Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wicklow Sinn Fein to hold a ‘Back to School day of Action’ this Saturday 27th August across the county.

Wicklow Sinn Féin to hold a 'Back to School' day of action

The Sinn Fein spokesperson on Social Protection and Wicklow/East Carlow TD John Brady has said that the high costs of sending children back to school shows ‘free education’ in Ireland is a misnomer.

“This time of year can be very difficult for families grappling with the cost of sending their children back to school, and if there happens to be two or more children in the one family the pressure can be financially debilitating. As the new school term quickly approaches parents’ right across the country are struggling with back to school costs. Annual surveys carried out by Barnardos and the Irish League of Credit Unions have put total costs at up on €900 for primary school and almost €1,500 for secondary school. One in ten families has to resort to borrowing money to finance their children’s education, with 40% sacrificing other living expenses in order to meet costs. In a country where our children’s education is supposed to be free the government has done nothing to help the situation. In fact, the Fine Gael/Labour government cut the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance in half since 2011.”

“The Wicklow Sinn Fein team and I will be out this Saturday all over the county engaging with people and highlighting the issue of back to school costs. We will be in Bray, Greystones, Blessington, Carnew, Arklow and Wicklow Town meeting with people and putting forward our proposals which we believe will help ease the pressure on families who struggle over this time of year. We will be handing out thousands of leaflets outlining what the Sinn Féin proposals are to help ease the burden of sending children back to school. We will also be collecting names on petitions calling on the government to take action.”

Teachta Brady concluded “Sinn Féin has proposed and costed a number of measures including the restoration of the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, the extension of the School Meals Programme by 40%, increased capitation to primary and secondary schools by 10% over a Dáil term and an increase in the School Books Grant by 30% and tackle the cost of school transport.”

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Action needed to protect Bray Head-Brady

Speaking after the most recent gorse fire to hit Bray Head, Sinn Fein TD for Wicklow/East Carlow John Brady has said that all parties responsible for the maintenance of the popular landmark need to come together and devise a plan to tackle the problem:

“As a Bray resident myself I am only too aware of how popular Bray Head is, not only with the local community but with tourists from all over the Country and further afield. Recently however, Bray Head has been extensively damaged by fires burning much of the land causing a dangerous inconvenience to the local area. There have been three serious fires now in as many weeks, the fires have caused traffic chaos due to diversions, serious damage has been caused to the land itself with wildlife and natural vegetation affected, huge costs have been incurred due to the necessary attendance of the fire services, not to mention the obvious dangers involved to fire and other emergency service personnel. The most recent fire motivated the Gardaí to close the famous cliff walk, while smoke billowing from the gorse fire spread across much of South Dublin; poor visibility meant that traffic had to be diverted with local radio stations asking drivers to avoid the area completely.”

Teachta Brady went on to say that since 2007 Bray Head has special status under the law so it is important to ensure that those charged with managing the area are liaising with the land owners and other invested parties including the local community:

“In 2007 a ‘Special Amenity Area Order’ (SAAO) was instituted for Bray Head. This order effectively placed the area in a protected category. According to the SAAO the order is ‘designed to protect areas that are of particularly high amenity value, which are sensitive to intense development pressure and which cannot be adequately protected by existing planning controls’. Moreover, in the case of Bray head the order specifically states that an administrative structure would be established to oversee the aspirations of the order, specifically referring to the need to burn off gorse in a controlled manner; Policy 1.3.4 of the order states - ‘The Council, in accordance with the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service shall promote a Heathland Management Programme consisting of controlled burning of the site on a ten year rotation, in small patches, during the legal burning season.”

Teachta Brady continued:

“Apart from the beauty of the area, Bray Head is also of ecological importance and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The principal habitat across much of the upper area is heath, which is listed under the EU Habitats Directive. Policy 1.3.4 of the SAAO also states the following – ‘The planning authorities shall jointly set up a management committee to manage the Special Amenity Area Order area, which shall be representative of the local authorities concerned, local community interests, including landowners and relevant environmental and conservation Interests at the discretion of the local authorities. The committee shall be responsible for producing a five-year management plan for the area for monitoring environmental quality in the area and for monitoring implementation of the plan’.”

Teachta Brady concluded by saying that he will be organising meetings with all relevant parties over the coming weeks to discuss ways in which a collective effort might help to reduce the incidents of rogue fires in the future:

“I have written to Wicklow County Council requesting information about the structures in place around the management of Bray Head in the context of the Special Amenity Area Order. I look forward to meeting with all concerned parties including the council, land owners and local conservation and environmental groups with a view to discussing ways of ensuring the safety of constituents and protecting the natural environment of Bray Head.”

Varadkar's response on lone parent educational supports "disappointing"-Brady

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that Minister Varadkar’s long awaited response on lone parents and educational supports tells us nothing new. This issue was brought to national attention by Erica Fleming, a homeless lone parent who has been refused the Back to Education Allowance after securing a place in Trinity College.

Teachta Brady said:

“Minister Varadkar has released a very cold response to an issue that has meant a lone parent has been denied a place at college and an opportunity to be educated in the hope for a career and a better life.

“The statement is useless, it completely misses the point. It details the available payments that are there and expresses how well the Department of Social Protection is providing for lone parents. The Minister does not seem to share the concerns that have been highlighted and his not bothered attitude is deplorable.

“The Minister doesn’t even bother to address the problem which lies within the eligibility criteria for the payment. He doesn’t explore the changes he could quite easily make to better the situation for lone parents and to improve their access to education.

“This response is extremely disappointing. It is another blow for lone parents who have suffered consistently under the austerity agenda of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

“The Government’s reasoning for taking away the One Parent Family Payment for those with children over the age of seven was to move lone parents into employment or into education. As it turns out, under the Government initiative, lone parents are better off being unemployed. If they are they can receive the Back to Education Allowance. If they aren’t and instead, work part-time receiving Family Income Supplement they are denied an education.

“The Government have failed lone parents time and time again. They took away their One Parent Family Payment with the promise of a Scandinavian style childcare system that we haven’t heard a word about since. They talk about incentivising lone parents into work that in many cases is part-time and cannot cover childcare costs. And now they deny lone parents an opportunity to educate themselves because they do not meet their criteria to be educated.

“Minister Varadkar’s response on this matter is simply not good enough. I call on him to re-consider his position on this matter immediately.”

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have let young people down-Brady

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has today been responding to the newly released Eurostat figures on youth unemployment.

Teachta Brady said:

“These Eurostat figures are extremely worrying and are in no way in line with the Government’s rhetoric of the economic recovery. Figures show that the number of young people not in education, employment or training stands at 19.7% that is compared to 11.9% in 2006.

“One of the first austerity measures taken by Fianna Fáil was to target young people by cutting their social welfare payment. They sent a clear message to young people to leave their families and their communities and to emigrate. They were not wanted.

“While this Government continue to pat themselves on the back for reducing unemployment figures, they are clearly not doing enough. There are almost 40,000 young people on the live register with 16,000 of these on the register for one year or more.

“The options for these young people are to either live on €100 per week or to emigrate. The current work schemes and programmes where a young person receives an extra €50 on their Jobseekers Allowance for working up on 40 hours per week is nothing but slave labour.

“While Fianna Fáil were quite successful in driving hundreds of thousands of young people out of this country, some still remain. These young people need to be in receipt of the full adult rate of €188 per week to allow them to have some kind of life while seeking employment. They should not be discriminated against because of their age.

“Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have let young people down.

“Sinn Féin will continue to expose flawed work schemes as we have done with JobBridge and we will continue to call for the full restoration of social welfare payments for under 26s.”

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Katie Taylor is still the People's Champion

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow/East Carlow John Brady has stated that Wicklow Olympian Katie Taylor is still the peoples champion and said that it’s not the last we will see of her.

“I want to pay tribute to Katie for representing us in the Olympics. I, like so many people are bitterly disappointed that it didn’t go her way. It does raise serious questions about the judging, but that’s for another day. Katie is in my mind the best ever Irish Athletes winning 5 World Championships, 6 European Championships, 5 European Union Championships and of course an Olympic gold in London, to name but a few”.

“Katie first won the European Championships back in 2005, so to stay at the top of her sport over such a lengthy period says it all about her calibre. Whilst things didn’t go her way in Rio, she is still the peoples champion and always will be. I know that with Katie’s hard work and dedication this is far from the last we’ve seen of her as she still has so much to offer”.

Teachta Brady concluded “Katie is a fantastic role model for so many young aspiring athletes and I know that she will still get a hero’s welcome when she arrives back home.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Brady urges people to have their say in setting the Property Tax rate in Wicklow

Sinn Fein TD for Wicklow/East Carlow John Brady is urging local people to contact Wicklow County Council to request that the Council votes to decrease the Local Property Tax by the 15% amount allowed for in legislation.

Teachta Brady said that there is a window of opportunity between now and the end of August for local people to write in to the council requesting the reduction:

“The deadline for submissions is 12 noon on Friday 26th August. The council will then meet in September and take a decision on the LPT rate. In the past, Sinn Fein has been to the forefront in securing reductions to Local Property Tax rates across the Country but last year our efforts were thwarted when Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the majority of independent councillors on Wicklow County Council actually voted to increase the charge. We will be lobbying hard to convince fellow councillors in other parties and independents to support us this time out, however if the public join us by writing in to the council calling for a decrease, it will be much harder for those parties vote down our proposal.”

Teachta Brady said that homeowners have an opportunity to impact on a decision that will affect their pockets:

“A 15% reduction in the LPT could save some families as much as 100 euro depending on the value of their homes. At the very least, all home owners stand to benefit even a modest amount should the reduction be approved. This is money that could be spent in the local community on services, or spent in local businesses; many of whom are still struggling to survive. You can contact the council and have you voice heard by writing directly to - LPT Consultation, c/o Finance Department, Wicklow County Council, County Buildings, Wicklow Town or”.

The Wicklow/East Carlow TD concluded by saying “Sinn Féin is commitment to abolishing the Local Property Tax (LPT), it’s an unfair tax, not only is it unfair, it is also not working. Local authorities such as Wicklow County Council are struggling to provide basic services, leaving many people wondering where exactly their hard earned money is actually going”.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Ten Million Euro Investment in Rural Ireland is a Poor Start.

Sinn Fein TD for Wicklow East Carlow has said that government plans to invest ten million Euro into rural development is a poor start:

“The government has announced an investment programme of ten million Euro for rural Ireland. While all monies directed towards reinvigorating the rural economy is to be welcomed, this announcement suggests that the government really need to wake up to the realities of decline affecting rural towns and villages all over the country. Minister Heather Humphreys has accepted that this funding is not the ‘Silver Bullet’ needed to solve the challenges faced by rural Ireland. On this we agree – in fact, it is not even a wooden pellet never mind a silver bullet.”

Teachta Brady said that citizens deserve better than to be fobbed off by token gestures:

“Similar to the government’s paltry three euro increase to pensioners recently, this latest initiative is another example of delivering insults rather than results. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail together have proven to be a double whammy of ineffective and underfunded miscalculations. It is now an accepted reality that urban areas such as Dublin are disproportionately benefitting from our slow, unequal so-called recovery. Counties like Wicklow and Carlow are seeing little or no benefit, despite being on the capitals doorstep. This urban focus is exacerbating rural decline meaning small towns and villages in this constituency and across the country are left with boarded up businesses and a continued brain drain as younger people move away.”

“Sinn Fein have been calling for serious investment for years and have produced detailed costed plans covering everything from providing adequate medical and ambulance services, decent transport services, village and town investment plans to broadband and Infrastructure. If we are going to invest, let’s do it properly and in a way that will have a real impact. Ten million Euros might sound like a lot of money but when it is divided up between 200 villages and towns, it will barely cover the cost of cutting the grass on village greens.”

Fianna Fáil continue to go against their own commitments – Brady

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that Fianna Fáil labelling themselves as the ‘main party of Opposition’ is laughable.

Teachta Brady said:

“Fianna Fáil announcing themselves as the main party of opposition in the papers today is bizarre. If Fianna Fáil actually see their party as leading the way in the opposition they are doing a very poor job.

“What are they in opposition with to Fine Gael? They are following in their footsteps in everything they do be it the water charges, rent certainty or bin charges to name but a few.

“Fianna Fáil are not in opposition to the Government in fact, they may as well be in Government. The clear position they held on opposing water charges in the run up to the election is a distant memory for them. The rent certainty they called for as part of their own party policy is no more. Again and again, they have gone against their own commitments, their voters and party policies to join forces with Fine Gael.

“Sinn Féin is the only actual opposition party in the Oireachtas. We are standing up for ordinary working people, we are standing over the mandate we were given be it the strong message of abolishing water charges or the need for rent certainty for struggling families.

“Fianna Fáil were reckless in Government and as the so-called ‘main party of opposition’ they are no better.”

Little Bray Floodplain development must be halted

Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow/East Carlow and party spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady has called on Minister of State Sean Canney to do his job in relation to high density buildings being developed on a floodplain at the Dargle River in Little Bray, County Wicklow.

Speaking today, Teachta Brady said:

“The community group SWAP in my constituency have been working tirelessly against proposed high density buildings being developed on a floodplain at the Dargle River in Little Bray.

“The idea of such a vast development being put in place on a floodplain is madness and defies basic common sense.

“As the site is currently owned by NAMA and they are actively selling off their portfolios, there is a real pressure on SWAP to reach the desired and proper outcome.

“It is important to say that this community group are not opposed to development in the area they simply want the high density development to be built on the higher ground away from the floodplain at the same site.

“SWAP are campaigning to prevent development on this floodplain for years. They have experienced flooding on numerous occasions in the past and are extremely worried about it reoccurring. This community is largely made up of older people and people with disabilities. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our community who are simply trying to protect their homes.

“Having been unsuccessful in receiving any reply from Minister Canney up to now, I am calling on him to engage with the community group.

“I have put this request in writing to the Minister today and I hope I will not be left waiting as this group have.”

Lone Parents' access to education must be improved - Brady

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has called on the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to reverse changes made by his predecessor Joan Burton TD that deny lone parents access to education.

Teachta Brady said:

“The barriers created for lone parents by Fine Gael and Labour has been highlighted this weekend by Erica Fleming, a homeless lone parent who has been refused the Back to Education Allowance after securing a place in Trinity College.

“Last year, those in receipt of One-Parent Family Allowance with children over the age of seven lost the payment. Erica Fleming was just one of these people and was transferred to Family Income Supplement. Under the One-Parent Family Allowance Erica would have been entitled to Back to Education Allowance under Family Income Supplement she is not.

“As a part-time worker receiving Family Income Supplement lone parents do not qualify for the Back to Education Allowance. In fact they need to be unemployed for 234 days to receive the allowance.

“As a direct consequence of changes made to lone parents last year Erica Fleming is being denied the opportunity to be educated because of the social welfare payment she receives. Her social welfare payment is preventing her from accessing education and this must be rectified immediately.

“The Back to Education Allowance should do just that, it should be an incentive to return to education instead, welfare policies for lone parents are barriers to employment and to education.

“It makes no sense whatsoever that access to education is only available to lone parents who lost their One Parent Family Payment if they are unemployed for 234 days.

“Both my office and Deputy Louise O’Reilly’s office are working on this matter. We have contacted Minister Varadkar directly this morning and we await his reply.”

Government trying to lock workers out of receiving pension entitlements - Brady

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said that there is nothing positive or progressive about increasing the threshold for part-time workers in order to receive the contributory State pension.

Speaking this morning, Teachta Brady said:

“This new Budget proposal looks to increase the threshold to qualify for the contributory State pension from €38 to €70 per week.

“The Government are telling part-time workers to earn more in order to receive their State pension on retirement. So, how do the Government suggest workers go about doing this?

“One in four workers are part-time workers, there has been a huge increase in zero hour contracts and precarious employment in recent years. The idea that part-time workers are simply able to increase their wage by €32 is ludicrous but not at all surprising.

“To even consider this move is just another reminder of the ever growing distance between the Government and the people on the ground.

“Only a few weeks ago, Sinn Féin brought forward a bill that sought to give protections for low-hours and zero-hours workers. This is what the Government should be looking at instead of trying to lock workers out of receiving their pension entitlements.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael once more joined forces to block this progressive legislation aimed at protecting ordinary workers.

“Sinn Féin is strongly opposed to this proposal. The Government should work harder at moving people away from low-paid, precarious employment and towards a living wage with proper pension entitlements for all workers.”

Brady welcomes Wicklow National Park extension

Sinn Féin TD John Brady has welcomed the news that the State are finalising the purchase of lands in the Wicklow Mountains.

Teachta Brady said:

“I welcome the news that the Government are in the final stages of purchasing the almost 5,000 acres of land in the Wicklow Mountains.

“I had called on the Minister and the Government to purchase these lands from NAMA to ensure that they would be held by the State and to secure the extension of Wicklow National Park.

“This is very positive news for the people of Wicklow and particularly, those living nearby who were concerned about these lands being sold to a private entity for possible development.

“I am delighted that Minister Ring has also confirmed that this land will be added to Wicklow National Park, Ireland’s largest park.

“This purchase will mean that Wicklow National Park will become one of the largest national parks in Europe.

“This purchase provides a unique opportunity for further tourism potential in the area. I commend the Minister for moving quickly to secure these lands without delay.”

Parents continue to struggle under burden of ‘free education’ –Brady

Commenting on the latest figures of back to school costs issued by Barnardos, Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady TD has said parents continue to struggle financially under the burden of so-called ‘free education’.

Teachta Brady said:

“There is no such thing as free education. The Government may not be aware of this but parents, who are the ones actually paying, are only too well aware.

“The annual Back to School costs survey carried out by Barnardos is evidence of this fact. Parents right around the country are feeling enormous pressure preparing for this time of year.

“The findings of the survey show that to send one child to primary school costs €340 and to secondary school costs €775. These costs are huge and for parents with more than one child of school going age these costs are crippling.

“It is not about buying a school uniform and school books and that’s the end of it. There are additional costs that add to this and they vary from one school to another such as the use of iPads or the emphasis placed on voluntary contributions.

“The Government are driving people further and further into debt and into the arms of loan sharks who charge massive interest rates. With that, the Government are also placing huge pressure on voluntary organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul to assist families with additional costs. These organisations are left to spend millions annually to fill the gap left by Government cuts.

“I have asked the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar during Priority Questions to increase the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance as one measure to help struggling families at this time of year. He gave no commitment but with Budget 2017 approaching pressure needs to be put on the Minister and Government TDs to ensure that the Budget does this.

“Barnardos have said that investment by the Government of €103 million would provide all primary school books, remove the voluntary contribution and classroom resources fees, restore the capitation rates back to 2010 levels and provide free transport for those using the School Transport Scheme. This would take some of the financial strain off parents who have children starting out at primary level. It would be a start.

“The cuts made to Education by Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil before them has led to these increased costs. In many cases, schools are left relying on voluntary contributions from parents year on year to help run the school.

“Sinn Féin has proposed a number of measures, including the restoration of the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance, the extension of the School Meals Programme by 15%, increased capitation to primary and secondary schools by 10% over a Dáil term and an increase in the Schools Book Grant by 30%.

“The Government need to wake up to the reality on the ground for parents and the actual costs of sending children to school in the real world. Budget 2017 must show action on these costs and not empty words.”