Aurivo pondering merger with Northern dairy Co-op

‘Very good fit between the businesses.’

Sligo News File.

North West-based Aurivo co-operative is mulling over a potential merger or partnership with LacPatrick, one of the North’s largest dairy operations.

LacPatrick was formed in July 2015 as a result of the merger of Ballyrashane and Town of Monaghan Co-ops and is regarded by the industry as a leader in the dairy sector.

Aurivo said in a statement that it noted the developments in LacPatrick Dairies in recent days and, “following a meeting on Monday, the board of Aurivo has agreed to participate in its formal process to assess strategic options.

“We believe that there would be a very good fit between the businesses of LacPatrick and Aurivo, given our complementary dairy portfolios and milk pools across the Republic and Northern Ireland.

“The consolidation process, in which Aurivo has a successful history, would strengthen our commitment to improving the lives of our member owners in the combined business.”

However, it looks from reports that farmer representatives have urged LacPatrick be given the “space and time” to assess the best option for the co-op.

This is said to follow interest from at least one overseas investor, and domestic co-operatives, about a possible tie-up with LacPatrick.

Lakeland Dairies is mentioned as a likely partner, but interest has also been expressed by others including Northern Ireland’s Dale Farms, which is owned by over 1,300 dairy farmers across the UK.

A merger would have to be approved by 75% of the LacPatrick members.

In February, LacPatrick unveiled a ‘Brexit-proofing’ technology centre near Strabane in a £30m investment creating 20 new jobs. With improved capacity, the co-op is in a position to make two new milk powder products for export.

LacPatrick are believed to have cut milk prices twice this year, in Feb and March, by 5c a litre.

A Sligo farmer has questioned what the future of any merger will be “if the British make a balls of Brexit. What happens to milk access to the south if there are levies or quota controls,” he asks.

Aurivo reported a group operating profit (before exceptional items) of €3.9 million for 2017 – an increase of 10% on the out-turn for 2016.

Doctors’ ‘alarm’ over removal of Eighth Amendment and Government plans for abortion

‘Public are entitled to know that the Government’s proposal has nothing to do with healthcare, and everything to do with introducing abortion on demand into Ireland.’

Sligo News File.

Doctors have come out strongly against the Government-driven campaign for the repeal of the Eighth amendment.

Baby at 12 weeks.

The people of the country by a massive majority inserted the Eighth amendment in the Constitution in 1983 specifically to protect the life of the mother and the unborn child.

Now the government wants to completely remove the constitutional right to life of the child and allow for unrestricted killing of babies up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reportedly gone so far as to say May 25th will be Ireland’s chance to come of age as a nation by voting Yes to the abolition of the baby protecting Eighth amendment.

Doctors, however, have expressed alarm about the Government’s proposal.

Commenting following a meeting of medical practitioners in Dublin, one is on record as saying the Government proposal “has nothing to do with healthcare,” and “”would introduce unrestricted abortion in the first three months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever.”

He said: “As GPs and other healthcare workers, we feel that the public are entitled to know that the Government’s proposal has nothing to do with healthcare, and everything to do with introducing abortion on demand into Ireland.” 

Launching their outreach in Dublin last week, Caroline Simons of the Love Both campaign group warned that if the Irish Constitution is amended, “Ireland will go from being a country that protects unborn babies to one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world.”

She said the government proposal “also allows for abortion on vague and undefined ‘health’ grounds, up to viability and even up to birth, where the baby has a possible terminal illness and in other circumstances as well.”

Government finally yields to pressure and sanctions new garda headquarters for Sligo

Contracts to be signed within days.

Sligo News File.

The government has finally yielded to years of pressure and given the go-ahead for a new garda headquarters in Sligo.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said a site for the building had been found at Caltragh and contracts would be signed within a few days.

Existing Sligo Garda Headquarters on Pearse Road

The announcement follows a long campaign during which conditions at the existing garda structure at Pearse Road were repeatedly
condemned as unfit for purpose.

At one stage gardai walked out of the building in protest over the state of the premises.

Meanwhile, Sligo-based company Kilcawley construction has secured the €8.3 million  contract for the revamp of the garda station in Athlone.



Modular extension for Mayo hospital emergency department

‘Existing facility designed for 20,000 patients catered for 40,000 in 2016.’

Sligo News File

A modular structure looks set to be used to extend the overcrowded emergency department of Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar.

Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary.

Replying to Dail questions from Fianna Fail Deputy Dara Calleary, Minister for Health Simon Harris said there was a long-term proposal to provide a new emergency department in the hospital “but we need an interim solution and to see how we can extend the existing emergency department.

“The only interim solution I see is modular build. The HSE estates office is working with Mayo University Hospital to review and discuss the proposal.

“There is some follow-up work required on the scope of the design and the hospital management is familiar with that. However, I accept the point that we need to see if we can do something quite quickly on it. I will examine it in that context …”

Calleary said the emergency department was designed for 20,000 patients but catered for 40,000 in 2016. This, he said, “is placing the fantastic staff and patients under intolerable stress.”

Marine Survey Office decision banning boats from Innismurray “flawed” says local TD

‘Several skippers from Sligo have tours booked throughout the summer.’

Sligo News File.

A Fine Gael TD has branded as “flawed” a decison made by experts of the Marine Survey Office to ban boats from Inishmurray, an uninhabited 9 square kilometre island situated about 7 kilometres of the Sligo coast.

Inismurray Harbour

According to reports, the Department of Transport has warned boat owners that the Marine Survey Office does not allow plying consent to the island owing to “concerns for safety during embarking and disembarking at the island.”

Tony McLoughlin raised the issue in the Dail where he went on to say that the programme for Government contained specific recommendations to grow tourism nationwide, in particular along the Wild Atlantic Way.

“However, I highlight for the Tánaiste and the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Brendan Griffin, a situation in County Sligo where a flawed health and safety decision by the Marine Survey Office has led to the closure of Inishmurray to tourists seeking to visit the historical site on the island.

“Several skippers from Sligo have tours booked throughout the summer. It is vitally important, therefore, that access be reinstated. I ask the Minister of State to visit the site at his earliest convenience to see at first hand the problems being experienced.”

Deputy Eamon Scanlon said that “like Deputy McLoughlin” he had been contacted by people about the situation.

He said, “A constituent of mine invested €200,000 in a boat to ferry people to the island. There has never been an accident in the course of tourists visiting the island, nor has anybody been hurt. The landing area on Inishmurray is safer than that on Skellig Michael. It is wrong that people are being prevented from earning a living and that tourists cannot visit the island. Many American tourists whose families used to live on the island visit it while on holidays.”

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport Brendan Griffin said he was am aware of the issue. “Although the specific matters raised are ones for agencies outside the control of my Department, the ramifications for the tourism industry in the area are pertinent,” he said.

“My Department is looking into the issue to see how it can help to resolve it.” he added that he recognised “the importance of the attraction to the tourism industry in County Sligo.

“I will visit the location as soon as possible to see for myself the situation on the ground and how the issue can be resolved.”

Scores of schoolchildren taking their own lives

Seventy young suicides last year alone.

Sligo News File

The Dail has been told that 70 children of schoolgoing age have taken their own lives last year.

Pat Buckley TD

Deputy Pat Buckley also said the number did not include children between the ages of 16 and 18 years who were not at school.

He said he was informed of the situation at the Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care.

The programme for Government, he said “contains a commitment to conduct an evidence-based expert review of the current status of implementation of international best practice in mental health services in Ireland.”

He went on to say that “it is almost two years since that commitment was given in the programme for Government, but the chronic shortage of staff has not improved and the
plan is not working.”

He called for the embargo on the recruitment of front-line staff to be lifted and everything necessary is done to staff CAMHS teams.

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly said the situation “it is not just about resources; it also about finding skilled and qualified staff.

“Since 2012 over 2,000 staffing positions have been approved, but to date, we have only been able to fill 1,352 of them in mental health services. That is not down to finance but to the availability of staff such as consultant psychiatrists, of whom there is a scarcity worldwide, not just in Ireland. That is the recruitment challenge we face in dealing with the increasing demand for mental health services.

“As the Deputy is aware, €910 million has been allocated for mental health services, an increase of €200 million in the past five years,” he added

Sligo TD demands medical cards be granted to cancer patients

‘Many patients now finding it extremely difficult to get approval.’

‘No political will on the part of the Minister or government to extend the medical card to cancer sufferers.’

Sligo News File

Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Eamon Scanlon has called on the Health Minister to intervene and ensure that cancer patients are automatically approved for a medical card. He made the demand following a HSE review which stated that ‘it is neither feasible nor desirable to list medical conditions in priority order for Medical Card eligibility’, effectively, he said, “denying cancer patients an automatic entitlement to a medical card.’

Eamon Scanlon,TD

Speaking after he raised raised the issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this week, he said:

“Up until recently cancer patients were awarded a discretionary medical card to help them cover the cost of doctor’s visits and treatment plans. However, there are serious delays in the application system and many patients are now finding it extremely difficult to get approval. I am dealing with a number of cases in my own offices, and these families are extremely distressed.

“Despite the HSE referring people to the online system, amid claims that it is more efficient, the families that I am assisting are still waiting to hear back, weeks after their applications have been submitted. This is an unnecessary complication that these families should not be put through and I am calling on Minister Harris to address it.

“I am baffled by the fact that there appears to be no political will on the part of the Minister or the government to extend the medical card to cancer patients.

“As it stands, medical cards are automatically awarded to children and adolescents under the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with cancer, and there was a genuine expectation that this would be extended to all cancer patients following the HSE review. However, the recommendations failed to go that far, leaving cancer patients in the lurch.

“I am urging Minister Harris to show some common sense and compassion and to ensure that cancer sufferers have one less thing to worry about, knowing that their care and treatment costs will be covered by the medical card.”

Citizens Assembly under fire over proposals on taxing food production

‘Completely daft idea.’

‘How stupid would it be to reduce Irish agricultural output so that the likes of Brazil could expand at a far higher environmental cost?’

Sligo News File

ICSA president Patrick Kent has slammed a Citizens’ Assembly “proposal to tax farmers for food production GHG emissions as a “completely daft.”

Patrick Kent, President ICSA…Citizens Assembly tax proposals ‘completely daft’

He said:

“When you get daft proposals on additional taxes for farmers producing food backed enthuastically by 89% of respondents and a proposal for a new quango backed by 97% of respondents, it is obvious that this does not arise from balanced debate and careful reflection. enthusiastically Instead, it suggests that the findings have been orchestrated by the way the debate has been framed and the questions put.

“Did anyone ponder the hypocrisy of favouring carbon taxes for the end users of fuel but not for beef or dairy? The reality is that if the Citizens’ Assembly was asked if they favoured food taxes at retail level they would have been a lot slower to jump on the bandwagon. Moreover, they would then have to reflect on the fact that any such tax would have to be levied not just in Ireland but in every country in the world where we export food.”

“Applying a tax on Irish food production is daft because it ignores the inconvenient truth that people choose to eat and that most of these people are not actually in Ireland but in markets all over Europe and further afield. If we close down Irish beef farmers, we simply relocate the production of beef to other parts of the globe where they don’t give a toss about Citizens’ Assemblies.

“How stupid would it be to reduce Irish agricultural output so that the likes of Brazil could expand at a far higher environmental cost?

“At least there was some acknowledgement that farming activities also sequester carbon and that farmers should be incentivised for providing carbon sinks. Contrary to popular belief, this should not be about Sitka spruce plantations which are actually very limited in terms of sequestration but about well-managed grassland farming
combined with the maintenance of biodiverse landscapes.

“A far more useful strategy would be to incentivise farmers to produce solar energy or invest in anaerobic digestion which produces renewable heat while reducing slurry emissions. Ireland also needs to reject the absurd EU Commission proposals to undermine crop-based biofuels on EU farms which produce up to 70% lower GHG emissions than fossil fuels. While electric vehicles might eventually be attractive as an alternative, we have to deal with today’s fleet today.

“The Government also needs to stand up and be counted on the climate impact of a potential Mercosur trade deal which in essence will result in increased imports of beef and ethanol at significant environmental cost when we could produce all we need of these products in the EU without the global transport emissions involved in imports from South America.”