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Operating theatres in Merlin Park shut because of ‘leak in the roof’ – Connolly

‘Next March theatres will have been out of use for six months.’

Sligo News File

Two operating theatres in Merlin Park are out of action owing to, believe it or not, a leak in the roof.

Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Dail today that on 3 March next, the theatres will have been closed for six months.

In raising the matter with the Taoiseach, she said, “We are in the second decade of the 21st century and two operating theatres in Merlin Park University Hospital have remained closed due to a leak in the roof.

“The issue,” she said, “has been raised many times in the Dáil by me and other colleagues.

“We were told that once the leak was repaired the operating theatres would be opened. Since then we have been told they cannot be opened because the clinical assessment now is that their design is not suitable, begging the question as to why the
design was not dealt with beforehand.

“My specific question is whether the Taoiseach can stand over a situation whereby, six months later, the two main orthopaedic theatres in Merlin Park University Hospital remain closed. We are still looking at a tender process for modular theatres. Tied in with that, the Taoiseach made an announcement on Friday about an elective hospital. Is that elective hospital based on the options appraisal that is still underway and will not report until May, or has it been picked out of the sky?”

There is no legislation promised on this matter, said Varadkar “nor is it covered in the programme for Government, but I did give a detailed response to Deputies on the question of Merlin Park University Hospital specifically last week during Questions on Promised Legislation…’

Hefty bill for dogs cared for by Leitrim County Council

273 housed in pound.

Sligo News File

Dogs can be costly creatures. Ask Leitrim County Council.

Just over a year ago accounts showed the authority had doled out
€132,000 for local dog control  – higher than the outlay for 2016.

The good news is that owners picked up sixty-five of the canines,
new owners were found for nearly half while 70 were handed over to animal welfare groups.

Fianna Fail dismisses Government’s National Development Plan as ‘package of previously announced projects’

‘€40 million of the funding announced today ‘was already earmarked for infrastructure initiatives.’ 

Instead of undertaking grand launches in Sligo, this government needs to start investing in Sligo and across the regions.’

Sligo News File.

If the Varadkar and his pals expected plaudits to flow for the Government’s National Development Plan, Fianna Fail clearly wasn’t the place to be seeking them.

Fianna Fail Spokesman on Public Expenditure & Reform Dara Calleary,TD

Indeed, the Soldiers of Destiny have dismissed the development package announced in Sligo as little more than a litany of previously announced projects.

The party’s Ballina-based spokesman on Public Expenditure & Reform Dara Calleary also said that more than €40 million of the funding announced today “was already earmarked for infrastructure initiatives.

“Today’s launch”, he said “is nothing more than a major marketing campaign designed to promote a government which has failed to meet its own targets to date.

“Major projects being unveiled as part of the NDP such as Metro Link and additional social housing provision were already included in the previous Capital Plan, but just haven’t been delivered on.

He said:

“Like so many previous action plans, this one looks good on paper, but the real test is in the delivery. This government’s record is not great on follow through.

“The National Broadband Plan was launched to much fanfare in 2011, yet there are more than half a million homes and businesses which will not have high speed access before 2023.

“The Rebuilding Ireland Plan, which promised over 3,000 direct builds in 2017 delivered fewer than 1,000 homes. Initiatives in health, transport, education and agriculture have all been victims of a government which over promises and under delivers.

“The Taoiseach and his Cabinet Ministers need to realise that all the marketing and spin available to them cannot hide the fact that they are moving the goalposts and still missing the targets. This plan only serves to highlight all of the previous strategies they have failed to deliver on.

“Instead of undertaking grand launches in Sligo, this government needs to start investing in Sligo and across the regions.

“The only barometer on which this plan can be assessed is delivery,” he added.

Despite the attack, Fianna Fail has pledged to keep the present Fine Gael-led Government in power.

Irish returning with full US driving licences treated only as learner drivers in Ireland – Scanlon

Rule does not apply to Irish holders of foreign driving licences issued in countries including Taiwan and South Korea.

Sligo News File

Unfair and discriminatory Government treatment of people returning to Ireland has been highlighted by a Sligo TD.

Eamon Scanlon,TD

Eamon Scanlon has spoken of drivers being prevented from exchanging their US driving permits for Irish driving licences – even apparently where they have passed tests and driven for years in an evidently more challenging environment than on Irish roads. They must start all over again as learner drivers, pass learner driver tests and even then are only allowed to be on the road where accompanied by the holder of a full Irish licence.

The Minister with responsibility for the Road Safety Authority, the body implementing the measure, is Shane Ross.

Scanlon said that despite the Programme for Government promising to facilitate the return of 70,000 immigrants to Ireland, their reintegration is being made “unnecessarily difficult.”

He said people coming back from the US “are being disproportionately affected.

“When they return, their US driving licence is only valid for one year. Once that expires, they are expected to apply for a learner permit, undergo 12 lessons, and only drive when accompanied by a driver with a full licence.” The rule does not apply to persons returning from other countries he said. “There is a serious inconsistency in this system.

“Why are drivers with a full US licence forced to go through the full application process when people returning from countries like Taiwan and South Korea can exchange their licences for an Irish one? It makes no sense.”

The sanctions, he said, are running up substantial cost and inconvenience for the Irish US licence holders “not to mention the cost of motor insurance for learner drivers.”

He said the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has confirmed that an Indecon report is being prepared “on the potential barriers for people returning home in terms of driver licences, insurance costs, life insurance, health insurance and a range of other issues. “I am urging him to ensure that this report is published at the earliest opportunity and the recommendations in it are implemented.

“People wishing to return home from abroad should not be penalised by excessive red tape and nonsensical processes which makes life more difficult for them. The government needs to act on this report without delay,” he said.

TD demands Government include new Sligo garda headquarters in National Plan

‘140 gardai and Assistant Commissioner currently working in unsafe conditions.’

‘Survey revealed existing building unsafe, no drinking water, antiquated heating, ‘third world’ toilets, no washing facilities in cells.’

‘Gardaí so frustrated members of the GRA refused to enter the building in November last year.’

Sligo News File.

Seriously folks, what can Sligo expect from the National Planning Framework when the Government has consistently failed even to provide a proper building for the local Gardai to date.

Marc MacSharry TD

Currently, some 140 gardai and an Assistant Commissioner are working in what a local TD has described as unsafe conditions. Marc MacSharry said a survey of the Regional Headquarters on Pearse Road had revealed that there was no drinking water, heating was antiquated, toilet facilities were “third world,” and cells had no washing facilities or adequate ventilation. There were also invasions of rats.

“The situation…is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Gardaí, he said, had “became so frustrated with the situation that members of the GRA refused to enter the building on the 20th November last year. These are people who put their lives on the line for the citizens of this country every day. The very least they deserve is a basic standard of working conditions.”

Yet, two years on from the date of the survey “progress on the construction of a new building has been minimal.” This, said MacSharry, is despite Sligo being identified as one of three locations where stations would be built as far back as 2015.

The Fianna Fail Deputy is now insisting that the new building must be included in the National Plan which is scheduled to be launched when the Taoiseach and the Cabinet travel to Sligo later today.

He said, “A new building for Sligo Garda Station must be included in this plan. Any attempt to push it down the line will not be tolerated and will further expose the government’s lip service and lack of appetite for rebuilding rural Ireland.”

Minister says no plans to amend ‘anomaly’ in farmer State pension scheme

‘Farmers denied €200 disregard in the non-contributory means test.’

‘Changes to the current means testing arrangements…would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.’

Sligo News File.

Regina Doherty, the Fine Gael Minister for Social Protection, has ruled out acting on “an anomaly where farmers on reaching pension age do not receive the benefit of the earnings disregard of €200 in the means test for the State non-contributory pension.

Regina Doherty, Minister for Social Protection.

Replying to a written parliamentary question on the issue from Sligo – Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry, Doherty said that currently there were no plans to amend the means assessment for the non-contributory State Pension scheme.

She said:

“The State pension (non-contributory) is a means-tested payment and the weekly rate payable is dependent on the means of each claimant. Account is taken in the means test of the value of the property (other than the family home) and capital the person may have as well as cash income such as earnings from employment or self-employment, occupational pensions, foreign social security pensions and so on.

“These arrangements apply to all claimants for the State pension (non-contributory) as well as other means-tested welfare schemes. The rules applying to the State pension (non-contributory) do not prohibit individuals engaging in any form of self-employment; it is the means available from the net profit from such self-employment (after allowing for expenses) which determines the rate of pension payable, if any.

“It should be noted that the means assessment allows for “any expenses necessarily incurred in carrying on any form of self-employment..”. There is no exhaustive list of all expenses allowed in self-employed cases, since expenses vary with the nature and extent of the self-employment.

“The main allowable expenses in most instances are as set out in the means guidelines available on the Departmental website.

“It should also be noted that the first €30 per week means (from any

Marc MacSharry TD

source including self-employment) is disregarded for State pension (non-contributory) purposes, and that this amount is doubled in the case of a couple.

“Furthermore, a farmer in receipt of the State Pension (non-contributory) can also benefit from the disregard that exists for certain farm payments administered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, such as the Agri-Environment Options Scheme. The first €2,540 of this and similar payments is fully disregarded, with 50% of the remainder assessed as means.

“Where a claimant for the State pension (non-contributory) is in employment, a weekly earnings disregard of €200 per week applies. This disregard is intended to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce.

“There are currently no plans to amend the means assessment for the State Pension (non-contributory) scheme. Any such changes to the current means testing arrangements for self-employed pensioners generally would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.”

Approval at last for major glamping park in Enniscrone

Developer David McGowan confident €6 million project will create upwards of 70 jobs.

Sligo News File.

David McGowan

After a series of obstacles, David McGowan has been granted planning permission for his major glamping park in Enniscrone.

The €6 million development, providing for accommodation, retail space, coffee dock and filling station, will give the village and West Sligo a massive economic boost.

It is not yet confirmed when the 18-acre site, at Bartragh, will open, but it is expected that the various amazing attractions, including a Boeing 767 transported in by sea on a barge, London Underground train carriages, a helicopter and a yacht, will attract a huge volume visitors from across the country and abroad.

The 57-year old local entrepreneur is confident that, subject to the arrangement of finance, the project will generate upwards of 70 jobs.

Meanwhile, the failure of Sligo County Council to regain the Blue Flag for the resort has been strongly criticised.

Flag authorities removed the emblem, symbolising clean, safe bathing water quality, and the Green Coast Award after incidents of pollution.

The beach has failed to qualify for the reinstatement of the flags for the last three years.

‘Bizarre proposal to lock up the parents of any L Plate driver, a son or daughter or anybody else, if they are driving a tractor’ – McGrath.

‘Someone needs to rein in the Minister, Deputy Ross, lock him into the house in Wicklow where he lives and keep him away from the rural people.’

‘Ministers are in a cocoon inside in the Cabinet room.’

‘I do not know what kind of water they are drinking or what medicine they are on, but this is bizarre, daft and unworkable, and an attack on rural Ireland.’

‘…cannot even get the new Luas across O’Connell Bridge.’

Sligo News File.

A storm is raging over an apparent Government plan to jail anyone allowing an L driver to use their vehicle alone on the public road.

Mattie McGrath,TD

In the Dail, Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath blasted what he called “the latest bizarre proposal to lock up the parents of any L Plate driver, a son or daughter or anybody else, if they are driving a tractor. This includes a buachailín trying to learn to feed the cows that the Government will not pay the farmers for.

“What is going on? What will be next? It is proposed to criminalise ordinary decent families and force them to get into their car every day to accompany their L plate driver. I am all for restrictions to assist in road safety. I sympathise with the relatives of those who have lost lives as a result of L plate drivers, but this is bizarre.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport

“Someone needs to rein in the Minister, Deputy Ross, lock him into the house in Wicklow where he lives and keep him away from the rural people. He has a vendetta against rural people. I am shocked at the other Ministers.”

An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question…?

Deputy McGrath: The question is as follows. Where is the rural proofing? What are we trying to do? Criminalise parents and criminalise all the people of rural Ireland? We do not have Luas, buses, DART or all the other things.

An Ceann Comhairle: All right, Deputy.

Deputy McGrath: The Government cannot even get the new Luas across O’Connell Bridge. It does not know what it is doing. Ministers are in a cocoon inside in the Cabinet room.

An Ceann Comhairle: I thank the Deputy.

Deputy McGrath: I do not know what kind of water they are drinking or what medicine they are on, but this is bizarre, daft and unworkable, and an attack on rural Ireland.