Alesha Clarke

Plan for electric vehicles needs to take rural Ireland into account

Planning needs to begin immediately for a National Grid of charge points for electric vehicles, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Cork Senator Tim Lombard, Member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee On Climate Action, has been examining the feasibility of operating an electric car in rural Ireland.

Senator Lombard said: “As we make the transition to electric vehicles it is abundantly clear that we need to put the appropriate infrastructure in place across the whole country as quickly as possible.

“Under Project Ireland 2040, €200 million has been set aside for the provision of infrastructure for electric vehicles, with a view to phasing out non-electric vehicles over the next 12 years.

“The EU has introduced a new directive for the provision of car change points. This means that all new buildings will require the appropriate enabling infrastructure and buildings undergoing major renovation with more than 10 car parking spaces by 2020.

“The directive requires the installation of a minimum number of recharging points for existing non-residential buildings with more than 20 parking spaces by 2025.

“The Secretary General of the Department of Housing, John McCarthy, told our committee that the Department are in the process of drafting these regulations and will be publishing them for public consultation in 2019.

“The Department are currently consulting with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) in this process and will have the regulations in place by March 2020.

“I believe that we need to examine the issue of rural infrastructure concurrently. At the moment we can’t travel from Dublin to Cork without recharging an electric vehicle.

“I believe that as technology improves battery performance should increase, but in rural Ireland the infrastructure needs to be in place to make the technology feasible,” the Fine Gael Senator said.

 

17 October 2018

New Bus Travel Zone for Cork County

Cork Senator Tim Lombard has confirmed the introduction of a new travel zone for Cork bus services; the Cork Leap Green Zone, introduced on Saturday 1st December, includes Kinsale, Bandon, Macroom, Fermoy, and Mallow.

Senator Lombard said: “I am delighted with the introduction of this new travel zone for Cork bus users. I have been demanding that Bus Éireann review the pricing structure of the West Cork bus services and it is great that local concerns have been listened to.

“The Green Zone tickets are not only more cost-effective but also provide access to unlimited travel in both the red (inner city) and green zones. Previously Kinsale commuters would have had to pay at least €235 per month to travel on the bus to/from Cork city only, and Bandon to Cork commuters €260 per month.

“An adult monthly ticket, which provides unlimited bus use anywhere within the red and green zones, will now only costs €195.

“This represents great value for money for regular bus users; not only are bus fares reduced, but tickets purchased enable commuters to travel multiple routes and greater distances.

“The Green Leap Zone also enables more cost-effective travel for those who do not have access to the TaxSaver scheme – which applies even further reductions to the Green Zone ticket prices.”

Senator Lombard moderated his praise of the new bus zone with concerns for the wider West Cork area, stating: “while the Cork Green Zone will be of great benefit to residents and visitors to the Bandon/Kinsale area, the bus prices charged to the wider West Cork area are still problematic.

“We must make our public services accessible to all, including rural residents far beyond city limits. I will continue to liaise with Bus Éireann about addressing the excessively high prices incurred by bus users beyond the new Green Zone as I intend to see an extensive restructuring of bus prices in and around West Cork.

“Increasing accessibility also requires adequate frequency of services; during our previous discussions Bus Éireann responded positively to increasing the frequency of West Cork bus services – for example, increasing the Bandon bus to twice hourly – after a positive response from the public during a pilot of increased city services. Hopefully next year we will see introduction of additional bus services for the wider Cork County also.”

 

03 December 2018

Permanent flood relief scheme in Cork

The Government has approved the establishment of a permanent flood relief scheme for small businesses, community, voluntary, and sporting bodies affected by flooding, which Senator Tim Lombard believes will be of great support to businesses and community groups in Cork.

Senator Lombard said “A new permanent flood relief scheme will support Cork businesses and community groups to cope with the aftermath of flood events, which we know are to become increasingly common.

“My Fine Gael colleagues, the Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, sought Cabinet approval for the measure on Tuesday and I am delighted that it has been given the green light.

“The target group for this scheme are sole traders and small businesses with a small number of employees, as well as voluntary, community and sporting bodies. It will be demand-led when these groups experience flood damage as a consequence of a severe weather event to their premises and where they have been refused flood insurance.

“Successful applicants will receive a “quick” payment which will be capped at an upper limit of €5,000. While the cap of €5,000 is likely to meet the requirements of the majority of applicants there is scope for a further payment of up to €15,000 after a more detailed assessment of the loss incurred.

“In the past, the Department of Defence operated temporary humanitarian support schemes in conjunction with the Irish Red Cross following incidents of flooding. Four such schemes have been opened since 2015 (Storm Desmond, Storm Eleanor, flooding in Donegal and Laois). The establishment of these schemes have operated on an ad-hoc basis.

“The Irish Red Cross will continue to administer applications for assistance in accordance with a memorandum of understanding due to be agreed with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

“This new scheme will put these supports on a permanent footing giving assurances to businesses and community and sporting groups in Cork.”

 

29 November 2018

Electric vehicle charging network set for overhaul

Cork will greatly benefit from a multi-million euro pot to develop a state of the art electric vehicle charging network, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard, a candidate for the next General Election in the Cork South-West constituency, said such an initiative by the Government will encourage more drivers to use electric vehicles.

As part of Project Ireland 2040, the Government’s new Climate Action Fund was announced today (Wednesday). One of the seven projects to receive a slice of the €77m funding is a scheme to enable electric cars become a more viable proposition for all motorists.

Seanad Spokesman on Climate Change, Tim Lombard, is part of an Oireachtas committee which is looking at ways to encourage people to go for the greener driving alternative. Earlier this year, as part of a green awareness campaign, he took to the M8 and M7 motorway from Cork to Dublin in an electric car to see how beneficial the vehicles were.

“I’m greatly encouraged by today’s announcement. Up to €10m is being provided to develop a nationwide, state of the art electric vehicle charging network capable of facilitating large-scale electric vehicle uptake over the next decade,” Senator Lombard said.

“Cork, the biggest county in Ireland and with a vast road network, will obviously be a central part of future plans to encourage more people to use electric cars and electric charging points. I know from my own experiences that we need to vastly improve our electric charging network to allow for more climate friendly vehicles in the future. There is still not enough charging points.

“The Government is committed to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. The Government’s Climate Action Fund, under Project Ireland 2040, will provide at least €500 million in funding to support initiatives that provide for the kind of step change that is needed,” Senator Lombard said.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar said, “Project Ireland 2040 provides for an unprecedented investment of €22 billion in climate action over the next decade; the largest single package within the plan. Our commitment and determination to climate action is evident; we are working to take peat and coal off the grid by the middle of the next decade and to have 500,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2030.  From 2030, no new diesel or petrol cars will be sold in Ireland.”

Announcing the projects, Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said: “The decisions we make now in tackling climate change will define the next century. I want to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. That will require a significant step change right across our society.

“The projects we are supporting under the Fund, will support decarbonisation across the transport, heat, electricity and agriculture sectors and demonstrate the types of investments we need to make. For example, the investment we are making in the ESB to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle charging network, will be crucial to reducing range anxiety and supporting individuals to move to electric vehicles,” Minister Bruton said.

 

28 November 2018

Cork Dads continue to benefit from paid paternity benefit

Fine Gael Senator for Cork, Tim Lombard, has said that local Dads are continuing to benefit from the Government’s paid paternity benefit scheme with 2,556 availing of the scheme in Cork so far this year.

Senator Lombard said: “The current rate of Paternity Benefit is €240 per week. Following Budget 2019, this will increase to €245 per week from the week beginning 25 March 2019.

“This will afford new Dads the opportunity to be more involved at the earliest stages of a child’s development, which is important for the whole family.

“It is great to hear that there has been good take up of the scheme so far, with over 51,000 paternity benefits being awarded nationally since the scheme came in on the 1st September 2016. This includes some 4,100 self-employed people. My colleague the Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has informed me that here in Cork, 6,584 Dads have availed of the benefit in that time.

“I am encouraging prospective fathers to sign up for Paternity Benefit and I think they will find the application process to be clear and simple.  They will require a Public Service Card in order to apply, and if they are an employee, they need to give four weeks’ notice to their employer to qualify for the accompanying Paternity Leave.

“Fathers who fulfil the PRSI requirements are eligible for Paternity Benefit when they take two weeks of Paternity Leave at any time within the first 26 weeks of their child’s life, or following adoption.

“All the information on how to apply for Paternity Leave, and how to get your Public Service Card, is available at www.welfare.ie/paternitybenefit.

“Paid paternity leave was a key commitment in Fine Gael’s manifesto in advance of the last election as part of our overall efforts to support parents at work and make childcare more affordable. Fine Gael in Government is now using the resources from our strong economy to deliver on that commitment,” Senator Lombard concluded.

Minister Doherty said: “The Government recognises the importance of providing support for parents of young children and is very much aware that the first year in a child’s life is of particular importance. This is very much emphasised in the programme for Government.

“I was particularly pleased to secure a new Parental Benefit scheme which will allow both parents to access additional paid Parental Leave in the first year of their child’s life.  This means that both parents will have access to an additional two weeks each of Parental Benefit, which will also be paid at the rate of €245 per week.”

It is expected that this scheme will be introduced in late 2019 after the necessary legislation is in place.

 

13 November 2018

Sugar needs to be taken out of Halloween

The association of Halloween with sweets is damaging Irish children’s health, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Lombard said: “I was in Cork on Halloween night and I saw children walking around with carrier bags full to the brim with sweets.

“I know Cork is no different than any other part of the country and I’m sure this scene was repeated across the island.

“This is particularly concerning given the epidemic of childhood obesity this country is facing.

“If you walk into any supermarket around this time of year, you will see huge tubs of sweets on special offer. Obviously the big food retailers in Ireland know that if there is a demand for junk food and they will have to supply it.

“This is happening at a time when we see report after report warning of the dangers of a childhood obesity epidemic in this country.

“I believe we need to see a commitment from retailers to sell sugar responsibly. Rising obesity levels are placing an increasing burden on individuals and society.

“It is clear that there is an issue with education of the dangers of excess sugar. I believe retailers can play a socially responsible role in helping parents make informed decisions on their children’s nutrition.”

 

02 November 2018

€1.1 million to assist the repair of regional and local roads in Cork

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has welcomed the allocation of €1,100,000 in funding to assist the repair of regional and local roads in Cork County. The funding is from a Special Maintenance Grant with a national allocation of €15,030,000.

Senator Lombard said: “Many of the regional and local roads in Cork have suffered significant damage as a result of severe weather events the past year. I warmly welcome the additional funding of €1.1 million which will significantly to assist Cork County Council in progressing repairs to affected regional and local roads.

“Extreme weather events over the last year, such as Storm Eleanor, Storm Emma, flooding incidents and the summer drought have had a major impact on the national road network. These events, combined with the extended period of reduced funding for road maintenance following the economic downturn, have left our road network much more vulnerable to damage.

“I know this funding will greatly assist in the repairs and ensure our road network in Cork is brought up to the highest standard,” Senator Lombard concluded.

In addition, a €3m allocation is being provided to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to assist with winter operations and maintenance works on national roads. TII assists local authorities with maintenance funding for national roads.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said: “This additional funding boosts the regional and local road budget in 2018 from €417m to €432m which represents an increase of 33% on the 2017 investment.

“These grants are to supplement local authorities’ own resources and expenditure on regional and local road and are just part of the total investment in regional and local roads for this year.”

 

24 October 2018

Lombard urges Minister to add Cork location to tyre collection

There needs to be a collection point for used agricultural tyres in County Cork, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Cork Senator Tim Lombard was speaking following the announcement of a national tyre collection by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Minister Naughten has made €700,000 available to help farmers remove tyre stockpiles on their farms and the Irish Farm Film Producers Group (IFFPG), the national farm plastics recycling compliance scheme, has agreed to undertake this work.

Senator Lombard said: “While the announcement of the national tyre collection is a very positive step, I feel there is a need for a collection site to serve the south of the country.

“The closest collection point to County Cork is Gort Drum Mines in Monard, Tipperary. To a farmer travelling from Allihies this represents a round trip of just under four hundred kilometres.

“Cork is one of the most intensively farmed areas of the country, with more cows in our county than in all of Northern Ireland.

“Historically, tyre stockpiles have been an issue in the country. When Dunlop’s tyre factory closed in 1983, tyres were distributed to farmers across the county and have been building up since.

“Adding a collection point in Cork to remove these stockpiles makes sense.

“I have written to the Minister urging him to add a location in Cork to help facilitate farmers in the south of the country,” the Fine Gael Senator said.

 

01 October 2018

More SNAs, teachers and funding for schools in Cork

Local schools will also benefit from upgraded ICT equipment

Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said schools in Cork will benefit from more SNAs, teachers and funding thanks to a caring, balanced and fair Budget.

Budget 2019 marks the third year of a major reinvestment in the education sector, as we continue to progress the Action Plan for Education, our plan to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. In 2019, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills will increase by €674 million, a 6.7% increase on last year.

This will bring Government expenditure on education and skills to its highest ever level of nearly €10.8 billion. This includes the highest ever capital allocation for education – €941 million, a €196m increase on 2018.

Senator Lombard said: “Budget 2019 will see numbers employed in our schools reach the highest ever level. Over 1,300 additional posts in schools will be funded, including 950 additional SNA posts and 372 teaching posts to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes.

“As a result of this year’s allocation, there will be 70,313 teachers and over 15,900 SNAs employed in our schools. All schools in Cork will receive a 5% increase in capitation from September 2019.

“Over the course of the school year 2019/20, an additional €10 million will be allocated to primary and post primary schools, of which €4 million will be allocated in 2019.

“Nearly €5 million is being allocated to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Review of the SNA scheme, which is intended to support a new school inclusion model to deliver the right supports at the right time to students with additional care needs here in Cork. The Government has significantly increased investment in special education in recent years.”

Senator Lombard continued: “€50 million will be allocated in 2019 to facilitate the further roll-out of the investment programme to upgrade ICT infrastructure in all schools in Cork – a 67% increase on 2018 – in line with our ambition to embed computer science and coding across the curriculum.

A package of €57 million in additional current funding will be invested in higher education initiatives in 2019. This will fund provision for 3,500 additional places, initiatives to support innovation and performance awards, teaching and learning capacity, 1,000 additional places on Springboard+, research funds for Institutes of Technology/TUs, part-time and flexible learning.

“Funding is also being made available to support for 7,000 apprenticeship registrations, 5,000 traineeship enrolments and 10 new apprenticeship schemes, in line with our overall commitment to double the number of apprenticeships.

“There is also significant investment in workforce learning and development with €6 million additional funding for Skillnet Ireland and €11 million for employee skills development initiatives,” Senator Lombard concluded.

Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton said: “Education is key to our ability to adapt successfully during a period of very rapid change and considerable new challenges.

“This Budget is making the investments we need to ensure we equip Irish talent with the capacity to shape their future. We are investing heavily in new pathways, skills, school leadership and local innovation.

“In particular, the €300m human capital initiative will have a big impact on addressing skills needs of enterprise, driving regional development and supporting key sectors in the face of Brexit.

“We also have the highest ever capital budget this year, as part of our plan to prepare for the future by investing in state of the art new schools, and in higher and further education.”

 

10 October 2018