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IF THE PURPLE FLAG SLIGO IS PURSUING IS NOT ABOUT PROMOTION OF ALCOHOL WHAT DOES IT STAND FOR?

Purple Flag project backed by Diageo, one of the largest drinks industry firms in the world.

Sligo News File Online.

If the Purple Flag which Sligo is chasing is not about the promotion of alcohol consumption just what does it represent?

The project is backed by Diageo, one of the largest drinks 
firms in the world, and in Sligo we understand, is set to be supported by the county council with the aid of funds provided by the EU.

From what can be seen in press statements and reports surrounding the project, the emphasis is on the encouragement of a 5pm to 5am nightlife in town centres, which, in Sligo, would mean art galleries, library services, museums and the like being open into the early hours of the morning if the purpose of the programme simply isn’t the furtherance of the pub and night club industry of the area.

We are told the project has the backing of the gardai. Local figures have been pictured at the Town Hall following assessment for the Purple Flag, and announcement that early delivery of the apparently much sought after flag is expected – among those in the photograph, published on the official website of the county council, is the chairperson of the Sligo Municipal Council, Cllr. Tom MacSharry.

Of course, it would be perfectly understandable that there would be some measure of excitement and anticipation of ‘bloom’ if the project was going to lift the town’s wider economy. However, there’s been no mention of how the flag – described as the ‘gold standard for night-time destinations’ – is to bring about the development of new non-alcohol type outlets in Sligo, nor in the least help curtail the plague that is excessive drinking in
the country.

Will late night drinking, it’s wondered turn out to be a magnet
for the young, for trouble in the town centre? What demand will be placed on garda resources to police the town at night, on ambulance services, on hospital facilities?

Does the use of a flag for which the backers include a global drinks industry not constitute a form of drinks advertising, glamorisation of alcohol?  Further, does Sligo really need a drinks industry sponsored symbol to promote the development of its town centre? As well, if the sponsor is a drinks firm, why should it be backed with taxpayers’ money in the form of EU funds, if such is the case. Are there not more deserving causes towards which such funds could go, for example a youth project or the relaunching of the Twist type soup kitchen for needy families of the area?

This is the impact which Alcohol Action Ireland says alcohol consumption is having on health in the country:

88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol

There are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland as due to all other drugs combined

Alcohol is a factor in up to one third of all deaths by unnatural causes, according to statistics from one county

Chronic alcohol-related conditions are becoming increasingly common among young age groups. Between 2005 and 2008, 4,129 people aged under 30 were discharged from hospital with chronic diseases or conditions of the type normally seen in older people

Alcoholic liver disease deaths almost trebled (188% increase) between 1995 and 2009

The figures also reveal considerable increases of alcohol liver disease among younger age groups. Among 15-34 -years-olds, the rate of ALD discharges increased by 275%, while for the 35-49 age group, the rate increased by 227%. These increases suggests we
are starting to see the effects of the large increases in alcohol consumption up to 2003.

Alcohol-related admissions to acute hospitals doubled between 1995 and 2008

Alcohol-related deaths also increased during the same period, from 3.8 deaths per 100,000 to 7.1 deaths per 100,000

St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin figures show a 335pc increase in admissions with alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2010

Over 14,000 people were admitted to the liver unit in St Vincent’s Hospital for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 2011.

The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

According to the WHO, almost 4 per cent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol. This is a greater number than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis

In Ireland, between 2000 and 2004, it was estimated that 4.4 per cent of deaths were caused by alcohol. This figure includes deaths from chronic alcohol-related conditions such as alcoholic liver disease and liver cancer, and accidental and non-accidental deaths while under the influence of alcohol

Alcohol increases the risk of developing more than 60 diseases and medical conditions, even at low levels of consumption

Alcohol is the third leading risk factor for death and disability in the EU after tobacco and high blood pressure

A more than 3% increase in unemployment in the EU is associated with a staggering 28% increase in deaths from alcohol use disorders, according to the WHO

Alcohol and Injuries:

More than one in four of those attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol‑related injuries, almost half of which occurred to people aged under 30 years

Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries

Alcohol is a factor in 80% of cases of assaulted patients admitted to neurosurgery units

Additional damning evidence (2013) published by Alcohol Action Ireland:

More than half (54%) of 18-75 year old drinkers were classified as harmful drinkers which equates to 1.35 million harmful drinkers in Ireland

75% of all alcohol consumed in Ireland in 2013 was done so as part of a binge drinking session

One in five (21.1%) drinkers engage in binge drinking at least once a week

Almost two thirds (64.3%) of 18-24 year old drinkers consume six or more standard drinks on a typical drinking session

One third (33%) of men and more than one fifth (23%) of women who consumed alcohol in the week prior to the Health Research Board’s Irish Alcohol Diaries 2013 survey consumed more than the HSE low risk drinking guidelines of 16.8 standard drinks for men and 11.2 standard drinks for women

One in eight (13%) men and almost one in ten (9%) women drank their recommended weekly guidelines in one sitting in the week prior to the HRB survey. Among 18-24 year-olds, 28% of men and 22% of women consume weekly guidelines in one sitting

The World Health Organisation’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 found that 39% of all Irish people aged 15-years-old and over had engaged in binge drinking, or “heavy episodic drinking”, in the past 30 days. This puts Ireland just behind Austria (40.5%) at the top of the 194 countries studied and well ahead of our neighbours in Britain (28%)

When the 19% of non-drinkers in Ireland were excluded by the WHO, it found that almost two thirds of Irish men (62.4%) and one third of Irish women (33.1%) who drink alcohol had engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, almost half (48.2%) of all drinkers

Over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking, according to the SLÁN survey, that’s 4 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men who drink, which amounts to an estimated 1,453,250 adults

In 2013, the average Irish person aged 15+ drank 10.73 litres of pure alcohol

When we consider the fact that one in five adults in Ireland don’t drink alcohol, it means that those who do drink are consuming much more than the average consumption statistics show

Average alcohol consumption in 2010 was 145% higher than the average amount consumed in 1960

Alcohol consumption in Ireland increased by 46% between 1987 (9.8 litres) and 2001 (14.3 litres) when our consumption reached a record high

OECD figures show how alcohol consumption in Ireland almost trebled over four decades between 1960 (4.9 litres) and 2000 (14.2 litres)

Ireland continues to rank among the highest consumers of alcohol in the 26 countries in the enlarged EU.

From 1980 to 2010, average alcohol consumption in Europe decreased by an average of 15 per cent, while consumption in Ireland over that period increased by 24 per cent

Irish adults binge drink more than adults in any other European country, with 44 per cent of  drinkers stating that they binge drink on a regular basis

The highest proportion of binge drinkers is in the 18-29 age group. Young people are also more likely to exceed the weekly low-risk limit for alcohol consumption

Alcohol Action Ireland details of the cost of alcohol abuse:

Alcohol misuse in Ireland is fuelling a growing health and crime crisis that is costing us an estimated €3.7billion a year in health, crime/public order and other ancillary costs, such as work-place absenteeism.

At a time when we need to do more with less, it’s worth remembering that these costs are avoidable costs. According to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland, a 30% reduction in alcohol-related harm would result in a cost saving to the Exchequer of €1billion.

Alcohol-related harms cost each tax payer in Ireland an estimated  €3,318 a year. And that’s just the financial cost:

88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol

One in eleven children in Ireland say parental alcohol use has a negative effect on their lives – that is about 109,684 children

There are 1,200 cases of cancer each year from alcohol in Ireland

One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol

One in three road crash deaths is alcohol-related

Based on the figures in the Health Research Board’s Irish Alcohol Diaries 2013 report, more than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers, more than a 1.35 million are harmful drinkers and 30% of people interviewed say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking.

The report also reveals we underestimate what we drink by about 60%. If this is the case, the situation is much worse than what has been presented in the comprehensive report.

The question we need to ask ourselves is – how much is too much?

Carthy tells European Parliament – “Irish Water Charges will be defeated”

‘…to force the Irish people to pay 43% of the cost of the European banking crisis Dublin governments have introduced several new stealth taxes and charges that have caused devastation and hardship to many families.’

‘…people have had enough.’

Sligo News File Online.

Matt Carthy, MEP, Sinn Fein.
Matt Carthy, MEP, Sinn Fein.

Speaking during topical speeches in the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg yesterday Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, told the chamber that the Irish people had suffered enough hardship
as a result of stealth charges and taxes. He predicted that the water charges in Ireland would be defeated.

Mr. Carthy said: “In order to force the Irish people to pay 43% of the cost of the European banking crisis Dublin governments have introduced several new stealth taxes and charges that have caused
devastation and hardship to many families.

“These taxes have not led to improved services; they have each been unfair and have targeted those on lower incomes disproportionately.

“Well, now the Irish people have had enough. In their tens and hundreds of thousands, Irish communities have joined together and marched against the latest tax on their families.

“The Irish government calls it a water charge – the Irish people see it for what it is – another tax that, if introduced, will put many people over the edge and will further hamper our domestic economies.

“That, under pressure, the government has now introduced temporary caps prove that this charge has nothing to do with water conservation but is just another attack on Irish families’ incomes.

“I want to take this opportunity to declare in the European Parliament, as it has been declared on streets of every Irish town – the water tax will be defeated and a new economic policy based on fairness and prosperity and against the austerity agenda will follow.”

Speaking after the plenary speeches, Carthy said that he believes that the proposed water charges scheme is not in keeping with the provisions of the EU Water Framework Directive and that he is awaiting responses from the European Commission on the issue.

“Article 9 of the European Water Framework Directive clearly states that any scheme for the recovery of water services costs must be based on the polluter pays principle and must contain an incentive for water conservation.

“The model proposed by the Irish Government – which introduces universal caps and grants not linked to water usage – undermines the environmental and water conservation principles which underpin the Directive.

“I have submitted a number of questions to the European Commission on this matter and I look forward to receiving their response in the very near future.”

“Sinn Féin remains opposed to the introduction of water charges, particularly as it is nothing other than a revenue raising exercise which will result in little to no investment in our water infrastructure, and we will continue to campaign against them in every forum available until they are successfully defeated.”

Bold Thinking Needed if Western Rail Corridor to Succeed – Dooley.

‘Providing a proper InterCity service from Cork to Galway via Limerick and Ennis would be a game changer for rail services in the West of Ireland.’

Sligo News File Online.

Timmy Dooley, TD., Fianna Fail.
Timmy Dooley, TD., Fianna Fail.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Transport, Tourism and Sport Timmy Dooley TD has called on Irish Rail to engage in bold thinking in order to secure the future of the Western Rail Corridor. The call comes following reports that the Government is currently reviewing
the rail network with the possibility of line closures. Deputy Dooley believes that if a proper InterCity Service was established between Cork via Limerick and Ennis and ending in Galway it would dramatically improve passenger numbers on the line.

 Deputy Dooley stated, “The taxpayer has invested significantly in the Western Rail Corridor, yet Irish Rail is standing in the way of it maximising its true potential because of substandard timetables,
rolling stock and journey speeds on the line. Irish Rail needs to start thinking big and bold when it comes to the Western Rail Corridor. It’s time to create an Atlantic InterCity Rail Service with the same rolling stock that is used on all other InterCity routes, not the slow commuter trains which service the Limerick to Galway line.

“Providing a proper InterCity service from Cork to Galway via Limerick and Ennis would be a game changer for rail services in the West of Ireland. Given the strong passenger numbers that already
use commuter services on this route, an improved InterCity service would be of little extra cost but of huge potential benefit. The fact that you can’t get a direct train from Ireland’s second city to our third biggest city is an anomaly in any case. A reliable, fast and comfortable InterCity rail service connecting the three cities on the western seaboard is the solution to the challenge of low passenger numbers on the Western Rail Corridor. This kind of bold thinking is needed now more than ever in Irish Rail to secure the future of our rail network”.

 

FIELDS OF ATHENRY NOT COMPARABLE WITH SUCKLER FARM REALITY.

‘Teagasc project is not in tune with the reality of the land farmed by many suckler farmers.’

Sligo News File Online.

Dermot Kelleher, Chairman, ICSA Suckler Committee.
Dermot Kelleher,
Chairman, ICSA Suckler Committee.

ICSA suckler chairman Dermot Kelleher has expressed reservations about the new Teagasc suckler research herd in Athenry.   According to Mr Kelleher the project is not in tune with the reality of the
land farmed by many suckler farmers.  He also expressed concern that the herd is being managed to provide beef to meat factories and will be totally irrelevant to the live export trade for weanlings because of the type of cow being used. 

“The fact that Dawn Meats is sponsoring the project has led to concerns that the focus will be on Angus-cross beef and that the system will be suckler to beef.  Many farmers in the west of Ireland are focused on high-grade continental cattle, with a view to producing an export-grade weanling.  They do this in many cases on difficult marginal land.  The land at the Athenry research centre  is top class, dry land and is not typical of west of Ireland suckler farms at all,” he said.

“It seems to me that the whole project is not engaging with the reality of where suckler farmers are at.  From an economics perspective, ICSA believes that suckler farming needs to produce more weanlings for live export.  It is clear that increasing or even maintaining the current level of suckler beef for Irish factories is a recipe for disaster, making beef too plentiful with a consequent knock-on effect on prices.”

Mr. Kelleher also said that many farmers suspect that the herd at Athenry will demonstrate lower costs and that this will be used as a stick to beat farmers with. “It’s obvious that the land at Athenry will support a much longer grazing season than most farmers on heavy land could possibly achieve.  Therefore costs will be lower and farmers who can’t match this will be derided as inefficient when in fact their farms cannot be compared to Athenry.  However, the publicity around lower costs at Athenry will be used as a reason by supermarkets and processors to keep farm-gate price low.” 

“The reality of this situation is that if a young lad starting out had a few acres of land, no-one would advise him to start a suckler herd, and the planned research in Athenry is not going to change that,” concluded Mr. Kelleher.

 

 

Noonan article on banks is a “surrender letter” – Doherty

‘The article today…an attempt to turn a clear defeat into some sort of victory.’

Sligo News File Online.

Pearse Doherty, TD, Sinn Fein.
Pearse Doherty, TD,
Sinn Fein.

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has labelled Minister Michael Noonan’s article in today’s press on the future of Ireland’s banks as a “surrender letter”.

Deputy Doherty said:

“The article today from Minister Noonan is an attempt to turn a clear defeat into some sort of victory. In effect it is a surrender letter. In June 2012 we were told there had been a seismic shift and Ireland was in line for special treatment.  Now that lie has been exposed. Ireland will get no break from the EU. The government has surrendered on the issue of the EU, through the ESM paying the Irish people back.

“Even the incredible spin today from Minister Noonan does not stand up. In a telling line the Minister admits his plan is subject to “economic and trading conditions continu(ing) to improve over the next decade or so”. This is a very optimistic take but in any case the true cost to the Irish people of backing and AIB, Bank of Ireland and PTSB goes beyond the up-front cost. It is directly linked to the austerity budgets, to the cuts to our health service and to water charges.

“The government was always going to have the option of selling the banks to the market at the whim of the market. Like he has done on mortgage distress,  bankers’ pay and the Anglo/IBRC debt Minister
Noonan has failed utterly to stand up for the Irish people and demand the people’s money back. He has surrendered to the EU once again. Ireland deserves a better champion.”

MAYO IN LINE FOR NEW INDUSTRIAL INVESTMENT.

“Major investor giving serious consideration to locating in Ballina”
– Taoiseach.

Sligo News File Online.

Ballina MayoIt appears that investors are considering looking west again, offering the prospect of jobs in a number of regional locations.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said interest is currently being shown from abroad in Co. Mayo.

It’s understood that a “major investor” has been to the north of the county,  and is giving serious consideration to locating in Ballina. While no further details have been released, jobs it’s believed would be “high end.”

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.”