Food Wise 2015 not a solution to the problem of ‘more farmers becoming less and less viable.’
Sligo News File Online
How is it possible for the profits of food and drink exporters to surge to record levels when the very industry from which its draws its raw resources is on the verge of collapse?
Chairman of the ICSA beef committee Edmond Phelan has said the announcement of food and drink exports of €11.15 billion for 2016 demonstrated “yet again that farmers are being used to make others rich.
He said, “It is remarkable that a year like 2016 which stood out in terms of income collapse for tillage and dairy farmers, along with substantial price falls in the cattle sector should still deliver record export earnings.”
This proves again, he said “that the focus of Food Wise 2025 – increasing food and drink exports to €19 billion – does not provide any solution to the key problem that more and more farmers are becoming less and less viable. Policy must focus on farm incomes, and that’s why ICSA is looking at a radically different approach of less is more when it comes to farm profits.”
Mr. Phelan said that the Bord Bia analysis that Brexit impacts had cost food and drink exporters about €570 million was not strictly accurate. “While companies exporting to the UK certainly faced revenue reductions from currency exchange; the reality is that they pass a lot of this back to the primary producer in terms of lower farm gate price and therefore losses of €570 million are not all carried by food companies.
“As we have seen in previous years, these companies are often slow to pass back the benefits when sterling increases.” He said that overall, the reality is that increased output is doing nothing for farmers, but it makes for good headlines.”
More than €1.75 billion already pumped into country’s asylum system.
Record grants of Irish citizenship to foreign nationals of nearly 120 countries.
Sligo News File Online.
The government is inviting Syrian youths from Calais to relocate to Ireland.
Officials have been to France where arrangements have been made for up to 40 to travel here.
Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, an American, said the resettlement of the youths, aged16 to 17 years old, will cost €11.5 million per year.
Zappone said the decision to request the youths to travel to the country was taken by Independent TDs and other Dail public representatives.
Additionally, the Department of Justice has leased a hotel to house Syrian families in Ballaghaderreen. It is believed to have accommodation for upwards 250 persons.
Ministers and TDs are saying they have a moral obligation to resettle people from Syria in the country and Ireland will facilitate the resettlement of an even greater number of arrivals in the period ahead. Communities are kept in the dark about the planned relocation of families to their areas.
To date, there has been a reluctance to reveal the real cost of the Irish asylum system to taxpayers. However, since its inception, the cost of programme is understood to have rocketed to €1.75 billion and may well be more.
Ireland, in 1998, was among the first six countries in Europe to
establish a refugee resettlement programme. In 2000, the Fianna Fail Government bought a hotel in Rosslare to house foreign refugee families. But plans to use it as a reception and accommodation centre were abandoned after lengthy protests by residents. Eighteen months later, the hotel was sold by the Office of Public Works at a reputed loss of €500,000 to the taxpayer.
Housing foreign refugees has apparently become what an observer has described as one of Ireland’s most prolific and commercially profitable industries – all developed while government has left thousands of Irish homeless families and children (many recent evictees) to wander the streets in search of a place to live.
The Dail was told that in 2013, 33 private commercial bodies were operating in the asylum accommodation sector. Locations of the premises were identified as being Dublin, Cork, Clare, Kerry, Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford, Kildare, Meath, Monaghan, Westmeath, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.
More, including Roscommon, have since been added. In some cases, major companies or private entities are operating a number of the facilities, some of them said to be also involved in the property, hospitality or catering business. Accommodation and other costly facilities for foreign asylum seekers are also being laid on by the State itself. Among the hotels are The Hazel in Monasterevin, Clonea Strand Hotel, Dungarvan and the Abbeyfield Hotel in Ballaghaderreen.
Reports indicate that between just 2000 and 2006 alone, government handed private firms €850 million to provide accommodation for refugees.
According to the compilers of a survey on the asylum programme, the government did not run fully open tender competitions to secure contracts with private operators of centres for asylum seekers. A 2014 report in the Irish Times stated that “in some cases, the beneficial owners or part-time owners include companies in offshore jurisdictions, such as the Isle of Man and the British Virgin Islands.” It also stated that “some have moved to reregister themselves as private unlimited companies…freeing them of any obligation to file accounts. This means their financial affairs do not have to be open to public scrutiny.”
The number of foreign nationals and persons from EU states to
which government has opened the door is so massive that there is now a grave risk whether the social infrastructure of the State can cope with the pressure. Housing is in chaos; health is virtually caving in under the ever heightening demands on the service and schools in many cases are at near breaking level.
On the economic front, the opportunity for employment in such as most of the North West and many other regions is limited in the extreme. Young Irish people are leaving in droves. Many business operations are relying on relatively cheap labour to stay afloat. But even that hasn’t been sufficient to keep shops and other enterprises from having to close. Vacant units are to be seen all over the place. This is the desperate environment into which government is dropping families from Syria and other places.
Interviewed on RTE Drivetime, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said government officials had travelled to Paris to “identify young people who would like to come to Ireland …” The government, she said, has arrangements to “initially” take in 40 youths, aged 16 to 17.
Asked by Drivetime presenter Mary Wilson, “where will they come to…” Zappone said, “they will join one or two of the residential settings that are already in Ireland and established for unaccompanied minors.” The centres are in “different parts of the country” and small, she said.
Interviewer: “Reports this morning that the relocation of up to 40 minors is going to cost €11.5 million per year. Where is that money coming from?”
Zappone: “Well, Mary, Mr. Donohoe and I had a very good meeting this morning prior to Cabinet to discuss that very issue. He and other colleagues of mine in government – I have just come from a Cabinet meeting – are supportive of this initiative to give these people a chance for a better life. Having said that, the expenditure ceilings for 2017 are fixed, and I suppose this motion really developed subsequent to my own dealings with the Minister for Budget
2017. But it’s really important to say that we decided that Tusla (National Child and Family Agency) will get the resources for this.”
She was asked if “she was saying” Tusla will receive an additional €11.5 million to cope with the influx of the forty youths or have to find the money from the service’s own existing resources.
Zappone: “Tusla will not have to find that extra money from existing resources. They will receive, and it will probably come from my department, what they require in order to accept this number.”
Interviewer: “What will you cut then Minister?”
Zappone: “Well, we are expecting, you know, that obviously we will need…, I’m hoping we won’t have to cut anything.”
Interviewer: “It sounds a little vague on the financial front. When you look at what’s happening at the moment in a place like Ballaghaderreen, and the concerns being expressed there for additional teaching resources, for additional psychological services, additional medical services, have you got those available, and have you got the funding available to provide them to these young people…?”
Zappone: “Let me be perfectly clear, we will have the resources to provide for Tusla in order to accept these initial forty young people.”
Asked what will happen when the now 16 and 17-year-olds reach 18, the age of majority, Zappone said Tusla would continue to work with them.
People coming to reside in Ireland under refugee provisions are entitled to access education and all other services of the State, and take up employment.
Refugees from non-EU states have been taken into Ireland since as far back as the 1990s. By 2002, there was nearly 12,000 in the country.
Some industry interests are currently calling for a much greater population of migrants to be allowed settle and work in the state.
Records reveal that proportionately, Ireland’s rates of citizenship granted to non-nationals is the highest of any of the other EU States.Tens of thousands from nearly 120 different countries have been granted Irish citizenship since 2012. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny reportedly said in 2015 that Ireland had taken “85,000 new citizens” over a previous few years.Then Minister of State, Seán Sherlock, is said to have pointed out that the country also had, up to then, contributed €31 million towards the humanitarian effort on the ground in refugee camps along the Syrian borders. He also referred to the deployment of the Irish naval vessels in the Mediterranean. The cost of the deployment has not been disclosed.
In 2016, a Sligo-Leitrim TD who posted a parliamentary question asking how many Muslims had applied for Irish citizenship in the previous three years was told that the government did not keep such records. The total number of non-nationals – illegals, referred to as undocumented, economic migrants and refugees – in the country at present is unknown.
Dail Deputy urges campaigners to make submissions to Dail Committee.
Sligo News File Online.
A ban on fracking is still far from a ‘done deal.’
The issue has been raised in the Dail by Sligo TD Tony McLoughlin, but the bill he is piloting through there has been sidelined to an Oireachtas Joint Committee.
Support for the ban has been voiced by TDs aplenty, all or most of them indicating their unconditional support for the prohibition.
Despite this, however, the issue has been thrown back to campaigners who are now being called on to make their opinions on fracking known to the Dail Committee on the Environment. This is in marked contrast to the position surrounding the bill for the legalisation of cannabis which apparently is being waved on virtually without deferment.
Deputy McLoughlin certainly remains as determined as ever to have the bill carried. However, it is by no means sure that legislation outlawing the controversial hydraulic fracturing process will be enacted if an election is called – as seems possible – any time in the next few months. Where will that leave the bill, in particular with a new government in place?
Currently, the Joint Committee is carrying out a “detailed” investigation of the process, which means the body is also thumbing through what the EU position is on fracking. These days, Ireland cannot pee unless the country’s masters in Brussels give the nod!
Technical presentations and likely background lobbying by pro-fracking interests could also considerably delay the process. As it now looks, an intensive public push for speedier action by the Oireachtas may well be the kind of thing which will ensure the hoped for legislation does not end up as yet another casualty of the political system.
‘Event may have to be shelved unless more people volunteer to help with activities.’
Sligo News File Online.
Is it the end of the road for the Ballina Salmon Festival?
Reports point to some uncertainty about the future of the long-running annual event.
The Festival, one of the West’s top events, was launched more than 50 years ago, in 1964.
In that time, it has attracted hundreds of thousands to the area, generating millions of euros for the local economy.
But the high profile event is now clouded in uncertainty, and, according to a spokesman, may have to be wound down this year unless new volunteers are available to help with the running of the various associated activities, including the highly popular heritage day.
A meeting of the Festival committee is scheduled for Friday 27 January which people willing to assist are being urged to attend. The venue is the Manor Hotel, Ballina, with the meeting set to get underway at 8 pm
Meanwhile, a meeting of Sligo County Council has heard that a Sinn Fein councillor is to step down from the authority.
Sean MacManus reportedly announced that he will be resigning with effect from next month. It is expected that he will be succeeded by his son, a Sinn Fein candidate in the last general election.
The ICSA is calling for farmers to be financially incentivised to cut suckler cow production.
Proposing a €200 per suckler cow payment, the association has said “oversupply of beef in Europe and the complete lack of profitability” is crippling the viability of the beef sector.
Chairman of the association’s suckler herd committee, Dermot Kelleher, who wants the subsidy to run for upwards of five years on a voluntary basis, said “the ICSA believes that farmers are sick and tired of losing money to produce beef when there is so much uncertainty around viable markets.
“We need,” he said, “to learn from the strategy applied at EU level to deal with the dairy crisis in 2016 where the strategy was a rational move to reduce production to deal with the supply and demand imbalance.
“This strategy would expose the hypocrisy of Food Wise 2025 expansion targets by sending out a clear signal that anything less than €200 per cow net profit is unacceptable. It would expose the deadly consensus that farmers should be satisfied with just breaking even.
“Many older suckler farmers are putting their lives and health on the line trying to manage suckler cows and returns from the marketplace are getting worse and worse.
“The introduction of penalties on the payment grid for high-quality heavy carcasses, the ongoing 30 months cut off, the racket of four residencies and the impact of Brexit on price are all coming together to completely undermine suckler farming. Factories have refused point blank to engage on these issues and Bord Bia has been unable to find any solutions, he said.
“As we face into 2017 we see 200,000 more cattle for slaughter than in 2015 and continued uncertainty about live exports particularly to traditionally important markets like Italy. It is abundantly clear that the only way to deliver farm viability is scarcity. Farm organisations have to take a responsible attitude on basic economic principles that will address the profitability question above all other considerations.
“It will also be necessary to deal with the surge of so-called bobby calves from the dairy herd. With the increasing trend towards cross-breeding using a combination of Holstein and Jersey genetics there is a glut of male calves totally unsuitable for any sort of viable beef production system. The options are exporting them for veal, veal systems in Ireland or disposal through the knackery system.
“One thing is clear: advocating using them for beef is reckless and irresponsible as systems,” he said, “are unviable and they are just adding to the glut of beef which is further dragging down the price.”
A rural TD is warning of major problems as the Department of Justice moves to impose hundreds of Syrians on a small west of Ireland town.
Reports indicate that the decision to locate the Syrians in a local hotel on the outskirts of Ballaghaderreen was taken without any consultation with the local community.
It looks that the plan was hatched in the expectation that the refugees could be settled without the people being alerted to what was happening.
After details had come to light, the department went on to announce that only 80 refugees would be sent to the western location.
Now, it’s reported that a Roscommon TD has raised concerns about the lack of communication with residents, and the level of services currently available in the area.
Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice is said to have described the announcement of the refugee settlement as “a shock.”
The Irish Examiner quotes him as saying, “These people have endured a lot of suffering. There are mental health services, there are schools, there are so many different aspects.
“What I am saying at the moment unless the proper services are put in place, that, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be successful with the services that are there at the moment.
“There’s no one saying they are not welcome, but if you put 200 to 250 people in on top of the services there at the moment, then let’s be honest, they won’t get the service that they deserve and that they are entitled to.”
It is understood that the refugees are to be housed in the former Abbeyfield Hotel on the outskirts of the town. The owners are believed to have signed a two-year agreement with the Department of Justice and Equality to house the families.
Dail hears of unemployed being asked ‘in front of neighbours’ if they had a new suit of clothes for interviews, whether they had ever committed a crime and whether they intended to commit a crime in the future.
Sligo News File Online.
Teachers are being shunted into JobPath programmes because apparently there are no proper jobs for them.
The issue has been raised in the Dail where the Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar was questioned about the “requirement for newly qualified teachers to engage with a private company as part of JobPath in training and activities not related to teaching.”
JobPath was rolled out by former Labour Minister Joan Burton in 2014. Her department stated that Seetec and Turas Nua Ltd., the two successful private sector bidders for the four-year €340 million euro contract would be providing 1,000 staff in 100 outlets to assist the long-term unemployed in finding suitable employment and training.”
Deputy Thomas Broughan put it to Varadkar that “a specific problem” concerning JobPath had arisen in the case of second-level teachers, “although others are also affected.” Teachers, Broughan said, “are required to pursue JobPath training activation but
effectively are casual workers doing substitute work in different schools, including preparatory work.” They also have to be available for work at literally a day’s notice, he said.
Varadkar said people who have been unemployed for a long period of time “should be open to preparing for and taking up employment in occupations or sectors outside of their preferred field of work.This applies to people from all backgrounds, trades and professions.”
He went on to say that on referral to a JobPath service provider, job seekers “are assigned a personal employment adviser who works
with them to identify potential employment opportunities and support them in overcoming any barriers to employment. This may include, depending on the individual, the provision of training in job search and interview skills, or indeed in certain vocational skills.
“In addition JobPath service providers will tailor their approach to accommodate and support people, such as teachers, who can secure part-time or short-notice substitution work.”
However, JobPath came under fire from Limerick Fianna Fail Deputy Willie O’Dea who asked Varadkar if his attention had been drawn to the criticisms being levelled at it.
O’Dea said he was raising the question “because of the large volume of complaints” not only he but also other colleagues on all sides of the house were receiving about the operation of the scheme.
Referring to the reply from Varadkar, O’Dea said he was “staggered by the Minister’s reference to there only being 145 complaints.
“With as much certainty as I can have short of counting, I have received that many complaints from different parts of the country.”
He said, “A woman from County Wicklow rang me last night. She was obviously in distress because of her initial interaction with JobPath. I have received complaints from people in my constituency who were invited into a relatively small room and while sitting cheek by jowl with their neighbours – it is a small city – asked questions about whether they had a new suit of clothes for interviews, whether they had ever committed a crime and whether they intended to commit a crime in the future.
“Who dreamed up these questions?”
O’Dea said that last June the Minister told him that “the Department intended to commission customer satisfaction surveys.” He asked if this been done and whether the surveys had been conducted.
Varadkar said the independent customer satisfaction survey was under way and the results were expected “before the end of the year.”
O’Dea: “Time will not permit me to read all of the e-mails, letters and other correspondence I have received on this issue, but a person from the Minister’s constituency e-mailed me after finding the JobPath experience humiliating, stressful and demoralising. I have received a number of other e-mails. One person’s connection with JobPath had accentuated their anxiety owing to the behaviour of some of the staff. Another person stated no benefit or job opportunities had been presented since they were coerced into attending Turas Nua. Yet another person told me about receiving advice from staff who had received a paltry three months of training and many of whom did not have a background in human resources. Perhaps this explains the reason the number of complaints is so small.
Some 90% of the people who have complained to me have begged me to keep their names out of it because they felt threatened. That is sinister. I can meet the Minister and show him some of the e-mails I have received. The people who sent them did not want their names to be mentioned because they feared retaliation.
That is unacceptable.”
Varadkar: “I am unsure what the Deputy means by “retaliation”. If people are concerned that their payments will be reduced, that cannot be done. Neither of the JobPath providers has the authority to do so. It can only be done by my officials. Sometimes people who attend social welfare offices and Intreo centres have complaints. This may be down to personal interactions, for example, how they have been treated by individual staff members, or their interpretation of what was said to them. However, personal questions sometimes require to be asked in one-to-one engagements. Asking someone whether he or she has a suit in order that he or s he can appear well at an interview is reasonable. Some of the questions people might be asked in interviews are also asked in—–