Category Archives: News

NOOSE TIGHTENS FOR DEBT BELEAGUERED SLIGO COUNTY COUNCIL.

Twelve days to sort out €80 million debt overhang.

Sligo News File Online.

A major rundown of local public services seems likely if environment minister, Alan Kelly holds to his reported threat to abolish Sligo County Council.

Cllr. Joe Queenan
Cllr. Joe Queenan,
Chairman,
Sligo County Council

Central to the issue is an €80 million legacy debt that it seems Kelly wants to have resolved within the next twelve days – that is by 24 of November.

He has apparently called in local Fine Gael and Labour TDs and Senators to lay it on the line that the prevailing debt situation is no longer acceptable to him, and he wants urgent and concrete action on the issue.

Quite how he expects councillors to achieve an €80 million debt reduction in the space of less than a couple of weeks would be beyond the understanding of most people, but there it is. Of course, it is entirely possible that Knock could bring about a miracle
for the beleaguered council, seeing the authority has been showing goodwill towards a plan which would have it linking up with the airport to help in keeping flights rolling into the shrine.

As of the moment it is not clear whether there is more debt than the indicated figure, or if the existing sum includes the legal costs which the council has been ordered to meet by the Supreme Court arising out of the proceedings taken against the body by the owners of
the Lissadell Estate following on a decision or resolution over claimed rights of way through the estate.

The chairman of the Sligo Municipal District council, Cllr. Tom MacSharry has hit out at the demand being placed on the council, describing it, according to one source, as “a new low in politics.”

However, what we have difficulty with are statements in which, some time back, it was contended media accounts of the scale of the council’s indebtedness were wrong, and that the figure was actually much lower than reported. What are the facts on this?

Surprisingly, there hasn’t so far been any comment from the Fianna Fail chairman of the council, Enniscrone-based farmer, auctioneer and grocer, Cllr. Joe Queenan. Recently, he and party colleagues joined Fine Gael in resisting a proposed 15% cut in the Coalition
introduced property tax on the homes of families across the county.

A problem now for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael members is whether they will be obliged to vote through an increase in the commercial rate in a bid to solve the sweeping debt that it appears Minister Kelly is insisting must be dealt with in the days ahead. Or will
they perhaps choose instead to ratchet up the tax on the family home, or both?

Decisions will also have to be made on the future of key services, which it’s assumed would take in roads, motor tax services and local district office facilities and operations in the various county locations.

Then, again, there is always the prospect councillors may decide to act with magnanimity and forego for a few years their substantial representational allowances and expenses in order to avoid or minimise the need for rate or tax hikes or cut backs in the local service provision.

Whatever the decision or outcome, it can be expected the scene in Sligo council circles and outside it will be, to say the least. lively in coming days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

RTE DECISION TO SCRAP LONGWAVE RADIO SERVICE MUST BE REVERSED.

Senator says shutdown will isolate people in the North and the UK.

Sligo News File Online.

Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney is calling on the new RTE Authority to reverse its decision to withdraw its Longwave 252 kHZ service.  The broadcaster plans to close this essential service next year, despite extensive campaigns by groups in Northern Ireland and abroad demanding that it be retained. 

 Senator Mooney commented, “I have been inundated with emails and phonecalls from people in Northern Ireland and the UK who are extremely angry about RTE’s decision.  The move goes against the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, whereby there is an onus on RTE to transmit into Northern Ireland and to the Irish diaspora in the UK.

“At a recent meeting of the Irish Association for Economic, Social and Cultural Relations, Mr. Jeff Dudgeon, a former Trinity College graduate and Ulster Unionist member of Belfast City Council expressed strong opposition to RTE’s decision, which indicates that all sides of the community in Northern Ireland are against the closure of the service.

“There are no technical reasons RTE should shut down this transmitter, which was upgraded to modern standards in 2007 at considerable expense.  RTE has not answered the question as to what it will do with it if it shuts it.

“RTE has already bowed to pressure and has agreed to delay the closure of the transmitter until next year, but it needs to go further and scrap plans to wind down the service.

“I will be calling on the recently appointed RTE Authority, upon taking office, to immediately reverse this decision.  Chairperson Designate Moya Doherty will be appearing before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications in the coming weeks to have her appointment confirmed, and I will be taking the opportunity as a member of that committee to question her as to her position on the future of Longwave 252”, concluded Senator Mooney.

Minister Still Not Listening to Beef Farmers – Mac Sharry

‘Beef prices down 20%’

Sligo News File Online

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry has criticised the Agriculture Minister for still not listening to farmers on the beef crisis.

 Senator Mac Sharry was speaking as the second protest by farmers outside beef factories in two weeks continues.

“It is clear that Minister Simon Coveney is still not listening to beef farmers or their concerns over the beef crisis, prices across the country are down as much as 20% this year.  Among the biggest issues are the unfair and discriminatory practices being used by the large supermarkets and processors which are penalising beef farmers and unfairly inhibiting fair trade between Ireland and Britain. 

“Minister Coveney has not been proactive enough in working with his Northern Irish counterpart to address this issue. The longer this goes on without a resolution, the worse it gets for farmers that are really struggling to survive.

“Minister Coveney must take the fight to Europe to seek enforcement of article 39b of the Lisbon Treaty which guarantees a fair living to farmers. An EU intervention is desperately needed to remove the barriers to trade being put in place by multiples and processors which is preventing farmers getting a fair price.

“Fianna Fáil has also called for an introductory grant scheme of €200 per animal per head under the beef genomics scheme even if it means 100% genotyping of the herd.  Tangible action must be taken and these measures would do a lot to ease the crisis for beef prices.”

 

DEPRESSING REALITY BEHIND LIVE REGISTER ‘RECOVERY ‘ FIGURES.

Unemployment still at crisis levels.

Sligo News File Online.

You’d need a hard neck or great faith to seriously take it that economic and social conditions across Sligo and Leitrim are improving to any appreciable extent.

Unemployment remains at crisis levels, earned income in countless cases is at rock bottom, emigration is continuing, poverty is at a record high and families are being forced to rely on a soup kitchen for food.

However, that hasn’t stopped former junior minister John Perry – anyone remember what he was minister for? – or his Labour party colleage, Susan O’Keeffe sketching an upbeat picture of the jobs scene.

In a statement to local media, O’Keeffe has said the Live Register for last month showed the progress “we”-we take it she means Fine Gael-Labour – are making in Sligo and Leitrim in getting people off the Live Register and into work.

“Unemployment,” she said, “does not fall without a concerted effort by government and local organisations.”

Perry has said in his statement that the Coalition was given the task of getting the country back on its feet and the Live Register figures now show “economic recovery is real and is resulting in people getting back to work.”

Neither of them has apparently chosen to comment on the social conditions under which people are struggling to survive or why they think businesses in Sligo, Ballymote and elsewhere have been collapsing this last few years of Coalition imposed austerity.

So, let’s see it as detailed by experts at the coalface, the Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed.

This is their reaction  to the Live Register figures:

“Some people are finding work, some people are re-entering education and training, many people have emigrated and others are no longer on the register as they did not make the transition from Jobseekers Benefit, the social insurance based payment, to
Jobseekers Allowance, the means tested payment.

“Even allowing for this, the percentage of people in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance is growing in comparison to Jobseekers Benefit. This is particularly striking for people aged under 25 years of age.

“In October 2008 Jobseekers Allowance accounted for 65% of  young people on the register, in October 2014 this figure stands at 94.3%. And though over that period the numbers of young people on the register has decreased by 5.6%, the numbers of young people in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance has increased by 30%.”

The organisation stresses that for a young person to qualify for a Jobseekers Allowance payment his or her circumstances are also taken into account if living at home. “So not only are many young people surviving with few means so are many of their families.
Finding work is a job in itself and demands resources, resources that are very difficult to come by on a jobseekers payment that is at most €100,” said Brid O’Brien, the organisations Head of Policy and Media.

The organisation also notes that whereas in April 2011 the number on the register more than a year represented 38.5% of the register, the figure is now up by more than 9%, representing 47.7% of the register.

COURT PROCEEDINGS: RED ALERT FOR FARMING COMMUNITY.

Smells allegedly detected by neighbour 120-130 metres from farm.

A court case involving a Limerick farmer could have repercussions for farming practices throughout the country.

Proceedings were taken by Limerick County Council arising out of alleged odour nuisance at a farm in the county.

A neighbour of the farm owner reportedly told the court of smells he detected coming from the farm, 120 – 130 metres from where he lived.

According to the Limerick Leader, a technician with the county council stated that he had carried out a “sniff test” in the vicinity of the farm and had detected “an animal feed smell that passed the thresholds deemed to be a nuisance.” He later visited the farm where he detected a smell he believed was a “chemical reaction ”between feedstuffs.

The judge found the facts proved, but adjourned the case to allow the parties “engage.”

The ICMSA has warned that the case could set a precedent that would make farming practices “incredibly difficult.”

Indo Farming reports a spokesperson for the association as stating “if residents in rural areas can object to odours on a neighbouring farm and have these objections upheld farming operations could potentially become impossible for the majority of progressive farmers in the country.”

Meanwhile, an industry activist has expressed concern about plans that, he says, could hit slurry spreading in areas of the west where it is deemed soil depth or condition is insufficient to attenuate contaminants in the waste. Those likely to be affected would include farms where slurry is spread a couple of times a year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recently warned that upwards of a third of private wells contain E.coli.

Among the E.coli are a group called Verocytotoxigenic E.coli (VTEC), which, the Food Safety Authority states, can cause serious injury and death. E.coli 0157:H7 can remain viable in soils, water and manure for considerable periods and has been shown to survive for several months in manure and contaminated grassland.

E.Coli O157:H7 contamination of a public water supply was implicated in approximately 17 deaths and almost 2,000 cases of infection in the Canadian town of Walkerton in May 2000.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that as many as 50,000 of the 170,000 private wells in Ireland are contaminated.

MACSHARRY HAMMERS GOVERNMENT ON BEEF CRISIS.

Meetings between Minister for agriculture, farm bodies and processors futile…

Sligo News File Online.

Sligo Fianna Fail senator, Marc MacSharry has slammed beef crisis  
beef crisis meetings between the Minister for Agriculture, farm organisations and beef processors as “futile without tangible action at EU level to remove market constraints affecting hard-pressed farmers.”

Senator Marc MacSharry
Senator Marc MacSharry,
Fianna Fail

He said that despite repeated calls from Fianna Fail, “no action has been taken to enforce Article 39b of the EU Treaty which guarantees a fair price for farm families for their produce.

“Minister Simon Coveney has failed to act in this regard,” he said.

“Since September I and others have travelled to Brussels to lobby the EU Commission for the introduction of regulations to prevent supermarkets and processors from imposing unfair barriers to trade based on the specifications, age and number of movements of cattle, which are discriminatory and should be made illegal.

“We have also sought a more proactive approach by government in broadening the international market for Irish beef products.

“Fianna Fail is demanding tangible outcomes and not just superficial talks during this beef forum. We are calling on Minister Coveney to immediately seek EU intervention on discriminatory practices depriving small farmers of a fair living.

“He must immediately establish a €200 per head beef genomics scheme to boost farm incomes.

“An independent beef regulator must urgently be appointed to ensure that the exploitation of farmers by large multiples and processors is stopped.

“The government must also take a more proactive role in seeking the removal of unnecessary BSE era age restrictions and the broadening of the market for Irish beef across the world.”

Senator MacSharry said that while engagement between the government, the industry and the IFA was important on an ongoing basis, “without tangible outcomes they are futile and superficial.

“This is why it is imperative that there are real outcomes from the beef forum.”

 

 

 

 

SLIGO FOCUS.

‘Round the County.

 Sligo News File Online.

Week from 29 October 2014.

 ‘NO’ TO WATER CHARGES.

Sligo Water Charge Protest March

 More than 4,000 took part in protest march in Sligo.

Sligo protest against water charges

 

 Water charges on agenda for meeting of County Council

There will be more than passing interest in how councillors react to motions on water charges down for discussion at next Monday’s meeting of Sligo County Council. This is the council that only a short time back had farmers up in arms over charges for water.

Remember the protests?.

Then there was the more recent action where members sanctioned compulsory registration of all households for waste collection and service charges.

As if that massive financial burden on families wasn’t enough, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael also blocked a proposed 15% reduction in the tax on the family home.

The motions scheduled to come before councillors on Monday include a lengthy submission in the names of Sinn Fein members Thomas Healy and Sean MacManus. They are demanding that:

 Sligo County Council calls on the Government to;

– Immediately reverse domestic water charges which are an unfair and unjust double charge being forced on already struggling households.

– Stop the roll out of metering and redirect the €539m loan finance from the National Pension Reserve Fund towards fixing the massive leakage problems and interruption to supply.

– Recognise that Irish Water is not fit for purpose since it is unaccountable to the Minister and therefore to the Oireachtas and the citizens of this State.

– Prevent Irish Water from any further excessive spending of taxpayer’s money, including the proposed further €35m on the use of external consultants in 2015.

– Oppose any duplication of services being delivered by Irish Water and Local authorities and retain these services within full public ownership now and in the future.

– Listen to the widespread public anger that exists towards this Government and Irish Water by the Irish people, who are now rightly organising and mobilising in protest and opposition to these water charges through the Right2Water public campaign which includes activists, citizens, community groups, political parties and trade unions.

Another notice of motion in the name of Independent Cllr. Margaret Gormley makes a plea for the farming sector submitting that the council “rejects the proposal by the Commission for Energy Regulation and Irish Water to charge the farming community (a) a standing charge for meters and (b) to bill them on the double for household and farm water supplies…”

Fianna Fail councillor, Seamus Kilgannon is set to demonstrate how far seeing “we” were when it came to the setting up of Irish Water. A notice of motion in his name states:

“Now that it has been proven over and over again, as we suspected for some time that Irish Water, as set up by Government is indeed a ‘Gold Plated Bonus Driven Super Quango’, Sligo County Council calls for a full Review of Irish Water’s Role Model, its policy and delivery.”

Figure that, say us! Does it mean he disagrees with the establishment of Irish Water which Fianna Fail signed up to with the ‘Troika’ when the party in government agreed to slap charges on domestic water users and also hit families with a property tax on their homes?

Cllr. Michael Clarke (Ind) has listed a motion calling on the county council to sell off McFirbis House on Enniscrone’s Pier Road, and “purchase and build” more houses in the area.

Cllr.Jerry Lundy (FF) wants the minister for health to tackle hospital waiting lists where, he states, 41,000 patients are waiting a year or more for outpatient appointments.

Cllr. Declan Bree (Ind) has on the agenda a motion to,ask the chief executive the “value of commercial rates not collected in 2013” owing to premises being vacant, and the council’s policy on commercial rates in the case of partly occupied properties.

Cllr. Marie Casserly (Ind) apparently has in mind the promotion of business activity in primary schools. No kidding, Marie! Are you talking – or about to talk – about four or five year olds? Anyhow, her motion on the agenda for Monday reads:

“That Sligo County Council support an initiative to work in collaboration with public and private interests to develop and promote entrepreneurship in primary schools.”

Cllr. Hubert Keaney (FG) is to request the council to do an audit of all routes along the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ and draft a schedule of works and costings to be submitted for department funding.

 Death of Sligo Ploughing Champion.

The death has taken place of Sligo ploughing champion, Joe (Josie) Harte.

The deceased, of Grangebeg, Skreen, represented the county in the National Ploughing Championships over a number of years.

His funeral took place to St. Joseph’s Cemetary following Mass in St. Mary’s Church, Templeboy.

WATER CHARGES: SINN FEIN MOTION CARRIED.

 A Sinn Fein motion to abolish water charges was carried by members of Sligo County Council. Councillors voted 14- 3 in favour of the motion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THOUSANDS BRAVE ATROCIOUS WEATHER CONDITIONS TO MARCH AGAINST WATER CHARGES.

Barely concealed fury as public take to the streets  over government water  fiasco.

Sligo News File Online. 

Braving atrocious weather conditions thousands of all ages turned out across the country to demonstrate against water charges. Almost every town and village was represented at rallies where total turnout has been put at over 180,000. In the west, people were converging from early on at assembly points in Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, Roscommon, Castlebar and numerous other local and regional locations. A major surprise was Ballina where the number reportedly swelled to upwards of 5,000.

For the government, the message could not be clearer: IT IS TIME TO STEP DOWN. Barely concealed fury was evident as protesters took to the streets to show their opposition to a Coalition that has turned the lives of families into a living nightmare.

Soup kitchens have had to be opened to feed men, women and children whose social conditions have been reduced to penury under a Fine Gael-Labour partnership that has taken the country to hell. Food banks are planned while ministers try to talk up Ireland as the fastest growing economy in Europe.

Older people and sick elderly are dying or suffering because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Hospital and care services are in chaos. Incomes of whole swathes of the working population are at rock bottom, and even at that the government is plundering incomes for more taxes, more charges, more levies.

As every local and national politician of the government parties is now well aware, today’s show of mass revulsion is not just about charges for water services or Irish Water squandering of money forced from the pockets of the people, it is also in at least equal measure about government cosseting of the rich, the well heeled, the multinationals at the expense of the hard pressed, the worst off financially and otherwise.

Water is one of our last remaining public commons. It is a precious asset. However, it is also a massively valuable asset powerful vested interests want to see ownership of in the hands of the same kind of speculative financier class that has already stripped the country to the bone.

We have seen where local authorities have moved in to take possession of group water schemes for transfer to the calamitous Irish Water service which Fianna Fail agreed to introduce, together with property tax on people’s homes, in a deal done with the infamous ‘Troika.’ Local councilors voted through the takeover of the schemes. Although worth millions of euro, and built on funds put up by local communities, members have not been offered even a cent in compensation for the infrastructure.

Across in Riverstown, a community is mobilising after discovering that Sligo County Council has handed over century old water pumps to the Irish Water utility. Where does the stripping of community assets stop? Oil, gas, fisheries, beet industry, state organisations, all sold off or handed away by one rotten government after another.

The present Fine Gael-Labour ‘combo’ would like people to believe Irish Water was rowed out with the aim of bringing greater efficiency to the country’s water services, and about the conservation of water resources. To that people are bluntly replying ‘bullshit.’ Even the dogs in the street know that our water resources – including, longer term, the wells, ponds and underground water in private lands – are being ‘packaged’ for privatisation, for sale to global multinationals.

A few nights ago, a Fine Gael TD panelist on the Vincent Browne show was thought to say farmers were not opposed to charges for water. The fact is they are, and as prices for water rise more and more smaller farmers will be forced out of the industry because they will not be able to pay the bills.

Another less publicised fact is that, in Sligo, domestic users of group water schemes had a free water allowance amounting to 50,000 gallons per household annually – it was a volume the City and County Managers Association deemed households needed for normal domestic usage. This has now been slashed by 46,000 gallons to roughly 6,000 gallons per year. As well, the charges for water, if not blocked, are set to skyrocket in the next few years.

The call now made for our water to be placed under constitutional protection is not a demand confined to the political left alone; it is the demand of virtually every citizen of this country. In the present political environment, it also is a safeguard that must now be worked towards, and implemented through a referendum with the greatest possible urgency.