‘My first thoughts are with workers and their families’ – TD
Sligo News File Online.
Elanco has announced that the firm is cutting the work force at its pharma plant in Sligo. Some seventy jobs are to go, management of the global animal health company confirmed earlier today.
Rumours that another major operation may be also about to scale back its workforce has aroused concern about the future of industrial employment in the region.
Describing the Elanco decision as “as a devastating blow”, Fianna Fail Senator Marc MacSharry said it had come as “a terrible shock for workers at the facility.”
The company, a division of Eli Lilly, has been operating in Sligo since 1991.
Senator MacSharry said “the fact that up to 40% of the workforce is being made redundant is extremely worrying.
“This company has been a major employer in Sligo for over 2 decades and the majority of these workers are highly skilled in their field.”
Calling for government action, Senator MacSharry said Jobs Minister, Richard Bruton “must now step up to the mark.
“I am extremely concerned that this announcement coincides with rumours of impending job losses at a nearby medical devices company.”
Stating that Sligo has been a hub for the pharma industry for decades, employing hundreds of experienced and expert researchers, technicians and other skilled workers, he said the Minister must intervene, along with the State’s industrial promotion agencies, “to engage in immediate discussions with Elanco and press strongly for the retention of these jobs.
“He must also set up a taskforce to engage with the affected workers to ensure that they are offered upskilling and retraining opportunities so that they can find alternative employment opportunities.
He said the IDA has been integral in attracting foreign direct investment to Sligo and the North West region, “however its efforts have been stymied by a lack of Government support.
“Fine Gael and Labour have completely neglected this region, instead of fast-tracking vital access upgrades such as the N4.
“The Government’s lack of investment in key infrastructure makes a mockery of the IDAs efforts to attract and grow foreign direct investment in the region.”
Fine Gael Sligo-Leitrim TD, Tony McLoughlin this evening spoke of his concern for those affected by today’s announcement.
“My first thoughts,” he said, “are with the workers and their families as they hear this difficult news today.
“I have spoken to Minister Bruton’s office and I am assured that all the supports of the State will be made available to workers affected.”
He said “I understand that this decision arises from a commercial decision taken by the company. The company have said in their statement that the site’s mission is not changing and that the company is determined to position the facility for the long-term
“Minister Bruton assures me that he and IDA Ireland will be working closely with the company to position it to win future investment from the parent company. Minister Bruton and IDA Ireland are also working hard to win alternative investments for Sligo
Deputy McLoughlin said the announcement by Elanco is a reminder that despite the progress being made in job-creation, “we have to fight hard to retain every job we have and to create new jobs. Thankfully we are winning this battle overall, with more jobs being created than are being lost:
“Across the country, 90,000 extra jobs have been added in the past 3 years. In 2008-2010 300,000 jobs were lost.
“In Sligo, 394 jobs were lost in companies supported by Enterprise Ireland between 2008-2010. In the past 3 years 306 jobs have been added in these companies.
“Across the border region which Sligo is part of, 14,000 extra jobs have been created in the past two years. Between 2008-2010 30,000 jobs were lost
“We have a long way to go, and today’s announcement is a strong reminder that we live in a highly competitive world and we have to fight to retain every job we have and to create new jobs.
‘Those trying to make a living in disadvantaged areas have taken a huge hit’
‘€67 million was taken out of the disadvantaged areas scheme’
Sligo News File Online
ICSA president Patrick Kent has called for the reversal of cuts to disadvantaged areas payments in the light of proposed increases in public sector pay.
“Minister Howlin has announced plans for restoring public sector pay, and as he said himself, his focus will be on the low-paid and those who were worst hit. Drystock farmers have the lowest incomes in the farming sector, and those who are also trying to make a living in disadvantaged areas have taken a huge hit,” said Mr. Kent.
“€67 million was taken out of the disadvantaged areas scheme and ICSA is calling for the restoration of the maximum number of hectares for which payment can be claimed to 45.”
FF pledge better access to community healthcare in North West
Open farm day for politicians
Homosexual ‘marriage’ campaign
Sligo News File Online
Charles and Camilla are packing their bags for a trip to Ireland where, next month, they are to take part in a number of official and private engagements.
Mullaghmore and Lissadell House are on the Sligo itinerary.
The planned visit has been welcomed but also attacked in some quarters, with bodies announcing they propose to picket the visit – where isn’t clear.
Security is expected to be tight – and hugely costly.
Balls for Sligo
The Sligo Weekender reports that the chairman of the Sligo Municipal District Council, Tom Mac Sharry is to host a charity ball in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Ballincar on 3rd May.
There had been concern about the loss of balls following the abolition of the Borough Council.
A headline in the same newspaper reads ‘Ray MacSharry challenges SFs McDonald over Dail accusations.’
Seems the former commissioner and minister isn’t pleased about remarks made by Mary Lou.
Sligo to get new primary care centres
TD, Tony McLoughlin has said Sligo has been earmarked for the development of new primary care centres in Sligo Town, Ballymote and Drumcliff. The facilities are to be built with the help of the European Investment Bank Loan.
The announcement, Tony says, is “really good news for the people of Sligo.”
His press release states that work on the facilities is to begin in 2016. However, it is not clear if Sligo will be embarked on within the 2016 timeframe. The statement says that the EIB loan has only yet been approved “in principle.”
To his credit, Tony has been fast off the mark about the upgrading of the cardiac service at Sligo Regional Hospital. In a written parliamentary question to Health Minister, Leo Varadker he observed on new services being put in place at Altnagelvin in Derry, and asked Varadker about the provision of upgraded cardiac facilities, “chiefly a Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory” in Sligo as “an important next step towards improving cardiac care in counties Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan, South Donegal, North Mayo and North Roscommon.
Varadker said “the decision of appropriate options for a fixed elective cardiac catheterisation laboratory will be deferred until the service in Altnagelvin is fully operational and its impact on service requirements in the North West is assessed. In the interim, the current mobile cath lab services will continue to operate.”
FF pledge better access to community healthcare in North West
General election candidate, Senator Marc MacSharry has said Fianna Fail’s new health policy will ensure better access to community healthcare “for all people in the North West, regardless of their age or means.” The party in government will do that, he said, by a system “which puts a major focus on moving towards enhanced primary care within the community and keeping people out of hospital.”
Health Minister, Leo Varadkar’s plan to hit families with “expensive and compulsory Universal Health Insurance” will not result in any improved access to healthcare, he said
The Fianna Fail strategy is about “putting patients in the North West back at the heart of the health service.
“We need quality local healthcare in our communities to ensure that people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer and heart disease can get expert treatment locally rather than needing to go into hospital for their day-to-day care. It’s also testing and assessing for a range of conditions at a local level to catch illnesses at an earlier stage, and keep out of hospital,” he expained
Fianna Fail, he said, will abolish the prevailing €2.50 prescription charge “over two years” and reduce the treshold for the Drug Payment Scheme to €120 a month.
No mention, however, that cancer services will be returned to Sligo.
Open farm day for politicians
Full marks to the Dunphy family on their work in developing the highly successful enterprise that is their farm operation at Easkey. From 50 cows in 2008 to a projected 280 by 2017 is certainly a major accomplishment – testified to, not least, by the large turnout of farmers who turned up to tour the farm and hear about the plans on which it all has been so admirably progressed.
Perhaps this is the kind of place local government party politicians should be taking ministers visiting Sligo. Imagine what they could learn about managing the country and the economy from time spent with this innovative West Sligo farm family.
Pier and pong
Council chair, Joe Queenan was greatly mistaken if his reason for raising a question about the condition of the pier at Enniscrone was to get the county council involved in what seemingly is a bit of a needed clean up. Bringing up the issue at a meeting of the council earlier this week, Queenan moaned that when Westport TD and Junior Minister Michael Ring visited the pier everything wasn’t quite as it should be, particularly as the structure was on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.
However, Director of Services, Tom Kilfeather was having none of it. He told Queenan the pier was a local issue, and it was up to locals to maintain it.
Chairman Joe also told the meeting God is being prayed to that there won’t be high tides or storms given the scale of the coastal erosion in Enniscrone. We are reliably informed Joe warned that the people are going to wake up one morning and there will be no sewerage facility in the resort.
Imagine the pong!
Homosexual ‘marriage’ campaign
Fathers & Mothers Matter, a group lobbying for a No vote in the coming homosexual ‘marriage’ referendum, have complained of posters they erected being torn down and replaced with Yes side images. They have issued a statement saying that there was a “campaign of harrassment, intimidation and criminality underway.”
Public concern is also growing about some social media content, as well as in cases one sided and misleading material in favour of a Yes vote in regular media.
The Yes campaign is being driven by the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and a crop of other political interests and organisations. Major funding, donated from America, is being employed by interests to secure the success of the referendum.
However, a public backlash against the referendum seems certain as discussion of the very grave, some would say dangerous, repercussions of the referendum for parents and their children is broadened into the public domain.
The raft of new, and so far unreaveled laws, set to follow the referendum will, it’s considered undoubtedly destroy the institution of marriage and the rights of parents, children and much more. Just one example, how many know or have been told that a Yes vote will acknowledge all married homosexual couples with or without children as a ‘family’ while lone parents with any number of children will still not be recognised as a family in that way?
As has been pointed out by an expert in the field, a Yes vote “could be said to usher in a never before existing INEQUALITY in Ireland. The children of unmarried people will have less constitutional protection than others. Family law will change for ALL due to the inclusion of three or more equal parents, expecially in the circumstance of homosexual divorce since their union in principle required a third party.”
Needs thinking about.
Earlier in the week a lady was heard to voice her opposition to the posters erected by the Fathers and Mothers Matter lobby. What she had to complain about didn’t make a lot of sense. Nevertheless, we asked the highly reputable Fathers and Mothers organisation to comment on their posters, a request they kindly facilitated with detailed explanation, and that we are happy to include below for the information of the public.
This is what they said:
“Marriage Referendum No posters focus on the key areas of public debate
“Today volunteers throughout the country are taking delivery of our posters designed to reflect the key debating points of the “No” campaign in the Marriage Referendum, to be held on May 22nd. These posters will be erected over the next week or two in every constituency.
“Poster One: “Children deserve a mother and a father.
“The Government wants to spin children out of this referendum. In doing so it is either deliberately misleading the public or else grossly ignorant of the primary constitutional effects of the referendum. The simple fact is that issues relating to children cannot be neatly divided from Article 41’s protection of marriage and the family. If Article 41 is amended it will be impossible for any future Oireachtas to ever place in law a preference for a child having a mother and a father when it comes to any of adoption, surrogacy or donor assisted human reproduction. If the referendum passes it will forever prevent the Oireachtas from attempting to vindicate a child’s right to a mother and a father where possible. In effect, the Constitution will require that some children be deliberately deprived with the collusion of the State of either a mother or a father. Every child deserves a mother and a father, and this is no less true for adopted children or surrogate children.
“Poster Two: We already have Civil Partnerships.
“Since its introduction five years ago, Civil Partnerships have allowed over two thousand same sex couples in Ireland to say “I Do”. After campaigning for legal recognition and equality on inheritance, next of kin status, taxation provisions etc, same sex couples have the long sought after legal recognition of their relationships. Almost all of the initial differences with Civil Marriage have now been removed. Those that remain reflect the differences between same sex and opposite sex relationships when it comes to bringing children into the world. Civil Partnerships give same-sex couples the rights of married couple but don’t attack a child’s right, where possible, to a mother and a father.
“Poster Three: Surrogacy
“The Government has indicated that one of the primary reasons the Children and Family Relationships Act was passed was to attempt to take children out of the referendum debate in order to make life easier for the Yes campaign. But it has been deliberately evasive on what a passed referendum will mean for the right to procreate. Our Courts have judged that the right to procreate is derived from Article 41 of the Constitution, meaning that if the referendum passes same-sex married couples will likewise have a constitutional right to procreate. They can only procreate through donor assisted human reproduction and, in the case of men, surrogacy as well. So it is very possible that surrogacy will be seen as part of a same-sex couple’s constitutional right to procreate. In such case the Constitution will endorse as a “right” a child having a biological mother and a birth mother but being left legally and socially motherless for the rest of her life.
Even if a future court does not find that two married men have a right to have children through surrogacy, any Government which permits opposite-sex married couples to use surrogates will be bound by the Constitution to also allow two married men to use a surrogate, which once again is a deliberate attack on the child’s right to a mother.”
The Chairperson of Fathers and Mothers Matter is Professor Ray Kinsella, Professor of Banking and Financial Services and Healthcare at the Michael Smurfit School of Business, University College, Dublin.
Committee of members advising Mothers and Fathers Matter on the law and ethics relating to assisted human reproduction, surrogacy and adoption are:
Dr. Thomas Finegan, publisher in areas of human rights law and legal and moral philosophy;
Dr. Caitriona Hughes, a Clinical Psychologist, working with children, young people, and adults;
Dr. Catherine Kavanagh, lecturer in philosophy at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick;
Dr. Rik Van Nieuwenhove, lecturer in theology, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick;
David Quinn, columnist with the Irish Independent and Irish Catholic and founder and director of the Iona Institute, and
Dr. Joanna Rose, a campaigner for rights of donor-conceived people. She took a legal case in Britain that eventually won the right of don-conceived people to know their biological parents
Council now about to also take on debts of airport
Own debt load currently upwards of €120 million
Estimated €7 million costs still due for Lissadell legal proceedings
Local authority rescue plan for airport could cost Sligo more than a million euro
Commission of investigation
Sligo News File Online.
Sligo County Council’s debt debacle has turned the authority into a laughing stock. How did things get so out of control that the people are now left with the prospect of having to foot the bill possibly for millions of euro in run up debts?
The people need answers that they have not been given to date, particularly as it is reported the Council is now about to also shoulder the debts of the region’s airport at Knock.
At this point, it is not clear what this collaboration with a few other local authorities to pay off the airport debt will cost Sligo. According to a due diligence investigation carried out by Deloitte, the airport needs a bailout package of nearly €40 million. Of this the local authorities, seven of them, including Sligo, are planning to provide a cash injection of more than €7 million, for which they will be given a relatively small stake in the airport.
Based on reports, it looks that over the years of the agreement the venture could cost Sligo in excess of a million euro. interest and other charges on the loan would be significant. Sligo County Council’s prevailing debt is currently upwards of €120 million, cumulative debt is around €19 million, additional to which it also has to raise a €10 million budget surplus over the next ten years. There are also fees and interest charges on the councils existing loans.
Government “€100 million debt write off to Shannon”
It is believed that even if the airport is able to secure the required €40 million investment it will be still at least another eight to ten years before it is self-funding. Knock is also up against Shannon.
Former Knock airport Chief Executive Liam Scollan is reported to have said in an interview with the Mayo News that the government had taken a decision to “write off €100 million of debt in Shannon…There will also be a transfer of income from Shannon Estates (a part of the larger Shannon Development Organisation) into Shannon Airport and what this means is that Shannon Development’s land banks and property expertise will be merged with Shannon Airport with a view to developing an international aviation services facility in the region. It is a transfer of considerable assets over to Shannon Airport which boosts them with an annual subvention or income to assist them to attract new routes and new businesses in aviation-related areas, maintenance etc. It is a massive cash injection.
“The airport is essentially getting its debt written off while also getting another significant financial boost.”
That, coming from its former chief executive, is not alone a revelation of the scale of what Knock is faced with, but also how Shannon has been boosted by the government at the expense of Knock.
However, if Mayo is prepared to put up the millions of euro the airport apparently needs, then good luck to them; quite obviously, they are in a better financial position to handle it than heavily indebted Sligo. They also stand to gain more from Knock, though, that said, the successful operation of the airport is naturally of great importance to the region as a whole. The Chief Executive Officer of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes is chairperson of the airport trust.
Knock has announced that it attained a passenger throughput of 703,000 last year. As shown, however, the number would need to be well more than double that if the airport is just to break even.
British low cost carrier, Flybe has pulled out of the Knock-Birmingham route. BMI has also withdrawn. Recently Ryanair has reportedly announced that it is cutting its service between Knock and Gran Canaria this summer.
However, an issue which for some reason has been kept under the radar is why the Knock debts are not being picked up by the government. Why is the Coalition and local authorities proposing to lump the massive multimillion euro airport bill on to the shoulders of the people of the region – under existing provisions it is the people who have to foot the bill for local authority liabilities. After all, if the Coaltion was able to write off €100 million for Shannon, surely it should be possible for the them to take care of the many times smaller €9 million plus Knock debt as well.
However, a parliamentary reply issued to Clare Daly, TD demonstrably affirms that Sligo is not going to be given any government subvention or aid towards it proposed financial support for Knock.
Deputy Daly asked the Minister, Alan Kelly if his department planned to provide matching funds arising out of a recommendation of the Chief Executive of Sligo Council that the Council provide financial assistance to the airport. Minister Kelly told the TD “it is not my intention to provide matching funds…I have no function in the matter.” He said matters relating to airports are the responsibility of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Pascal Donohoe. As far as is known, Donohoe also has not offered to provide Sligo County Council with matching finance towards Knock. His department’s junior minister, Michael Ring was in Sligo a few weeks ago, but the matter did not feature in any of his many speeches to local groups.
Sligo, therefore, is about against it on just about every front. This week, Councillor Tommy MacSharry proposed that part of the county council debt, the €7 million costs of the Lissadell case, be passed to central government. After much discussion, the motion, with amendments, was supported by members of the council. There is, however, a view that the chances of a favourable outcome to it are slim.
Adding to its woes, the council is also facing possible industrial action by two hundred of its staff in a dispute over mandatory redeployment of workers. Nearly two hundred workers have already been laid off in the last few years. It is understood there is pressure on the council to redeploy further staff to other areas of the country, a situation that will mean not only workers and their families being uprooted from the community, but also serious consequences for the quality and extent of services to the public.
Commission of Investigation
By any reckoning, the scene that is Sligo County Council is certainly profoundly worrying, not least because, apart from asset disposal and service cutbacks, there are few places other than the people of the county to which the Council can look to finance its debts and operations. Business that in better economic conditions would be flourishing, and providing commercial rates to the council, is instead, in numerous instances, seeing firms pulling down the shutters and a slump in commercial activity. Spending power has plummeted, and earnings from tourism are relatively limited and largely seasonal.
While there is no suggestion of any impropriety, the people of the county who are left with the daunting prospect of higher property tax, charges and levies, have the right to know how the disaster that is the council debt came about, and the likely implications for them. A transparent and accountable examination is, therefore, now an imperative, and for that reason, and to restore the confidence of all in the council, a commission of investigation must be ordered by the government.
Answers are needed, and the sooner they can be provided to the people of Sligo the better.
Twelve items on the agenda – meeting open the public
Sligo News File Online.
1 To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting of the Municipal District of Sligo held on 16th February, 2015 (To follow)
2 To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting of the Municipal District of Sligo held on 13th April, 2015 (To follow)
3 Matters arising
4 To consider the Assessment/Application Process for Social Housing Supports
5 To consider Sligo County Council’s 2015 Draft Parking Places and Car Park Byelaws
6 To receive a presentation on the Proposed Sligo City Alcohol Strategy –Northwest Regional Drug & Alcohol Taskforce
7 To hear an update on Provision of Coach Parking Facilities in City Centre
8 To note the proposed renewal of lease to ‘Clearway’ Hammond Lane Metal Company Ltd at Deep Water Quay, Sligo Harbour
9 To consider Sligo County Council’s Draft Appointed Stands (Taxi) Bye-Laws 2015 and proposed schedule for revision of same
10 To receive a presentation – Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann Sligo 2015
12 Motion submitted by Councillor S. Maguire
“This municipal district will invite interested parties to a forum to discuss how we can assist start up businesses”
13 Motion submitted by Councillor S. O’Boyle
“I would like to put down a motion that the Sligo Municipal Authority carry out cleaning and repair work on the drain at 46 Churchill. It is an ongoing problem that the drain gets blocked and more so after the recent bad weather thereby causing flooding that reached to the doorstep of this house”
14 Motion submitted by Councillor S. Kilgannon
“To ask the Chief Executive to report to Sligo Municipal district meeting on 27th April on what progress if any has being made on the re location of Bus Eireann Garage on Lord Edward Street in Sligo”.
15 Motion submitted by Councillor S. Kilgannon
“To ask Sligo County Council to deal urgently with Dredging at Mullaghmore Harbour”.
16 Motion submitted by Councillor T. Healy
“To call on Sligo County Council to have a road sweeper carry out a clean during the summer season on all bicycle routes mainly the Rosses Point & Strandhill Road as this has caused concern for cyclists as debris is coming from the road onto the bicycle lane”
17 Motion as submitted by Councillor T. Healy
“To call on Sligo County Council to address the safety concerns of residents that live in Avena & Bushy Park estate in Ballisodare, along with road users. The concern relates to the 2 large articulated lorries, a number of bread vans and small delivery trucks who are parked along the stretch of road in the morning. This is causing poor visibility for cars and in turn putting the public’s safety at risk”.
18 Motion submitted by Councillor T. Healy
“To call on Sligo County Council to seek funding for R284 in Ballygawley. There is a large indentation in the road between Ballygawley & Ballygawley/Union Wood. This has raised a lot of concern as it is on a straight stretch of road & has caused cars to swerve”
19 Motion submitted by Councillor S. Kilgannon
“That Sligo County Council would investigate the extension of the Pontoon facility plus all associated works at Sligo Harbour as a matter of urgency as it is now overcrowded in both winter and summer”.
20 Motion submitted by Councillor D. Bree
“That the Council be provided with a report outlining the proposals it has to carry out dredging at Mullaghmore Harbour, and further that the Council be advised if it is the intention to apply for grant aid for dredging works.”
21 Motion submitted by Councillor M. Casserly
“To allocate funding for a name plate for the Sliabh Mór housing estate in Carney”.
22 Motion submitted by Councillor M. Casserly
“To provide an update on any land acquisition agreement for Ahamlish Cemetery in North Sligo”.
23 Motion as submitted by Councillor D. Bree
“That this meeting resolves that no new access routes be opened/constructed from Geldof Drive, Langan Drive and McDonnell Drive without the consent of local residents”.
‘Lending institutions, including those in which state has shareholding, are independent commercial entities’
‘Not appropriate…to comment on or become involved in the detailed position of mortgage holders’
Sligo News File Online
Finance Minister, Michael Noonan has said he has no statutory role in relation to regulated financial institutions passing on the European Central Bank interest rate change or to the interest rate charged on mortgages.
Responding to a written parliamentary question from Sligo-Leitrim Fine Gael TD, Tony McLoughlin who asked him “the reason the Permanent TSB Bank is allowed to continue to impose higher rates of interest on its Irish customers who have standard variable mortgages, in comparison with other European Banks, and the action he has taken to rectify this situation…”, the Minister said the lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, were “independent commercial entities.
“I have no statutory role in relation to regulated financial institutions passing on the European Central Bank interest rate change or to the mortgage interest rates charged. It is a commercial matter for each institution concerned. It is not appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to comment on or become involved in the detailed position of mortgage holders or the manner in which individual banks choose to put forward mortgage propositions to potential customers or how that relates to existing customers.
“That said, the issue of regulation of interest rates remains a policy area under active review and this has been the subject of recent correspondence between the Department of Finance and the Central Bank. The current position is that the Central Bank does not have new proposals for the additional regulation of interest rates.
“The Central Bank has responsibility for the regulation and supervision of financial institutions in terms of consumer protection and prudential requirements and for ensuring ongoing compliance with applicable statutory obligations.
“It should be noted that The Governor of the Central Bank and I meet regularly. At a recent meeting on the 2nd April, among the items discussed was the issue of mortgage interest rates. The Governor provided an update on the ongoing work that he and his officials are carrying out on the issue of the standard variable rates charged by the lenders.
“The Governor and I noted that the SVRs charged in Ireland are higher than other euro area countries and have not fallen in line with ECB wholesale rates. The Central Bank will continue to research why this is the case and will publish results shortly. The Governor will update me on progress in due course,” he concluded.
Candidates will find public has not forgotten the economic collapse
Party backing Fine Gael- Labour Coalition in same sex ‘marriage’ referendum campaign
Sligo News File Online
Eamonn Scanlon and Senator Marc MacSharry will likely soon discover the public has still not forgotten Fianna Fail’s role as a government in events which led to the worst economic and social catastrophe to befall the State.
The two Sligo candidates – 12 miles apart – were selected to contest the coming general election after Leitrim nominees were sidelined from the race.
What reception awaits them on the doorstep is anybody’s guess. People now more than ever are conscious of Fianna Fail’s role as a government in signing up the country to domestic water charges, to the utility that is Irish Water and the shutdown of cancer services at the Sligo General Hospital.
In government, the party also negotiated the first Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika that contained a clear commitment to introduce the now widely condemned property tax on the family home.
The party’s devotion to the tax was clearly evidenced when as recently as last year Fianna Fail joined with Fine Gael members of Sligo County Council to block a proposed modest reduction in the rate on the homes of families in the county.
As of now, there is nothing to suggest that if returned to government, Fianna Fail would be any different from the existing Coalition regime with respect to taxation, levies, charges, service cutbacks, austerity and draconian laws and regulations.
Currently, the party is actively supporting the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition to secure the passage of next month’s referendum to give homosexuals who already have access to civil partnership the right to be treated as regular married couples.
Fianna Fail and other political parties and entities insist that civil partnership, or that homosexuals are free to marry a member of the opposite sex, is not sufficient. They want marriage as we know it to include men “married” to men and women “married” to women, this in spite of genuinely held fears the change will lead to a society where, among other things, the welfare and rights of children will be heavily compromised.
Many of the new laws and regulations to follow will make it illegal, for example, to have the names of parents entered on birth certificates. Schools will also be obliged to teach or focus on homosexuality in the classroom.
McLoughlin tells Dail new ‘under 6 over 70’ medical service ‘will make real difference to lives of youngest and oldest’
Sligo News File Online
The government proposed scheme of free GP care for under-6s, slammed as “medical apartheid”, and which general practitioners have been urged to reject, has been welcomed by Fine Gael Sligo Leitrim TD, Tony McLoughlin.
Speaking during the Dail debate on the Health (General Practitioner Service Bill) 2014, McLoughlin said the commencement of the new GP under 6s and over 70s service, costing more than €67million, “will make a real difference to the lives of the youngest and oldest in our society, and for the families that care for them.”
He went on to say the service will mean real savings for pensioners and for families of young children,” and that “the two new initiatives in particular are part of the Government’s wider plan to enhance the Primary Care system in this country, whilst also achieving real savings in the health budget…”
However, the National Association of General Practitioners, which represents more than half of the country’s GPs, has recommended outright rejection of the plan.
In a statement following an emergency meeting of its National Council, the Association said “…all 23 members of the Council have voted to reject the under-6s contract based on the information currently available.
“The NAGP adamantly believes that the under-6s deal does not serve the best interests of general practice or patients. The Association has described the initiative as medical apartheid.
The statement quotes Dr. Andy Jordan, Chairman of the NAGP as saying that “this deal amounts to nothing more than medical apartheid. It is motivated by election votes rather than real patient need. The mortality rate in children less than 18 years of age is 3.8/10,000 and the vast majority of those are caused by accidents not illness. At the same time we have 5,000 deaths per year in Ireland from cardiovascular disease but there is no money to provide free GP care to those patients.
“The proposal will fuel the inequalities that already exist in our health service. The asthma scheme will only be available to children between 2 and 4; the diabetes scheme will only be available to people who already qualify for a medical card or doctor only card; the under-6s scheme will not cover medicines, x-rays, blood tests, A&E visits etc. It is simply a smoke and mirrors political stroke. The IMO, ICGP and NAGP are all of the same opinion – that the provision of free care must be prioritised for those who are in genuine need, be that medical or financial.
“The NAGP is calling on all GPs to stand firm and collectively oppose the contract.
Dr. Jordan is also quoted as saying that “there has been a lot of bullying and scaremongering in the last few days. GPs are being told that they cannot afford not to sign this contract, that if they don’t sign it someone else will.
The truth is that GPs cannot afford to sign this contract. The funding on offer will barely cover the cost of providing the service, which equates to an extra 4.5 million consultations per year. It certainly does not represent the financial lifeline it is being portrayed as.
“There is, without doubt, a desperate need for investment in general practice but investment needs to be allocated to the areas where it is needed – rural practice, general practice in deprived urban areas, comprehensive chronic disease management, existing services which are grossly underfunded.
“For the last five years GPs have had to sit back and accept more and more demand for less and less funding. That stops now. If we do not, as a group, stand together and oppose this scheme, we will be letting ourselves down and letting our patients down. It will allow the irresponsible erosion of general practice to continue.”
The NAGP said it has repeatedly warned that general practice is at breaking point. There is simply no capacity to take on an extra 4.5 million consultations per year at this point. An equivalent of €220 million in funding has been removed from the sector in the last four years through successive and disproportionate FEMPI cuts. This has resulted in significant reductions in staff and other resources. These issues must be addressed through the negotiation of a new GMS contract before GPs can take on any additional workload.
“In a recent survey, 92% of GPs supported the NAGP’s call for a collective refusal to sign the contract. It is now time for GPs to have the courage of their convictions. We must not be motivated by short-sightedness or self-interest. We must act in the best interest of all GPs and all patients.”
The National Association of General Practitioners is a licenced trade union representing more than 1,200.
The Irish Medical Organisation has said many speakers at the meeting convened to discuss the new contract acknowledged the achievement of the IMO in the negotiations and expressed support for the agreement.
However, they have also said that “others expressed their ongoing lack of trust in the HSE, concerns about the workload implications of the agreement and concerns about the damage caused to General Practice through years of under-resourcing.”
Their statement adds that “under the terms of the Competition Act, the IMO has won the right to negotiate on behalf of its GP members but is not allowed to recommend acceptance or rejection of any agreement. Members are required to decide individually whether to sign any new contract or not.”