Commencement Notices

Submitting Commencement Notices is the main way a Senator can get answers direct from Government Ministers. I have and will continue to use this as an opportunity to highlight particular issues, both local and national, and seek answers and updates.

TAMS II Scheme should include generators

“Funding for generators should be included in the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) II list of investment items” said Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, during a commencement debate in Seanad Eireann earlier this week.

“TAMS II has a budget of €395 million to help finance farm expansion and modernization, including machinery. Some of the main objectives are to enable growth and competitiveness in the agriculture sector, address environmental issues, support the increased efficiency on holdings, and to improve animal health and welfare.

“Recent storm events, like those seen in October, have shown the need to include funding for generators as a measure in the TAMS II scheme. Generator equipment is an absolute requirement for farms when or if there is an outage of power, particularly the dairy sector which relies on electricity to drive milking parlors and cooling equipment.

“The dairy industry is essential to the Irish economy, with exports worth €3.38 billion in 2016. The number of dairy cows has grown significantly over the past four years, driving expansion in both exports and the need for equipment to support this increase. TAMS II has been a great asset in this growing sector.

“Aside from the obvious economic implications of a power outage, animal welfare is also of great concern. Any dairy farmer knows that their cows need to be milked at least once but preferably twice a day, and also that they consume large volumes of water. These welfare necessities rely on an electricity supply, which, in the case of an outage, relies on an available generator.

“As it stands only 23% of applicants have submitted payment claims under TAMS II, which accounts for only 10% of the total allocated budget. With 2017 marking the halfway point of the scheme, I believe that the scheme could be revised to include generators as an essential investment for farmers.

“I will continue to push the Minister of Agriculture to re-evaluate the budget and TAMS II measures. Recent events have show how vulnerable farms, especially those in dairy, are in cases of power outages. With the generous work of many farmers, sharing generators and labor, the dairy industry was able to work through the challenges presented during recent storms.

“While I applaud their work, we need to create an industry where such strenuous conditions are not necessary. The inclusion of generators in TAMS II is a simple step towards ensuring we have a Plan B in emergency situations.”

 

17 November 2017

Bandon Southern Relief Road needs to be prioritised in National Investment Plan

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has expressed the need for prioritising investment in the proposed Bandon Southern Relief Road project.

The proposal to extend the Bandon Southern Relief Road involves constructing a bridge over the R63, which would override the existing steep terrain, after which a 2.5 km single carriageway would be built connecting to the western side of the town.

Senator Tim Lombard said: “The need to prioritise the Bandon Southern Relief Road is of upmost importance.

“Bandon is the gateway to West Cork; anyone wishing to go west has to travel through the town. If we can increase the potential for traffic to flow more easily through Bandon there will be a broader economic benefit to the whole of West Cork.

“One of the key issues for Bandon city itself is the sheer volume of traffic. On a daily basis anything between 9,000 and 14,000 vehicles travel through the city centre and are consequently choking the town.

“A significant portion of this traffic also comprises of heavy goods vehicles, whose size and capacity are unsuited to passing through the town centre, which only intensifies congestion levels.

“The need for this traffic diversion has been recognised and proposed for many years. I have raised this issue in the Seanad a number of times, and again this week during a debate with the Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: prioritising Bandon Southern Relief Road is key for West Cork development

“I asked the Minister to prioritise the Bandon Southern Relief Road as a key infrastructural project for the development, sustainability, and connectivity of Bandon and all of West Cork.

“Expected population increases for West Cork and Bandon in particular will only escalate the current issues. We need to swiftly develop plans to divert traffic from the city centre so Bandon and the rest of West Cork can develop in accordance with its potential.

“The approximate cost of the project is some €7.5 million and would represent a major investment in facilitating the development of the area. I would hope to see the capital budget for the Ten-Year Investment Plan increased so that this project, and other like it, can be prioritised, allocated funding, and completed in a timely manner.”

27 October 2017

National strategy required for solar farm developments

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, is continuing to fight for national guidelines regarding the development of solar farms.

Senator Lombard said: “The last few years have seen huge increases in applications to build solar farms here in Ireland. It is worrying that no national strategy currently exists to ensure this industry develops in a sustainable manner.

“I have brought this issue to the attention of Seanad Eireann, and to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, and his Department a number of times.

“Last week I again brought a debate forward about creating a national strategy for solar farms, as I have been disappointed with the lack of progress towards what I believe is a very real concern.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: national planning guidelines required for solar farm development

“At the moment solar farm applications are being approved for sites next to substations due to proximity. This however is not taking into account other necessary factors and logistics.

“Issue such as proximity to housing, gradient of the site pertaining to water runoff, and appropriate elevation of the site regarding visual aesthetics, all affect the environment surrounding solar farms. These issues and more need to be assessed and accounted for in a national strategy that would guide appropriate planning and ensure the sustainability of the environment as well as the developing industry.

“Because there is no nation-wide focus to the development of this industry, we have an ad-hoc approach currently in place where each separate local authority makes different decisions based on their own geographical area.

“Developing solar farms is a national issue. There needs to be guidelines in place that enable a co-ordinated and sustainable, nation-wide development of this industry.

“When wind farms were first proposed in Ireland there was no framework to guide local authorities in planning their development, and the Government recognised the need to provide in this manner. The situation was assessed, guidelines designed and implemented, and now under review.

“Solar farms present the same challenge. Lacking a standard means that the industry will develop in a disorganised and unsustainable manner. I am hopeful that the need for national solar farm guidelines is soon recognised, assessed, and a strategy implemented.”

02 October 2017

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Aid required for Grain Sector

The plight of the farming community has been a recurring issue brought up this year, one sector that really requires focus and support is the grain industry and our grain growers.

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, said: “Over the past few years the grain sector in Ireland has been declining and unfortunately is now on the verge of collapse. A fourth year of bad weather, mediocre prices and reduced volume has been severely detrimental to the grain industry.

“We are looking at a situation from Cork to Donegal where grain has not been harvested, prices are as low as €135 per tonne, and moisture content is anything up to 30%. It is a massive issue for all those involved in the agriculture sector; the grain industry has always been an important sector for Irish agriculture and we cannot let it continue to slip through our fingers. We must act now, before Irish grain growers and our grain industry can no longer persevere.

“Last weekend I met with grain farmers from all around West Cork and all of them presented the same predicament. Years of struggle and adversity are paying its toll; grain farmers are at the end of their tether and they need assistance.

“During a debate in the Seanad last week I called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, to come to the Seanad and discuss this issue as I believe we need to go to Europe for an aid package that will help support and resuscitate Irish grain farmers and industry. A package of €11.2 million has been put in place for the livestock sector this year but none has thus far been allocated for the grain sector.

“There needs to be funding available for this collapsing industry. If aid is not forthcoming soon we will face a situation that the grain sector may not survive, and the resulting loss would be an awful shame for Ireland’s agricultural sector and our farming community.”

03 October 2016

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Waiting list delays for Psychology Services needs to be addressed

The Primary Care Psychology Service in the Cork and Kerry Community Health Organisation (CHO) provides vital services for children, aged 18 and under, with social, emotional or behavioural problems. This is a critical service; mental health has a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life, physical and social well-being, as well as long-term economic productivity.

Cork based Senator Tim Lombard said: “It was recently brought to my attention that the wait times to receive Psychological Services in Cork are extremely long. The HSE confirmed that the current waiting period for assessment is 22 months.

“I was shocked, and deeply concerned by this news. 22 months is a huge period of time in the life of a child, and a very substantial portion of their development. An 8 year old child could be waiting a quarter of its lifetime just to be assessed; we’re not even talking about progression being made here, just waiting a quarter of a lifetime to receive an assessment.

“This is absolutely unacceptable. Research shows that early intervention is an essential factor in increasing likelihood of positive outcomes; the earlier an issue is understood and resolved the better the overall outcome, not just for the individual but the wider community.

“The current delays to receive vital psychological services cannot continue if we are to give our children the best possible start and a foundation for a positive future. If waiting list delays are not addressed soon there will be long-term effects on the wider community due to things such as reduced economic productivity and more complex and financial exhausting issues.

“I raised this issue in the Seanad this week, discussing the current 22 month delay for Psychology services in Cork and Kerry CHO with specific focus on the need to reduce wait times for said services.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: waiting list delays need to be reduced

“I am happy with the response presented by the junior minister in the Department of Health who stated that there were current plans to recruit 4 full-time staff for the Cork and Kerry CHO. It was also confirmed that a number of actions are being undertaken in within the Psychology service to try and reduce the waiting list, including: drop-in clinics (so avoiding waiting list altogether), maximising the input of trainee psychologists, and facilitating group work and staff training as much as possible.

“These are welcome developments, it is good to see that the issue is known and attempts are being made to resolve it. I have also been advised that the Cork and Kerry CHO is currently reviewing the waiting lists for therapy services, psychology included, in order to identify any opportunities that exist to improve wait times.

“Proper funding is often an issue associated with providing the best service possible, so I hope that psychology services will be given due consideration in the upcoming budget so that the people of Cork, and the wider Irish community, can receive the service they not only require but deserve.

“Reducing wait times for therapy services is critical. I will raise this issue again in 2 months to see what progress has been made and ensure that we continue to make improvements with relation to psychology services.”

04 October 2016

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Catch-up scheme needed for MenB vaccine

Fine Gael Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has called for the Meningitis B vaccine programme, introduced in October 2016, to be back-dated to allow for a catch up scheme for all children.

“The Meningitis B vaccine programme introduced by my Fine Gael colleague and Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, in October last year was a great incentive for families to ensure their children are vaccinated. We are all aware of the dangers of Meningitis B and it is a critical investment in our future to immunise against it.

“This incentive was made available to children born from the time of its introduction in October 2016 onwards. Where this has occurred with previous vaccination programmes in the past, a backdated catch up scheme would sometimes be introduced at a later date, ensuring that children born before the scheme was introduced could also benefit.

“This is exactly what I am calling for in the case of the Meningitis B vaccine. While I understand the funds are not there to do it at the moment, I am hopeful it can be done as soon as possible and I will continue to push for the backdating of this scheme.

Senator Lombard debating in the Seanad about the need to back-date the catch up MenB scheme

“Contracting Meningococcal disease can be life threatening; 1 in 20 who contract it will die. There is an average of 170 cases of Meningitis B in Ireland per year and 10% of the survivors endure major disability, including amputations, loss of hearing and brain damage.

“The dangers are very real, but we are lucky to live in a time where medical assistance is available. Not only does early diagnosis and antibiotics ensure most people who contract the disease will make a full recovery, but better than that is that Meningitis B is preventable through vaccination.

“A recent case of a teenage death in Cork has highlighted the sadness and loss caused by this disease, and the fact it could have been prevented only intensifies the wretchedness of the situation.

“The Meningitis B vaccine has been shown to be very effective, providing great protection against contracting this particular strain of the disease. We have seen in other countries how an immunisation scheme, offered and run through the school systems, has reduced the rate of this particular meningococcal strain to a level where experts deem routine vaccination unnecessary. It was also noted that the epidemic waned faster than would have been expected if there had been no intervention.

“In Ireland, the HSE National Cold Chain Service has distributed 35,500 doses of the Men B vaccine to date. This is sufficient to vaccinate the children in the cohort born on or after the 1st October 2016, although the uptake figures are not yet available.

“While this immunisation programme is great step in safeguarding infant Ireland against infection, I believe it is essential that it be extended toward all Irish youth. There are two vulnerable age groups, the 0-5 and 13-18; these are the children that should receive vaccination first, after which we have to continue distribution to the 6-12 year olds.

“Additionally, my own research has found that the current average cost of this vaccination (for those outside the parameters of the free immunisation scheme) is, on average, €150 per shot. This is a huge financial burden for parents, especially when considering that children over 9 months receive 2 shots and those under 9 months require 3.

“I believe a catchup scheme should be introduced to help alleviate the cost of protecting our children against infectious and life-threatening diseases. Not only is it financially supportive for parents and families, but this Men B vaccine is a crucial for the future health of our children.”

10 March 2017