google-site-verification=wmi_UKG3DcoXNCxPyFjKSwE_7NPyaxA1CJ9pAaFOuqU

Bree to propose government bailout for debt-hit Sligo County Council.

‘All loans, borrowings and overdraft increases were approved by Minister and senior officials.’ 

Sligo News File Online.

Cllr. Dara Mulvey (FG)
Cllr. Dara Mulvey (FG)

Among the 50 items on the agenda for today’s meeting of Sligo County Council is a motion in the name of Cllr. Dara Mulvey (FG) calling on the council to throw its support behind the refurbishment of the old cinema building in Ballymote.
The building is owned by the council and, according to Cllr. Mulvey,
“is unique in its structure combining the old world theatre with modern facilities that can be used for many purposes to the benefit of the entire region. His notices states “I am calling on Sligo County Council to put a structure in place similar to The Maritime Centre in Enniscrone, the Hawks Well Theatre in Sligo, and the Coleman Centre, Gurteen.”

A notice of motion in the name of Cllr. Michael Clarke (Independent)
asks that the council offer for sale the apartment block known as
McFirbis House in Enniscrone “and purchase and build a number of
houses in the resort.”

Chairman of Sligo Municipal District Council, Cllr. Tom MacSharry (FF) is to propose that “Sligo County Council calls on the government to immediately lift the public service embargo.”

Cllr. Declan Bree (Independent)
Cllr. Declan Bree (Independent)

A motion in the name of Cllr. Declan Bree (Independent) states “noting that the Assistant General Secretary of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in correspondence to the council dated 11th November
2014 pointed out that the council had been incurring revenue deficits in its budget over the six years period (2008 – 2013) and that the cumulative debt now stands at revenue debt now stands at €19.67 million with the long-term debt in excess of €12o million; and noting that the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Mr. Phil Hogan, and his senior officials approved all the loans, borrowings and overdraft
increases of the Council; and further noting that the newly elected county council elected in May 2014 was not responsible for previous budgets, loans, borrowing and overdrafts; this council now appeals to the new Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to provide Sligo County Council with the necessary financial assistance (bailout) to allow the council
to return to financial sustainability; and further the council again requests the Minister to meet a deputation from the council.”

Cllr. Seamus O’Boyle (People Before Profit) in a notice of motion, is seeking information as to whether “Irish Water have had access to the database of tenancy records in Sligo Borough Council or Sligo County Council, and, if, so, do they have access on an ongoing basis.”

Sean Griffin, Assistant Principal, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is scheduled to address the council meeting on the “National Broadband Plan.”

 

INCREASE IN 2014 PASSENGER NUMBERS FOR IRELAND WEST AIRPORT.

Figures show 2.7% growth on 2012.

Sligo News File Online

Managing Director, Joe Gilmore has hailed 2014 as a record year for Knock Airport, where passenger numbers increased to 703,324, up on 2013, and 2.7% higher than for 2012.

Gilmore said the airport had “record numbers on all of our services…highlighting its importance as the main international gateway for the west and north west of Ireland and indeed the Wild Allantic Way.”

The announcement follows reports that heavily indepted Sligo County Council is one of a number of local authorities expected to consider a bailout for the airport early this year. Sligo is reputed to have a a total debt load in the region of €150 million. More than €120 million of this is understood to be in the form of long-term debt, and a cumulative revenue debt of about €20 million. The authority is also believed to be under government pressure to make provision for a €10 million budget surplus in order to stabilize its revenues over the coming 10 years.

This does not include the further millions of euro the authority also has to find to meet the cost of the legal proceedings taken against it in the High and Supreme Courts by owners of the Lisadell Estate concerning rights of way through the estate.

Where Sligo is to find what is thought will be around two million euro (maybe more) as an investment towards paying off €7.3 million of the €9 million legacy debt – Western Development Commission is paying  €1.7 million – without further inflating its existing massive debt stock isn’t clear, but it’s imagined the pulling together of such a vast sum could not be achieved without placing further major financial demands or service cutbacks on the people of the county. It is assumed the cost of servicing the airport debt will drive the
proposed figure way beyond the current multi-million euro sum.

There is also concern about the expertise a local authority as shareholder would be able to bring to the operation or management of the airport, and whether the composition of the board of trust is set to be changed to allow for ownership to include the local authorities.

The airport, according to accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office by its operating company, Connaught Airport Development Company Limited, lost €659,000 before tax in 2013.

Sligo council CEO Ciaran Hayes, in the wake of a presentation to the county council by airport managing director Gilmore, said that the strategy outlined by the airport board was “hugely significant in terms of the council’s new role in economic development.”

The government, it’s understood, has promised to maintain an exchequer subsidy towards the airport for a time but this is to be phased out as it achieves viability. However, it is considered that breaking even, even with passenger numbers double those of 2014, will prove difficult. Government provision of “an enormous
package of incentives for Shannon”, it is feared will hamper its further progress and development.

A study Group, chaired by Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony reported
in December 2013 that “Fundamentally, the work of the Group has shown that under the existing policy approach involving the cessation of Exchequer supports for regional airports, a range of legacy issues will mean that the Airport,  despite its efforts to meet the target of being self-financing by end 2014, would be forced to close within the next two years.”

In evidence to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications in December 2012, the then airport chairman, Liam Scollan, according to the Oireachtas report, said the “government’s actions in aviation fly in the face of anything to do with market competition. It is unfair, anti-competitive and potentially illegal. It rewards airports which, even with 1.6 million to 2.2 million passengers, are losing €8 million to €10 million annually and punishes an airport like Knock that is almost breaking even on half those passenger numbers.”

The report also quotes Mr. Scollan as saying “…we know that there are significant troop movements -200,000 to 300,000 – through Shannon, which bring enormous levels of income.”

Later, Mr. Scollan reportedly said in an interview with the Mayo News that the government had taken a decision “to write off €100 million of debt in Shannon…. There will also be a transfer of income from Shannon Estates (a part of the larger Shannon Deverlopment Organisation) into Shannon Airport and what this means is that Shannon Development’s land banks and property expertise will be merged with Shannon Airport with a view to developing an international aviation services facility in the region. It is a transfer of considerable assets over to Shannon Airport which boosts them with an annual subvention or income to assist them to attract new
routes and new businesses in aviation -related areas, maintenance etc. It is a massive financial cash injection.

“The airport is essentially getting its debt written off while also getting another significant financial boost.”

It is not known when exactly the proposed local authority investment programme for the Ireland West Airport is to be considered by councillors in Sligo. Hayes has said, “it will be advanced subject to a Due Diligence report currently being compiled.”
 

Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan calls on fellow Irish MEPs to vote against GMO report.

‘… final text …leaves legal loopholes available for biotech companies to exploit to take countries to court.’

Sligo News File Online.

Lynn Boylan, MEP, Sinn Fein.
Lynn Boylan, MEP, Sinn Fein.

Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has today called on her fellow Irish MEPs to reject next Tuesday’s vote on GMOs.

The legislation was drafted to break the deadlock between pro and anti GM countries and to create a mechanism that would legally allow countries to opt out of cultivating GM crops.

In November the EU Environment committee produced a very strong proposal.  The EU Parliament’s position removed the controversial ‘Phase 1’ proposal put forward by the EU Council, where Ireland is represented by the Government.   This Phase 1 system obliged democratically elected governments to seek permission from a biotech company to be removed from the scope of their authorisation application.  The Parliament’s position also broadened the scope of the grounds a country could use to justify their wish to opt out to include environmental and socio-economic reasons.

“When the EU Council and the Parliament concluded their negotiations before Christmas, the final text was drastically diluted and in my opinion leaves legal loopholes available for biotech companies to exploit to take countries to court.

The controversial Phase 1 albeit improved has been reinserted and the Parliament’s preferred Environmental legal basis for the legislation was changed to EU Internal Market law which undermines using environmental grounds for banning GM crops.” said the Sinn Féin MEP

“I am calling on my fellow MEPs and particularly my Irish colleagues to vote against this report on Tuesday. It is a flawed report and does not offer countries watertight legislation to ban GM crops on their soil, it will instead, in my opinion open the flood gates to GM crops despite strong public resistance to them” added Ms Boylan.”

Citizens Movement Mayo ‘holding councillors to account.’

‘Some elected representatives…caught off-guard by people’s
awakening in Irish politics in last year.’

Protest at Mayo County Council Offices on Monday.

Council meeting with Irish Water representatives.

Sligo News File Online.

National Citizens Movement. L-R: Aiden Dwyer (Mayo), Jamie Rooney (Mayo), Alan Lawes (NCM national group), Elizabeth Hourihane (NCM National), Michael Downey (Mayo)
National Citizens Movement.
L-R: Aiden Dwyer (Mayo), Jamie Rooney (Mayo), Alan Lawes (NCM national group), Elizabeth Hourihane (NCM National), Michael Downey (Mayo)

The National Citizens Movement is organising a day-long protest at the offices of Mayo County Council on Monday with the aim of holding the county’s local local public representatives to account, the Mayo branch of the organisation has said.

Outlining the proposed action, the organisation said in a statement members now intend to start scrutinizing councilor’s representation of local interests in the council chambers in Mayo.

The statement said the planned move “…is welcomed by many of the Mayo county councillors that we have spoken to already, and startled some others who appear to have been caught off-guard by people’s awakening in Irish politics in the last year.”

Monday’s protest is being held to coincide with the expected attendance of representatives of Irish Water at the council’s regular monthly meeting.

“Irish Water are reportedly sending representatives to ‘advise’ our county councillors on the company that morning and we intend to make our presence known to them also.”

The organisation said discussion of a notice of motion on water charges and the abolition of Irish Water during two previous meetings of the council had been “hampered by party bickering and adjourned

“Next Monday’s meeting sees the motion, proposed by Cllr. Gerry Murray (SF) being revisited once again and, hopefully, voted upon by our public representatives.”

Calling for a strong presence of people and their families at the demonstration, the Movement said that, as always, “the protest is set to be a peaceful one.

“We want our Councillors to show solidarity with the other county councils around the country that have already discussed and passed similar motions.

“We intend also to publicise those representatives who either vote against the motion,  or choose to abstain from the vote (something which we view as equivocal to voting  against it), so that their constituents are made aware of their position and can be
informed to decide whether their Councillors truly represent their views.”

P.R.O. National Citizens Movement (Mayo) is Jamie Rooney (083-3046869)

Fianna Fail Leader, Michael Martin meets Sligo ‘young scientists’ at RDS.

MICHAEL MARTIN MEETS SLIGO ‘YOUNG SCIENTISTS.’

Fianna Fail Leader Michael Martin pictured with Sean Casey, Michael Gilmartin, and Michael Kerins from Summerhill College, Sligo, with their project titled 'To adapt a car steering wheel that senses driver distraction, alerts the driver, and thus reduces accidents and fatalities' at the BT Young Scients Exhibition at the RDS. Picture courtesy Conor McCabe Photography.
Fianna Fail Leader Michael Martin pictured with Sean Casey, Michael Gilmartin, and Michael Kerins from Summerhill College, Sligo, with their project titled ‘To adapt a car steering wheel that senses driver distraction, alerts the driver, and thus reduces accidents and fatalities’ at the BT Young Scients Exhibition at the RDS.
Picture courtesy Conor McCabe Photography.

EU-US trade deal threatens looser pesticide regulation- Lynn Boylan MEP

‘…pesticide regulations in the EU would be weakened…’

Sligo News File Online.

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has commented on the latest report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) illustrating how the EU-US trade deal threatens to lower standards of protection from toxic pesticides.

Speaking today Ms Boylan said:

“This report from CIEL outlines how pesticide regulations in the EU would be weakened under the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Agreement and its findings should alarm anyone worried about the toxic and harmful effect of pesticides on food production and on the environment.

According to the report pesticide lobby groups both in Europe and the US are suggesting that, in order to increase trade, TTIP should adopt lower standards of protection from toxic pesticides, like the standards currently in place in the US.

The problem is that this approach would lead to a reintroduction of these banned pesticides in the EU and would also permit the use of carcinogens, increase the amount of toxic pesticides allowed in food sold to consumers and would side track efforts to regulate endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

To emphasise the risk posed by acquiescing to the lobby group demands, the study includes a list of 82 toxic pesticides, which are banned in the EU but allowed for use in the US.

This CIEL study highlights how TTIP needs to viewed as a whole and not just as a mechanism for enhancing trade between Europe and the US. The consequences of implementing this agreement as it stands are far reaching. Attention must be paid to the detail now in order to avoid the potential detrimental impacts on the environment and on EU consumer health.”

€3 QA BONUS SHOWS CONTEMPT FOR FARMERS AND MINISTER – ICSA.

‘…meat factories are forgetting that the Quality Assurance Scheme is only viable if there is a partnership approach.’

Sligo News File Online.

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

ICSA beef chairman Edmond Phelan has said that proposals by the meat industry for a €3/head quality assured bonus demonstrate contempt not only for farmers but also for the Minister.  “It is now obvious that the meat industry believes that it has no need for any sort of partnership approach,  whether under the beef roundtable or any other mechanism,” he said.

“However, the meat factories are forgetting that the Quality Assurance Scheme is only viable if there is a partnership approach.  It is now time for all farm organisations to re-evaluate whether support for the QAS is warranted given the contempt shown by meat factories.  Apart from the derisory offer of  €3/head, factories have reneged on the commitment to end dual pricing.  We have seen substantial cuts on animals that are deemed not quality assured which is totally contrary to the terms agreed at the last roundtable.”

Mr. Phelan pointed out that the €3 bonus represented less than 7% of the current 12c bonus on a typical steer, at a time when prices should be on a significant upward trajectory.  “ICSA has not been consulted on this by the meat industry which demonstrates that the meat industry is not serious about the roundtable process.”  

OPENING OF UNITED STATES BEEF MARKET MUST IMPROVE RETURNS TO FARMERS.

‘Ireland should be ambitious in its plans to attract significant share of market.’

Sligo News File Online.

Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.
Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has given a guarded welcome to thenews that Ireland has secured beef access to the US market. “This could be a very important development for hard-pressed beef farmers, provided that the meat industry and Bord Bia market Irish beef as a premium product with a view to improving returns to
farmers,” he said.

“However, farmers will remain sceptical given the ruthless downward manipulation of prices by the meat industry over the past twelve months. They are still waiting to see concrete benefits from previous announcements of new markets.”

“Ireland should be ambitious in its plans to attract a significant share of the US market, given our reputation for producing premium beef through predominantly grass-fed systems, and we also have the added advantage of a receptive market in the 40 million Americans who claim Irish heritage.”

“This new market opportunity must bring an improvement in prices if it is to be taken seriously,” he reiterated. “Ireland’s grass-fed systems should be at the heart of the marketing of our beef in the US, and maintaining the viability of these systems must now be a key priority for the Minister. The fact that US beef farmers are getting €4.53/kg for R3 equivalent steers suggests that we have the potential to export significant quantities of Irish beef at a higher price than that which obtains at present.”