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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.”
 

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)