Government roll out multi-billion plan for North West then apparently go on to slash opening hours of Garda station in region

Donegal Town it’s feared would see access to garda station slashed to a few hours and less on Sunday.

Sligo News File.

After all the countryside has suffered from garda cutbacks and the closure of stations all over the place it would be expected the last thing we would now be hearing of is plans for the near demise of yet another garda operation. This time, the knives appear to be out for the station in Donegal town.

Marc MacSharry, TD,
Fianna Fail

Sligo TD Marc MacSharry has said reports point to moves where the town’s current excellent 24-hour service is to be sheared back to a few hours of part-time operation, leaving walk-in facilities at the station only open to the public between 10 am and 2 pm and 8 pm to 10pm Monday to Saturday and 10 am to 1 pm on Sundays.

Whose idea is it to pull this clearly unforgivable decision on the local people? Surely the community deserve to be sure that gardai will be immediately accessible if, or, more likely when, thugs decide to turn up and inflict injury on people and their property? They have been doing this for years with virtual impunity. No area is deemed safe
anymore. The elderly are terrified, the public, in general, is fearful of walking the street at night. Burglaries now are in many, many cases, not the criminal invasion of homes and businesses and the looting of goods alone but also a horrific scale of savagery inflicted on older and indeed other occupants or owners. People have been brutally

However, it doesn’t look that the Government is paying much attention to the countrywide carnage.

Little more than a week or so ago, the Government motored into the North West to unveil a plan designed they claimed, to boost the State battered condition of the North West. Billions of euros were talked. Leading lights were seen to be alight with delight. Bags of money. New investment. New infrastructure. New roads – just reach out and Government would be there to guide early risers to presumably Darby’s magical pot of gold.

Now, soon after after the festival of giant-like promises, the story is of reports to effectively downgrade a garda station in Donegal – the very region supposed to benefit from the plan unfolded in a blaze of publicity. If the Government is already gearing up to make savings by cutting local garda services what does it say of the value of the much-hyped plan it wants people to believe is going to give the region a massive stimulus.

It is also worth mentioning that the story of 140 gardai, an assistant commissioner, superintendent and chief superintendent left to carry out their work from a waterless Sligo station, with no proper toilets – the building serves as the Garda headquarters for the region – continues to fester. Owing to the absence of cells, persons detained by gardai have to be transported for processing and detention to a station 15 miles away.

Branding the apparently planned minimalisation of the Garda service in Donegal as “absolutely ridiculous,” Deputy Mac Sharry said it was being proposed “especially at a time when there is anecdotal evidence that burglaries and robberies are on the increase.

“There are crime meetings taking place up and down the country hearing from people who are living in fear in their own communities. We all know that a strong Garda presence plays a huge part in deterring crime, yet here we have a proposal to reduce the opening hours at the Donegal town station.

“The station provides services to a substantial geographic area – including the Donegal Town Municipal area and a considerable area north and south of the town. There are extensive upgrade works planned for the station – worth in the region of €2m – and I understand that some of this work has already been put out to tender, while other mechanical and engineering cost considerations have been advanced.

“This proposed downgrade comes at a time when the government is pushing its Project Ireland 2040 plan. It’s less than two weeks since that strategy was launched, promising investment and infrastructure, and now we have a situation where a possible downgrade of an essential service is on the cards. This proposal clearly exposes the government’s plan to continue its relentless destruction of rural Ireland and it shows up Project Ireland 2040 and its targeted media campaign as nothing more than a
political stunt to use taxpayers’ money to promote Fine Gael and its candidates.”

Calling for “common sense to prevail,” MacSharry insisted that any reduction in opening times at Donegal town Garda Station must be shelved.” The Deputy has also made repeated Dail statements regarding the Garda station in Sligo.

Treatment for Hereditary Haemochromatosis only free to patients in Dublin

Charge of €80 for all other patients brought in by Government in 2013.

Sligo News File

Patients with Hereditary Haemochromatosis, the treatment of which necessitates the removal of a pint of blood, are being victimised – unless they can get to Dublin
where the treatment is free. TD Eamon Scanlon has described the situation as discriminatory.

Eamon Scanlon,TD

The Sligo-based Deputy said the €80 charge was only introduced in 2013 “after changes were made to the Health Act. It’s completely ridiculous that some patients are being forced to pay the charge while others are not. It’s discrimination based on address.”

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a disorder that causes the body to absorb too much iron from the diet. The excess iron is stored in the body’s tissues and organs, particularly the skin, heart, liver, pancreas, and joints. Unless treatment is availed of the condition could have serious health implications for the sufferer.

Scanlon said, “It is deeply unfair that some people are having to pay the fee while others aren’t. This isn’t an optional procedure – if patients don’t undergo the treatment they could end up with liver damage.

“The Minister and the HSE need to level the playing field and ensure that all haemochromatosis sufferers have access to free venesection and phlebotomy services so that they can keep their condition under control.”

He said that Health Minister Simon Harris had informed him that a meeting is being arranged to consider “the issue of the application of the public in-patient charge of €80 for venesection in Acute Hospitals as well as broader issues in relation to the treatment of patients with Hereditary Haemochromatosis.”

Ireland will have to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to retain constitutional amendment to protect the lives of babies in the womb

Allegation of funds pumped into Ireland to void the people’s Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Sligo News File

There’s apparently a convergence of outside bodies muscling in on Ireland in a bid to bring down the Eighth Amendment, a measure which the people inserted in the Constitution to protect the lives of Irish children in the womb.

Reports of out-of-country fund raising campaigns are said to be coming to light as are accounts of huge donations directly to pro-abortion bodies here.

Separately, a report in today’s Irish Independent alleges that a British headquartered newspaper, the UK Times, Ireland Edition, is using Facebook data to influence the result of the upcoming abortion referendum.

The ‘paper reports that the pro-life side of the abortion campaign “has frequently accused ‘The Times, Ireland Edition’ of being biased in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.”

They reference a recent pro-choice story in ‘The Sunday Times’ headlined: “HSE used Eighth to try and force me to have a caesarean” which they say has been appearing as a
sponsored post from the paper in Facebook users’ feeds.

Pro-Life campaigner John McGuirk is stated to have claimed that ‘The Times’ was “targeting a news story at women who might be voting No on #repealthe8th” and outlined a theory arguing that they were “actively campaigning for a yes vote.”

The claim, states the Independent’ has been rejected as “not true” by Richie Oakley, Editor of ‘The Times, Ireland Edition,’

Fianna Fail mounts pressure on Minister to underpin future of suckler farmers

‘Unanimously supported Dáil motion powers up case for €200 cow grant.’

Sligo News File

Fianna Fail is battling for a better payment deal for suckler farmers.


Eamon Scanlon, TD

The party is demanding that the Minister for Agriculture introduce a payment of €200 per suckler cow and review “departmental underspends across Rural Development Programme

Deputy Eamon Scanlon spoke during a debate on Wednesday night when he reminded the Minister that “farmers in the North West are the engine that drives the beef industry in this country. We produce the calves that are fed for beef and are the basis for the country’s €2.5bn beef export sector.

Conditions farmers in the suckler industry are facing have, he said, “deteriorated steadily in recent years and have now reached a point where many are finding it extremely difficult to remain viable.

“They need help, specifically a suckler grant of at least €200, if they are to survive, he said.

Fianna Fáil, he said, “has been arguing for this kind of payment for years while Fine Gael continues to turn a blind eye.

“Farmers in the region are put to the pin of their collar. They cannot go dairying because the land is so scattered. The suckler cow sector is the most sustainable, if the supports are provided.”

The average income from the industry is €13,000, he said. “Farmers depend fully on CAP supports to maintain their livelihoods.

“Not only do we need to see the €200 payment per sucker cow introduced, we also need the Minister to fight the farmers’ corner in the next round of CAP negotiations to ensure that payments are not reduced,”

“Our motion also recognises the serious underspend across RDP projects. The Minister must now establish a review to look at how that money can be used to support vulnerable sectors including the suckler cow industry.”

Adding that the motion was “unanimously supported in the Dáil,” he said the Minister now needed to recognise this “and follow through with action.”

Ireland has no vaccine to protect against TB – Minister

‘Stock expired in April 2015.’

‘Supply will not be available until at least late next year.’

‘Health Service Executive continuing to experience delays in procuring product.’

Hundreds of TB cases being notified to Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Sligo News File

A vaccine used to protect against tuberculosis hasn’t been available in Ireland for the last few years.

The issue was raised again in the Dail this week when Fianna Fail Deputy Jack Chambers asked if “immunocompromised groups of persons in need of immunisation from tuberculosis were being provided with the BCG vaccination.”

Catherine Byrne TD, Minister of State, Department of Health

Minister of State at the Department of Health Catherine Byrne said the Health Service Executive is continuing to experience ongoing delays in the supply of the vaccine.

BCG vaccine stock in all areas expired at the end of April 2015, she said.

“Since this problem became apparent, the HSE National Immunisation Office (NIO) has been in regular contact with the manufacturer of BCG vaccine to ascertain when the vaccine might be available.”

Byrne said there was only one licensed supplier of BCG vaccine to Ireland and this vaccine manufacturer had informed the NIO that the BCG vaccine would not be delivered into the country until late 2018 at the earliest.

She said, “The NIO and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have sought an alternative supply of BCG vaccine that meets safety, quality and effectiveness standards and that could be used in Ireland. To date no appropriate alternative manufacturer has been found.”

According to the 2016 provisional report of Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 319 cases of TB were notified to the Centre. HSE East reported the highest number of cases 136 (42.6% of the total) with 36.4% of total cases being reported in Dublin.The highest proportion of cases occurred in those aged 25-34 years. Some 49.2% of all cases were foreign-born.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre 2017 report states that 241 cases of TB were notified to the centre in quarters 1 to 3 of the year. HSE East reported the highest number of cases at 136 (56.4% of total) The highest proportion of cases occurred in those 35-44 year age group (22.0%) and those aged 65 years and older (21.6%) Of the total 45.6% of cases were born in Ireland, 41.9% were foreign-born, and 12.4% did not report country of birth.

The World Health Organisation has stated that globally “there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases in 2016.” An estimated 1.7 million died from TB. In the same year, one million children (0–14 years of age) fell ill with TB. Of those, 250,000 children (including children with HIV associated TB) died from the disease.

“Seven countries accounted for the larger part of the total burden, with India bearing the brunt, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa.”

TD warns ambulance service in North West unable to cope with call outs.

’80 minute response times putting lives at risk.’

‘Urgent need for extra ambulances in Sligo-Leitrim’

Sligo News File

Ambulance operations in the North West haven’t the capacity to deal with call outs to the service.

The deeply troubling claim has been made by Sligo TD, Eamon Scanlon.

Eamon Scanlon,TD

The Fianna Fail Deputy has spoken of cases where patients have had to wait for more than an hour for the arrival of an ambulance.

He said, “In one instance last September, a teenage boy who was injured during a football match in Fenagh in Co. Leitrim had to wait on a cold, wet pitch for 80 minutes before an ambulance finally arrived at the scene.

“I am aware of other cases, where patients were waiting over 75 minutes before an ambulance reached them. These can be life or death situations but our ambulance service does not have the capacity to deal with the call-outs they are receiving. Simply put, we need more ambulances and increased crew numbers, especially in the Carrick- on-Shannon base.

“At the moment there is no short term cover available for ambulance staff, so if personnel are out sick, it could lead to ambulance cover being dropped. Ambulance staff are around-the-clock shifts – with 20 hour shifts not unheard of in the North West region. This is unsatisfactory and dangerous.”

He stated that of 30 “new recruits” passed out in the second half of last year “not one was assigned to the North West.”

“I welcome the fact that the budget for the National Ambulance Service has been increased by €10.9 million this year; however we need to see some of that ring-fenced for ambulances and personnel in this region.

“I would also like to see the First Responder scheme rolled out to the North West. In Dublin, firefighters are trained to paramedic level – that means there are paramedics available on a 24-7 basis. This should also be the case in the regions. I understand that discussions are underway between the NAS and the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management and I would like to see these expedited.

Scanlon said he had raised the concern with Harris, the Health Minister.

“The current situation cannot be allowed to continue,” he said. “It is neither acceptable nor safe.

“I am urging Minister Harris to act on this issue and ensure that additional ambulances and paramedics are assigned to this region as a matter of priority.”

Government treatment of jobless sparks fire in the Dail

‘Unemployed demonised, victimised and have had their social welfare cut’

Alleged ‘one of two companies behind Turas Nua – a body appointed by the Department of Social Protection to deliver JobPath services – has been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain.’

Sligo News File

The Dail has been told that some 140,000 unemployed people have been “turned into opportunities for profit for private companies.”


Paul Murphy TD

TD Paul Murphy has also said that Working Links, one of two companies behind Turas Nua – a body appointed by the Department of Social Protection to deliver JobPath services – has been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain.

Murphy said, “Under the guise of labour activation measures pushed by Fine Gael and Labour, unemployed people have been demonised, victimised and have had their social welfare cut, all in the service of constructing a republic of precarity which drives people into the kind of low-paid precarious work which has become widespread.

“One in four workers are now in part-time employment, 30% of workers are low-paid and 8% of workers have hours which change from week to week or from month to month. The result is a complete lack of stability and security and people being unable to plan their lives. They are existing instead of living.”

“The counterpart to that precarious unemployment is,” he said, precarious unemployment in the JobPath machine. Some 140,000 unemployed people have been turned into opportunities for profit for private companies. In the process and without significant debate, the provision of social welfare has been partially privatised.

“I have spoken to a number of people who have been through JobPath. They say that they are not given any real training and they are just supervised while looking for jobs on a computer, which means that it is pointless travel for many. They describe it as demeaning, patronising and infantilising. The threat of having their social welfare cut by more than €40 hangs over all of their interactions with these private companies, which would leave people trying to survive on €150 or less a week.

“Since JobPath was introduced, the number of people who have had these so-called penalty rates applied has increased from 5,000 in 2015 to 16,000 last year. That is in one year alone. Some 6,500 JobPath participants have had their dole cut. On the other hand, €84 million of public money has been paid to just two companies, SeeTec and Turas Nua. They get money each time someone signs a personal progression plan and they get paid job sustainment fees. Both SeeTec and Working Links, which is one of two companies behind Turas Nua, have been accused of fraud in the operation of similar schemes in Britain. Last October in the Dáil, Deputy Catherine Murphy raised a very serious case of fraud by SeeTec in Ireland.

“All of that has been justified up until now on the false basis that the system works and gets people into employment. That has now been completely exposed by the Government’s own figures which came out three weeks ago. Only 18% of those who engage in JobPath end up in full-time employment. Some €84 million has been given to
these private companies to get people jobs which they would have got themselves.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

“Will the Taoiseach now read the writing on the wall for JobPath? Will he agree that the scheme needs to be scrapped and that instead of handing money over to private companies, he should invest in proper education and training and in real jobs for unemployed people?”

Describing welfare fraud as “very real,” the Taoiseach said, “It is a real problem in this country and in every western society. Even if we take the lowest estimate of the scale of welfare fraud in this country, it is about €40 million a year. That is a lot of money in my view. Let us not forget that people who engage in welfare fraud are not the poor and vulnerable. They are people who are pretending to be poor and vulnerable. They are people who are working and claiming.”

Deputy Mattie McGrath: “What about these companies?”

Taoiseach: The Taoiseach: They are people who are working, not paying their taxes on that work, and also claiming welfare at the same time. I do not believe that is defensible or acceptable. There are people who are pretending to have a disability they do not have or pretending to care for someone for whom they are not caring. People are claiming to be somebody they are not to claim pensions for people who are long dead. It really disappoints me to hear left-wing politicians in this country constantly defending fraudsters as though they are entitled to the benefits that they are stealing. They are not.”

Deputy Pearse Doherty: “Fine Gael was the party that was caught out.”

Taoiseach: It is absolutely the work of this Government—–

Deputy Mattie McGrath: “Turas Nua is a sham.”

The Taoiseach: “—–to prevent and crack down on welfare fraud in any way we can. One only needs to look at the court reports every other day to see the detail of some of those cases and what people have been doing to defraud our system. The reason we cracked down on welfare fraud is not ideological. The reason is that fraud is wrong, whether it is tax fraud or welfare fraud, and we act against it. In doing so, we ensure that the welfare budget is protected for those who are entitled to it, including our pensioners, people with disabilities, carers, the unemployed, lone parents, blind people, widows and others. As a result we have been able to increase in two budgets in a row the State pension, payments to carers, payments to people with disabilities and payments to people who are unemployed. It is Government policy to crack down on welfare
fraud in order to protect the welfare budget for those who need and deserve it, particularly pensioners, the disabled, carers and people who are unemployed.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: “And to be nice to the bankers.”

The Taoiseach: I am very disappointed to hear politicians on the left continuously equivocating on this issue and not condemning welfare fraud. I note that the Deputy did not do so on this occasion….”

Deputy Paul Murphy: “It is like Deputy Enda Kenny is back. The Taoiseach managed not to answer the question at all. Instead he attacked something which I did not say and then went on an ideological attack about Venezuela. I think he might have even referenced Colombia and Greece.”

The Taoiseach: “Colombia is where the refugees are.”

Deputy Paul Murphy: “Let us go back to the question. The question is on the Government’s JobPath scheme, which has failed in its stated aim of getting jobs for people. That is what the facts now demonstrate. Only 18% of participants get jobs, which is no higher than the rate for people who do not have access to JobPath. These companies have been accused of fraud in Britain. What is the Taoiseach doing to make sure that they are not engaged in fraud here? To deal with the curveball which the Taoiseach has thrown,
which is that he will stand over and double down on his rhetoric about welfare fraud, the Taoiseach gave the figure of €40 million two minutes ago, but his advertising campaign said €500 million. Which is it? Who is engaged in fraud here?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: “It is the spin machine.”

Deputy Paul Murphy: “The Taoiseach is engaged in fraud against unemployed people and is using public money to demonise them in order to drive precarious employment. He is continuing in that same Thatcherite vein here. Will he please answer the question asked in respect of JobPath?”

The Taoiseach: “I said that even the lowest estimate is €40 million. I note the Deputy has not refuted that.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: “What is the actual figure?”

The Taoiseach: “The figure of €500 million was what it said on the tin, that is fraud and control. Fraud and control. They are two different things.”

Deputy Pearse Doherty: “It was the Department’s Brexit bus.”


The Taoiseach said if participants felt that they were not getting a proper service from JobPath, “they can make a complaint directly to the company. If they are not satisfied with the response, they can go to the Department and make a complaint through its procedures.”

Deputy Mattie McGrath: “They would be wasting their time.”

Absence of jobs led to 7,000 having to leave Donegal – Pringle

‘Since Fine Gael elected in 2011 Donegal has experienced the highest rate of population decline in the country.’

‘Government has not offered any support to rural areas to address rural population decrease.’

Sligo News File.

Some 7,000 people have left Donegal owing to the absence of work in the county.

Thomas Pringle TD, Independent

Disputing claims made by Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring about a drop in unemployment, local TD Thomas Pringle told the Dail that the fall in the jobless figures for Donegal was attributable to the vast exodus of people from the area.

He said, “In the space of six years, since Fine Gael was elected in 2011, Donegal has experienced the highest rate of population decline in the country, at -1.5%, while every other county bar Sligo and Mayo experienced a population increase. The Minister’s county, therefore, experienced a population decrease. This is because the Government has not offered any support to rural areas to address rural population decline.

“People from Donegal said Pringle, “have gone to Dublin, London, New York and Australia.”

He said:

“Rural population decline is both a symptom and cause of the retreat of rural services, including post offices, Garda stations and general practitioners and most recently the retreat of private sector services, which has left towns such as Ardara with no banking facilities at all. This is all under the Minister’s watch.

“The root cause of rural population decline is Government policy prioritising urban areas to the detriment of rural towns, privatising essential networks, such as the post office network, and centralising front-line services, such as the Garda force.”

“The Minister should be careful with the figures he has announced. Population figures have fallen because of emigration rather than on foot of anything he – or the Government – has done. That is the problem we have in Donegal.”

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring

Pringle said he had carried out a “business survey” of small towns in the county in recent weeks to which there was “a great response from a wide range of businesses in Ardagh, Donegal town, Ballybofey and other places. They have a sense that no help is being accorded to them in terms of keeping services going. They have identified the withdrawal of services as being the key factor and referred to the post offices, banks and Garda stations that have been closed.

“The Minister has to reverse that trend, which is the only way he can protect those towns,” said Pringle.

Ring said Donegal had received the third highest amount of funding from his department in 2017. “That was over €8.6 million more than my county received. The local improvement scheme, LIS, was allocated €3.3 million, CLÁR was allocated €589,000, and the town and village renewal scheme was allocated €1.15 million. These are the programmes we are trying to put in place to create employment and to keep people living and working in rural Ireland.”

He said that under the national development plan, “the Government has committed to establishing a new rural regeneration and development fund, which will provide an additional €1 billion over the next ten years to support rural renewal and reduce population decline in rural towns and villages.”

In another reference to Donegal, Ring said he noted from recent statistics that “the number of children aged under 15 years increased between 2011 and 2016.”