‘I think the majority of American people would agree with what I have to say, even if the administration doesn’t.’
Sligo News File.
The Irish Times reports that the Taoiseach proposes to raise gay rights with American vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the States.
Pence has opposed homesexual marriage.
It seems from the Times report that Varadkar has said at a festival in Austin, Texas that it was “really tough to see a country built on freedom, build on individual freedom, not being a world leader in that space anymore.
“I think the majority of American people would agree with what I have to say, even if the administration doesn’t.”
Varadkar is also said to have announced that “he intends to visit the site of the Stonewall protests in Greenwich in New York later in the week, a key moment in the gay rights movement in the 1960s.”
Varadkar is in the States for St. Patrick’s Day to plug Irish interests.
Existing State facilities for asylum seekers at bursting point.
Minister: “We are almost maxed out.”
‘Seanad criticising Stanton ‘for not doing more’
Sligo News File.
Refugees are converging on Ireland in numbers apparently way beyond what the Government is capable of handling.
David Stanton, Minister for Immigration and Integration, has said the problem is now at crisis proportions.
Interviewed on Clare FM, Stanton said all existing facilities for asylum seekers in the State are at bursting point.
He was speaking as protests have grown over Government plans to impose a further new refugee direct provision centre on Lisdoonvarna.
Residents of the area have accused the State of keeping them in the dark until after the government had signed a contract for the housing of upwards of at least 115 asylum seekers at the nearby King Thomond Hotel.
Lisdoonvarna is a rural village where services are relatively sparse. Stanton agreed that the government had not been assessed the area for its potential to cope with the needs of the vast body of refugees now about to be sent to the North Clare venue.
State agencies had only evaluated facilities at the hotel itself before agreeing the contract for the use of the place as a direct provision and reception centre, he said.
Stanton said the existing 33 direct provision venues in the State were currently thronged with some 5,200 residents.
“We are almost maxed out,” he said.
He gave no information as to the nationality of the asylum seekers about to be bussed into Lisdoonvarna.
The population of asylum seekers in the country may be much higher than disclosed in reports. Stanton said that besides those in direct provision, other refugees may be staying with relatives or friends in Ireland. It looks on the face of it that the government doesn’t actually know how many have entered the country to date. The Migrants Rights Centre estimates that the number of unknown, undocumented migrants currently living and working in the State could be as high as 26,000.
Stanton said people are arriving in the country as refugees saying they want International Protection.
The Seanad, he said, has criticised him “for not doing more.”
According to reports, the first 30 are scheduled to arrive at the King Thomond Hotel today.
It’s been alleged that Marcus White, owner of the King Thomond Hotel, and two hotels in the town controlled by the White family were fined €11,000 for employing 14 non-Irish nationals without permits.
The Irish Sun states that the Department of Justice has told them that “an individual’s previous history does not preclude them from completing future contracts.”
Currently, in Ireland, thousands of homeless children are virtually living on the streets as homelessness across the State surges to catastrophic levels. In the main, only temporary emergency shelters are available. Mums daily traverse estates and houses searching in vain for a place to live.
Focus Ireland has revealed that the total of homeless women has shot up from 1,566 in Jan 2016 to 2,462 in Jan this year. The overall crisis is, they say, continuing to deepen with a record 9,104 people now homeless in Ireland. Many families are victims of evictions.
In spite of the rising homeless disaster, the Government continues to operate an almost open door refugee policy.
New provisions have also been effected under which refugees located in the State will soon be able to have members of their family, relatives and friends at present living in various states abroad permanently join them in Ireland. Under evolving laws, both refugees and newly arrived relatives will also be able to take up employment in hotels, restaurants, cafes, public houses, factories and farms.
Responding to a question in the Dail last week, Stanton said that just under 20 premises were offered to the Department as potential direct provision and reception centres following a recent call for expressions of interest in the national press and EC Journal. The premises were offered by “individual contractors across the country.”
Stanton said his Department “works closely with the HSE and Departments of Education & Skills and Employment Affairs and Social Protection and all other relevant Government Departments and Agencies to coordinate the delivery of State services” to the refugees in the direct provision and reception centres.
Former president Mary Robinson is not from Ballina or so it would seem from what Roscommon Senator Frank Feighan apparently claimed in the Oireachtas today.
According to the record, Feighan remarked that when he was asked what woman he had found “inspirational” during the years he said he had replied, “It has to be Mrs. Mary Robinson who was elected as the seventh President of Ireland.
“It was a great day for women. She was inspirational. As she said, she had been elected by the women of Ireland, that instead of rocking the cradle, they had rocked the system. It was an iconic moment which opened up a very liberal Ireland.
“She is one of many women who have been inspirational and came from Crossmolina,” he said.
He then went on with words of support for the gardai.
“It pains me sometimes to see what is happening in An Garda Síochána,” he said.
“My grandfather who fought for the freedom of this country was the first member of An Garda Síochána.
“It is an occupation that escaped me because I do not have the skills or discipline to be a garda. However, I will not join in the chorus of those who are undermining the integrity of An Garda Síochána which has defended the institutions of the State since its foundation. It defended the State when there were actually people and parties that were trying to undermine it. Therefore, I will not join anybody who is undermining the integrity of An Garda Síochána.
“I have seen what happens. They undermine their respect and integrity and take away all of the good they have done.
“We saw during protests about water people who were not fit to lace their shoes shouting, ‘Shame, shame on you’.
“Sometimes we have to stand firm and say what has to happen within the structures and frameworks which exist.
“If gardaí are seen to misbehave, they should deal with the rigours of the law.
“I will not join a weak political movement which blames gardaí.
“The Garda is doing a difficult job and protects us and our State. As a politician and somebody who has always had huge respect for the Garda, I will not join that chorus. It is simple and cheap, and it has a very short future.”
Briefly on Crossmolina. The North Mayo town did give the country two notable political figures. Patrick Browne, a farmer and merchant, was elected to the Dail as a Fine Gael TD for the Mayo North constituency in 1937, and re-elected at each following general election until he lost his seat at general election of 1954.
His son, Miko, an auctioneer, represented the old North Mayo constituency as a Fine Gael TD from 1961 to 1965. He had been elected to Mayo County Council at just 21.
Farmers in need of fodder urged to submit Forage Budget form.
Sligo News File
ICSA has met with officials from the Department of Agriculture in Backweston today (7 March) to discuss on-going issues surrounding the Fodder Transport Support Measure launched by Minister Creed in late January.
Following the meeting, ICSA Connaught/Ulster VP Jim Harrison said, “ICSA has received an assurance from the Department that elements of the scheme will now be revisited with a view to making the scheme more user friendly.”
ICSA Cavan chairman Hugh Farrell added, “It has become blatantly apparent that the scheme is difficult to navigate as has been evidenced in the low take up to date. This goes against the whole spirit of the scheme which was initiated to help those in dire need. This message has now been taken on board by the Department who will assess where changes can be made in order to make the scheme more workable.”
Concluding, Mr Farrell said he would urge all farmers in need of fodder to complete a Forage Budget form through their local Teagasc office or FAS approved advisor. Anyone requiring assistance in sourcing fodder can also contact their local ICSA representatives or contact ICSA directly on 057 8662120.
Extra tankers deployed in affected South Sligo area.
Water shortage in Leitrim threatening Food Hub employing upwards of 80.
Sligo News File
Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy has said issues surrounding the cryptosporidium contaminated Lough Talt Water Scheme in South Sligo “are very difficult to resolve in a short period of time.”
Replying to questions in the Dail, he said “extra tankers, both mobile and static have been deployed where they are needed “until we can get the problems corrected.”
Deputy Martin Kenny said that “the whole area near Lough Talt has been on a boil water notice for almost a month now. Some 13,000 people, in the towns of Tubbercurry and Ballymote and all across that area, have been on a boil water notice for over a month, but there is no sign of a solution to that problem.
“We need to put adequate funding and resources in place to ensure that someone, be it Irish Water, the local authorities or whoever, get out there and ensures that people are provided with water.
Deputy Kenny also raised the threat of job losses over water problems in Leitrim where, he said, there has been practically no supply “for the past four days” in the south of the county.
He said the headline in the Leitrim Observer this week states that there will be job losses in the Food Hub, where almost 80 are employed. “Many of those businesses cannot survive without water.
“This is really down to the fact that the facilities have been under-resourced. We do not have enough people on the ground. Leitrim County Council, like every other county council has been on a service contract with Irish Water. The same people are providing the service as before, but no extra money has been forthcoming to provide it.”
An improvement in the water supply to the Food Hub has been reported this evening.
‘Fine Gael-led governments have spent hundreds of millions on the scheme.’
Sligo News File.
While half-a-million patients are left to suffer for want of medical procedures and thousands of homeless children are forced to endure impossible living conditions, it has been claimed that hundreds of millions have been doled out on free legal aid.
Commenting on what he described as a “bonanza for lawyers,” Deputy Mattie Mattie said he understood from parliamentary questions that from 2011 to 2016, Fine Gael-led governments had spent €606 million on the free legal aid scheme.
He said, “We saw recently that a person who had appeared before the courts 102 times got free legal aid. This is a farce and must be regulated.”
When, he asked, “will we stop this gravy train and farce for the unfortunate victims of crime? They get no say, and their taxes pay for free legal aid.”
Responding, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan commented, “I will say for Deputy McGrath’s benefit that the provision of legal aid, be it civil legal aid or criminal legal aid, is a fundamental right—–”
Deputy McGrath: “Of course.”
Deputy Flanagan: “—–for people in this country who are not in a position—–”
Deputy Mattie McGrath: “What about “three strikes and you are out”?
Deputy Flanagan: “—–to afford legal representation in the private sector.”
Deputy McGrath: “A hundred times.”
Deputy Flanagan: “Regarding the recent publication of the annual report on civil legal aid, we have managed in spite of some financial difficulties to ensure that waiting lists have been reduced in the past year or more, and this will continue. As far as criminal legal aid is concerned, which I understand is the point that concerns Deputy Mattie McGrath, I assure the House that a review is ongoing in order to ensure that those who need legal aid are granted it—–”
Restoration of councils would ‘cost about €40 million a year.’
Plan for directly elected mayors for Dublin, Cork ‘and perhaps other counties’ nearing completion.
Sligo News File
The Dail has been told that the Government does not have any plan to restore town councils.
Responding to questions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that the reinstatement of town councils would cost “approximately €40 million a year…, and we do not believe that is how ratepayers and people who pay the local property tax would like to see their rates and local property tax money spent.”
He said Minister of State, Deputy Phelan is currently proposing that town districts and borough districts would essentially function as area committees do now but could have the ceremonial functions that previously town councils and borough councils had.
“This would be a kind of restoration of their ceremonial functions.”
He said Phelan was also carrying out “a separate piece of work, which is nearing completion, on directly elected mayors for Dublin, Cork and perhaps other counties and the relationship between chief executive officers and county cathaoirligh.”
Some 80 town councils were abolished in 2014 as part of local government reform under the Fine Gael/Labour government.
The Coalition also reduced the of councillors by more than 40% in the Local Government Bill published by Phil Hogan, the then Minister for the Environment.
Three years later, Fianna Fail moved a Bill aimed at restoring the abolished councils. They described the scrapping of the councils as a “slash and burn approach to local democracy” that had deprived urban areas of a voice.
‘Winter finishers have endured long hard winter and prices available this spring have been totally inadequate to cover the costs involved.’
Sligo News File
Farmers are being urged ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham has called on farmers to look for higher beef prices this week from factories.
ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said, “Supermarket shelves are empty and factories will be under pressure to get beef moving to supermarket distribution centres.”
Factory supplies, he said, “are low following the bad weather and farmers with numbers of cattle are in a strong position to get a price above the typical quotes available over the past few weeks.
“The reality is that winter finishers have endured a long hard winter and the prices available this spring have been totally inadequate to cover the costs involved. The empty supermarket shelves show that farmers are the vital link in the food chain and it is timely to demand a price that reflects the importance of the job we do.
“Consumers who take cheap food for granted need to realise that they are only ever a few days away from a food scarcity panic and that the supermarket model of squeezing the farmer is barely sustainable,” he said