Category Archives: News


Million euro per year budget surplus proposed as financial plan.

Sligo News File Online.

Pressure is growing on Sligo County Council to shrink its activities in order to pay down a massive multimillion euro legacy debt.

Though services have already been scaled back and staffing levels reduced by more than a third, it seems that Coalition Labour minister, Alan Kelly wants still more cuts, or cost containment, something which it appears CEO, Ciaran Hayes has not ruled out.

It is being denied that abolition of the council has been threatened if members fail to deliver up a financial plan to address the sweeping deficit by next Monday, 24 November 2014. According to a press release, the plan “is to contain details as to how the council will return a surplus on its revenue account that can be put towards running down the long-term debt over a 10 year period.” A budget surplus of €1 million per year over the next ten years is being demanded.

During a debate in the Senate, Senator Susan O’Keeffe (Labour) stated “I know the Minister is not intent on abolishing Sligo County Council…”

However, O’Keeffe and Fine Gael Senators Imelda Henry and Michael Comiskey later voted against an amendment proposed by Senator Marc MacSharry (Fianna Fail) seeking “a debate with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government on reports that he intends to abolish Sligo County Council…”
Concerns are now growing that the people of the county may be forced to pick up the bill for the legacy debt under a regime of councillor agreed non-statutory and “discretionary” charges or fees as well as service cut backs, this despite the fact the debt in the main was run up, approved or came about as a result of decisions
of  elected members of previous councils.

An issue is particular is the legal bill of millions of euro arising out of a judgment of the Supreme Court on a council decision regarding rights of way through the historic Lissadell Estate.

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has ruled out a government bailout for the council.

It is not apparent that people will be prepared to take responsibility for a debt in the making of which they had no hand, act or part, and about which there was no consultation with them.

Senate Leader Maurice Cummins has stated “it is the elected members themselves who have direct responsibility in law for all reserved functions of the authority, which include adopting an annual budget and authorising borrowing. They are democratically
accountable for all expenditure by the local authority.”

Does this, therefore, mean accountability for the legacy debt rests with councillors, and that those who sanctioned the expenditure under various headings must pay for it?

“It must be pointed out,” said Senator Cummins, “that it is a reserved function of the members themselves to deal with the budgetary process. That is something forgotten at times by members.”

Proposed measures for 2015 include the introduction of an €150 charge for call  outs to chimney fires and €400 per hour per fire brigade station for other domestic fires or incidents.

It also looks that there are proposals aimed at securing from members of the public full cost recovery for services provided by the council. This, however, does not include statutory charges, such as those for certain planning services and other statutory functions,
which the council is legally prevented from increasing.

The commercial rate may be widened to take in among other facilities some sports clubs, while this year or next property tax may also be increased. It will be recalled that just a few months ago, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael joined in voting against a proposal to reduce the local property tax on family homes in the county by 15%. Sligo currently has one of the highest levels of home property tax rates in the country.

Though not specifically identified in the Estimates, the council may move to make communities responsible for maintenance of local public roads. A scheme to this end was launched by the environment minister, Kelly.

It will not have escaped people that the council has transferred, or is the process of turning over, state of the art water and sewerage treatment infrastructure to Irish Water. Worth millions of euro, way more in fact than would cover the total of the prevailing
multimillion euro legacy debt, it defies understanding that compensation to the value of the assets has not been awarded to the debt-ridden council or communities from which locally paid for group water schemes were removed.



Model “not robust enough to withstand downturn in economy…”

Sligo News File Online.

Sligo County Council’s €80 million debt has been blamed on the authority’s financial model.

Council Chief Executive Ciaran Hayes has said he believes the model was not “robust enough to withstand the downturn in the economy in 2008.”

Mr. Hayes was commenting following warnings by environment minister Alan Kelly that the council could face dissolution unless it found a way of dealing with its massive debt overhang within the next couple of weeks.

In a statement to the media, Mr. Hayes said that while Sligo may be currently to the forefront nationally in relation to Local Government finance, it was “also to the fore in implementing government policy. We were encouraged to be ambitious, to acquire land, invest in our water and waste water infrastructure.”

Defending the investment as “the right decision,” he said the expenditure was a “major factor in enabling us to promote Sligo as a prime location for direct foreign investment.” However, the council was never recompensed for its investment in the assets, he said.

The result for the authority “was a significant increase in our operating costs, with a major decrease in our revenue base. This has left the council with a legacy debt which has arisen due to our adherence to our government policy and our investment in the county’s infrastructure.

“Sligo is not solely to blame for this situation, therefore it is not equitable to expect us to have exclusive responsibility for dealing with it.

“The department has acknowledged that difficult decisions have been taken by Sligo County Council to address its financial difficulties.

“We have reduced our work force by 188, representing a 30% reduction and an annual saving of €6 million. We have also delivered major savings across our various services.”

However, the department, he said, was seeking further reductions in staff and other costs, with the suggestion of discontinuing or curtailing a number of services. “The staff have been excellent in terms of the way they have engaged in this difficult process.”

Mr. Hayes said he had “no difficulty” in trying to achieve further savings and efficiencies, but the council was also left with the responsibility of funding services it did not deliver. “For example, our duty to pay for Coroner’s fees could result in expenditure of over €200,000 in 2015.

“We are obliged to cut services while at the same time paying for services over which we have no control.”

He said the department had requested the council to resolve its financial issues by 24th November, the date of the council’s budget meeting. “I think it is essential that any actions taken by the council and the department should be in the context of the independent report on the council’s finances carried out by Grant Thornton, which acknowledged that we had no mechanism to deal with our legacy debt.”

Having stated he believed the core issue of the debt situation was that the council’s financial model  “was not robust enough the withstand the major downturn in the economy in 2008,” he said the financial challenges now facing the council were symptons of a wider problem, “and Sligo is not the sole author of its difficulties.

“It has to be borne in mind that we have corporate goverance obligations, and we need sufficient numbers of staff with the requisite competence to fulfil these obligations.

“I am not being prescriptive in trying to identify and implement additional savings and efficiencies, but it has to be acknowledged on all sides that Sligo County Council’s legacy debt was caused by a funding model underpinning our investment programme that was simply not fit for purpose.”



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,
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.









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.”



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.


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.


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.”