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Triumphant British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leads Britain back to independence

‘The deal is done!’ Boris Johnson tweets triumphant photo after Brexit agreement struck

Sligo News File

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured in a jubilant mood after Britain finally striking a parting trade deal with the EU, 47 years after joining. But where now Ireland with the result a major blow for agriculture and fisheries, and higher costs for consumers? Indeed, has the country been left greatly short-changed by government, and what will be the price and loss the people will have to endure for it in the years ahead?

Where to now as politicians celebrate Christmas Eve UK-EU post Brexit deal?

No joy for Irish fishing or agriculture.

Sligo News File.

Politicians are jubilant, a Brexit UK-EU trade deal has been struck. However, much is not yet known publicly about it. The people will have to wait until the publication of the full Agreement in Principle to get a clearer picture of the implications the agreement will have for Ireland.

However, from information garnered from documents, it looks that the deal spells near disaster for the Irish fishing sector with industry representatives saying it has failed Irish fishermen. A source reportedly stated that repeated guarantees have “effectively been shredded.”

The reaction in farming circles is said to be relief that agreement has been struck but given the difficulties ahead for the agri-food sector there is little to cheer about.

Britain and EU close to deal

Announcement expected today.

Sligo News File.

Still not there…the expected announcement of a post-Brexit deal has been further delayed owing to what has been described by Irish minister Coveney as the “small text” of the fisheries agreement.

But by all accounts agreement is on the horizon with the prospect of confirmation sometime later today. Watch No. 10.

How Ireland has emerged in the process will become clearer over the next while but the usual propaganda painting over any cracks can be expected to be ramped up in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the country’s business sector is heading into mass lockdown as a new and more sinister strain of the Covid virus is taking hold across the country. Precautions are being driven in overtime, and with worries as to whether the vaccine about to be distributed will provide protection against the new variant.

Hundreds of millions for agriculture – but Green leader insists national herd must be downsized

‘Far more for forestry with smaller, less intensively operated farms.’

Sligo News File.

Reports that the government is proposing to pump hundreds of millions of euros into farming will come as welcome news to the sector.

According to accounts, plans for the investment or allocation are already being worked on by the Department of Agriculture.

However, many will wonder if the intended bonanza is for the purpose of expanding the industry or is actually ‘compensation’ for among other things a downsizing of the national herd being demanded by green supremo, the Minister for Transport Eamonn Ryan.

While newly arrived Fianna Fail Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConologue has gone on record to publicly register his objection to any reduction in the livestock population, saying there is no justification for it, Ryan, on the other hand, is reportedly adamant that the herd has to be reduced if Ireland’s carbon emission targets are to be met.

Interviewed by the Irish Times, Ryan is said to have dismissed McConologue’s recently produced plan as an “old one” which will be superseded next year by a plan that will result in a smaller herd.

He is quoted as saying: “We have to double the ambition. Agriculture can’t be absolved and cannot be an opt-out….” The statement further reads that “we are going to do significantly more and Charlie McConologue knows that. The idea of pumping up the volume and massive expansion of the herd makes no sense.

“It does make sense to move to a less intensive system of farming and have a smaller herd.”

Farmers will get paid for the ecological services they provide in the future. 

If there are smaller, less-intensively operated farms, then there will also be far more forestry.

As well, he is said to have declared that some 140,000 hectares of bog throughout the State will be re-wetted within a decade, this being done by removing the drains. They will become a carbon sink. Work on this has already begun.

Meanwhile, McConologue is understood to be self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19

 

Garda seizure of suspected cannabis and shotgun in Sligo and Leitrim

Man helping gardai with their inquiries.

Sligo News File.

Suspected cannabis with an estimated street value of €360,000 has been seized following searches by gardai in Sligo and Leitrim. The search, during which a shotgun was also found, was carried out following the confiscation of a vehicle in Sligo for breaches of the road traffic legislation on Sunday.

A man in his 40s is being detained at Ballymote Garda Station.

Hayes steps down as CEO of Sligo County Council

Leaving to take up university role in the United States.

Sligo News File.

Ciaran Hayes

Sligo County Council chief executive Ciaran Hayes has resigned to take up a fellowship with an American university.

Dublin-born Hayes has headed up the council’s managerial operations for the last six years since his appointment as CEO in 2014 when he succeeded former county manager Hubert Kearns

Signing off at a meeting of the authority, Hayes praised the contribution of voluntary and business groups in the town and county, and also acknowledged the input of staff and councillors to the running of the council. He also paid tribute to his wife, Joan and family for their support during his tenure as chief executive in the area.

Sligo, he said, had seen a ‘transformation’ in recent years. What had been achieved was “extraordinary.” 

Hayes heard tributes from the chairman, Dara Mulvey and other councillors, with all joining in wishing him well in his career ahead.

Government bans travel from the UK fearing spread of more virulent strain of Covid related disease to Ireland

Clampdown in force from last night.

Sligo News File.

Ireland has closed its borders for travel from the UK in a bid to prevent a new strain of the Covid virus currently rapidly spreading throughout parts of England from taking hold in the State.

Health authorities have revealed that the recently identified variant is a much more contagious form of the disease.

The two-day ban on travel between Ireland and the UK announced by the government came into force last night and affects air and ferry operations, excepting those involved in the provision of essential services.

 Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria and Canada are among other countries said to have also shut down passenger travel from the UK. No cases of the mutant, understood to have been identified as SARS-CoV-2, have so far been detected in Ireland but some have reportedly been found in some European States.

SARS-CoV-2 is described as a strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV) of believed zoonotic origins with a close genetic similarity to bat coronaviruses, suggesting it has emerged from a bat-borne virus.

The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

 

Millions in loans provided to businesses throughout the country under the Covid Credit Guarantee Scheme

Loans availed of by 27 enterprises in Sligo and Leitrim.

Sligo News File.

Minister of State, Robert Troy

As of 3 December 23 businesses in Co. Sligo have drawn down €988,666 in loans under the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme.

Confirming the details in response to a parliamentary question from Sligo TD Marc MacSharry, Minister of State Robert Troy also stated that some €69,000 has been allocated to four businesses in Leitrim.

A total of 1,516 loans for a value of €74 million were availed of by businesses countrywide in the first three months of the scheme while the draw down rate of the now extended programme is currently €8 million per week, he said.

Sectors using the scheme are wholesale and retail at 20%, accommodation and food services at 14%, agriculture at 11%, and construction 9%.

Loans to the extent of €1 million are able to be obtained for up to five and a half years. No collateral or personal guarantees are required for loans under €250,000 – the State will cover 80% of any claims under the scheme.

The scheme, added Troy, is available to SME’s, companies with under 500 employees and primary producers.

Rebuilding rural Ireland – new policy in the making

‘Forward and ambitious’ says Minister.

Sligo News File

 

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Rural Development

The Minister for Rural Development has told the Dail that the last touches are currently being made to a new rural development policy.

Describing it as “forward-looking and ambitious,” Heather Humphreys said the policy will provide the framework “to respond to the issues which will affect rural Ireland over the next five years,” that is 2021 to 2025.

The emerging strategy, she said, will take a “whole of government approach” to the economic and social development of rural areas “and will include tangible measures for delivery across a range of departments and agencies.”

It will, she went on “recognize the importance of rural communities  and economies to our national wellbeing and development, and to realizing a sustainable and inclusive recovery in which no one is left behind.”

Referencing the work already invested in shaping the policy, she said it has included “a wide range of consultation events with key stakeholders, including government departments, State agencies, rural stakeholder groups, young people, and the wider public. Their insight and views have helped to identify the issues that matter to people living and working in rural Ireland.”

She hopes, she said, to bring the final policy to government for approval, next month, January.

MacSharry answers Martin’s call to act as a party spokesman as Cowen refuses offer of a position

Calleary accepts role of spokesman on social protection.

Sligo News File

Marc MacSharry TD

Sligo-Leitrim TD has agreed to be Fianna Fail’s spokesman on higher education, it’s reported. The position is in an area where the party in government does not have a portfolio.

According to accounts, similar roles have been refused by a number of party deputies, including Barry Cowen who it’s said was invited by the Taoiseach Micky Martin to be a spokesman on climate action. Both Cowen and Dara Calleary were previously, albeit for a short span Ministers for Agriculture in the current administration. Mayo-based Calleary, a report goes, has accepted to act as spokesman on social protection.

The role of spokesman on Justice has been assigned to Jim O’Callaghan.

None of the appointees will have any function in the administration of a ministry.

Covid: worrying trend.

Death toll at a new high.

Sligo News File.

Nothing inaccurate about it, the Department of Health reports that the Covid virus has killed another six people in the last 24 hours. This brings the total number of deaths from the disease to 2,140. 

The department has also confirmed that some  431 more have tested positive since the last announcement making for a record 77,197 cases to date.

Experts fear that the easing of restrictions and travel arrangements
could make lockdowns unavoidable, particularly post Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sligo Airport ‘out in the cold’ for government funding

‘I’m Gutted’ protests TD.

If airport is starved of funds ‘we will not have search and rescue or medical evacuation for critically ill patients who require it.’

Sligo News File 

Marian Harkin, TD

A Sligo Dail Deputy seeking government support for Sligo Airport – a private development – has been told that “exchequer funding is contingent on airports operating scheduled passenger services as part of the government’s regional airports programme.”

Responding to questions from Deputy Marian Harkin, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton said that in the past, in the absence of high-quality road and rail infrastructure and services, Ireland’s smallest airports had a more pronounced role in national connectivity.

“However, following the substantial development of the national road network, particularly the completion of the interurban motorways from 2009 onwards, Government policy on supporting regional airports has become more focused on facilitating international access to the regions.

“In light of this and the need to maximise scarce resources following the financial crisis of 2008, the Department completed a value-for-money review on supports for regional airports in 2010. The review made certain recommendations in respect of these supports, which were duly incorporated into the design of subsequent regional airport programmes.”

The main outcome of the review, she said, “was the withdrawal of funding for PSO services between Dublin and the airports at Galway and Sligo. As a result, Sligo Airport no longer met the criteria for inclusion in the programme and all Exchequer funding to the airport ceased after 2011. Without passenger flights or plans to develop passenger flights, Sligo Airport’s operations still fail to meet the connectivity objective associated with Government policy on funding of regional airports.”

Continuing, she said she expected to publish a new regional airports programme for the period 2021 to 2025 in the coming weeks, a programme for which, she pointed out, the Government has provided €21.3 million in budget 2021. “The new programme will focus Exchequer funding on our smaller regional airports with scheduled passenger air services and annual passengers of less than 1 million passengers. This programme will help eligible airports remain viable as they begin to plan for recovery and transition away from the devastation of Covid-19. The programme will also support the PSO air services between Kerry and Dublin, and Donegal and Dublin.

“As policy will continue to target support at regional airports that can facilitate international connectivity, Sligo Airport will remain ineligible for funding under the new programme,” she said.

Deputy Harkin: “I am gutted by what the Minister of State said. She said it all. It has been a decade since the airport received any Government funding. She went on to say that funding of airports in contingent on their providing passenger services. Let us consider another airport. Waterford Airport has not had passenger services since June 2016. Let me say, good luck to Waterford Airport; it needs the money to provide its services and it has got it. That is what balanced regional development is – a balance across the regions.

“In the time since Sligo Airport last received funding, Waterford Airport has received almost €5 million. In the past, the Tánaiste has said that he absolutely supports the decision of Government to grant €5 million to Waterford Airport. It needs to be borne in mind that Waterford Airport must stay open because it is a Coast Guard base.

“A couple of years ago, we were looking at moving it to Cork, but it was not viable. Sligo Airport, therefore, has search and rescue facilities. I again wish Waterford Airport well, as it provides essential services, but so does Sligo Airport in the north-west. If it is starved of funds, then that service will not be there. We will not have search and rescue or medical evacuation for critically ill patients who require it.

“The Minister of State may be dealing with a plan for regional airports, but if Sligo Airport is neglected and if she does not look at maintaining the services there, that will be a slap in the face for the people of the region. She will be stating, in effect, that the region from Clifden, in her county of Galway, to Belfast does not deserve a search and rescue operation.”

 

Thousands of unborn babies done away with in year from the legalisation of abortion in Ireland

Shock as TD’s discuss report on Irish abortions

Sligo News File.

Nearly 7,000 unborn babies have reportedly been killed under Ireland’s recently enacted abortion laws.

Legislation permitting abortion, campaigned for by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Fein, and the Greens was rolled out in 2019 but now it’s claimed that even late-term babies are being put to death.

A study undertaken by investigators at University College Cork, detailing interviews involving ten foetal medical specialists providing late-term abortions in Irish maternity hospitals relates the “internal conflict” they experience. It quotes one doctor interviewed for the study as referring to what they do as “stabbing the baby in the heart” while another said: “I remember getting sick out in the corridors afterwards because I thought it (feticide) was such an awful procedure and so dreadful.”

TD’s debating the findings of the study heard a deputy say that the current Fianna Fail Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly refused to entertain a request for mandatory administration of painkilling relief or palliative care for babies surviving abortion attempts.

Independent Deputy Michael Collins said the people of Ireland had voted for abortion “but no one ever thought that there would be 6,666 abortions in 12 months.

“I met so many people who voted for it who are stunned by this,” he said.

Deputy Mattie McGrath said that during meetings of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in 2018, the then Minister for Health, Simon Harris ignored all appeals from pro-life deputies for the inclusion of pain relief measures in the abortion legislation.

He said: “It’s a shocking situation in our country today, something has to be done about it. It is just not acceptable. It is unspeakable.”

Deputy Carol Nolan said there was now conflict among doctors diagnosing fatal foetal abnormality “and also in terms of palliative care for babies born alive. Questioning what action the government was going to take, she said “we will not allow this to be swept under the carpet. It is barbaric and shameful.”

Deputy Sean Canney said the findings of the study, published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, were “horrific” when read. The report, which, he said, was an independent study not commissioned by any particular group, was “very frightening.” There was an onus on the Minister to ensure it was examined, he said

Deputy Peader Toibin, addressing the Minister of State for Public Health Frank Feighan in the Chamber, said an unborn child was “a living human being “He or she is as human as you, as alive as you and as individual as yourself, and that is according to science. Under the government, however, late-term abortions are being carried out on unborn children and pain relief is not being used.

“On any level, humanitarian basis and understanding of society, how can the Minister of State stand by this? When we put amendments to the Bill when it was rushed through in 2018 Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein voted against amendments to ensure that pain relief was included in this regime. 

“I put the question to the Fianna Fail Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly only a week ago asking him to ensure that pain relief would be afforded to children when they are being aborted in this country. Deputy Stephen Donnelly, the Fianna Fail Minister for Health refused.”

Deputy Michael Collins said when the people of Ireland voted for abortion a couple of years ago “no one ever thought that there would be 6,666 abortions in 12 months. I met so many people who voted for it who are stunned by this.”

Alluding to the contents of the UCC study, he said “we were assured this would never happen, and it is happening. It is wrong, It is a terrible, terrible wrong.”

Concluding, Deputy McGrath said what was going on was “barbaric, shocking and unbelievable.” With his colleagues he intended, he said, “to bring forward an amendment to this barbaric legislation.”

 

 

Turning back the years

 

 

Sligo News File.

County Sligo Macra na Feirme debaters pictured Curry 56 years ago, in 1964. Front row, l-r, John Gallagher, Joan Brennan, Michael James O’Connor, and Anthony Brennan. Back: Billy Sommerville (RIP) Michael Eugene Hallinan, Pat Tuffy (RIP) Muredach Tuffy.