No Surrender! Nurses and midwives in another day of strike action

Three days strike next week also on the cards with the government still refusing to engage.

Sligo News File.

Nurses and midwives have embarked on another day of strike action with 40,000 joining picket lines outside hospitals and clinics across the country.

And with little evident willingness of the government to relent on disputed pay and retention issues it looks likely that the strike could continue with a threatened further three days of action in the coming week.

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said nurses and midwives were serious about fixing the health service.

Upwards of 50,000 patients will be affected by the strike action this week, according to the HSE.

Ministers Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe said in a joint statement that the government always paid heed to concerns of nurses and was willing to engage in talks on workplace-related issues but not pay.

Meanwhile,  Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae has reportedly defended driving in a bus lane in south Dublin this morning apparently saying he was travelling to join nurses on the picket lines at the Coombe Hospital



North Mayo winners of the 2019 Meithal Award for a project on Irish female orphans sent to Australia during the great famine to be presented with the accolade at a function in Dublin at the weekend

Thousands of girls from 14 upwards were picked from among the poor in workhouses and transported to the British colony as the corpses of 1.5 million men, women and children left to starve to death by political elites were piling up in the Irish countryside.

Sligo News File.

A Ballina group recognised with a Meithal Award for their work on memorising the tragic plight of Irish orphan girls shipped as ‘breeder stock’ to Australia at the height of the great famine is to be presented with the accolade at a function in Dublin at the weekend.

Leader, Mayo Famine Orphans Remembrance  group, historian and author, Terry Reilly

Group leader, the historian and author Terry Reilly points out in his critically acclaimed book ‘Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ that in two years, between 1848 and 1850, more than 4,000 girls, 137 from Mayo, were taken from workhouses in Ireland and packed off to the British colony to fulfil the territory’s need for young females.

The adolescents, some as young as 14, were taken primarily as ‘breeder stock’ and dropped in the British territory where men outnumbered women by 9 to 1. Their selection in the workhouses was carried out as the corpses of 1.5 million men, women and children left to die of starvation and disease by British political elites were piling up in the Irish countryside.

During the Famine food sufficient to feed double the country’s population was shipped out of the country.

On arrival in Australia, the children were met by a frenzy of prejudice and racism because of their Catholic religion. Attacked by one local publication as “workhouse sweepings” it went on to describe the orphans as “hordes of useless trollops, thrust upon an unwilling community.”

“Instead of mere orphans, we are being inundated with Irish paupers,” stated another.

Another opinionated: “It is downright robbery to withhold our funds from decent eligible well brought up girls, to lavish it upon a set of ignorant creatures, whose knowledge of household duty barely reaches to distinguishing the inside from the outside of a potato, and whose chief employment hitherto, has consisted of some intellectual
occupation as occasionally trotting across a bog to fetch back a runaway pig.”

The Ballina Famine Remembrance group has erected a permanent memorial to the 137 Mayo girls in the form of a bronze statue, generously donated by businessman, Frank Kerins in the vicinity of the public library at Pearse Street. Other exhibits donated by local and Dublin groups are also on display in the library premises.

Mayo Man of the Year 2019 Cathal Hughes pictured with the president Michael D. Higgins

The Mayo Person of the Year has been awarded to Westport businessman Cathal Hughes. He and the Ballina group will be presented with the 2019 awards by the Dublin Mayo Association at a black-tie ceremony at the Yew Tree Ball in Ballsbridge Hotel on next Saturday 9 February.

Hughes, the only Westport person to win the Mayo Person of the Year, is being honoured for his contribution to the economic well-being of the county and his job-creating endeavours in the West Mayo town.

The award recognises his contribution to the improvement of education for the children of employees in Portwest global operations and in particular his campaign raising
awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning following the tragic loss of his son Padraig on Christmas Day 2008.

He is co-patron with former president Mary McAleese of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation, a body of which he was one of the founders.

The 2019 Young Mayo Person of the Year, sponsored by Dr. Mona McGarry, is being presented to Sara McFadden from Turlough, Castlebar.

She was chosen by the independent panel of adjudicators in recognition of how she overcame personal adversity, and for the outstanding example, she sets for young people particularly those who face personal challenges.


Tom Costello steps down as chairman of new Children’s Hospital Board

‘Every decision made by the board has been guided by what was deemed best for the Project.’

Sligo News File.

The chairman of the new Children’s Hospital Board has resigned.

Tom Costello announced his decision in the wake of the controversy surrounding the cost of the new children’s hospital.

In 2016, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the cost of the project, sited on the campus of Dublin’s St. James’s Hospital would be €650 million. Now it is being speculated that the price could shoot to more than €2 billion, which would leave it one of the most expensive projects of its kind on the planet.

It is understood that consultants are to be asked to examine the costings.

Resigning from his position after five years in the role of chairman, Costello said he had acted with professionalism and integrity in all his dealings with the project stakeholders including the Minister for Health and his Department.

“Every decision made by the board has been guided by what was deemed best for the Project,” he reportedly said in a statement.

“I am concerned about the reputational damage that the ongoing commentary about the increased cost of the hospital is having on this critically important project and so I have decided to step down from my role to help ensure that focus is restored on delivering the project.”


Minister tells TD Brid Smith why children’s hospital now set to cost more than €2 billion was not a fixed-price contract

‘The Government Contracts Committee accepted the scale of the project was such as to warrant a deviation from the standard form of Government contract.’

Sligo News File.

Responding to a parliamentary question from TD Brid Smith who wanted to know why the development of the Dublin children’s hospital issue was not a fixed price contract, the following is what Harris, the Minister for Health, had to say:

Harris, Health Minister

The size, complexity and specialist nature of the new children’s hospital project informed the decision by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) to adopt a two-stage procurement process comprised of:

Procurement Stage 1: A full tender and contract for Phase A (below ground including basement works) on the basis of a detailed design with the tendering of Phase B (the main above ground works) on a Preliminary 1st stage design with an approximate and re-measurable bill of quantities reflecting the Preliminary 1st stage design; and

Procurement Stage 2: While the basement Phase A works were under construction, the 2nd stage detailed design for the above ground Phase B works was completed with a full bill of quantities priced at the 1st stage Preliminary design tendered rates. The contract becomes in effect a lump sum contract.

Procurement strategy

The procurement strategy was developed and finalised from 2014 to 2016. The Government Contracts Committee, the cross-government consultative committee for construction procurement matters, accepted that given the project’s scale, complexity and its programme, the circumstances were such as to warrant a deviation from the standard form of Government contract and agreed a derogation from its use.

Reasons for adopting the two-stage process include:

– Early commencement on site, two years ahead of traditional procurement (Phase A works commenced on site on 3 October 2017 and are nearing completion. Finalisation of instruction for Phase B main works in parallel allows these works to commence on site at end January;

– Market engagement with Irish and international contractors identified this procurement approach would attract increased competition in a situation where there are a very limited number of contractors with the ability to undertake a project of this scale. This was borne out by the competitive nature of the tender process with 5 contractors shortlisted for the main contract, 4 for the mechanical installation and 4 for the electrical installation;

– Claims are addressed up front, prior to main construction, rather than as is traditional throughout the project and beyond;

– Reduce exposure to rising inflationary pressures in the construction market through procurement at 2016 tender market rates (versus 2018 tender rates);

– Provide opportunity for the 3 contractors (main contractor and Mechanical & Electrical contractors) to influence/interrogate the detailed design and assume contractual responsibility for completeness including quantities at end of Stage 2 Design;

– The programmes for main works are fully aligned across 3 contractors with a single point accountability for site management;

Guaranteed Maximum Price

– A Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) is determined prior to the instruction to proceed with the main Phase B works (with the GMP only adjustable for clearly defined exclusions such as changes in scope, excess national construction tender inflation above 4% post July 2019, changes in legislation (e.g. VAT, PRSI, statutory labour rates, building regulations);

– Other than in respect of exclusions, the GMP ceiling cannot be exceeded with any amount in excess not recoverable by contractors;

– Project substantially de-risked in relation to ground conditions with Phase A nearing completion prior to instructing and commencing the main hospital build (Phase B); and

– Incorporation of streamlined dispute resolution including using an independent expert whose decisions are binding on all parties.

Nurses and midwives strike expected to continue into the coming week

Widespread health service cancellations.

Sligo News File.

Continuing industrial action by nurses and midwives seems likely despite government warnings of possible sanctions arising out of the strike.

Two more days of strike action are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. Further strike dates are also being considered by the nurses and midwives organisation, the INMO,
in the dispute over pay and staff shortages.

Earlier in the week, tanaiste Simon Coveney praised the nurses saying “they are great people, doing very difficult work,” then added that the Government was taking legal advice in regard to the options available to it – meaning docking their pay – “consistent with the pay agreement that everybody signed up to with their eyes open.”

The Health Service Executive has warned of widespread service cancellations ahead of next week’s strike.

Services expected to be cancelled:

Out-patient, in-patient facilities, day surgery, injury units, routine community services and health centre nurse clinics.

Other facilities to close are public day centres and day hospitals for older people or people with disabilities

The HSE advises that planned admissions, including respite and rehabilitation, to public community nursing units and specified centres for people with intellectual disability, will be cancelled.

The executive is in discussions with the INMO regarding contingency arrangements for the safe provision of services, specifically with respect to urgent care and cancer

Concern over government failure to address insurance costs

Constant ‘heel dragging’ unacceptable.

Sligo News File.

The constant heel-dragging by Fine Gael on insurance costs is unacceptable, says Sligo TD Eamon Scanlon.

Eamon Scanlon TD

He said: “Businesses in the North West are already dealing with high costs – and the uncertainty with Brexit is heaping even more pressure on them.

“The high cost of insurance has been flagged for years, yet the government is continuing to delay bringing in measures to tackle it. This could cost jobs and livelihoods.

“I am calling on Ministers Donohoe and D’arcy to stop slowing down the process and implement the recommendations as a matter of priority,” he added

Beef on the Brink – ICSA president calls for Brexit intervention clarity

‘Market panic has already impacted the price of beef; we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA national president Patrick Kent has said the Government must be forthcoming with details of the emergency aid it intends to seek for the beef sector from the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Patrick Kent, president ICSA

Mr Kent was addressing Minister Michael Creed and members of the ICSA National Executive at ICSA’s AGM and Annual Conference in Portlaoise on Thursday.

Beef on the Brink formed the theme of the conference and Mr Kent focused on the need for clarity on the nature and scope of the emergency aid that can be expected should a no-deal Brexit come to pass.

“Market panic has already impacted the price of beef and we cannot allow this uncertainty to continue. Farmers have been operating in a vacuum while factories have been taking advantage,” he said.

Beef Backstop

Mr Kent called on the Minister for a “backstop for beef.” He said ICSA supports the call for emergency EU measures to take out our surplus beef via intervention or aids to private storage but the lack of clarity is causing panic around what price beef will be in 2019.

“We need a commitment to put a realistic floor under the price of beef with a trigger price that ensures that current prices cannot be allowed to fall any further.”

Mr Kent said the days of supermarkets and processors exploiting farmers based on false costs of production must also end. A recent assessment of the cost of production per kg of beef shows the average cost to be in the range of €5 to €5.30. “These figures bring a sense of reality to the discussion by including a rate for the farmer’s labour.

“There is no other industry where the cost of production ignores basic labour costs and we will no longer countenance Teagasc pontificating on the cost of production unless they have included the cost of farmers’ own labour.”

Mr Kent also said that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the beef grid. “We want it simplified, more straightforward. When a farmer sends cattle to the factory, they need clarity, not confusion on what each beast will make. We want to see better bonuses for U grade cattle and this should be paid for by higher penalties on P grade cattle. All O grade cattle should qualify for QA bonus as should quality cows and young bulls, but not P grade cattle of any category.”

Prices Unviable

“An examination of the actual costs of production per kg of beef illustrates that buying P or O grade calves when beef price is at €3.75 for R grades is completely unviable. This is why we believe that the dairy expansion must be re-evaluated and the only rational conclusion for the beef sector is that we need to reduce production. We need to do this to cut costs and to make product scarcer and we need to keep going down the road of reducing production until price cuts are reversed.

“We also must do much more to help live exports. ICSA wants to see every effort made to assist live exporters. Huge state efforts have been put into supporting new markets for beef but there must be a full commitment to doing the same for live exports. We need to ensure that there is no red tape hindering the live export trade.

Michael Creed, Minister for Agriculture

“We also need a strategy to market suckler beef as a premium niche product, grass-fed and distinct from grain fed feedlot beef. We cannot condone the Taoiseach of the country saying he is reducing his meat consumption on health or climate change grounds. These arguments are spurious and Ireland, as one of the world’s leading exporters of beef and a significant producer of lamb cannot allow this propaganda to go unchecked.

“At ICSA, we believe that CAP reform will have to reflect the fact that no livestock production system is profitable at the moment and for that reason, we need to return to the idea of extensification as a pillar of CAP payments. ICSA also supports capping payments with no loophole for employees on industrial farms because the CAP must support family farms first and foremost.

New Pillar 2 Scheme

“We also want to see a Pillar 2 scheme where we have an agri-environment scheme that looks a lot more like REPS and a lot less like GLAS. In short, we want Pillar 2 schemes that mean that the farmer who participates can see a real benefit over the farmer that doesn’t.

Mr Kent said he was pleased to see that the Department has finally taken action on the issue of carcass trim supervision. He said however that, “Now it is also time to ensure the exact same scrutiny in sheep meat plants. ICSA has raised concerns that there are different kill out rates being reported in different sheep factories and we need the same Department scrutiny for the sheep sector as the beef sector.”

Mr Kent welcomed the publication of an organic strategy highlighted the need for a much more ambitious strategy to better market our organic meats and capitalise much
more on the potential.

He said ICSA is fully opposed to making the TB history available on mart boards and will remain committed to this position at the TB stakeholder forum.

Mr Kent reiterated the association’s stance that a stronger line on rural crime is needed and that the Government get to grips with escalating insurance costs which is a real problem for all businesses including farmers and marts.



New drink driving regulations hurting pub business

People fear a drink will drive them over the permitted blood alcohol limit.

Sligo News File.

People are afraid to have a drink in pubs in case it will push them over the safe driving limit.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport with responsibility for drink driving regulations

So says publican John Duignan of the Tally Ho pub in Longford.

Duignan claims that figures used by Ross, the Transport Minister in assessing the extent alcohol are a factor in road crashes are incorrect.

He also points out that as a result of the regulations as introduced, customers visiting public houses on weekends are fearful that taking a drink will drive them over the
permitted blood alcohol level.

Publicans report that the licensed trade is being severely affected by the new measures.