Government targets elderly in further brutal cull of medical cards

More than 300 over 70s in Sligo-Leitrim among thousands of vulnerable pensioners from whom cards have been withdrawn in the past year

Sligo News File Online

Medical cardsFianna Fáil has revealed that more than 300 medical cards have been withdrawn from over 70s in Sligo and Leitrim in the last year alone

In reply to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil, the HSE has confirmed that 16,356 pensioners have had their cards taken from them between April 2014 and April 2015, 345 of them in Sligo and Leitrim.

Senator MarcMacSharry, Fianna Fail.
Senator MarcMacSharry,
Fianna Fail.

Slamming the cuts as ‘callous and mean’, Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry said this was the third year of cuts to over 70s medical cards at the hands of this government.

He said:

“Tens of thousands of pensioners have had their entitlement taken from them over that period. It’s a shocking betrayal of senior citizens who have spent their lives paying their taxes, raising their families and contributing to society.

“The reality is that Ireland’s older population is growing rapidly.  These figures actually understate the level of cuts, given that there are more people over the age of 70 now than there were a year ago and therefore more people should be entitled to a card – not fewer.  I have also become aware of a cynical ploy to reduce the period of eligibility for over 70s medical cards. A number of cases have come to light where medical cards for pensioners are only being renewed for a few months until next April or May – after the general election. 

“Unfortunately this is just the latest in what has become a sustained attack on older people over the past four years. In a series of mean-spirited cuts targeting pensioners, this Government scrapped the Bereavement Grant, abolished the Telephone Allowance, increased prescription charges five-fold and slashed more than a million home help hours.  Now older people have been hit with a third year of cuts to medical cards.”


Brooks backs meat industry calls to heighten awareness of sheepmeat exports on international trade missions

‘We need more and better markets – urgent in light of potential difficulties in French market’

‘Escalation of French farmer protests looks like it may put pressure on imports of Irish lamb to France’

Sligo News File Online 

John Brooks, National Chairman, ICSA Sheep Committee
John Brooks,
National Chairman, ICSA Sheep Committee

ICSA sheep chairman John Brooks has backed calls by John Walsh of ICM Camolino meat plant for more emphasis to be placed on sheep exports in trade missions to countries like China and the USA.  

“The focus has been on beef but,” he said, “it would make sense if sheepmeat was also pushed on these diplomatic initiatives.  We have an excellent product that fits perfectly with the Origin Green strategy and clean, green image but we need more and better markets.”

According to Mr Brooks, this is now urgent in light of potential difficulties in the French market. 

“The escalation of protests by French farmers looks like it may put pressure on imports of Irish lamb to France. 

“France has traditionally been the key export market for Irish lamb and any hostility to Irish lamb exports there could spell trouble for the sheep sector.   We need to ensure that all our eggs are not in the one basket.”

Mr Brooks went on to say that that markets like China and the USA could be a real asset. 

“The US does not have a significant domestic supply of sheepmeat and it seems logical that Irish lamb could be a high value niche product in US restaurants as well as in some retail outlets.  On the other hand, China could be a vital market to ensure that we can maximise value from the whole lamb.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, TD.
Minister for Agriculture,
Simon Coveney, TD.

“I am calling on Minister Coveney to ensure that sheepmeat is also pushed adequately on future trade delegations to these countries and indeed to other markets that haven’t gotten the same attention yet.”

Crippling commercial rents imperilling jobs – Toibin

Major retailers currently in examinership ‘have cited cost of commercial rent as a key factor threatening viability of their stores’

‘Government failing to move on upward only rent clauses’

Sligo News File Online

Peader Toibin, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation
Peader Toibin, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Peadar Tóibín, has hit out against the failure of the government to live up to its election promises and legislate to end upward-only rent clauses. DeputyTóibín stressed the necessity of such a move in order to protect thousands of businesses who are struggling due to excessively high commercial rent. 

Deputy Tóibín said:

“Last week we saw both Best Menswear and Mothercare, who employ 411 people between them, go into examinership. Both retailers cited the crippling cost of commercial rent as a key factor threatening the viability of their stores. It is clear that extortionately high rents are causing great hardship for businesses in Ireland.

“In the wake of the economic crash, businesses found themselves paying inflated boom time rates for rent. However, many were and continue to be locked into upward only rent clauses, meaning rents could not be reduced despite the huge downturn in the economy and falls of up to 50% in the retail sector.

“Fine Gael promised in their 2011 election manifesto that they would ‘pass legislation to give all tenants the right to have their commercial rents reviewed in 2011 irrespective of any upward-only or other review clauses.’ This has been baldly ignored. The Labour Party also made and broke similar promises.

“In 2012, I introduced a bill that provided a mechanism for businesses to seek relief from upward only rent clauses and to enable to government to act on their promises to end these stifling clauses. However the government reneged on its commitment and refused to engage not only with opposition, but with representative business groups on the matter.

“As a result we now find ourselves in the position where businesses are becoming increasingly unviable due to the anti-competitive practice of upward only rent clauses. More worrying still is the many hundreds and potentially thousands of jobs at stake.

“Fine Gael and Labour are once again shirking their responsibility. They are putting the survival of many businesses and the livelihoods of their employees at risk. I am urging the government to stop ignoring the problem and take immediate action if they are genuinely concerned about protecting Irish jobs.”

Sinn Fein Leader slams Taoiseach’s remarks on emigration as ‘ludicrous’

Income tax ‘not main reason preventing emigrants returning home’

Sligo News File Online

Gerry Adams, TD, Leader, Sinn Fein
Gerry Adams, TD,
Leader, Sinn Fein

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of making ludicrous claims about the reasons for emigration at the MacGill Summer School .

Gerry Adams said:

“Despite the Taoiseach’s ludicrous claims, income tax is not the main reason preventing emigrants returning home.

“What has caused so many people to leave this State are the brutal and destructive austerity policies being pursued by Mr Kenny’s Government and his Fianna Fáil predecessors.

“It is the lack of employment opportunities for young people, the fact that ordinary workers are put to the pin of their collar by a range of stealth charges, and the destruction of public services that is preventing emigrants returning. Mr Kenny didn’t propose anything to change this.

“Enda Kenny’s comments that a Government involving Sinn Féin would be a ‘gamble’ are also nonsense.

“He reiterated his intention that if re-elected, he will continue the same political path that has caused so much hardship.

“What citizens need and want is a progressive Government that will stand up for their interests, end relentless austerity, rebuild our economy. That is Sinn Féin’s focus.

“The Taoiseach should let citizens make the choice now by calling a General Election.”

Strategic investment in childcare will improve affordability and accessibility for parents – McLoughlin

No details of funding or timeframe for implementation of planned changes

Sligo News File Online

Tony McLoughlin, TD, Fine Gael, Sligo-Leitrim
Tony McLoughlin, TD,
Fine Gael, Sligo-Leitrim

Fine Gael TD for Sligo Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin  has said government announced proposals for strategic investment in childcare would improve affordability, quality and accessibility for parents and children across Ireland.

He said the  new childcare report, launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD,  “proposes important changes on how best to invest in childcare services over the coming years. By putting forward costed options it provides a clear path for future investment and represents the most ambitious and detailed plan for childcare ever produced for Government.

“The report proposes three main areas where investment can be targeted:
• A period of paid parental leave, which could be shared by both   parents
• An enhanced ECCE provision (currently the ‘free pre-school year’), which would be extended to the point at which primary school starts (this would ensure that from the age of 3, all children in Ireland would be entitled to free education, either in pre-school or in primary school)
• A new single subsidy scheme for pre-school and school-going children, with simplified eligibility based on income. It would cover both community and private settings, rather than the community sector alone as at present. The report says this should be designed to be progressively universal over time

“The report recommends measures to embed quality in the sector, including a quality audit and proposals for upskilling of the workforce, as well as measures to make sure there is adequate supply for future demand.

It also recommends carrying out a survey to establish the scope for using school buildings for after-school care.

“This report provides a sound basis for real improvements in affordability, quality and accessibility in the childcare.”

The government has made no commitment to funding  for the proposed measures or stated when it intends to implement the changes.

Government must ensure farm incomes protected – Mac Sharry

Enhance funding for farming schemes in Budget along with fiscal incentives

French Government implementing innovative measures in billion euro financial plan for livestock industry in France.

Sligo News File Online

Senator MarcMacSharry, Fianna Fail.
Senator MarcMacSharry,
Fianna Fail.

Sligo-Leitrim Senator Marc Mac Sharry has called on the Government to protect farm incomes in the upcoming Budget.

The local Fianna Fáil candidate has pointed to a number of measures announced in France this week that would result in a significant boost to French farmers.  Senator Mac Sharry said the approach is in marked contrast to the Irish Government’s lack of support for smaller farmers in the North West who are struggling to stay in business.

“A number of innovative measures are being implemented by the French Government in its €1 billion financial plan to support the livestock industry in France. These immediate cash relief measures include support on loan interest, social security provisions, extension to payment deadlines and early repayment of VAT by easing access to monthly repayments,” Senator Mac Sharry explained.

“The French Government appears to have a much stronger commitment to supporting its farmers than the current Government here has. I am now calling on the Ministers Noonan and Coveney to closely examine these measures for possible operation in an Irish setting.  Smaller farmers in the North West are still being left out in the cold.  The Government needs a much greater focusses on supporting them and allowing them to grow their business.  This needs to include enhanced supports to the rural economy as the recovery continues to be concentrated on the eastern seaboard.

“It is vital that the Government bring forward provisions to enhance funding of schemes in the new rural development plan and taxation measures to stimulate the rural economy.”


‘Serious questions which need to be answered’

Sligo News File Online

Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.
Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the official opening yesterday of the new €50 million facility in Cahir by the ABP group but has asked for some indication from ABP as to what percentage improvement in price will accrue to farmers.  “The new facility includes the introduction of a gel bone processing plant which according to ABP will lead to added value in the processing of bovine bones for the pharmaceutical and beauty industries.  In our view, the rewards need to be shared fairly between ABP and hard pressed beef farmers.

“It is our understanding that this is a potentially exciting and lucrative revenue stream from the fifth quarter and it is essential that it is exploited to benefit not only ABP but farmers as well.  This is against a background where Teagasc has stated that, in 2014, 40% of cattle finishing farms are economically vulnerable and another 40% are only sustainable because of off-farm jobs.

“I am calling on the ABP group to make a statement outlining what this new gel bone processing plant will do in terms of better beef prices for farmers.  Is it going to add 10c or 20c/kg or could we get some indication as to what percentage improvement it will make to the price of beef?  These are serious questions which need to be answered so that suckler farmers in particular can evaluate whether they should be putting cows in calf or reducing herd size.”


ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan
ICSA National Beef Committee Chairman, Edmond Phelan

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that the lack of engagement on the thirty month issue at the beef roundtable was very disappointing.  “While it was agreed last November that every effort would be made to persuade customers that there was no rational case for a thirty month specification, it is increasingly clear that beef factories are keen to retain the limit for their own reasons.”

“The reality is that there is no credible consumer research which shows a demand for 29 month beef but not 31 month beef.  It also militates against maximising the use of our competitive advantage – grass – and is used to drive down price by forcing farmers to sell in a panic when cattle are near 30 months old  for fear of losing the 12c bonus, even though some cattle won’t qualify anyway.  Worse still, the effect of panic selling and the reluctance to sell in marts probably outweighs the benefit of the 12c bonus for farmers as a whole.

Mr. Phelan said that the one thing that was evident at the roundtable was the impending log jam of cattle due to some 116,000 extra calves born this year compared to last year.  “There is an urgent need to get beef moving to new markets and of course, to look at options to ensure increased live exports.”

Mr Phelan also insisted that it was time to review the QPS system which is not working for a lot of farmers. “The 225 separate boxes in the grid means that the system is too complex and militates against price comparisons.  Meanwhile, the artificial rules on 70 days retention and maximum residency periods is used to deter selling in the mart, even though it is crystal clear that farmers need to sell more not less beef cattle in marts to get a true understanding of what markets can return and to maximise competition between factories.”




Death of young Mayo father after car plunged into canal Holland

Living in Amsterdam for number of years

Sligo News File Online

A young Mayo father has died after his car plunged into a canal in Holland.

Tommy Gallagher, 35, a carpenter, of Knockglass, Crossmolina, had been living in Amsterdam with his partner for a number of years. He was the father of a three year old daughter.

His body was recovered on Tuesday evening after he was reported missing.

He is survived by his mother, three sisters and two brothers.