‘Vitally important stakeholders adhere to letter and spirit of agreement’ – Phelan.

Sligo News File Online

ICSA has welcomed Minister Coveney’s reminder that as part of the recent beef roundtable deal, processors agreed that there would be no dual base pricing for steers and heifers in individual plants
regardless of breed, age, weight or quality assurance status.

ICSA Beef Chairman, Edmond Phelan
ICSA Beef Chairman, Edmond Phelan

“In the light of recent reports of factories quoting different base prices for non-quality assured animals, the Minister’s statement is welcome,” said ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan.

“It is vitally important that all stakeholders adhere to and fully implement both the letter and the spirit of the agreement if farmers are to have any faith in the process.”



Increase in current water rates ‘would be intolerable.’

Sligo News File Online.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that it would be intolerable if current water charges for farmers were to increase as a result of the formation of Irish Water.

ICSA President, Patrick Kent
ICSA President, Patrick Kent

Farmers, said Mr. Kent, have been paying for water for years, either via the public supply system,  through group water schemes or through the cost of providing their own supply, and have put up with it.

“However, there is concern that these charges may increase under Irish Water, something that would be completely unacceptable,” he said

“Farmers must not be used to subsidise cuts to the original planned charges for households.

“Drystock farmers in particular have taken huge financial hits in recent years, and any increase in their water charges would be a step too far.”



Continuation of service arrangements in place since 2009: Saolta.

Sligo News File Online.

General Hospital SligoSligo Regional Hospital /Saolta University Health Care Group have confirmed that Sligo patients recovering from a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment (surgery will continue attending University Hospital Galway for their follow up surveillance mammography. 

This, they have stated, is a continuation of the service arrangements that have been in place since 2009 and is supported by the National Cancer Control Programme as the most effective way of providing quality assured follow up services to patients who have undergone treatment for breast cancer.

Sligo patients will continue to receive chemotherapy locally at Sligo Regional Hospital as part of their treatment programme.

The Symptomatic Breast Cancer Service.
A comprehensive symptomatic breast cancer service is provided to patients from the west of Ireland at the Symptomatic Breast Unit based at Galway University Hospitals with a satellite service at Letterkenny General Hospital. This service is provided on the basis of clinical need and without regard to county boundaries.

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) have set national standards against which all symptomatic breast services are measured: the Galway/Letterkenny service has consistently delivered on these standards ensuring that the best possible service is provided to patients in this part of the country. 

Galway/Letterkenny service is at the top of the league tables for quality of service: for example, 98% of referrals triaged as urgent by the cancer centre were seen within 2 weeks across both sites and 88% of routine referrals seen within 12 weeks.

In addition, Saolta conducted a survey of patient satisfaction, including 783 patients from Sligo: the overall results showed that 85% of patients rated the service as excellent and 13% as good. Therefore, both the NCCP’s key performance indicator assessments and patient satisfaction rating are extremely positive in relation to services provided in the West.

In 2009, when the symptomatic breast service transferred to Galway, it was envisaged that Sligo patients (those that had breast surgery in Sligo) or those who had surgery in Galway could avail of the option of surveillance mammography in Sligo. 

However Sligo Regional Hospital did not have sufficient numbers of trained mammography staff to maintain an onsite follow-up service. 
A commitment was given that the necessary staff would be provided but it did not prove possible to deliver on this commitment due to the difficulty in recruiting mammographers (despite numerous recruitment campaigns-there was worldwide shortage of mammographers).

In September 2012, University Hospital Galway took the decision to send two radiographers to be trained as mammographers but these were needed as part of the core service. At no stage did the level of mammographers reach that required to re-establish a service in Sligo. 

The Hospital Group remains committed to this training programme in order to ensure an adequate number of appropriately trained staff are retained within the Group.

Following evaluation within the Group, it was agreed that re-establishing a Sligo service would no longer be feasible due in the main to the following reasons:-
• Potential for fragmentation of the breast service.  There is a concern that this would not be in the best clinical interest of patients.  Given it is now more than 5 years since the cessation of the Sligo service, many women who already are receiving follow up in Galway would continue to avail of this option.   There is no longer Consultant Radiology backup in Sligo and therefore any woman requiring further investigation from a mammogram would need to travel to Galway for this service, with a potential for further delay in intervention.   
• In order for radiographers trained in mammography to continue to perform their role, they must meet quality assurance standards and minimum numbers of examinations per annum. There are insufficient numbers of surveillance follow up patients that would require mammography in Sligo Regional Hospital to maintain a radiographer’s skill set.

The vast majority of women who require mammography from Sligo and the surrounds attend a locally provided service, (i.e women between the ages of 50-64, through BreastCheck, the National Screening Programme). The service plan for next year includes an extension of this up to 70 years of age. 27,920 women attended the BreastCheck service in 2013

Cancer Services in Sligo
Approximately 500 inpatients, 5,200 daycases and 2,700 outpatients are treated between both Haematology and Oncology services across the catchment area of Sligo, Leitrim, South Donegal, West Cavan and parts of Mayo in Sligo Regional Hospital. 
The service in Sligo is committed to consistently achieving high quality evidenced based care for the management of cancer patients and patients with non-malignant blood disorders. It focuses on all stages of a patients’ journey: prevention, screening, and diagnosis, treatment, palliative and supportive care.

Some cancer surgery is provided in Sligo, whilst patients who require specialist cancer surgical treatments travel to either Galway or Dublin. 

Follow-on care including the administration of chemotherapy is provided in Sligo. In addition, on-site weekly Radiotherapy outpatient clinics are provided from Galway University Hospital whilst patients continue to travel to Galway for radiotherapy treatment.  

The service strives to achieve individualised, holistic and patient centred care to all patients and their families with the establishment of  strong links within Sligo Regional Hospital services, the North West Hospice Palliative Care Service, local community services and other designated Cancer Centres and in particular Galway University Hospital.   To this end, formal weekly Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings have been in place between Sligo Regional Hospital and Galway University Hospital for the past 4/5 years for a number of cancer subspecialties.  These include Lung, Urology, Breast, Lymphoma, and Gastrointestinal Multidisciplinary Team Meetings where staff discuss individual patients and their treatment plans on both sites. 

It is very important to note that patients from all parts of the west continue to receive an excellent service across the hospitals in the Saolta Group.  Integration across the hospitals within the Saolta Group and improved patient pathways remain a key focus in our efforts to provide a quality and safe service. 


Mammography service will not be returned to Sligo.

Future of maternity services also shrouded in doubt

Sligo News File Online

The cessation of mammography service at Sligo General Hospital is to raised in both the Dail and Senate.

Tony McLoughlin, TD
Tony McLoughlin, TD

Confirmation that the service will not be moved back to Sligo emerged during a meeting between members of the North West Save our Cancer Services organisation and management of the West/North West hospitals group.

Hospitals Group Chief Operating Officer, Tony Canavan said he was
not in favour of reinstating the service, as such a course would lead to the fragmentation of the symptomatic breast service that would not be in the interest of service provision or women in the West of Ireland.

The decision has been attacked by local Fine Gael TD, Tony McLoughlin who said he had been assured on a number of occasions in the last few years that a follow up mammography facility was going to be put in place.

The move marks yet another blow to the Sligo hospital services from
which cancer treatment services were removed to Galway a number of years ago.

Mr. McLoughlin says he intends raise the loss of the mammography service with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar.

Fears have also been expressed about the future of hospital’s maternity services. If terminated, it would leave the county with little more than a cottage style hospital.

Maintenance of mammography facilities and maternity services have been repeatedly raised in Senate debates by Fianna Fail spokesman on Health,  Senator MarcMacSharry.



Inheritance tax relief secured under twenty hour farm work rule.

Sligo News File Online

ICSAICSA general secretary Eddie Punch has welcomed clarification that the 50% on-farm working time requirement to avail of inheritance tax relief as per the Finance Bill can be achieved by working 20 hours a week on the farm.

“Many farmers who are inheriting farms involved in low income sectors such as cattle and sheep have no option but to also work off-farm.  In these cases, it would have potentially been impossible to claim that the farm work was taking up another 40 hours on top of a 40-hour (or more) off-farm job. Low income cattle and sheep farmers are the backbone of rural Ireland and must be encouraged to remain in farming,” said Mr. Punch.

“Agricultural relief is vital because it provides a 90% reduction in the value of agricultural assets for the purposes of calculating liability for Capital Acquisitions Tax.

“Where a farm is being inherited, failure to avail of agricultural relief could mean a substantial tax bill running into tens of thousands even on relatively small and medium sized operations, and we welcome the fact that part-time farmers who work 20 hours a week on the farm can now avail of this relief.” 

‘No Irish’ as Russia to open market for EU beef.

‘FG/Lab Government heads’ in the sand’ while other EU states in Russian deal for cattle and beef offal – FF.

Sligo News File Online

Following steps taken by a several EU member states, Russia is set to authorise the import of both live cattle and beef offal originating in the EU.

Senator Marc MacSharry
Senator Marc MacSharry,
Fianna Fail

Describing the development as “hugely significant,” Fianna Fail has said in a statement that the move comes in the wake of “proactive steps taken by France, Denmark, Netherlands and Italy in establishing bilateral agreements with Russia.”

Sligo-based party Senator Marc MacSharry said that following an imminent veterinary inspection it is expected that Russia will be accepting beef offal from the four EU countries from late December or early January.   

Calling for government action, he said the Russian market “has been hugely important for Irish beef in the past and with limited outlets for manufacturing beef and offal products it is essential that the Fine Gael-Labour Government take their heads out of the sand and follow the proactive lead of some of our European partners.

“Despite improvements agreed at the recent forum many challenges still exist for the Irish Beef Sector.  With the lack of proactive market enabling actions such as those taken by our European partners our Government have also refused to take the EU to task on the lack of enforcement of Article 39b of the EU Treaty which guarantees a fair price to family families for their produce. Instead we still have large supermarket interests and processors freely erecting barriers to fair trade which seriously impact on the meagre return to farming families. This is against the law as laid down in the treaty and regulations must be introduced to prevent the bully boy tactics of large commercial interests.”

“The Government must be more pro-active and immediately engage with the Russian authorities on beef offal and live cattle so that Irish farm families can enjoy the same opportunities as their French, Dutch, Italian and Danish counterparts.  The Minister must also urgently seek regulation to protect farmers from the below cost prices that large commercial interests are demanding, as well as broadening the market for Irish meat products and the relaxing the prohibitive and unnecessary BSE-era regulations. 

“The farmers of Ireland deserve more than the administrative auto pilot of a government paralysed with indifference to our nation’s struggling agricultural SME sector”, he added.


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.”