Consultation needed to lessen pressure on GP and other essential services from refugee and asylum seeker accommodation

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara has called for ongoing consultation with communities hosting refugees and asylum seekers, in particular for the Government to outline its plans to address the increased strain placed on GP services as a result of the arrival of Ukrainian refugees and international protection applicants, citing his hometown in East Clare as an example.

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Funding boost for Kilrush

I am delighted to learn that €3.5m has been allocated for the redevelopment of a vacant building on the marina in Kilrush into a new Maritime Training Centre.

I have raised this project repeatedly with the Minister for Rural and Community Development and her officials, and I have engaged locally with Cllr Ian Lynch and Clare County Council project officer Brian McCarthy. This project will establish Kilrush and West Clare as an important maritime centre on the west coast of Ireland.

Burren Businesses Recognised for Sustainable Tourism Practices

Great energy at the Falls Hotel & Spa in Ennistymon last night where 58 Burren Ecotourism members were honoured for fulfilling their commitments under the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism. A brilliant project which shows the way forward for sustainable tourism not just in Clare, but also across Ireland.

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VAT reduction on fuel

Independent Clare T.D. Michael McNamara has urged government to temporarily remove VAT on fuel as prices continue to soar across the country.

Speaking tonight (Wednesday) in Dáil Éireann in favour of the Government’s Financial Motion to reduce excise duty on petrol, diesel and green diesel, Deputy McNamara urged Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to follow in the footsteps of Poland by reducing VAT.

The Clare T.D. said rising costs are fast becoming unsustainable for people, especially rural dwellers.

McNamara seeks urgent Government intervention on fertiliser to avoid food price increase

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has said he will be participating in a special meeting of EU agriculture ministers tomorrow (Wednesday) in relation to the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on agriculture and food prices.

Minister McConalogue was responding to Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara who has expressed concern at the impact of rising fertiliser costs on food production and prices in Ireland.

Deputy McNamara claims urgent government intervention is required and has suggested the potential bulk purchase of fertilisers, the subvention of fertilisers, or the introduction of price caps.

Speaking during Questions on Promised Legislation in Dáil Éireann today, Deputy McNamara said, “Irish farmers face a dilemma. Do they borrow money to pay the cost of fertiliser which has more than doubled and hope to pass that on to consumers at the end of the year?  Or do they produce less food which will also result in a rise in consumer food prices at the end of the year?”

“I have no doubt that Ireland will produce more than enough food to feed itself, but I am less confident about Europe, particularly given the lack of supply that will be there from Ukraine which is the breadbasket of Europe,” he added.  “To ward off a horrible scenario where Irish consumers cannot afford the cost of food in Ireland like other European consumers, will the Government intervene by bulk buying fertilisers, subventing it or putting price caps in place? Because we need to intervene now.”

In response, Minister McConalogue commented, “You raise a very fair issue and a fair concern, and something that my department are monitoring very closely.  Also, we are having a special meeting of EU agriculture ministers this Wednesday and it’s something we will be discussing as part of that, as well in the context of the challenges that the unacceptable invasion of Ukraine is resulting in and what that means in terms of both gas, energy, fertiliser and potentially, grain prices.”

UHL overcrowding

Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara today called for an independent investigation into ongoing overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), where a record 111 patients were on trolleys this morning.

Addressing Taoiseach Micheal Martin during Promised legislation in Dáil Éireann today, Deputy McNamara said the exponential growth in trolley numbers at UHL was unlikely to be halted by the introduction of additional beds alone and that consideration should be given to upgrading other hospitals within the UHL Group.

Responding to Deputy McNamara, the Taoiseach said he would request the Minister for Health and the HSE to review the Clare TD’s proposal around the causes of ongoing overcrowding.

Deputy McNamara commented, “There is no clear indication as to why UHL is consistently the most overcrowded hospital in the country. I don’t know whether it is how admissions and discharges are managed in the hospital or if Ennis, Nenagh or St. Johns need to be upgraded to Model 3 Hospitals. An investigation needs to be commissioned without delay.”

Rights of way Bill to be published

The Government has confirmed to Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara that the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Bill will be published imminently.

Responding to Deputy McNamara in the Dáil last night, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Bill will begin its passage in the Seanad next week.

Deputy McNamara has previously expressed his support for the short amending Bill that will remove an upcoming deadline to register rights of way.

November 30th had originally been set as a deadline for receipt of applications for a court order to confirm a right by prescription with new rules due to take effect from December 1st.

Deputy McNamara has welcomed the abolition of the deadline proposed under the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform (Amendment) Bill 2021, which he described as “necessary to prevent stress between neighbours and to avoid a large volume of unnecessary court cases to register rights that have existed for generations.”

“In effect, every right of way dispute in the country, and many cases where there is as yet no dispute, would be brought to a head at the end of November, ending up in divisive Court cases with inevitable resultant legal costs,” the Clare farmer and barrister added.

He continued, “Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys has previously acknowledged there is legal uncertainty about how the new rules may be interpreted in practice, and that it has not yet been possible to register many important prescriptive rights. These difficulties are also causing significant delays in conveyancing, and in mortgage and farm loan applications.”

“The approaching deadline has been a cause of concern for many people, particularly farmers, and it also has been raised with the Minister by the Bar Council and the Law Society of Ireland,” added Deputy McNamara.

Should the short amending Bill successfully pass through the Dáil, as expected, the law applicable to prescriptive easements and profits will largely revert to the judge-made law that applied before the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. It will still be possible to confirm a prescriptive right, either by applying to court or by registering it directly with the Property Registration Authority. However, this will be optional, as it was before the 2009 Act, rather than a mandatory requirement to avoid losing any rights of way acquired through long use.

McNamara seeks clarity over 180 at risk jobs in Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd

Clarification is needed on the future of all existing full-time jobs at Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd. as well as the retention of the two aviation hangars used by the Clare-based operation.

Following today’s announcement by Atlantic Aviation Group (AAG) that it has acquired Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd securing 300 highly skilled full-time workers in Shannon, there is concern for up to 180 jobs at the Clare-based operation.

The announcement is undoubtedly very positive news for AAG but the full impact of the acquisition on all 480 full-time employees and future operations at Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd. has yet to be outlined. I will be seeking more clarity on the issue from representatives of AAG and Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd. when I attend a briefing hosted by the companies tomorrow morning.

The employees of Lufthansa Technik Shannon Ltd. have played a key role in ensuring the future of the operation through their engagement with management and SIPTU over the past year. This included staff staggering work shifts with staff taking paid leave by availing of days built up over the years. While the majority of contract staff were released in the last year, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, management at the company has continued to engage with worker’s representatives from SIPTU. Following on from today’s announcement, it is important now that clarity is provided on all full-time positions at the company.

Photo c/o Pat Flynn of The Clare Herald

New Raheen Community Hospital unit to open by mid-2022

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara has received confirmation from the HSE that the proposed new build ward extension at Raheen Community Hospital in East Clare will be fully operational during the second quarter of next year.

The Scariff-based TD said, “The first phase of the works commenced in March and involved the relocation of the existing plant and boiler house which was sited on the footprint of the new build. The HSE has informed me that these works have been completed and that work on the 420m2 extension to the new build is underway.”

“The project includes the provision of 7 long stay replacement beds as part of an extension which will reduce the density of beds in the long stay wards and address deficiencies identified by HIQA at the hospital,” added Deputy McNamara. “The equipping of the unit is currently being planned and the HSE estimates that the new unit will be equipped and operational by Quarter 2, 2022.

Deputy McNamara said the new unit “will be very much welcomed by the people of East Clare area.”

“When I was first elected as a TD in 2011, there was a proposal to close smaller community hospitals, such as Raheen. Upgrade works were undertaken during this period at Kilrush and Ennistymon community hospitals, but little progress was being made in Raheen. After a focus was brought to this vital community resource by the visit of the then junior ministers for health, Alex White and Kathleen Lynch, which I initiated, the HSE implemented substantial capital investment plans in the intervening years. I now look forward to the completion of the works currently underway,” explained Deputy McNamara.

New Chair of Shannon Group plc to be announced shortly

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara says the appointment of a new Chair of Shannon Group plc has reached its final stages.

In response to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question on the role, which has remained unfilled since August 2020, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan confirmed that he and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton met with the candidates shortlisted via the Public Appointments Service (PAS) process last week.

“In line with normal arrangements for the appointment of Chairs to State Boards, the Chair designate will be required to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications before being formally appointed as Chair of Shannon Group,” added Minister Ryan.

Deputy McNamara has urged the Department to “proceed without delay” due to the significance of the role.

“It is critically important that the successful candidate be someone with the experience to provide strategic direction to Shannon Group plc’s aviation and property businesses, as well as the proposed transfer of Clare-based Shannon Heritage tourism assets to Clare County Council,” added Deputy McNamara.

McNamara Hails Significant Infrastructure Project For Scariff

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara has described the proposed Scariff Regeneration Project as the “biggest infrastructure investment in the town in a generation”.

Clare County Council has lodged a Category 2 application with the Department of Rural and Community Development for funding under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund. If successful, the funding would enable the local authority to proceed with the design and planning stages of the project before submitting a Category 1 funding application to deliver the works.

Deputy McNamara this week wrote to Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, TD, to pledge his support for the project which he said, “would have long lasting positive implications for the community and economy of the town and surrounding area.”

He stated, “I fully support Clare County Council in its efforts to secure funding for a series of significant infrastructure developments in the town, including a multi-service innovation and commercial space, improvements to the public realm in market square and the town centre, and the delivery of enhanced parking and ancillary facilities.

Deputy McNamara added, “As a lifelong resident of Scariff, I acknowledge the significance of this project for the town and the wider East Clare region. There was a very positive response from the local community to a public consultation process led by Clare County Council, which further underlines the desire locally for such an investment in the town.”

Deputy McNamara said the proposed project represents the first significant central government allocation for the town of Scariff since he was previously a TD from 2011 to 2016.

He continued, “The last significant funding allocation accommodated the delivery of new footpaths from the bridge in Scarriff to Market House. The proposed new regeneration project will deliver additional and significant streetscape improvements more widely through the town centre and square area of the town, which will greatly improve accessibility for all residents of and visitors to the town. The proposal to deliver extra parking capacity and ancillary facilities, including those for coaches, will help bring new tourism business to Scariff.”

Deputy McNamara said the proposed delivery of an enterprise hub in the town would facilitate local community and visitors to the East Clare area with short and long-term working space.

“Clare County Council, through the Information Systems Broadband and Digital section of the Rural Development Directorate, has developed a comprehensive network of Digital Hubs across the county in recent years,” explained Deputy McNamara. “The addition of a significant innovation and commercial space in Scariff would reap huge dividends for the town and wider area in terms of facilitating local enterprise, community organisations and remote working.”

“I look forward to the outcome of the Department’s review of Clare County Council’s Category 2 funding application, which represents the first of two stages in delivering this vitally important infrastructure project. A decision on the application is expected during November,” concluded Deputy McNamara.

McNamara questions Clare’s omission from tourism funding scheme

County Clare does not feature amongst the 16 counties, including Galway, Kerry and Limerick, which are set to receive funding under the €1.2 million scheme.

Deputy McNamara says Minister Heather Humphreys, who announced the funding on Friday, should publish the awarding criteria given that County Clare is the 7th most afforested county in Ireland.

“Given that Clare is one of the most afforested counties in Ireland, both in terms of the size of area under forestry and the proportion of the County that is afforested, it is deeply disappointing that it is not receiving funding under this scheme,” explained Deputy McNamara.

“Community groups and voluntary organisations, along with Clare County Council and others, have developed and maintained many woodland walks and trails throughout the county in recent years. I would have thought that sites such as Cratloe Woods, Moylussa, Ard Aoibhinn, Knocknageeha in Killanena, Dromore, Ballybeg, Lees Road and Mount Callan, amongst others, between them offered scope for development.”

“The exclusion of any County Clare site from this funding announcement, therefore, requires explanation,” concluded Deputy McNamara.