure and Reform Committee and am getting stuck into the work of it with the help of the reach and support team within Fine Gael.
The week ended with me heading to Dublin for the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I’ll have an update for you on that in next week’s blog.
15th February 2015
This week the Oireachtas Committee’s that I’m on had a very busy schedule. In the Public Accounts Committee both Enterprise Ireland and the IDA attended to give a presentation on the work they do. I used the opportunity to question Martin Shanahan of the IDA on the impact of political stability and the tax proposals of some of the opposition parties and independents. His reponse was clear that the more that the burden of tax is increased on work, the more difficult it is to attract foreign and direct investment into the country. I used the opportunity to question him on his plans for Co. Limerick now that Shannon Development’s foreign and direct investment role has been moved to the IDA. I was glad to hear that the Agency has recently met with Shannon Group to discuss plans for the lands in the Mid-West. I also took issue with what I believed was the very negative suggestion from one member of the Committee about the job creation measures being taken by Enterprise Ireland.
In the Transport Committee I raised issues related to the Mid-West and Shannon with IAG CEO Willie Walsh. I asked him to consider special guarantees for Shannon and Cork Airport as part of any sale of Aer Lingus. Earlier in the meeting he ruled out this request, however during questioning from me, he agreed to give the guarantees. This was the most noteworthy part of the meeting with him and it points to the value of good engagement at Oireachtas Committees. There’s no doubt but Willie Walsh gave a very impressive presentation to the Committee, but there are still questions remaining. The decision will undoubtedly have implications, positive and negative, for the country, our region and the air line, regardless of what the decision will finally be. We have to make sure that we listen to as many interested parties as possible to make sure that the decision is the right one. Videos of my contributions this week are on my website and Facebook pages.
In the Dáil I spoke on the Education Bill. The Bill is focused on international students at third level. I used the opportunity to speak about the impact that international students at second level can have. I asked the Minister to look at a proper structure to help the development of the international education sector. I pointed to benefits or students, host families and schools here in Ireland. I said that the Department should examine the economic impact in small communities of foreign students comincomity Ireland, and given the many pressures on families across the country, this could help if proper structures including visa requirements were put in place.
Also in Dublin I met groups who wanted to raise issues relating to the Climate Change and Valuations Bills. Back in the constituency earlier in the week the Castletown Ballyagran Colmanswell Fine Gael meeting took place. We had a very good discussion in the community centre in Castletown. Local and national issues were debated and i always feel that keeping in touch with the branch structure of the Party is essential to proper community representation. I spent most of Monday on the road for clinics after I had attended the first Shannon Foynes Port Company schools competition. It was great to see so many schools from the region taking part. On Friday I met people in both the Newcastle West and Kilmallock offices and on Saturday I travelled to meet people in the own homes who couldn’t make a clinic or office appointment before heading to watch Ireland v France. A good way to close off the week.
8th February 2015
This week started in Milford Hospice with the Minister for Finance announcing a major transformation of Milford Hospice. Milford has played a major role in the lives of families from across the Mid-West for many years. The improvements that are planned there will certainly make a huge difference for families for many years into the future. After clinics across the county I headed to Dublin for the Clare Byrne show on RTE 1. The show focused on rural crime and the closure of a number of small Garda Stations which in many cases were already closed.
Tuesday the Oireachtas Transport Committee had further representatives of industry concerned about the possible change in ownership of Aer Lingus. I questioned the groups involved on whether or not they had consulted their membership in the Mid-West before they had each made their position clear. This is a big issue in Limerick and I was anxious to make sure that all of the representatives had consulted their Limerick members and engaged properly with them.
In the Dáil I asked the Taoiseach when legislation in the area of air pollution would be coming forward. This legislation is being looked for by companies seeking to create businesses around the use of biomass material with coal, to reduce emissions. There are plans to create over 100 jobs in Foynes in this sector and I want to see the legislation pass as soon as possible. The Taoiseach told me that the legislation should be dealt with in this session. This shows the local connection to the work that we done nationally, and a real example of how our work can have a major impact on small communities in West Limerick and other parts of the country.
Later on in the week the Committee was engaged in the Roads Bill 2014. This is a Bill to merge the National Roads Authority with the Rail Procurement Agency. This came about as part of the Government’s plan to reduce the number of State Agencies. I saw the opportunity in this Bill to address a serious issue which came up during planning for the Adare bypass. I found out after the route of the Adare bypass was rejected that the NRA and Councils are not permitted at the moment from having pre-planning discussions with An Bord Pleannala. I found this bizarre, because you wouldn’t build an extension to a house without a pre-planning consultation, but we spent millions on plans for roads without pre-planning meetings, and when they we were rejected they leave serious questions to be answered. The problem is without pre-planning discussions these questions can be left unanswered. What was even more ridiculous was that the Rail Procurement Agency could have these discussions with An Bord Pleannala on projects like the Luas. Paschal Donohoe accepted my amendment and said that by pointing out the loop hole that I will have helped the future planning of roads across the country. I was delighted with the decision to accept my amendment, the first of many I hope.
The Public Accounts Committee had the Department of the Environment in on the issue of water and housing costs. We also discussed some of the issues that were raised in a previous meeting with the Higher Education Authority. This is an issue we will return to.
Friday myself and Councillor Stephen Keary had a very positive meeting with the Education and Training Board on the new school for Croom. The school is badly needed and the ETB updated us on the issues that had arisen. I told them at the meeting that any support I could give I would and we agreed to meet again soon to discuss progress. In the meantime I will be engaging with the Department of Education to underline the importance of the school. Later on I called to see the progress being made on the new facility in St. Itas’s Community Hospital in Newcastle West. The new rehab unit is well underway and major support is being provided by the Friends of St. Ita’s. Later on Friday Eileen and I went to Rathkeale for the Cappagh Lourdes Quiz. It was a great night; we were joined by Stephen Keary and Niall O’Callaghan and headed home with a win.
Saturday I went to St Mary’s Cathedral Limerick for the enthronement of the new Church of Ireland Bishop. It was a lovely ceremony and a real community event. I wish Bishop Kearon well in his new role in what is a huge diocese. Later on Eileen and I headed to Athea for the Drama Group’s production of the Real McCoy. It was fantastic, a great night and absolutely hilarious. It’s great to see such a huge turnout in a small community for a voluntary production. I’d recommend a trip there next week for anyone interested. Michael O’Connor who works with me seems to have adopted a new “vocation.” I would have thought with what he does Monday to Friday Sainthood rather than Priesthood would have been a better fit!
Sunday evening the dancing continued. Progress being made all the time!
1st February 2015
The week began with the news that I was appointed Chairman of the Fine Gael Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform by the Taoiseach. I’m looking forward to the work that this involves as it will give me an opportunity to help develop party policy in this area over the next few months. I already have a number of issues that I want to focus on and the role will match my recent appointment to the Public Accounts Committee.
On Monday I had a meeting with the management of Limerick City and County Council in City Hall. It was an opportunity to discuss a number of projects that I had been working on for some time. Later Monday I travelled across the county for my weekly clinics, which finished up later than usual because of the numbers attending,
In the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee, the Chairperson Designate of RTE attended. I raised issues relating to the TV license, presenters salaries and the importance of maintaining a public service role for RTE. My questioning can be seen on my website. Later in the week The Committee had the representatives of Chambers of Commerce and Aer Lingus workers with is giving their views on the proposed changes to Aer Lingus. In the Public Accounts Committee, the Department of Arts, Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht attended together with the National Gallery and the National Library. I had a number of questions in relation to the National Library before I asked the Department their views on the Limerick City of Culture project. I used the opportunity to promote Limerick for the European City of Culture 2020, something which I know would be fantastic for the City and County.
Friday the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar was in Limerick. He opened the critical care unit at Limerick University Hospital, which most of us know as the Regional. Later I attended the Limerick City Fine Gael meeting with the Minister and Minister Michael Noonan and Kieran O’Donnell. The meeting was well attended from the county and gave a good chance to update people on the progress of Government.
Saturday I spent meeting people in their own homes who had looked to meet me during the previous week. Sunday morning I was off to the Effin Fine Gael AGM before heading to Abbeyfeale to mark the tenth anniversary of the founding of Abbeyfeale Search and Rescue. I spoke at the meeting and thanked all those who have given so much time over ten years to make the organisation the success that it is. It was hard to believe that it’s ten years since the tragic events that led to its establishment. But it’s good to know that they have helped so many families since then. Later Sunday evening it was Strictly Come Dancing. I’ll keep you posted on that one!
26th January 2015
The week started off with a busy schedule of clinics on Monday before I went to Foynes to see the drawings of the flood relief scheme that the OPW and Limerick City and County Council have put together. I was glad to see so much progress made on the scheme because some people in the area had raised questions about the scheme after media reports suggesting it was delayed. I was glad to have it confirmed that it’s not delayed and is on track. Later on Monday evening I went to Bruff to the opening of the new computer facility in Scoil Dean Cussen. A great facility and important for the children in the school or have access to the best modern IT equipment.
Tuesday I went to the Show Case in the RDS. This is a fantastic event that allows people from the craft sector to show their products to potential buyers. There was a great contingent there from Limerick and it was great to meet so many positive people building such a positive image and name for Limerick.
In the Dáil on Tuesday I spoke on Junior Cert reform. I asked the Minister for Education to ensure that every effort is made to avoid strike action because it’s not in the interests of the students. I also reaffirmed my support for reform because I firmly believe that learning by rote is not in the interests of the student. I asked that the Minister continue any reforms into the leaving cert.
Wednesday I asked the Minister for Transport what the Government’s position is in relation to the proposed sale of Aer Lingus. The Minister was attending the Transport Committee and I was anxious to raise the importance of Heathrow connectivity to Shannon. The Minister was limited in what he was able to say but my concerns were listened to. I also attended the IFA Oireachtas briefing. This is a regular event and provides us with a great opportunity to hear the concerns of farmers from our constituencies.
Thursday I was lead questioner for my first time on the Public Accounts Committee. We had the Higher Education Authority, the National College of Art and Design and the Department of Education and Skills before us. Serious issues were raised in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to the college and I pursued a line of questioning in relation to accountability. Later that evening I met the Minister for Agriculture together with representatives of landowners on designated lands in relation to issues they have with designation for the Hen Harrier.
Friday I was delighted to be In Kilmeedy with their local community development group to discuss the fact that OPW have agreed to give the local community a license for the former Garda station. This will be a great amenity for the parish and I have been working with the locals there on the project for some time. I was also told that afternoon by Ulster Bank that they have committed to maintaining their ATM in Croom. This is good news for the local community who lobbied so hard to keep the service there. Later that evening I met people in Kilmallock and Doon who were unable to attend my Monday clinics.
19th January 2015
The Dáil returned this week, but my office was back open in the constituency since the 2nd of January. I used that time to catch up on constituency work and I also got to visit the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin. This is one of the events that I really enjoy and it is fantastic to see the project work that is submitted. One of the BT representatives said to me that I’d be one of the busiest TD’s visiting the RDS because Co. Limerick had one of the largest number of projects entered. Great credit has to go to the participants, their teachers and parents for such a great success. I also used the time over the Christmas holidays to meet with constituents across the constituency, clinics have now resumed and anyone looking to meet me should just give the office a call.
Back in Dublin the Parliamentary Party held a special meeting to look at the priorities for 2015. This will be a very important year for the country as we build on the recovery which is beginning to take hold. The word was clear from Michael Noonan, with political instability comes economic instability and after the last seven years here, that is something we need to avoid. The Party had a very good discussion and the Taoiseach laid out for us where he he’d to see Ireland at the end of the year.
In the constituency I attended a rally in Croom on the closure of the Ulster Bank branch. I have asked the Finance Committee to invite the bank representatives to come before the committee to discuss why they have taken the action that they have. I also attended meetings in Abbeyfeale, Adare and Kilmallock on Friday. Saturday I met with constituents across East Limerick. Like my clinics I’m available to meet people at the weekend if they’d like to give my office in Newcastle West or Kilmallock a call.
21st December 2014
My week started on Monday with a busy schedule of clinics across the County. I will resume them early in the New Year for anyone who wants to call to one. My website has more detail. Later on Monday night I met with a group of anglers in Abbeyfeale with Councillor Liam Galvin before heading to a meeting of Abbeyfeale Fine Gael where local and national issues were discussed.
On Tuesday the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee discussed the issues facing landowners with Hen Harrier designation. I had asked the Chairman of the Committee Andrew Doyle TD to facilitate the meeting and I know that the representatives who attended found the meeting very beneficial.
Wednesday the Oireachtas Transport and Tourism Committee had representatives of the hotel industry and vintners making a presentation on where they saw challenges for the industry in 2015. I asked both organisations if they assessed the budget submissions of political parties to see how it impacts on their sectors. When they told me that they did, I then asked them to give their views on suggestions of increases of employers PRSI by one party. They said that this would devastate their industry given the good work that had been done by the Government in the reduction of the VAT rate when the Government was formed.
In the Dáil chamber I spoke on the Irish Water Bill. I was very critical of some of the opposition proposals as I found that they were poorly thought on and could make the situation for rural people in particular very unfair. I said that for years rural people had provided their own water by way of private wells and group schemes and that this was the first time that they had ever got financial relief. I told the Dáil that I found it remarkable that some opposition members would criticise the assistance to rural people and asked them to reflect on it.
On Tuesday Minister Simon Harris confirmed to me that he is committed to funding the Foynes flood relief scheme. There have been some misinformed political statements in the last few weeks on this so I was glad as their local TD to clarify this for the people affected.
On Wednesday night representatives of groups concerned about proposed changes to testing and inspection regulations for vintage vehicles came to meet me in the Dáil. I have been working in this area for some time, and I know that the submission that they have made to the Road Safety Authority is very well presented. These people do fantastic work for charities across the country and I am anxious to make sure that they get a fair hearing. Further work will be done on this in January.
I also made a contribution on the Roads Bill. I have over the last few weeks used Dáil time to raise the issue of penalty points and how they are applied. This Bill is designed to close one loop hole in the penalty point area and I asked the Minister, Pascal Donohoe if the other issues can be examined in the New Year. He confirmed to me that they would.
In the Public Accounts Committee, NAMA appeared before us to answer questions. I raised the issue of the hotel which the Agency is said to have agreed a sale to the Dublin Local Authorities. It appeared from the answer I was given that the hotel had been offered to them previously and had not been progressed. I asked how much as a result the sale price had gone up and was told €1million.
On Thursday afternoon I met with Minister Damien English and officials from SOLAS and the Department of Education in relation to the progress being made on the European Globalisation Fund for Rathkeale. Good progress is being made and the plan is on target. Damien accepted my invitation to come to Limerick in January to officially open the EGF office in Rathkeale and to see the old Andersen plant, now owned by the community, something I was delighted to be part of.
Friday the Dáil was sitting before I headed home to meet organisations involved in rural pursuits in Co. Limerick. Later Friday night the Newcastle West Fine Gael branch held its regular meeting and Christmas get together. Saturday and Sunday I called to houses of people who wanted to see me and discuss personal issues.
The Dáil is sitting this Tuesday and my offices in the constituency will be dealing with constituent queries until Tuesday. I will update you on my week next Wednesday and I will also post my Annual Report for 2014 here.
14th December 2014
This week I attended my first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee was looking at the restructuring of credit unions, and I used the opportunity to raise the issue of the future of the credit union movement in rural areas and the possibility of linking the credit unions to the post office network. The officials from the Department of Finance gave a generally positive response to the suggestions I was making. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the work of the Committee and playing a productive and positive role in it.
In the Oireachtas Communications Committee Nightline were present giving their views on the new Eircode system. They were very positive on the introduction of the new system and gave practical examples of how it would help their business. In the Dáil I spoke on the issue of the ongoing problems in the issuing of penalty points and I asked that consideration be given to a review of the current law given the amount of cases that had been dismissed. I had earlier been successful in getting the Transport Committee to agree to a review of the system which I hope to see starting soon. The most important issue in this for me is that people would have confidence in the penalty point system because it’s a vital road safety measure. The introduction of penalty points has helped of changed people’s attitudes on the roads, so confidence in the system must be restored.
The Dáil sat on Friday to debate the water services bill, so my usual Friday constituency work was done from Dublin. I spent Saturday catching up with constituency work, meeting people in their own homes and journeyed from Abbeyfeale to Oola.
7th December 2014
This week I was delighted to receive the news that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny had appointed me to the Public Accounts Committee and it was approved by the Dáil on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the new role, and I know that my experience on other Oireachtas Committee’s, including Transport and Environment, will be of huge help to me in the PAC. The Public Accounts Committee is probably the most influential Committee in the Dáil and this was very evident over the last few years with some of the issues that they have pursued. I hope to be able to make a positive contribution to the Committee during my membership of it.
In the Dáil I questioned the Minister of State in the Department of Transport on the issue of the knowledge test for rural hackney drivers. This is an issue that I have worked on consistently in the Transport Committee and I am glad that there is recognition that the current situation for people in rural counties trying to pass the knowledge test is unfair.
On Thursday and Friday I, together with Fine Gael colleagues from the Oireachtas went to Brussels. The purpose of the visit was to meet with Irish MEP’s, to see at first-hand how the EU institutions operate, to discuss areas of mutual interest with other members of the European Parliament who are in the European Peoples Party Group and to meet with the new EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. The trip was organised by Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly, and it was agreed by all that the visit was very worthwhile. As part of our visit to Brussels, I, together with Sean Kelly and the Irish Farmers on Designated Lands met with officials of the EU to discuss the issue of the Hen Harrier. Landowners in West and East Limerick have experienced very serious problems with lands that are designated for the protection of the habitat of the Hen Harrier. We gave real examples of farmers from the area and their experiences. The Commission told us that the Government in Dublin had the authority to design the scheme for the protection of the habitat. We have further work to do on this but I feel that we did make progress.
On Saturday we went to the first of two events for the Newcastle West Lions Club in the town. Santa was in the town on Saturday and we were delighted to be able to pay our first visit there. Sunday the Club organised another hugely successful event with the Irish Tenors in Newcastle West Parish Church. Great credit must go to the Club on kick starting the festive season in the town.
30th November 2014
Monday started with a very busy schedule of clinics across the county before I went to the Fine Gael regional meeting in the Greenhill’s in Limerick. It was a very positive meeting, chaired by Frances Fitzgerald, Chairperson of the National Strategy Committee for Fine Gael of which I am a member. It gave the membership a chance to voice their opinions in relation to the performance of the Government and the structure of the Party and it certainly gave all of us plenty to consider.
In the Dáil on Tuesday the Oireachtas Committee on Transport engaged with the chair of the National Transport Authority, John Fitzgerald. I raised several issues with him including rural hackney licence’s and the possibility of a uniting the NTA with the National Roads Authority. We had a difference of opinion on some issues but I feel that with his background in the local authority sector and wide experience that he will provide strong continued leadership in the NTA. Later on Tuesday I met with the licensed firearms holders who are concerned about possible changes. The chairman of the Oireachtas Justice Committee attended the event also and assured them of a wide consultation on the matter. In the Dáil I asked the Taoiseach when legislation to cover the issue of cyber bullying would be brought forward. This is a very serious issue for many people, particularly young people and I was part of a group last year that wrote a report on the matter for the Oireachtas. I was glad to hear the Taoiseach say that the issue is being treated with seriousness by Government.
On Wednesday I was delighted to welcome students from Colaiste Iosaef, Kilmallock and Scoil Mhuire agus Ide, Newcastle West to the Dáil with their teachers. It’s part of the job I really enjoy, engaging with young people on the role of the Dáil and the work of politicians. Both schools were very engaged and certainly acted as great ambassadors for Limerick on the day.
Later I hosted a meeting of Irish Farmers on Designated Lands with Fine Gael colleagues. These are landowners with specific issues relating to the designation of habitats for the Hen Harrier. We had a very good meeting and Minister Heather Humphreys dropped in during the meeting and has agreed to further discussions with the group. The Fine Gael Education Committee met with the Irish Primary Principals Network. I asked them their views on issues that I have been raising since becoming a TD including the whole school evaluation process and the probation of teachers.
Also on Wednesday evening I spoke on the budget and in particular the changes in Social Welfare. I welcomed the fact that Government has committed to further engagement with the social partners on the issues of social exclusion in the future, but I emphasised the point that only with continued economic growth and job creation could the State make the investments that we all want to see. I welcomed the partial restoration of the Christmas Bonus, the increase in the Living Alone Allowance and the increase in Child Benefit during my speech. Earlier we had discussed some of the changes with Minister of State Kevin Humphries in the FG Social Protection Committee.
Thursday evening I was delighted to attend the first Limerick Garda Youth Awards. Of all of the events that I attend, this was one of the most positive and great credit must go to the Limerick Division of An Garda Siochana together with Garvey’s Super Valu Centra on a great night. On Friday Minister of State Simon Harris visited the constituency. I arranged for him to visit Newcastle West Garda Station to see the need for works to be carried out there and Foynes where he met with the Shannon Foynes Port Company, OPW and Limerick County Council on the progress being made in relation to a flood defense for the town. These are projects I have been pursuing for some time and I was delighted to get Simon’s commitment and interest on them.
Later on Friday evening I attended the South Quay Table Quiz in Newcastle West with Michael Finucane, Paddy Riedy and my brother Stephen. After a few wobbles on the night we won out on the night, a good way to start the weekend. Saturday I gave a hand with the Chernobyl Children’s Collection in Newcastle West. It’s a great cause and Margaret Martin from Newcastle West organised it to the last detail.
23rd November 2014
This week in Leinster House I attended a briefing on COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. My Dad John passed away from COPD in 2013 so this briefing meant more to me than normal. It’s not a disease that many people know about so any support I can give to raising awareness is something I will hopefully be able to continue to do.
This week the Dáil debated the Government’s changes to the introduction of water charges. I spoke in the Dáil on the issue and gave the examples of people from across Limerick who pay for water as commercial customers of the Local Authorities, those on rural group water schemes who have for decades paid for water, and those with private wells who make substantial investments in drilling, pump maintenance and treatment systems without any supports from the State. This week rural users were acknowledged by Government with the decision to have financial supports made available to all domestic users. I welcomed this on the floor of the Dáil, because for too long it has been the case that they have had to provide water for themselves. I also believe that the reduced rate of water will make it far more affordable for people in general and when I spoke to the local radio station, Limerick’s Live 95FM during the week.
In the Oireachtas Communications Committee we discussed the issue of Eircode, the new post code system. I raised the issue of the EU Commissions response to the tendering process that was followed and asked if the procedures in the tender meant that some Irish companies were disadvantaged. I also asked if the issue of maintaining the division of Dublin on the existing numbered system was to continue. In relation to Limerick I gave examples of places in Limerick where the postal addresses are given as Kerry, Cork and Tipperary because of county boundaries. In their reply the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources answered all of the issues I raised and said that the introduction of codes would bring Ireland into line with other EU countries.
Rural broadband continues to feature on our work program and this week Eircom met the members of the Oireachtas. I gave examples of places in Limerick of where the issue of broadband is causing major problems and in particular hampering job creation. We have to continue to press for improved access to broadband as it is fast becoming a very basic need for people across the country.
In the constituency I presented certificates to former Andersen workers who had qualified in Education Training Board courses in Rathkeale. Great credit must go to all the participants and I used the opportunity to tell them of the progress that has been made in getting the plant protected for the local community. Saturday I went to the Newcastle West v Dundalk Rugby Match. Unfortunately our local lads didn’t come out on top. Later I was back in Rathkeale for the naming of the Christopher Lynch Bridge in the town, an initiative by the local arts committee. On Sunday I attended the official opening by Bishop Brendan Leahy of the Castletown Cemetery. I was glad to have been able to help the local committee in their work. They have done a fantastic job and credit must go to them on their voluntary commitment. Later on Sunday I watched Kilmallock lift the Munster Senior Club Championship. Hopefully they’ll go the whole way and bring the All Ireland back to Limerick! Well done to them. Congratulations also to Glin after winning their Munster Semi Final. Looking forward to the final in Mallow on December 7th.
16th November 2014
This week the Dáil debated the harrowing events which have brought Mairia Cahill to prominence in the recent months. Her bravery in confronting certain individuals to account for their actions and the actions of their associates is something which all of us can admire. Her stance and bravery was in stark contrast to the events in the Dáil less than twenty four hours later. A cynical stunt designed to take the plight of Mairia off of the front pages, which has been seen for what it is.
In the Oireachtas this week the Transport Committee engaged with the Chairperson Designate of the Road Safety Authority, Liz O’Donnell. I raised a number of issues with her as she takes on her new role. I said that the three elements of maintaining safe roads are enforcement, education and engineering. In my view the RSA are doing a very good job together with the Gardaí and the Speed Vans on the area of enforcement and education, but I challenged Liz O’Donnell to look at the conditions of our roads and to challenge the National Roads Authority and the Local Authorities to examine the state of our road network, particularly those stretches of roads that have claimed a number of lives over many years. I asked Liz O’Donnell to challenge the Local Authorities to address these roads and to begin to put plans in place with the support of the Department of Transport and the NRA. I stressed that she should challenge the Government and the Oireachtas to do more on this issue.
In the Dáil I questioned the Minister for Agriculture on the impact that the ban on certain EU products to Russia was having on Irish producers. I asked for supports from the Department and An Bord Bia for those sectors that have been particularly badly hot because of their dependence on Russia. I understand that cheese is one of the products that were particularly affected. I also welcomed the Minister’s success on his recent trade mission to China. He told me that during his visit it was shown to him that infant formula from West Limerick was the top brand in China, a fantastic vote of confidence for a company in the constituency and its workers.
I also raised the issue of the condition of Newcastle West Garda Station in the Dáil with Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald. I told the Dáil that the Newcastle West Garda District is now bigger than Co. Monaghan with a headquarters that was designed in the 1970’s for a different purpose. I told her of the difficulties that Gardaí, civilian staff and the public have when they come to the Station. I said that there needed to be a clearer way of selecting stations for works to be carried out and asked that she might consider using the school building unit as a model to change to. She told me that the Minister for the Office of Public Works and herself would examine the suggestions I made on how works in Garda stations are selected and she also agreed that on her next visit to Limerick that she would visit Newcastle West Garda Station to see at forts hand the problems.
In the Communications Committee we continued to discuss the difficulties in accessing rural broadband. Later in the week I met some of the broadband operators in my office in the Dáil to give examples of places in Limerick of where the service needs to be improved particularly towns and villages with employment centres or locations where jobs can be created. They accepted my concerns and I was given an update on the progress that is being made on rolling out high speed broadband to rural areas. There is no doubt that this is going to be a problem for a number of years because of the legacy that we have been left with, however it is also something we have to get on with to try to fix.
Later on Friday back in the constituency I headed to Athea to meet with landowners whose lands are designated for the protection of the habitat of the Hen Harrier. I told them what I had been doing in relation to this and that I have a meeting in the coming week with the Minister for Agriculture on the issue which I will keep the landowners updated on.
9th November 2014
I wasn’t in Lenister House this week, I spent the week at home following the birth of our first child, John last Saturday, 1st November. We are absolutely thrilled with the arrival of our new little man and Eileen and I thank everyone who has wished us well on the arrival of John.
26th October 2014
Last Sunday I travelled with a group of TDs and Senators who are members of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly to the UK for our yearly meeting in Britain. However this year’s session was very different because we were commemorating the tens of thousands of Irish men who lost their lives in the First World War. After arriving on the Sunday evening we held our committee meetings in Ashford, Kent before we headed off to Belgium on Monday morning for a packed schedule of engagements. Our trip took us to places which are synonymous with the Irish who fell in the war, and while we had all been aware of the numbers of people who died in the conflict, nothing prepares a person for the number of headstones that make up the countless number of cemeteries that dot the Belgian and French landscapes. For all of us present, representatives of all political parties in these islands, we knew that what we doing by being there had never happened before, and was a sign of the changed relationship that exists between us all. None of us were in any way trying to explain the reasons as to why so many joined up, nor were we there to take sides, we were simply there to remember them and as parliamentarians to recognise them and their place in history as Irish men, something which for many years couldn’t and wasn’t done. I think we all agreed that we had been part of something very special during those few days, something which in the scale of things might have gone unnoticed, but an event all the same which years earlier would have been inconceivable. In many ways the fact that our commemoration past without the controversy which would undoubtedly have been there several years ago, is a sign the our new place as neighbours north and south, east and west, is something which we have a duty to cherish and protect, because it is from those new relationships that we will be able to build a more stable future together on these islands and create the opportunities that those thousands of young men could never enjoy. May they rest in peace.
Back in the Dáil the Transport and Communications Committee held hearings on inland fisheries and the harbours and ports legislation. I also held discussions with representatives of business groups who have concerns in relation to the upcoming Valuation Bill. In the constituency I was delighted to be at a meeting between the Council and the Rathkeale Community Council on the taking over of the old Andersen Ireland Plant. I had been involved with Stephen Keary and the local community to get the plant protected for the creation of employment and when the news was formally announced during the week, it was warmly welcomed by everyone in Rathkeale.
On Friday the Arthur Griffith branch of Fine Gael in West Limerick held a table quiz in Croagh. There was a great atmosphere and a really enjoyable evening was held by all. Part of the proceeds from the event will go to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. Our friend and colleague Mary Harty had passed away from the disease earlier this year and this was our way of making a small contribution in memory of someone who made such a big impact on the lives of so many.
19th October 2014
Dáil business was dominated this week by the 2015 Budget. This was the first budget since I because a TD where no new taxes, charges or cuts were imposed. It was also the first where the Government were in a position to give something back to people in the form of: an increase in child benefit, the partial reintroduction of the Christmas Bonus, an increase in the household benefit to assist with water bills, a tax credit for working families for water, a cut to the income tax rate, a reduction in USC taking more people out of the tax net, retention of the reduced VAT rate for tourism, no tax increases on fuel, alcohol, motor tax or VRT and several tax incentives and credits aimed at the creation of jobs with special emphasis on the agricultural sector. On the expenditure side the Government was able to announce €2.2billion for house construction, 200 new Gardaí, 400 new Garda cars, over 1000 new teachers, increases in spending for school buildings, Garda Stations and tourism promotion, an extra €300million for Health, and the expansion of farm schemes and supports to the agricultural sector. I spoke on the Budget on Wednesday and I welcomed the aspects of the Budget that will impact positively in Co. Limerick.
Later in the Dáil I spoke on Seanad Reform. I said that the current situation of where I have two votes because I am a graduate of a university and a public representative and most people have none was not democratic and said it needed to be changed. I also said that some reforms could be introduced without further referenda including having the day of the Seanad election on the same day as the Dáil, there’s removing the suggestion that the Seanad is used as a stepping stone to election to the Dáil.
In the Oireachtas Communications Committee RTE attended to explain their decision to end the long wave service. I was very critical of the decision because of the impact that it will have particularly on the Irish community in Britain and I said that I intended to raise the issue at the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly next week. I also said that RTE had acknowledged that their decision to close their London office was a mistake when they had announced that they were reopening the office in the coming weeks.
Back in the constituency I visited a number of schools which I hope will be able to benefit from the increased spending in school building this year. I also attended the Rathkeale Historical Society Lecture on The Famine in Friday evening where the impact on The Famine in West Limerick was discussed. Later in the weekend I got ready to attend the British Irish Assembly, which I will report on next week.
12th October 2014
The week started with great news for Newcastle West with the creation of 35 new jobs in Filtertek, a company which have been in the town since 1982. This is a very positive announcement as it gives a very strong vote of confidence in the town and the workforce and management in Filtertek. Later in the week news was confirmed that the European Commission had approved the establishment of the EGF fund in Rathkeale to assist the workers of the Andersen Ireland facility. I have been involved with a local committee in Rathkeale to secure the ownership of the plant for the creation of jobs in the town and this is also progressing well.
On Monday I met with Co. Limerick publicans in relation to their “Support your local campaign.” I have been raising the issues which confront rural publicans in the Dáil and they raised a number of matters which they are concerned about. Later that evening we had our constituency AGM where Fine Gael members got a chance to be updated on the work that I am doing as their local TD. It was certainly a a very good meeting and the members were very engaged.
In the Dáil I spoke on Tuesday evening on an agricultural and rural motion. I spoke about the impact of agriculture on the Co. Limerick economy and the need for it to be further developed. I rejected opposition claims on the work that the Government are doing for rural communities and I highlighted a number of initiatives being taken by the Minister for Agriculture since taking office.
On Wednesday the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee discussed the difficulties being faced in getting good quality broadband in rural areas. I gave examples of a number of areas in Co. Limerick which cannot get a good service and I contrasted the situation in Ireland with that of Finland. I spoke on the population densities and the geographical difficulties being faced in Finland, and I asked the Department of Communications and the Regulator why we cannot have a comparable service. We were told that Government and the Agencies are working to try to get the best service to rural communities and the recent announcement from the Department will certainly help. I have no doubt that this issue will continue to be raised in the Committee in the months ahead.
In the Dáil I also raised the issue of the due harbours legislation with the Taoiseach. I told the Dáil that the current system is out of date and is hampering development in our ports. I gave the example of Foynes in Limerick and the potential of the port to help as an area to create jobs. The Taoiseach in his reply said that the legislation was being advanced by the Department.
Later on Wednesday afternoon I was delighted to welcome the Arra Friends Active Retired Group from Newcastle West. The group enjoyed their trip and saw both the Dáil and Seanad at work and had a chance to meet with other members of the Oireachtas during their tour.
Back in the constituency we attended the Askeaton Ballysteen Community Council quiz on Friday night. We really enjoyed the evening and were lucky to win the quiz. On Saturday evening we were delighted to join with Mary Jackman and her friends and family in Monaleen to mark her retirement from politics. Mary has devoted herself to her community over many years and I wish her well for the future.
5th October 2014
Speaking in the Dáil I raised with the Taoiseach the importance to Co. Limerick of getting the Roads Bill into committee. This is a bill which sees the amalgamation of the National Roads Authority with the Rail Procurement Agency and will allow for pre-planning discussions to take place for new road projects. I told the Dáil that this legislation was hugely important to the Adare bypass because without being able to engage in pre-planning meetings the NRA will continue to be in the dark when it comes to selecting a route for the Adare bypass. The Taoiseach agreed with me and told me that the Bill was due back in committee shortly.
Also on Transport issues, I met the Taxi Advisory Committee of the National Transport Authority in relation to the knowledge test in rural areas. I pointed out that the current system made passing a test in a rural county was virtually impossible and I asked them to consider a different model of knowledge test that wouldn’t be based on counties, but on areas where the driver was likely to get most of its work. The committee have committed to considering the issue, which I have been consistently raising since I joined the Transport Committee.
This week Leinster House was visited by several groups anxious to have their say in advance of the upcoming budget. The CSO figures which were published showed that the Recovery is beginning to take hold and this was very much on the minds of the groups who made presentations to us. The briefings I attended included ones on agriculture, education and road haulage.
Back in Limerick I held meetings with the management of Limerick City and County Council on a number of infrastructural issues in County Limerick. Later on in the week I headed to Roscommon for the by-election campaign. We’ve an excellent candidate in Maura Hopkins and the reception in South Roscommon was certainly very positive. The voters we met were certainly engaged and are focused on the big issues including jobs and the recovery. I’ve no doubt based on the reaction we got that Maura has a very bright future in Roscommon politics.
28th September 2014
This week the Dáil debated a number of pieces of legislation including a Health Bill and a Sports Bill. I spoke on both and used the opportunities to highlight some issues in both areas that I have been raising for some time. In the Health Bill, as the bill deals with the registration of certain professionals, I raised the issue of orthodontic therapists and how they can be used to shorten the waiting lists for children waiting to have orthodontic care. I highlighted a Health Committee report from the last Dáil, which stated that the country should move to using therapists in line with what is done in other EU member states, especially the UK. I gave the example of a Limerick orthodontic surgeon, who has for years being advocating a change in the system, which would result in shorter waiting times and would not necessarily require any additional investment by the State.
When speaking on the Sports Bill, I used the opportunity to highlight the importance of the Sports Capital Program and the investment of almost €3million which Minister Michael Ring has made in Co. Limerick sports facilities under the program since becoming Minister. I told the Dáil that this investment was a job creating measure and a capital stimulus, and while some clubs in the County had lost out, that there has been a good geographic spread of money and this has made a massive difference in parishes across Limerick. I also spoke on the need to support individual sports, and using some personal experience, I said that being able to play team sports would not be for everyone. I gave examples of disability, of the lack of social skills or medical problems as examples of why some people might feel excluded, but I spoke of my own experience of having exercised-induced Asthma as something which could prevent some young people from feeling that there is a place for them on a team and as a result leaves them feeling left out.
In the Transport Committee we had pre-legislative hearings on the Ports Bill, which is a new method of discussing bills before they come to the Dáil. A number of presentations were made to the Committee, and one in particular drew some attention from me. Galway Port spoke of their plans to develop their facility and I questioned them and their plans and drew comparisons with the Shannon Foynes Port and the facilities that are available there. Afterwards I again called for clarity from Government that there would be no change in the ports policy and that Shannon Foynes would be the only Tier 1 Port on the west coast.
Thursday I went to the National Ploughing Championships in Co. Laois. Credit must go to the organisers of a fantastic even, and there was a very positive atmosphere at the Fine Gael tent where the tea flowed all day. It was great to meet so many Limerick people there, and the importance of Irish Agriculture to our recovering economy was plain to be seen. In the constituency I called to a number of primary schools in the county where I chatted with principals and teachers on their hopes and concerns for the year ahead. The conversations were very valuable and gave me a number of issues which I hope to raise with the Minister for Education in the coming weeks.
21st September 2014
This week the Dáil reconvened. I had used the summer to travel through the constituency meeting people in their own homes and at the many festivals and community events that took place across Limerick. It was certainly a great summer, and now the political season has started again and as we headed back to the Dáil this week we got the good news that the former Andersen Ireland Plant in Rathkeale has been secured for the community in Rathkeale. I was part of a group that worked with Cllr Stephen Keary, Brian McEnery and the State agencies and others to secure the site. When we heard that our efforts had succeeded we were absolutely delighted.
The good news continued during the week when we learned that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had restructured our debt arrangements saving us in the region of €2billion. The positive news on the economy continued with the results from the Central Statistics Office showing that the country is experiencing good levels of growth which will have a major impact on communities across the country.
In Dublin I met the IFA on their pre-budget submission. Farming continues to play a huge role in the Limerick economy and I was anxious to listen to the farmers and talk to them on the challenges that family farms are facing. Later in the week I met with the Irish Medical Organisation and graduate entry medical students on how improvements can be made in the health area.
I also had a very positive meeting with the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe and representatives of groups that restore vintage vehicles for personal use. The Minister was very interested to understand the difficulties faced by those who restore the vehicles and committed to taking their concerns on board. On Friday morning I was delighted to meet the Mayor of Boston on his visit to Ireland. He is making a visit to the home place of his parents and he is clearly a very strong voice for Irish America. His presence in Shannon was a great boost for an airport which has been transformed by the actions of this Government and is a fantastic asset for the Mid-West Region.
Later on Friday evening I attended the opening of the new Castlemahon Community Centre. It’s a fantastic facility which was provided after months of voluntary work. I was delighted to help the committee in their work both in the planning stage and in helping to draw down the funds from the Department of the Environment for West Limerick Resources. I wish the community well in Castlemahon and hope that this will be a very positive place at the heart of the community for many years to come.
20th July 2014
This week the Taoiseach announced his new Ministers of State. I was delighted to see some of my colleagues being promoted and I wish them all the very best of luck in their new roles.
The Oireachtas Committee on Transport held hearings again this week on the Garth Brooks concerts and the impact that it is likely to have on the tourism industry. I think it’s fair to say that there will need to be substantial changes to the policies surrounding applications of this nature to make sure that these sort of issues do not arise again, a phrase which unfortunately we seem to be using quite a lot. The Committee also marked 25 years of clap radio with a special meeting where representatives of our commercial local radio stations attended. These stations have provided a hugely important service for quarter of a a century to listeners across the State and are hugely important for people like myself as local TD’s. I spoke to Joe Nash on Live 95FM earlier in the morning and said how valuable I believe local radio is.
In the Fine Gael internal committees we met with the Vintners Federation of Ireland and Chambers Ireland in relation to the Valuation Bill and the calculation of commercial rates. Simon Harris TD is now the Minister of State in that area and I look forward to seeing him reform this sector in the time ahead.
Thursday morning I went to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to meet my good friend and newly appointed Minister Heather Humphreys TD regarding issues in Limerick. I was thrilled to see someone with a great grasp of rural matters, and community arts initiatives being promoted to that role. Heather has the task of preparing for the 1916 commemorations and I know she will do so in an inclusive and respectful way. I wish her all the best in her time in office.
Monday and Friday I spent meeting people in my offices in Kilmallock and Newcastle West. My clinics are a great way to engage with people and they give me a chance to travel across the county on a weekly basis. Later on Friday evening I went to Abbeyfeale for the Gather by the Feale with Councillor Liam Galvin. The community was out in force to support a local festival which was born out of the Gathering. Well done to all.
The Dáil has now gone into recess for the summer. My office will be open throughout the summer and I will continue to be meeting people to assist with problems. I know that there is a busy schedule of community events across the summer in Limerick and I look forward to attending as many of them as I can. I will be back blogging about “My week in the Dáil” when it resumes later on, until then please give me a call or drop me an email if I can ever help.
13th July 2014
This week in the Dáil was dominated by the much reported cabinet reshuffle, and when it was announced by the Taoiseach on Friday it had within it, one of my best friends in the Dáil, Heather Humphreys. I have no doubt that Heather will be an excellent Minister and I wish her, and all the other Ministers, well in their work.
Earlier in the week the Oireachtas Transport and Tourism Committee agreed on a suggestion I made to invite the Garth Brooks concert promoter, the GAA and the Dublin City Manager into the committee to try to find out exactly what happened that led to all five concerts being cancelled. This was not good news in terms of how Ireland is perceived, and if we have to make recommendations to make sure that this doesn’t happen again then I think that is one of the things that the Committee can do.
Later in the week I met the HSE in relation to projects in the constituency. Our internal Fine Gael committee on Jobs met with IBEC where we discussed some of the priorities that the organisation has in advance of this year’s budget. I also discussed some of the issues that small shops and retailers have with their representative organisation RGDATA. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and in Limerick our small towns and villages are the backbone of the county so every effort must be made to help them nationally and locally.
On Saturday Broadford held their annual horse and pony races in aid of the village’s community crèche. There was a great atmosphere and another great example of a community with a very strong spirit. Sunday saw us head to the Munster Final in Cork. A huge Limerick crowd saw the team a fantastic match and while Limerick were unlucky on the day we have another day to look forward to this summer.
6th July 2014
The week began on Monday with an Oireacthas briefing by the City and Council Manager on work being done in the amalgamation of the Council. Later I met the Rathkeale Community Council to discuss the implementation of the EGF Funding there following the closure of the Andersen Ireland plant. It was a great boost for the town to learn that the EGF office would locate in the town.
On Tuesday morning I met with representatives of local enterprise agencies in relation to vacant properties in Newcastle West. Later that evening the IFA held a very enjoyable function where they showcased the best of Irish Food. The Taoiseach attended and reminded all those present of the importance of Irish agriculture and the food industry to the recovery of the economy.
In the Oireacthas Communications Committee, Pat Rabbitte gave a presentation on the roll out of rural broadband to communities across the country. I asked if the list of locations which had been published was exhaustive and I was glad to be told by the Minister that other locations could be added to the list as towns receive the investment needed to bring their broadband up to a modern standard. This is an important development for communities like those in Limerick who have waited far too long for good broadband. In the Fine Gael Agricultural Committee, Simon Coveney provided an update on the changes to the rural development program and what it will mean for farmers and rural communities. Agriculture continues to be our most important industry in Limerick and I welcome the initiatives and changes that the Minister is bringing forward.
The Shannon Airport Bill went through the Transport Committee on Thursday evening. This Bill gives Shannon Airport its independence and will allow it to be one of the main drivers for the Mid West. The committee spent a lot of time examining aspects of the Bill, but I think that there is agreement in general that this decision by Government is the right thing for Shannon and the region. Earlier that day the FG Justice Committee discussed issues which people have in relation to the control of licensed firearms and agreed to revisit the matter. I spent Friday meeting constituents in the west of the County.
Saturday saw the opening of the Foynes Festival, an event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the first commercial flight to Foynes and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the museum in Foynes. It was a fantastic weekend for the whole area, especially Foynes and great credit is due to Margaret O’Shaughnessy. I was delighted to have been able to help Margaret and was very proud as the TD for the area to have An Taoiseach Enda Kenny together with Ministers Michael Noonan, Leo Varadkar and Jimmy Deenihan in attendance. Their attendance was very warmly received and gave the recognition which the event deserved. Foynes was the first Shannon Airport and the commemoration was an historic occasion which I am sure will be remembered for many years to come.
29th June 2014
This week the Dáil debated difficulties being faced by beef farmers. I used the opportunity to speak on behalf of Limerick farmers, some of whom had been in touch with me in the last few weeks. I told the Dáil that some farmers in Limerick were still trying to cope with debts which they had as a result of the lack of fodder in 2013 when the bad weather was at its worst. I asked that increased levels of marketing be done on behalf of the industry to try to develop new markets as it was clear that an over reliance on the UK market had left difficulties. I also said that farmers did not want false hope and have their problems turned into something of a political football, they wanted strong, unified leadership and I said that the fact that Simon Coveney was in America trying to open new markets was an important event for the Irish beef sector.
In the committees, the Oireachtas Transport Committee met the National Transport Authority. I again raised an issue which I have been working on for some time, the knowledge test for Small Public Service Vehicles. I was delighted to hear that progress is finally being made in relation to this and that the NTA accept that people should be tested on the area they cover rather than the whole county, something I really welcome. In the Fine Gael Finance Committee, Michael Noonan gave us an update on the current situation in the economy and outlined how some of the initiatives he had spearheaded were working well.
Back in the Dáil, the Shannon Airport Bill was debated. This is a bill with big implications for Limerick because the land that is owned by Shannon Development is transferring to a new company, Shannon Group Plc. During my speech on the Bill and later in the week while questioning the Minister for Transport I said that it was very important that the new company used the land bank in the Mid-West to deliver jobs for the area and put strong plans in place to make sure that towns like Askeaton, Rathkeale, Abbeyfeale, Newcastle West and Kilmallock where the land is, would benefit.
Back in the constituency I had a busy schedule of Monday Clinics. The new schedule has certainly been well received. I also met with some residents groups on Friday who wanted to see if problems that they have can be resolved with the help of Limerick City and County Council.
22nd June 2014
The Dáil discussed recent reports into An Garda Siochána this week and I spoke on a bill proposed by the opposition which would see high ranking Gardaí being promoted by a new mechanism. I told the Dáil that I felt that the Bill was premature given that the Minister for Justice had already announced that she will be bringing forward changes to the appointment process and will also establish a Garda Authority. In my speech I said that giving the Dáil a say on appointments which is included in the Bill, was not a good idea because it would result in the process being even more politicised that what is the case at the moment. I also said that I believed that the Bill was motivated more by publicity seeking than any real desire for reform.
I used the opportunity of questions to the Minister for Agriculture to raise the difficulties being faced by Limerick farmers who own land in special areas of conservation. I asked the Minister if he would set up a working group with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht together with representatives of the farming organisations to discuss the difficulties that the farmers have with preserving the habitat of the Hen Harrier. Tom Hayes was taking the questions on the day and he committed to helping to establish such a discussion group. He had visited the parts of Limerick with me that are affected and understood the issues from meeting landowners and talking to representatives in the area.
The Oireachtas Transport Committee met with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to discuss ways in which the country can continue to grow the tourism product. In the Fine Gael Committees we held meetings with Minister Frances Fitzgerald on a wide range of Justice issues and with Simon Coveney on the beef industry. The Union of Students in Ireland held a briefing on their social policy during the week with students from across the State lobbying politicians on changes they’d like to see.
Earlier in the week some of the Oireachtas members from the Mid-West met with the management of the University Hospital in Limerick on the issues faced by the Accident and Emergency Unit there and we got details on the timeframes for improvements there.
Back in the constituency I met with several community groups on Monday and Friday as well as holding my clinics on Monday. I launched a new clinic schedule this week covering more locations and the response has been very positive. On Sunday I attended the annual Kilmeedy Vintage Rally. Great credit is due to the organisers, as with the organisers of all the other summer events which are making good use of the fine weather. We just have to hope the weather continues!
15th June 2014
This week in the Dáil I spoke on the challenges facing the Regional Hospital in Limerick, now renamed the University Hospital. Five Government TD’s from the Mid-West raised the issues that face the A&E unit there and the HIQA report on the unit. The Minister for Health replied to the debate and told us what was happening. He told us that some of the suggestions that were raised including a Tier III hospital for the Mid West would be examined.
In the Oireachtas Transport Committee we met to decide our work plan for the coming months. There are a huge number of groups that want us to examine particular issues in our area so we used this week to review the requests and decide how to order them. In the Fine Gael Committee’s the Minister for Agriculture met us. The big issue was the difficulties facing beef farmers and how they might be able to be helped. Simon Coveney outlined some of things that his department has been doing to try to assist the farmers, with all acknowledging that access to new markets together with the developing of existing ones was critical for Irish Beef.
In the constituency I met with IFA on a number of matters that concern their members across the County. My office continues to be very busy and this week we launched my enhanced clinic schedule for the constituency. It will mean that I will be in more locations on a Monday to meet people, something which I believe is absolutely essential to the role of the TD. Clinics now will be in Abbeyfeale, Newcastle West, Askeaton, Croom, Pallasgreen, Kilmallock and Ballylanders. Anyone wishing to attend can call my office for an appointment.
On Thursday evening I met with community groups in Templeglantine with Councillor Liam Galvin before heading to a meeting of Fine Gael in Newcastle West. The recent local elections and the national issues were the main topics of conversation. On Friday I was delighted to meet with the IDA and discuss potential projects in Limerick that will hopefully lead to badly needed jobs. Later that evening I attended the blessing of a new funeral home in Newcastle West before meeting up with the supporters and friends of Damien Riedy who had worked to try to get Damien elected. It was a great evening and I was delighted to see so many wish him well.
Saturday I helped the Newcastle West Community Council in the annual fundraiser. The Community Council fills a very important role in the Town, providing leadership for the community and acting as an important connection between the Local and State Agencies and the people of the Town. Later that evening, it was time to give a badly ended wash to the front of my constituency office before heading to take up the annual Newcastle West Fine Gael Church Gate Collection.
8th June 2014
The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications met with Minister Pat Rabbitte this week on the issue of energy security. I raised two issues which are important to the Mid-West Region, the proposed LNG plant in Ballylongford and the use of biomass materials for energy recovery. The possibility of having a major facility that can help secure the country’s energy needs based on the Shannon Estuary would be a major boost for the region and I was delighted to be told by Pat Rabbitte that he is personally very committed to the project. When he replied to me he told me that his department intends on developing a new policy on the issue of biomass which is important for landowners across the country who are considering growing energy crops.
In the Dáil I raised the need for schools to have proper protocols in place for extreme weather. I spoke about the way that teachers were left to make their own decision in the height of Storm Darwin. I told Minister Ruairi Quinn that there needs to be clear procedures and greater communications between agencies on issues like this. I said that it was clear that Met Éireann possibly knew that a hurricane was to hit the country 24 hours before it did, and yet no one could make the decision to tell schools not to open that day, and as a result I maintained that children’s lives were put at risk. The Minister told me that he agreed with the current practices were not strong enough and that he would be asking the school managers to take on my suggestion.
The Fine Gael Education Committee had a very good meeting with the Union of Students in Ireland in relation to third level funding. The meeting focused on the challenges that students and their families face and we agreed to meet again to further examine the issues raised.
Back in Limerick the inaugural meeting of the new Limerick City and County Council took place in the University Concert Hall in UL. I was delighted to be there and speaking to the new Councillors it reminded me of the day I took my seat on the Council in October 2003. It’s a huge honour for the men and women who have been elected and I wish them well I their work.
Later in the weekend I went to my school reunion. It’s twenty years since we sat the Leaving Cert in SMI, Newcastle West and it was great to meet up with the class. It’s hard to believe its twenty years, but it was great to catch up, chat and remember the school days.
1st June 2014
The Dáil returned this week after the Local and European Elections. The main topic of conversation around Leinster House was the election results and how different parts of the country had fared. From my time as a Councillor from 2003 to 2011 I got to know many members of local authorities from different parties and I knew many of them who were not successful. There’s no doubt but it’s very difficult for the individual candidate, their families and their supporters when the result goes against you, but I hope that for some, they will continue to work in their communities and consider another day because I know many of them have a huge amount to offer.
The Party welcomed Gabrielle McFadden to the Dáil as its newest member on Wednesday. It was a day of mixed emotions for those of us who were lucky to have known her sister Nicki. The Parliamentary Party turned out in force to welcome our new colleague and one of the many pictures that were taken on the Plinth that morning which I noticed was one of three bye election winners, the Taoiseach, Gabrielle and Helen McEntee.
In the Oireachtas Transport Committee the Minister for Transport came before us. I questioned the Minister on the Ports Policy and if there had been a change in it given the decision of Galway Port to announce plans for expansion. I stated on a number of occasions that Shannon Foynes is the only Tier 1 Port of Strategic National I port ace on the West Coast and that designation was critical for the development of the Port. The Minister confirmed that there had been no change and the status of Foynes was not being in any way changed by the Government. This was a very important message for me and one that has not gone unnoticed in Limerick.
Back in Limerick I visited the new offices of Limerick Early Intervention Services in Newcastle West. They provide vital services for children across West Limerick. It was great to see the team in their new state of the art home. It’s a very welcoming environment for the children, their parents and the staff and reflects the improvements that have been made in the area. Being located next door to the Desmond Complex makes it somewhere that’s easy to find and both places complement each other. Later in the week I visited several houses of constituents. If I was to eat everything that is offered when I call to a house I’m sure I would look somewhat different, but that being said the apple tart in Templeglantine on Friday just proved too tempting!
25th May 2014
This week the Dáil wasn’t sitting because of the Local and European Elections. The campaigning continued all week and I was out and about in Pallaskenry, Foynes, Abbeyfeale, Ballyagran, Kilmallock and Newcastle West. Great credit is due to all our candidates and their teams for the campaigns. I want to congratulate the 40 new members of Limerick City and County Council. They have made their own little bit of history because they are now part of a new Council and their historic first meeting will take place in UL in June. And while there are winners, unfortunately there were people who lost out. Many of them are friends of mine, they worked hard, they did their best for their communities and unfortunately for them and their families they lost out. I want to thank them for all they have done over many years and I wish them well. There’s no doubt about it but there are lessons we need to learn and we have to do better.
On the European Election front in the South, it was a great result for Fine Gael. Simon Harris TD put in a fantastic campaign and was essential to ensuring that Deirdre Clune joined Sean Kelly in the European Parliament. I was delighted also to see Gabrielle McFadden win the bye election in Longford-Westmeath. Her sister Nikki was a good friend who is missed and I’ve no doubt but that Gabrielle will continue her great work there.
Elsewhere the week gave me a chance to meet up with some business people in the area and hear what it is that they’re planning. The new Local Enterprise Office for Limerick was opened by Michael Noonan. It is basically a one stop shop where someone who has a business proposal can go and seek advice and help. It’s also somewhere where existing businesses can also drop in to, where they will be able to speak to people about rates, micro finance and a whole range of other issues.
18th May 2014
The week started on the streets of Limerick with the launch of Limerick’s newest ambassador, an articulated lorry fully decked out to celebrate Limerick, City of Culture 2014. Launched by STL Logistics it will carry the message of Limerick to the UK and the continent. Great credit is due to Newcastle West’s Mike Riordan for his fantastic idea; it will certainly help to promote the county and region.
In the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee, we had a presentation from representatives of mountain rescue. These are extraordinary volunteers that do amazing work and the committee members all agreed that every support should be given to them in their work. Later the Committee engaged with the new Chair of Failte Ireland, Michael Cawley. He certainly is a very impressive person and has great ideas on how the tourism sector will be developed. I wish him well in his role.
In the Dáil I asked again when we would see the new Foreshore Licensing legislation. This has been promised for some time and based on the information that I had received in parliamentary questions; there are severe delays in getting licences. I raised the issue in the Dáil with the Taoiseach and highlighted the number of jobs in ports that could potentially be created under a modernised system. In reply he told me that the legislation is being drafted at present. I will continue to raise it because it is of importance to places like Foynes in my constituency.
Also in the Dáil I spoke on the issue of the Knowledge Test for small public service vehicles. This is a test that drivers of taxis and hackneys must pass. I told Minister of State Alan Kelly that the current system was designed to ensure that people fail and as a result cannot take up licences. While I agree with the need for a test to ensure good quality drivers, I believe people should be tested on the area that they cover, rather than on the whole county.
The Fine Gael Education Committee had a very productive meeting with Ruairí Quinn. I raised the issue of the take up of physics and chemistry at higher level and also the difficulties of foreign students studying in Ireland. There are several benefits to the State from allowing students to have short term stints here in Irish schools. The Minister was very positive and I hope to see some developments there soon.
Hazelwood College from Dromcollogher visited me in the Dáil and later that day the new Minister for Children, Charlie Flanagan visited Rathkeale. He opened the new Rathkeale Youth Space. Great credit is due to the local community, Limerick Youth Services and the volunteers on a fantastic facility in the town.
Canvassing intensified again during the week and I was out and about in Newcastle West, Pallaskenry and Abbeyfeale. The response to our candidates continues to be positive and the work that they have done in the communities is certainly being well received. We’ve only one week left with lots more doors to knock on.
11th May 2014
This week the Dáil debated the Children’s First Bill. It’s a bill which Minister Frances Fitzgerald brought to the Dáil and follows from the Children’s Referendum which she also led. I spoke on the Bill and in my contribution I focused on the issue of neglect. Before I became a TD I worked as a teacher and during my training and teaching I was always very conscious of the issue of neglect. But for me neglect should be defined as more than that which we normally would regard as neglect and should also include the issue of children been taking out of school for long periods of time. When I spoke in the Dáil I highlighted the issue of children being enrolled in schools for preparation for the Sacraments, which I also said was a huge part of the life of the child and their family, and then in some very limited cases disappearing from the school. I told the Dáil that for me this is a form of neglect and teachers and school managers needed help and direction from the State to tackle this in the interests of children. I also paid tribute to the work that former Minister Alan Shatter had done in the area of child protection and I wished him well.
In the Transport Committee Bus Éireann attended. The topic for discussion was the tendering for the school transport scheme. I questioned the Bus Éireann representatives on the savings which they identified. They told me that they would have to get back to me with further details. Europe week was also marked in the Committee with a presentation from the European Commission.
Two groups visited me in the Dáil to make presentations. The first presentation was from Elber Toomey and was a particularly moving one as it focused on the need for Garda training to deal with drivers who have suicidal thoughts. It was inspirational to listen Elber devote herself to the need to ensure that no family would have to experience what she did on her way home from a family holiday in the South West of England. I hope that the help that I, and other TDs can give will help. The second group came from Laurel Hill in Limerick. The students asked a number of questions about Ireland’s overseas aid budget and as I had done some research with the Oireachtas I provided them with some information which I hope was useful.
In the constituency the Manor Fields Playground opened in Adare. It’s a fantastic facility and great credit was due to the community. On the canvass locally I was in Pallasgreen, Castlemahon, Knockaderry, Clouncagh and Pallaskenry. Our candidates are getting a positive response and there’s no doubt but that their work in the community is well received.
The week finished on a high for us in Newcastle West. The Darkness into Light event for Pieta House started in the Demesne and attracted a massive crowd. I have to say that it was an event which left me with a huge positive feeling and brought people from all backgrounds together for a common purpose, to raise money and awareness of the services that are there for people with mental health difficulties. It was brilliantly organised, with a huge number of volunteers and a great example of what makes Newcastle West the place I love to call home!
4th May 2014
My week started with the launch of Simon Harris’ campaign for the European Parliament in Arklow. Simon’s campaign was launched by the Taoiseach, who said that he knew that Simon would make an excellent member of the European Parliament. Monday I held meetings with officials of Limerick County Council and constituents looking at projects which would create badly needed jobs in the area.
On Tuesday I joined some of my Fine Gael colleagues on a visit to the Curragh in Kildare where we looked at the impact of the horse racing industry. The day was organised by Martin Heydon TD and I was delighted to meet some Co. Limerick breeders on our visit to the National Stud. The Dáil sat on Wednesday and at the Oireachtas Communications Committee we had a presentation from CRAOL, the representative organisation of community radio. The community radio sector has a very strong presence in Co. Limerick and I am very anxious to ensure that their voices are heard in the upcoming broadcasting legislation.
On Thursday Simon Coveney visited the constituency. He got a very good flavour of the agri food and associated industries in the county visiting butchers, engineering works, launching a food festival and visiting agri businesses in Kilmallock, Adare, Rathkeale and Newcastle West. The rest of Thursday and Friday were spent meeting constituents in my offices in Kilmallock and Newcastle West and canvassing for the local elections.
On Friday evening I was delighted to welcome the Cycle Against Suicide to Newcastle West. Great credit must go to the national organisers of the event and our local WestFest committee for organising the accommodation and welcome. I was happy to put up three of the cyclists and listen to their exploits cycling for a great cause. On Saturday morning we said goodbye to our cyclists and took part in the CRY walk in Monagea in memory of two extraordinary local young people who died from sudden adult death syndrome. Saturday afternoon I joined Sea Kelly MEP on his campaign trail along the Shannon Estuary and was happy to help him canvass in Foynes and Askeaton. Sean has been an excellent representative for Co Limerick in the European Parliament and certainly deserves to be re-elected on the 23rd of May.
27th April 2014
The Dáil wasn’t sitting this week so it gave me a chance to join the canvass for some of our local candidates in the county. I spent the Bank Holiday Monday in Kilmallock with Sean Kelly. The mart and food fair were buzzing and the importance of the European Union and its impact on food producers was very evident. On the local election front I was canvassing in Newcastle West, Kilmallock, Castletown, Ballyagran, Doon, Abbeyfeale, Mountcollins and Shanagolden. On the party front I attended the AGM in Bruff where again local issues were the topic of conversation.
On Tuesday I attended the last meeting of Limerick County Council. I spent eight years in the Council and know at first hand the commitment of the elected members and the staff of the Council for the people of Co. Limerick. It was a day of mixed emotions for those in attendance as the last meeting drew to an end over a century of Limerick County Council and it was also an opportunity to meet up with former members of the County Council and chat. Later that evening I was the guest of the Knockfierna Historical Society in the Rambling House on Knockfierna. The theme of the night was remembering 1916 and I focused my contribution on the importance of reconciliation and understanding, something which I have learned through my membership of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
Friday I was back in Bruff for a coffee morning organised by Suaimhneas, a group organised through the VEC, who fundraised for Milford Hospice. The venue was the old Courthouse in Bruff, an important community resource which last summer was the focus of the visit of Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the former US President, a visit I was delighted to work with the office of An Taoiseach to organise, in recognition of the connection of Co. Limerick to one of America’s most famous families.
Sunday I headed to Arklow for the launch of Simon Harris’s European campaign by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Simon is an excellent candidate and I believe that he would make a fantastic MEP and would be work well with our sitting MEP Sean Kelly who I sincerely hope is re-elected to represent the new Ireland South with its ten counties.
20th April 2014
This week began on a high for Limerick. The announcement by Ethicon of their decision to base their new plant in Limerick with the creation of hundreds of new jobs in the health sector together with the construction jobs which will be created in Limerick is fantastic news for the region and was delivered by Ministers Richard Bruton and Michael Noonan. Earlier that morning Michael Noonan officially opened the new Library and Arts Centre in Cappamore. This is a project which I had a huge interest on from the time that it was originally suggested and receiving news from the Department of Environment that it was to receive the necessary funding to develop it was a great boost for the area. Later on Monday evening I attended a rally organised by Ballyhoura Development in Cappamore. It was very well attended and beneficial for people who had questions to answer on the future of local government.
In the Dáil the Taoiseach told me that the legislation to give Shannon Airport full independence and the transfer of lands from Shannon Development was approved by the Cabinet. This was more good news for our region because Shannon will be a key driver for economic development for all of the counties in the Mid-West. Also during the week I held a meeting with a group who are promoting the idea of overseas companies increasing their presence in Ireland and the opportunities for Irish people.
I hosted a group from West Limerick Independent Living in the Dáil during the week. They really enjoyed the tour of Leinster House and were delighted to meet some other people from Limerick and went home with great stories from their day.
In the committees the Oireachtas Committee on Transport met with An Garda Siochana in relation to the fixed penalties for drivers. I asked specifically about the issue of people using the defense of not receiving a summons when they are taken to court. It appears from the answer I received that there was a loophole there which has since been closed out. I also asked if Garda statistics are used to ensure that local authorities are able to plan their road works and again was assured that this is being done.
The Fine Gael Committee on Finance discussed the future of the Credit Union movement, an institution rooted in every community in Ireland and one with a very important future to ensure lending and credit continues to be available to individuals and families in our communities.
In the Dáil I spoke on the introduction of the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill. This is an important piece of legislation which Richard Bruton is bringing in to try to eliminate some practices which have impacted very badly on grocers, business people and consumers alike. I also spoke on the Private Members motion on the ambulance service. It was hard to listen to criticism of the ambulance service from those who had so many opportunities to improve things and didn’t.
Back in the constituency the Newcastle West branch of Fine Gael held a meeting to discuss local and national issues. It’s important that the local organisation feed back to Oireachtas members on what’s happening locally. I went canvassing with some of our council candidates, the beautiful weather certainly helped to get the ground covered. I went to Pallasgreen on Good Friday to Passion 2014. There was universal agreement from the people I met there, some of the thousands that visited Nicker over the weekend that the cast of the Passion were absolutely fantastic and brought the Crucifixion to life locally. Saturday evening I was among those who attended the Holy Saturday vigil in St John’s Cathedral, a ceremony which was televised in association with Limerick City of Culture 2014. On Sunday I attended Easter Commemorations in Bruff and Newcastle West, I believe it’s very important that we remember those who went before us and gave their lives for their country. A quick check of the weather for the week ahead and it looks like that the fine spell is due to continue, which is good because there will be a lot of canvassing done.
13th April 2014
This week began with the usual busy schedule of clinics on Monday in Abbeyfeale, Pallasgreen, Kilmallock and Newcastle West. Later that evening I attended the FG branch AGM in Athea. The progress that the Government has been making and the upcoming local elections were the main items up for discussion.
In Leinster House the FG internal committees on Environment and Transport were busy with discussions on Irish Water and the priorities for the rest of the year in Transport were discussed with Leo Varadkar. The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications had a presentation from SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) and I asked a number of questions in relation to the standards of work being done by insulating contractors, difficulties that some people have reported to me in getting their houses insulated.
Representatives of Youth Work Ireland were in Dublin this week and I met with the Limerick representatives who travelled up for the event. The work that they do across Co. Limerick is something that I have seen at first hand over many years, and I am committed to helping them continue it. Representatives of IBEC also dropped in to see me to give a presentation on the challenges that they face in the Mid-West together with the opportunities in the region. They saw the Government’s commitment to Foynes and Shannon as hugely important.
Back in the constituency the Eigse Michael Hartnett opened in Newcastle West on Thursday evening. This has been one of the main events on the arts calendar in Co. Limerick for a number of years. I was delighted to be able to attend several of the events over the course of the weekend. Friday morning I attended a show case of the Red Door enterprise units, a fabulous facility in the centre of Newcastle West which is also home to many arts exhibitions and other community events including one on Friday evening. Later on Friday I went to the FG AGM’s in Doon and Kilmallock. Both meetings were well attended and discussions had a mix of national and local issues.
Saturday I headed out on the doors to canvass for the Local Elections. It was a beautiful day to be out an about, and the positive warm reaction to the work that I am doing with the local Councillors in Limerick was remarked in several houses.
6th April 2014
This week I attended the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Dublin. It’s a forum for members of the Oireachtas the UK Parliament and the devolved assemblies. The theme of the Assembly was enhanced cooperation between the two islands that will help create opportunities for jobs to be created. The gathering was addressed by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny who stressed the importance of the positive relationship between Britain and Ireland. The committee of the Assembly which I am a member of reported on the work that we have been doing which is looking at the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We also had presentations from a number of business leaders including Michael O’Leary of Ryanair who gave details of how the decision to remove the travel tax will help the tourist industry. This is particularly welcome in Shannon Airport where extra routes were also announced by Aer Lingus.
In the Dáil I questioned Minister of State Alex White on plans to introduce standards for the care of elderly and vulnerable adults in their own homes. The Dáil also debated the issue of housing and in particular the shortages of social and affordable houses, I spoke on the need to look at different ways of delivering houses and suggested that local authorities be allowed to engage with the Credit Union movement on the construction of homes. I also raised the need for the Government to invest in repairs to houses for elderly and disabled people who are waiting for works to be done. I headed out to RTE for the Late Debate on Tuesday night and I spoke on the opposition private members motion which was voted on Wednesday night.
The Oireachtas Transport Committee met with representatives of the haulage industry. The difficulties that they have with changes being brought in by the UK Government, and in particular the impact that the changes are having on cross border trade was debated. These changes were discussed by representatives of both Governments at a recent summit in London and further discussions are continuing. The Petitions Committee heard a submission from those advocating a different form of budget preparation from that which we have had for years, and made some very interesting suggestions.
I had a number of meetings in the City Hall on Friday morning; it’s certainly a big change going into the City centre with constituents. Minister Joan Burton came to Newcastle West on Friday to open the revamped Intreo office in the town. I spent the rest of the day canvassing for the local elections. Saturday I had some groups and individuals to meet in the morning in Abbeyfeale before I headed to Limerick for the launch of Sean Kelly’s Euro Campaign by An Taoiseach. There was a great atmosphere at the launch of Sean’s campaign where the Taoiseach spoke of the importance of Ireland’s place in Europe. After that I headed to Thomond Park to see Munster triumph over Toulouse.
30th March 2014
This week we said goodbye to someone who was universally liked in Leinster House and who will be hugely missed. Nicky McFadden was one of our TDs for Longford Westmeath having previously served in Seanad Éireann and Westmeath County Council. Nicky inspired many of us by the way which she bore her illness with her unique positivity and unfailing style and good humour. Her determination to continue to represent the people of her native place was something which people from all parties remarked on when they heard that she had passed away. She was certainly someone who I was honoured to have known and privilegesomeone able to call a friend. Her passing, in many ways, gives us a perspective on the things that matter. Her likes won’t be seen again. May she rest in peace.
This week the Oireactas Communications Committee met with representatives of RTE. I focussed on the need for the organisation to continue to drive down costs and to ensure that the public saw a real commitment to the principles of public service broadcasting. On a lighter note I encouraged the RTE representatives to put a greater amount of effort into the Christmas schedule and maybe lay back on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! I also asked that they might move Oireachtas Report from the “insomniacs hour” to a time when people would actually watch it and challenged them to look to the service of UPC and what they do in terms of broadcasting the work of the Dáil.
In the constituency I visited schools in East Limerick on Monday where principals and boards of management showed me the needs that their schools have. I will be raising their individual needs with the Department of Education in Dublin. I attended the Castletown Ballyagran and Abbeyfeale Fine Gael AGM’s on Monday evening after meeting with the State Agencies in Limerick to discuss ways in which they can support job creation in County Limerick.
On Friday Simon Harris paid a vist to Limerick as part of his European campaign. Simon has a huge interest in the need to improve services for the disabled and elderly. We visited locations in Patrickswell, Croagh, Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Dromcollogher. He gave real examples of how the European Parliament can impact on the lives of people on a daily basis. Later that night we launched the campaign of our council candidates in Limerick. We really are very lucky with the type of people who have put themselves forward to represent their communities. Saturday I spent out on the doors engaging with people on the canvass, plenty of queries were collected which I’m sure will help keep Michael, Amanda and myself busy for another few days!
23rd March 2014
The week started in Knockaderry where I attended their production of “Moonshine” in aid of the Carrigkerry/Old Mill Development Association, a very busy undertaker was threading the boards! The Dáil was in recess for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. It is a week where political and business doors are opened across the world for our Taoiseach and Ministers and is an opportunity for people to tell the story of how Ireland is dealing with the economic problems here.
At home I spent St. Patrick’s Day at home. Mass was as Gaelige in the parish church in Newcastle West with the four local primary schools providing fantastic music. It was great to see some of more former students who have progressed on. I went to the parades in Rathkeale, Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale and a great voluntary and community effort was there to be seen. I listened the following day to a radio programme in a neighbouring county saying that because of the abolition of town council that there wouldn’t be anymore parades because the Council organise them. It’s interesting that in all the towns and villages in Co. Limerick there are no town council’s just plenty of volunteerism and support from local businesses so maybe some other Munster towns could learn from the Limerick leaders!
The Minister for Education announced the first round of the summer works schemes. Ten schools in the constituency have benefited and hopefully more will get through in further rounds. This is important for local contractors in communities across Limerick.
Phil Hogan provided €90,000 to Co. Limerick for public area enhancement, which means that communities will be given a boost before the tourist season, and hopefully the fine summer, arrives!
The rest of the week was a mixture of meeting people in my offices and in communities across the county and canvassing for some of our local election candidates.
16th March 2014
The week began with meetings of community groups who wanted to discuss issues with officials of Limerick County Council after the recent storm. The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney made a visit to Newcastle West on Monday and called to see the state of the art facility at the Ballygowan plant in the town.
I met with doctors from across the Mid West on Monday evening where we discussed concerns that they have in relation to the new GP contract. The meeting was well attended and a it was a very constructive session
The Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee this week met with representatives of the groups who restore vintage truck and lorries and heard how regulations effect the restoration of these vehicles from a bygone age. We also had a very good meeting with An Post management in relation to the future of the post office network. This came after a similar meeting that we had with the Postmasters Union and also after the issue was debated in a Private Members Motion in the Dáil the week before.
Representatives of NGO’s operating in developing countries came to Leinster House to give me a presentation on the work that they do in some of the worlds poorest regions. I went to the launch of 65 Roses the national fundraising drive for the Cystic Fibrosis campaign and the organisers gave me an update of the work that is being done in the University Hospital in Limerick for patients with CF.
On Friday evening I was delighted to go to Ballylanders for the presentation of the proceeds of the Drive to Survive charity fundraiser for the hospice movement. It was a huge success and credit must go to the organisers who collected over €140,000. From there I went to Patrickswell for a Fine Gael meeting where the government’s program was discussed. Saturday was spent canvassing with Cllr. Damien Riedy before heading home to watch Ireland win the Six Nations.
9th March 2014
Welcome to a new feature of my website where I will look back at my week in the Dáil and give you some details on the work that I am doing in Leinster House.
This week the Dáil debated the Government’s Priorities for the next two years. In my speech I touched on a number of issues which have been raised by people in Limerick with me, and also things that I have been raising myself in the Dáil. I spoke under a number of headings including: Employment, Tax and Pension Reforms, Agriculture, Transport, Education, Communications and Health. Full details of my speech are available here Dail Report
In the committee rooms the Oireachtas Transport Committee met with the National Transport Authority on the issue of the new rural taxi licenses. I have been working on this issue for some time, and I have been raising the way that people are tested to get a license to drive a hackney, and the areas that they are expected to know. Not what you might expect! The Public Oversight Committee met with Minister Dinny McGinley on the Irish Language Commissioner.
Back in the Dáil I questioned Minister Jimmy Deenihan on how farmers and landowners in Co. Limerick whose land is protected for the hen harrier can be adequately compensated.
On the Fine Gael front our Transport Committee met with the hauliers on difficulties that they are having. The EPP came to Dublin for their congress, where the Taoiseach gave a brilliant keynote address. Dara Murphy and his team did a fantastic job on behalf of FG. The Euro Elections were the topic of conversation every day around the House now that our strong ticket for Ireland South has been finished. It will certainly be interesting!
Desmond College, Newcastle West visited Leinster House on Friday morning and I was able to have a good chat with them on how the Dáil works before I headed home to Limerick. I’d meetings with community groups in East Limerick before I went to the Racecourse in Patrickswell for the Adare rumble. Well done to the Adare GAA and Rathkeale Boxing on a great night!