Deputy Danny’s Dáil Diary

Danny Healy Rae, TD pictured with Ellen Lynch and John O'Donoghue at the Easter commemoration in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Danny Healy Rae, TD pictured with Ellen Lynch and John O’Donoghue at the Easter commemoration in Castleisland. ©Photograph: John Reidy

An email from Kerry TD Danny  Healy Rae outlines the busy week he had in Dáil Éireann and the home related issues he raised with the various ministers.

Have a read down along and you’ll find that Castleisland Horse Fair Day and World Fiddle Day in Scartaglin were mentioned in the Dáil. Good man Danny.

“I spoke six times in the Dáil last week. I enclose these speeches where I talked about Refuse Collection, Farming Conditions, the HPV Vaccine Gardasil, the Arts in Kerry, the lack of Garda Stations in Kerry and put several questions to the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar. I trust that some of these will be of interest to your readers.
 Garda Stations

I want to highlight what has happened in my neck of the woods, in Sneem and Lauragh. Sneem, which always had two gardaí and a sergeant, is reduced to a part-time garda who is only available for an hour now and then. At certain times of the year the population of Sneem trebles and more, with an influx of visitors from all over the world.

Lauragh Garda station was closed down two years after €300,000 had been spent on it. Lauragh is 17 miles from Kenmare, the nearest Garda station on the eastern side, and 20 miles from Castletownbere, the next nearest Garda station. The Minister should review that and see how wrong it was to do that to the people on the southern side of Kenmare Bay. The people of Sneem are 17 miles from Kenmare Garda station, 30 miles from Killarney Garda station and 37 miles from Cahirciveen Garda station. It cannot be right that the entire area is not properly policed and gardaí are not visible on the ground. They do their best and come from the nearest Garda stations now and then, but it is not enough. In that vast expanse of Kenmare Bay, all the piers along each side of the bay are open now for the delivery and importation of drugs. There is nothing in the world to stop it because the drug runners will know that when the Garda car is parked in Kenmare, Killarney or Cahirciveen it is not in Sneem or Lauragh or along the bay. I ask the Minister to review that decision urgently and put a full complement of gardaí into Sneem Garda station and do likewise in Lauragh for the protection and safety of the people, because it takes too long for a Garda car or presence to arrive when something happens.

Questions to Minister for Social Protection

I wish to raise a number of matters with our new Minister for Social Protection and to wish him well in his role as Minister of that Department. Many problems have been created in recent years which made it difficult for people who wished to get on community employment, CE, schemes as well as those in the Department trying to administer them. One problem is that a person has to be unemployed for 12 months before he or she can go on the CE scheme. Someone who finds a place on a scheme is denied going on it until he or she is 12 months unemployed. In other words, people are being denied the opportunity of staying in the workforce and that is very wrong. Will the Minister address this problem? A period of three months may be more appropriate. It would give them a chance to get rolling again and to get back into the workforce.

Another rule is the year 2000 rule. If a person was on a scheme and accumulated six years of work on the scheme, he or she will be denied the possibility of going on the scheme after the six years has passed. A person aged 58 years or 59 years will not be able to go on the scheme any more. In other words, they will have no opportunities and will be locked inside at home. They will have no opportunity to get out and feel like they are doing good for anyone. They are waiting to get the pension and that is their only outlook. This was not the case before the year 2000. Will the Minister examine this rule and see if it can be changed?

Until four or five years ago, scheme entitlements could be interchanged between husbands and wives and partners and spouses. This suited, in particular, farmers, who were in receipt of farm assist payments, in the summer time. They could swap with their wives who would be allowed to go on the scheme instead of them while there was work to be done on the farm or other work that needed attention. This was a very sensible option but the option is now denied them. Approximately four years ago, the rule was changed and they are now denied that opportunity.

Everywhere in the country – take a place like Kilgarvan – there is another stupid rule. If three people on the scheme reach the age of 62 together, only one can remain on the scheme. People operating the scheme will have to send two people home. They will have to draw their names out of a hat and, depending on how they organise it, the fellow that stays in the hat stays working and the other two have to go home. That is wrong. I am asking that that rule be changed as well and that they are all given the chance to work until the age of 66 years when they become pension age.

The other rule is that a person has to be 25 years of age before he or she can go on one of these schemes. It is very wrong that youngsters have to stay at home and that they have to be 25 years before they can go on the scheme and go work in graveyards or GAA fields or something like that.

I refer to lone parents, especially young girls who get in the family way and have a child, which is a joy. However, they need assistance to get them started and until four or five years ago, they were able to get double payments. They were able to get their social welfare payment and they were allowed to go on the CE scheme and work. This has changed and they are now denied that possibility. There is no incentive for them to work now because they will get the same amount under the scheme as they would get under the lone parent scheme if they stay at home.

I also want to mention carer’s allowance because it is very important. It takes 19 weeks before applications for carer’s allowance are even assessed. I know a man who applied in February and it was only the other day, after 19 weeks had passed, that the Department wrote to him looking for additional information. The application was not looked at until then. That is very sad and very wrong. A person will have pulled out of his or her job to stay at home and mind an elderly mother or father but it is 19 weeks before the application for carer’s allowance is even looked at. That is very wrong and we must do something about it. Two or three weeks would be bad enough but 19 weeks is not on at all. Domiciliary care allowance applications take six months to process, which is too long as well. Will the Minister also look at that issue. In September 2012, the then minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, changed the number of contributions needed to get pensions. Someone with the same number of contributions after September 2012 as someone with contributions before then is getting far less money. Will the Minister examine the issue and see how it can be addressed? It is not fair. A person who became of pension age in September 2012 gets much less in his or her pension than someone who became of pension age in August 2012. That has to be addressed.

The Arts in Kerry

I want to ask for financial support for rural and local festivals around the country because by means of these festivals and fair days and vintage rallies and so forth people and parishes retain their identities. This is the last bastion or way they have of showing their individual identities. Kenmare Fair Day on 15 August is the big day in Kenmare. It costs more now to stage these events because of insurance and different rules and licences and regulations. If it was not for the likes of that and the horse fair in Castleisland and the World Fiddle Day in Scartaglin those places would lose their identity. Everyone knows about Puck Fair and the value and expenditure it means for the people of Kerry. All these places are under pressure to retain and stage these events. I am asking for support for those events in whatever way possible. We have to thank the local authorities which help as well as they can but they have only so much money to give and that is limited. They have been meting it out like the loaves and fishes. It is hard to please everyone. We need to consider that so that local places can retain their identities.

I feel very hurt about the fact that local characters who used to come to public houses and demonstrate their storytelling, singing, playing the fiddle and accordion impromptu are no longer able to do that because they are rurally isolated in their homes. They are trapped because they cannot come to the pub and drive home after having two or three pints. The rules and drink driving regulations treat them in the same way as the vast traffic on motorways, regional roads, national primary and secondary roads. They are being treated in the same way on minor small roads where there is hardly any traffic. These people are isolated at home and the tourists are not meeting them now as they used to in the public houses.

HPV Vaccine

Will the Minister for Health and the Health Service Executive address the concerns of parents in respect of the side effects supposedly caused by the HPV vaccine drug Gardasil, administered to 12 and 13 year old girls to prevent cervical cancer later in their lives? The Minister for Health should inform parents and create awareness about the possible side effects of this drug. They complain of the lack of aftercare following the administering of the vaccine, that they were not given proper information prior to giving permission for their daughters to receive the vaccine, and that they are not listened to or taken seriously by health officials. The side effects listed after this vaccine are swollen glands, aching muscles, unusual tiredness or weakness, tightening in arms, legs and upper body, becoming less active in sports, attending school less, an inability to concentrate, headaches, joint pain and desire to sleep all day, and lack of energy, even to have a shower. This lack of energy leads to weight gain, which is upsetting for teenage girls and causes depression. We are not doctors and do not have technical knowledge but there is too much of this happening and I met a lot of it when canvassing for the last general election and the council election. It cannot be ignored. This has to be addressed and parents need to be made aware of it.

Waste Collection

Yes there was a cock-up in the past few days in respect of the waste collection service but the waste collection services have been unfairly targeted and criticised by many members. In County Kerry and especially South Kerry we have a wonderful collection service provided by a privately operated company giving local employment and a very punctual service and helping the local communities to deal with waste. It operated what was called the Good Friday clean-up of the whole county, providing a service free of charge to collect bags collected by local voluntary groups along the roads and in the towns and villages. I could not stand over the service providers being tarred with the same brush because we have a wonderful service and we are proud of it. There are two or three more operators in County Kerry and we are very proud of them and this debacle was certainly not caused by them. I want that to be clearly remembered in this Chamber.

The local authority is still providing a service in Killarney town and is doing a wonderful job as well. We cannot criticise the providers because it is not fair or right. As Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said, deciding where to go with the waste will be a real problem because we are being told now that it is not cost efficient to go abroad with it any more, indeed it is not wanted. For a long time it was cheaper to go that way than it is now. We need to open up local places like Muingnaminnane around our country so people will have somewhere to go with it.

Farming Conditions

My question is on behalf of the farming community in Ireland. It was never worse off and I hope the new Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is aware of that. There are four main issues at present. The first is the price of milk. Never before has a community had to work for an amount below what it costs to produce a product. People are getting less than what it costs them to produce it.

Another issue is that if the blue card of an animal states that the animal moved more than four times into four different herds, one will get €50 or €60 less for that animal in the factory. This is simply because there were more than four movements for that animal. Then there is the price of fertiliser, plastic, tyres and batteries, even though oil has never been at a lower price. We were always told that the price of oil dictated the price of these items. Why is it that the costs have gone beyond the beyond? Farmers are being driven down into the ground. They are in a desperate state. They do not have a bob or a copper, and the new Minister should know that.”