Water – The straw that broke the camels back?

One of the major comments about the Irish people during the recent financial crisis and recession, was that there was no vocal, angry oppoistion on the street. This was a major factor in much instability faced by other countries faced with tough decisions because of the financial crash.

But why in Ireland, just as the recovery is starting to gain momentum, are now the Irish people protesting on the street?

Major protests are planned for today around the country against the implementation of water charges. The past number of weeks have been dominated by stories about Irish Water, its excesses, its board, the protests at installations and of course bonuses.

It is harder and harder for anyone to defend the mishandling of Irish Water, whether as a Government party supported or you see the need behind the introduction of water charges.

Irish people over the last number of years have made monumental sacrifices. Some have lost jobs, others seen the young people in their family leave for a better life elsewhere, while others have taken jobs they never thought they would do. We have seen higher taxes with USC, property charges and a range of other measures to shore up the Public Finances.

Water seems to be different. Why does a water utility need our PPS number? Why do we need to pay for our meter to be read if we are moving out? Why will callouts cost so much? Why will staff be paid bonuses when there is no benchmark for improvements?

There is a range of questions there that have no satisfactory answers. That has led to some misinformation, confusion and anger among ordinary Irish people, which I have not seen in my lifetime.

This is a wake up call for the Government and Irish Water. When dealing with the public you need to be open and honest. Only ask for the information you really need.

While I will not be protesting this weekend, I have some sympathy with those who do and believe the Government need to take a look again at Irish Water.

Otherwise this Government will face one of the biggest actions of Civil Disobedience this country has ever seen.

Cork Set to Suffer more Cutbacks

I was handed a leaflet today by a friend which has got me annoyed with the Government. Cork School of Music (CSM) is set to halt enrollment and re-enrollmen of 1st and 2nd level students! Also part-time students! i.e. those who are not pursuing a degree course in CIT. I am very annoyed by this. Due to under funding by the Government. The Cork School of Music Parents Association is holding a public meeting in the CSM in Curtis Audiorium on Thursday 19th June at 8:00pm. Local politicians have been invited and it is hope there will be a large turnout to make a impression on them, that the CSM is important to Cork, which it is!

Government set to abandon "A Vision for Change"

Yet another example of Bertie and crew changing their tune. This time its on Mental health policy. I received this from the Fine Gael Spokesman on Mental Health, Dan Neville TD. It says and I quote

“This report (A Vision for Change) states explicitly that a minimum of an additional €25 million is required annually for a six-year period to allow implementation of the mental health service expansion and improvement objectives outlined in the policy.

“In 2006, €17 million and in 2007, €10 million was spent for this purpose. In 2008 no additional funding was allocated.

It is fairly obvious that the Government is not willing to fund the Vision for Change. This report by an expert group, was an excellent report when released in 2006 and if the Government had fully implemented it, Ireland’s Mental Health Policy and institutions would be up with the best of them, but they are not.

To again quote Mr. Neville

In 2006, 3,000 children and adolescents waited an average of 15 months for psychiatric assessment with some families waiting as long as four years. In 2007, waiting lists were even longer with 3,598 children waiting for assessment, a third of whom waited for more than 12 months. With no money allocated for the implementation of ‘A Vision of Change’ in 2008, things are likely to get worse.

Clearly the Government is going blind on this issue. With waiting lists going up, it cannot afford to be putting childrens and adolescents psychiatry on the long finger. This is what they are doing. They are closing there eyes and hoping it will go away.

Children and adolescents should not be in adult wards like they currently are. The Government need to allocate the funding to this sector which badly needs it!

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Links:
A Vision For Change PDF
FG PR: Government abandons introduction of Mental Health Policy – Neville

Coveney accuses Govt of betraying Cork

If it is true as has been claimed on RTE that Cork Airport will be
saddled with a €100M of debt associated with the construction of its
new airport terminal then we have witnessed the most blatant breach
of a political promise in Cork during the lifetime of this
Government, according to Simon Coveney TD MEP General Election Candidate for Cork South Central.

‘When Aer Rianta was split up and Cork, Shannon and Dublin Airports
agreed to go it alone, the Government in an effort to get the
agreement of management at Cork Airport gave an absolute assurance in
writing, later confirmed by the Taoiseach in the Dáil and directly to
the staff in Cork Airport, that Cork Airport would not be saddled
with the debt associated with the building of its new terminal.

‘The agreement was that the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) would take
on this debt and in return the DAA was compensated by taking over the
assets of the Great Southern Hotel Group and Aer Rianta
International. It’s worth noting that the DAA have since sold the
Great Southern Hotel Group for €220M
more than the cost of building Cork’s new terminal.

‘For Cork to be saddled with this debt means that passengers will
have to pay a levy making Cork Airport less competitive than it
should have been if the Government had kept its promise to allow the
new Cork Airport to begin debt free.

‘The six Government TDs in Cork City should hang their heads in shame
as they have been outflanked and out manoeuvred politically by the
DAA. My understanding is that this decision has been taken by the
Taoiseach himself to finalise the debt issue relating to Cork
Airport. He has clearly demonstrated that Cork is not a political
priority even three months out from a General Election.

‘Finally to add insult to injury the DAA are insisting on taking
ownership of some of the development land attached to Cork Airport.
This claim must be strongly resisted as it is a valuable land-bank
that should be in the ownership of Cork Airport.’

Its sooooo true

Hanafin’s bluff won’t disguise educational psychological services mess – Enright

51% of primary schools still not covered by NEPS
When will target for educational psychologists – set in 1999 – be met?

Olwyn Enright TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Education and Science has today (Thursday) said that Minister Mary Hanafin cannot bluff her way out of the current mess surrounding access to educational psychological services for children and young people.

‘Speaking on RTE Morning Ireland today, Minister Mary Hanafin stated that Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are constantly expanding the services offered by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). In many homes, this statement will have been greeted with a hollow laugh.

‘Between February 2005 and December 2006, the number of primary schools without access to the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) increased by 160. Information released to me by the Department of Education and Science confirms that whilst 1,522 primary schools were not covered by NEPS in February 2005, this figure was up to 1,682 schools last month.

‘In her latest damage limitation exercise, the Minister has also announced the recruitment this year of an additional 31 educational psychologists. This means that by 2008 the target of 184 educational psychologists needed by NEPS – which was set in 1999 and should have been met by 2004 – will still be little more than a ‘noble aspiration’, an increasingly apt phrase when looking at this Government’s record in education.

‘With considerable understatement, Minister Hanafin did concede that not every school in the country was covered by NEPS – well, that’s one way of acknowledging that 51% of primary schools are still outside the system, eights years after it was first established.

‘Minister Hanafin is still just playing ‘catch-up’ on this issue, and has not even begun to consider the demands that are coming down the track for Ireland’s education system. Department of Education figures show that the number of children in primary education will increase by at least 58,000, but where is the planning now to ensure that these children will have access to a proper, working service by the time they are in the system?

‘Minister Hanafin also referred – repeatedly – to the scheme for commissioning private psychological assessments which is available to schools. She did not acknowledge, though she knows full well, that many schools have far more students who require assessment than they are allowed to commission privately. The scheme for commissioning private assessments is in no way an alternative to the full roll out of NEPS services.

‘Finally, Minister Hanafin seemed to suggest that the St Vincent de Paul charity were in some way misguided in spending their money commissioning psychological assessments for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The St Vincent de Paul can certainly speak for themselves, but given the facts – the appalling access to the service, the considerable regional imbalances in access to NEPS, and the restrictions on the number of private assessments that can be commissioned – I believe that the Minister is on thin ice here as well.’

Scandal that children rely on charity, not Govt, for psychological assessment – Enright

Additional allocation of €5 million for 2007 could have provided NEPS service to all schoolsFine Gael Education and Science Spokesperson Olwyn Enright TD has today (Wednesday) described the revelation that a charity has been forced to fund more than 1,000 psychological assessments for children in need as a new low for this Government.

‘Today’s report that the St Vincent de Paul charity has funded psychological assessments for more than 1,000 children and young people is the latest indication of the flawed commitment of this Government to the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), and a new low for Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

‘One of the key duties of Minister Mary Hanafin is to ensure that children with specific educational needs or difficulties, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to reach their potential within the education system. This is a duty that she has shirked since assuming office, and the consequences for children will be serious and long-felt.

‘When NEPS was established in 1999, a target of 184 psychologists working within the service was set. This target was supposed to have been met by 2004, when all schools were supposed to have access to NEPS. However, the Government is still short of this target by more than 50 posts. In actual fact, figures released to me in late 2006 showed that the number of primary schools covered by the service is actually in decline.

‘Between February 2005 and December 2006 the number of primary schools without access to NEPS has risen by 160. These schools have dropped off the NEPS radar due to the failure of this Government to live up to a promise made eight years ago. Today, 51% of primary schools in the State are not covered by NEPS.

‘An additional allocation of €5 million for 2007, on top of the amount set aside in the estimates last November, would have allowed for all schools to be covered by the NEPS service. The revelation that charitable organisations are now picking up the slack for this Government by commissioning and paying for private psychological assessments shows that this additional allocation should have been made.

‘This funding is needed now, as access to the psychological services provided by NEPS is vital for children and young people with special educational needs. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats should be ashamed to rely on charities to provide services to those who need them, and who are entitled to assistance from the State.’

This is typical of the FF/PD government, setting up programs with great fan fare and then underfunding them! When will they cop on. These are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, and they deserve all the hlep they can get. Thankfully in Ireland we have great charities live the SdVP who step in to fill the gap left by the government.

Come no Hanafin show your potential, and people say she will be the next leader of FF.

Tánaiste finally accepts Garda lack of resources after years of denial

FG electronic tagging proposals would have put Marlo’s 23 associates under 24 hour monitoringJustice Minister Michael McDowell has made a complete U-turn on Garda resourcing today by suddenly publishing an uncosted package of crime proposals (Tuesday), only days after he insisted that resourcing was not an issue, according to Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Jim O’Keeffe TD.

‘The problem of Garda resources is not a new one, but the Tánaiste is only now waking up to the scale of the problem. Fine Gael has been demanding increases in Garda equipment and manpower for years. Only last Sunday the Minister announced that Garda resourcing was not an issue, but the Minister has now undergone a miraculous Pauline conversion. Much of this proposed new spending is not contained in the Department of Justice’s Estimates for 2007, most notably the increase in the Garda Reserve and ‘unlimited’ investment in the Witness Protection Scheme. However, he has failed to put the Witness Protection Scheme on a statutory basis and it will continue its steady decline.

‘The most newsworthy element of the Minister’s ‘new’ proposals is that they closely mirror Fine Gael and Labour’s joint policing policy launched this week. The Minister has adopted Fine Gael’s proposals to further increase policing numbers, but has failed to make provision for future expansion in line with demographic changes. He has also followed Fine Gael’s lead on the need for more civilianisation. Last April I identified that 225 Garda positions in human resources, IT and the Garda Press Office could be civilianised overnight. Why did Michael McDowell wait so long before taking action? And why has he so consistently rubbished this idea, only to finally accept it?

‘The Minister is doing nothing to strengthen the bail laws, is making no provision for the Special Criminal Court to try lethal criminals, and has no plans to beef up the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Minister has rowed back on his criticism of the judiciary and will not accept Fine Gael’s common sense proposal to electronically tag persons on bail, which would have provided 24 hour surveillance of lethal criminals, including the 23 associates of the murdered ganglord Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland.

‘Fine Gael will publish a schedule of offences that the DPP must consider for prosecution in the Special Criminal Court, increase the powers and the spread of the CAB, allow the DPP to appeal bail more readily, bring in new legislation for a statutory witness protection programme, and take a firm stand on organised and gangland crime the way we did in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin when last we were in Government.

‘The Fianna Fáil/PD Government has lost the plot on crime, changing its policies on a weekly basis, lacking any new initiatives, and refusing to implement sensible and effective opposition proposals. In the absence of any conviction for gangland crime since John Gilligan, Michael McDowell has yet to claim any significant victory against crime as Minister for Justice. Perhaps he should go back to the Law Library where his record is not so shameful.’

Govt hypocrisy on Irish language continues – Kenny

Govt delusional regarding numbers really using Irish language
Complete lack of honesty in Govt approach to sustaining Irish for the future

Enda Kenny TD, Leader of Fine Gael, has today (Tuesday) said that the Government Statement on the Irish Language is a window-dressing exercise that fails to even acknowledge the serious problems that face the language in the 21st century.

‘The continued failure of Fianna Fáil and the PDs to honestly address the problems facing Irish is evident from today’s published statement on the language. This statement is simply designed to plamás the public, instead of actually putting forward any detailed proposals to address the root causes of the decline of the language.

‘It’s telling that the Government parties continue to boast that 1.6 million people can speak Irish, when in fact only 70,000 adults use Irish on a daily basis. When Fianna Fáil proclaims that this number can speak the language, the only conclusion I can come to is that their delusion regarding the state of Irish continues to this day.

‘The Government Statement on the Irish Language commits that a twenty-year strategy for the language will be developed. Fine Gael has called repeatedly for a national strategy for Irish to be devised, but the starting point for this has to be an honest assessment of the state of the language right now. If the Government strategy for the language – to be worked-out over the coming two years – is built on the Fianna Fáil failure to be honest about the position that Irish is in now, it will not achieve the results that our language so badly needs.

‘No other issue highlights the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil quite like their position on the Irish language. It was one thing to launch today’s Government Statement on the Irish Language, but Fianna Fáil can’t explain away the following quite so easily:

– The then Education Minister Michael Woods turned the sod for an all-Irish Education Centre at Ballyvourney, Co Cork, in 2000. This centre was to support the teaching of Irish in schools, and provide badly needed tools and materials towards this end. So far, at least €400,000 has been spent but the centre has never been provided.
– Earlier this year the Harris Report, which detailed a serious decline in the standard of Irish at primary school level, was published. Despite repeated requests from me, the Government has not set aside even one minute of Dáil time to debate this report.
– The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, is in possession of a draft report regarding the status of Irish in gaeltacht areas, but has refused to publish the recommendations in this report.
– In is little short of scandalous that even today children in all-Irish secondary schools still cannot get the textbooks that they need in Irish.

‘Over the past twelve months, Fine Gael has highlighted the parlous state of the Irish language, and has put forward concrete proposals including:

– The development of a specialist Language Support Corps to help individual primary schools which are having particular difficulties with the teaching of Irish.
– Devising a new second level curriculum that is loaded with topics that are modern, relevant and useful, the precise opposite of our current curriculum.
– Introducing an oral component at Junior Certificate level immediately, and a new subject for Leaving Certificate, Communicating in Irish, where 50% of the marks would be devoted to spoken Irish and the rest of the curriculum focussing on useful and applicable reading and writing tasks in Irish. The second Irish subject on the curriculum would focus on literature and heritage, for those with a deeper knowledge and competence in the language
– Introducing choice in Irish language learning for all post-Junior Certificate students, with a guarantee that Irish will be available in all schools, at both Higher and Ordinary level, for all students who choose to learn it.
– Developing a National Strategy for the Irish language, but one which makes a clear and honest assessment of where we are now, what we want to achieve for the language and what Government can do and expects others to do to support the language.
– Developing a State recognised proficiency scale, backed with a mix of progressive teaching tools especially IT, to provide a safe environment for improving language skills for all.

‘The complete absence of detail in today’s statement is not surprising, as until Fine Gael raised this issue in November 2005 Fianna Fail wasn’t even aware that there was anything wrong with Ireland’s approach to Irish language teaching and learning. This all goes to show that, for as long as Fianna Fail has their ‘blinkers’ on regarding the real state of the language, they will never be able to address the decline that seriously threatens Irish in the 21st century.’

Ends.

Facts On Irish

Of the almost 1.6 million people who described themselves as Irish speakers in Census 2002, only 21% use the language on a daily basis with 9.8% using the language on a weekly basis. The remainder large majority of those stating that they can speak Irish, more than 1 million people, actually use the language less often than this or not at all.

Therefore, of the total number of respondents aged over three to Census 2002 (3,750,995) only 9% are classified as using Irish on a daily basis.

Looking in more details at this 9% (339,541 people), 266,707 of these people are between the age of 3 and 19. These are the key school-going years during which Irish is used every day. The figures show that as soon as people leave school the use of Irish plummets.

Govt ‘subsidising problems rather than solving them’

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has accused the Government of using the Budget to deal with the incompetence of the past rather than planning for the future.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach and his ministers are simply subsidising problems rather than solving them.

He said the Government had spend the last 10 years wasting billions of euro in public money, as well as squandering opportunities to make real improvements to people’s lives.

Mr Kenny also accused the Government of failing to use the Budget to deal with Ireland’s energy needs and problems and of failing to introduce any measures to tackle homelessness.

Source: BudgetForum.com

Mental health provision of €25m ‘a mere sop’

THE provision of an estimated €25 million in mental health spending was described as inadequate and “a mere sop” by the Psychiatric Nurses’ Organisation. Spokesman Seamus Murphy expressed his disappointment with the gesture by Finance Minister Brian Cowen.

There were also uncertainties about where the money would be spent and if the €25m mentioned in yesterday’s Budget was additional to the €21m provided in the estimates for 2007.

Mr Murphy said he posed that question because €25m alone would be far from adequate to restore proper supports and services.

He said that €46m would also fall far short of a realistic spend on mental health.

The mental health budget had dwindled from 11% of the overall health budget in the 1990s to about 7% today.

In an European context the scenario was even more sobering. “Ireland has one of the lowest levels of spending on mental health than most other European countries,” he said.

European average spend was 13% of overall health budgets and Ireland trailed well behind that, he said.

Yesterday, the minister promised the provision of additional community-based mental health facilities, including mental health day centres, day hospitals and community residential facilities.

The Budget also made reference to the proposed appointment of extra front-line staff to enhance the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services available to adults and children with mental illness “in order to support the continued implementation of A Vision for Change”.

Additional funding would be made available to support the continued implementation of Reach Out National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014, the minister said.

These measures will cost an estimated €25m in 2007, according to the minister.

Source: BudgetForum.com