13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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Facebook ads promoting website targeting Maria Walsh need to be investigated

Facebook ads promoting a website designed to target and discredit European Election candidate Maria Walsh on the grounds that she is an LGBTQI activist, need to be fully investigated, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Tim Lombard, who sits on the Oireachtas Communications Committee, was responding to sponsored posts from an individual promoting a website that targets the Midlands North West candidate.

Fine Gael has contacted Facebook to request the ad be removed.

Senator Lombard said: “Social media is a powerful tool for political debate and we have seen that throughout this debate. However ads like this are supposed to be subject to very specific transparency rules – which don’t seem to have worked in this case.

“We hear a lot of talk from Facebook about their commitment to protecting elections here and around the world but they need to put their money where their mouth is now and take decisive action.

“Maria has put in a great campaign and is exactly the type of fresh voice Ireland needs in the European Parliament. This website, which is designed to misconstrue her hard work as an LGBTQI activist, is not what Irish elections are about.

“The website’s content is hardly worth talking about but the way it has been promoted on Facebook needs a full explanation from the company.

“The Joint Oireachtas Committee has already done a lot of work in this area and this shows that we need to meet with Facebook on these issues again as soon as possible.”

 

22 May 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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58 public car charging points now operational in Cork

The transition to Electric vehicles (EVs) is being made easier thanks to a range of Government supports, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

​Cork Senator Tim Lombard said, “For a country of our size, we have one of the more comprehensive charge point networks currently in place across Europe.

“The latest numbers for Cork show we have 58 standard charge points and 7 fast chargers.

“The majority of the existing network of publicly accessible charge points was rolled out by the ESB through its eCars programme. A real-time map showing the charge points, including the status and availability of the charge points, is available on the ESB’s website at www.esb.ie/ecars. The management of these charge points is an operational matter for the ESB.

“An electric vehicle home charger grant was introduced in early 2018 to assist homeowners install an electric vehicle charge point on their property.  This scheme will provide a grant up to the value of €600 towards the purchase and installation of a home charger unit. The scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

“This Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, in conjunction with the SEAI, is currently working on how best to support the provision of greater levels of on-street public charging.

“In May 2017, the Government approved and published the National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030. This policy framework sets an ambitious target that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will be zero emissions (or zero emissions capable).

“Electric vehicles offer an increasingly realistic solution to the challenge of reducing the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy in transport and reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels.

“SEAI is also offering grants of up to €5,000 for a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) or a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) purchased and registered in Ireland,” the Fine Gael Senator said.

 

19 March 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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New Law to Protect Children Online

A new law is set to protect our children online, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Cork South West Senator Tim Lombard said “My colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton T.D., has today (Monday the 4th of March) announced that he will introduce a new Online Safety Act to improve online safety and ensure that children can be protected online.

“For the first time we will have a law setting a clear expectation for service providers to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service. The system will be overseen by an Online Safety Commissioner.

“This is really good news for parents in Cork seeking to protect their children while they benefit from all that digital technology has to offer.

“The Online Safety Act will define categories of harmful online content. Minister Bruton has indicated that this could include: sserious cyber bullying, including content which is seriously threatening, seriously intimidating, seriously harassing or seriously humiliating; material which promotes self-harm or suicide; and material designed to encourage prolonged nutritional deprivation that would have the effect of exposing a person to risk of death or endangering health.

“The new law will also place requirements on operators to Operate an Online Safety Code, which would set out the steps they are taking to keep their users safe online. They will need to include in their code a number of issues at a minimum (e.g. a prohibition of cyber bullying material; provide a complaints procedure where people can request material be taken down, with timelines). They will also need to build safety into the design of online platforms through the application of technology and human intervention

“While there are many very good initatives going on across the government to promote online safety, particularily by WebWise, the Online Safety Commissioner can be a single online access point through which all available Online Safety resources can be accessed by parents, teachers and children. This could build on the government’s Be Safe Online portal.

“Minister Bruton has put forward a number of options for how a new Online Safety Commissioner can do this important work.There are two options including,

  • A Media Commission: establish a new Media Commission by restructuring the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, along the lines of the multi-Commissioner Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. Establish the Online Safety Commissioner as a powerful office within that structure.
  • Two Regulators: Two regulatory bodies, one of which would involve restructuring the BAI and assigning it responsibility for content which is subject to editorial control (traditional television and radio broadcasting and on-demand audiovisual media services). The second online safety regulator would be a new body responsible for online content that is not subject to editorial controls (such as social media and video sharing platforms etc)

“The second role of the Online Safety Commissioner would be to apply European Law to video sharing. This will require significant changes to the way in which Ireland regulates audio visual content, both offline and online, including ensuring that Video Sharing Platforms have sufficient measures (e.g. parental controls and age-verification) in place, and ensuring that they have a complaints mechanism in place where a user can make a complaint regarding content which is hosted on the service.

“It is proposed that the Online Safety Commissioner could conduct audits of the measures which the services have in place or a more direct review of a company’s content moderation teams as they are operating.

“Under EU Law, the Online Safety Commissioner would be required to regulate all video sharing platforms that are based in Ireland.

“A short six week public consultation is set to commence on the options and I encourage everyone in Cork to have their say.People can make a submission on the Department of Communications website [https://bit.ly/2Ha1rcx].”

Speaking at the launch Minister Bruton said: “Digital technology is transforming the world in which we work and live and learn. This provides huge opportunities for us all. It has been central to our economic and social development as a country for three decades. However, the digital world also presents new risks which did not exist previously.

“As Minister for Education and Skills, I recognised the need to take action in this area, and issued a direction to schools that they should consult with parents, teachers and students on the use, if any, of smart phones in schools. “The situation at present where online and social media companies are not subject to any oversight or regulation by the state for the content which is shared on their platforms is no longer sustainable. I believe that the era of self regulation in this area is over and a new Online Safety Act is necessary.

“Many parents find it difficult to keep up with the latest technology, or the latest app. That is understandable given how quickly online games and technology can evolve. To me it emphasises why the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner is so important.

“While it would be impossible to remove every danger from the internet or from the adaptation of new technology, what we need to do is to ensure that parents and children are better equipped, that the state can provide regulation and enforcement, and that online platforms take responsibility.”

 

08 March 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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Lombard urges Cork businesses to apply for funding to save 30% on energy costs

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has urged Cork businesses to apply for funding to help them save 30% a year on energy costs.

The Cork Senator said that applications to the SEAI Excellence in Energy Efficient Design (EXEED) Scheme are now open. A fund of up to €6 million is available for projects delivering best practice in the design, construction and management of buildings for optimum energy efficiency.

Senator Lombard said: “5 Cork businesses saved a combined €255,861 on energy costs thanks to this scheme last year.

“Recognising increased potential and growing appetite for investment in this area, a total of €6m has been allocated funding for this programme this year – almost about double the value of the demand in last year’s scheme.

“Successful applicants will be currently in the design phase of planning capital projects for new or existing buildings.

“In order to qualify for a grant, participants must follow the SEAI EXEED standard and embed energy efficiency measures in the design of their projects.

“The grant is open to public and private organisations who are planning an investment project of any scale or complexity.

“Energy savings in excess of 30% are common and in addition to the energy and climate impacts, the SEAI EXEED certification will assist businesses to become more efficient, competitive and resilient.

“The government are committed to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. Minister Bruton is currently developing an all of government plan, which will have actions across all sectors according to strict timelines. Ensuring our built environment uses energy efficiently is critical to delivering on this ambition,” Senator Lombard said.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton said: “A huge range of bodies ranging from local GAA clubs to Data Centres and from hospitals to agribusiness have made savings of over 30% in their energy costs through the scheme.

“The certification it yields is a great selling point for climate aware leaders.”

The SEAI EXEED grant application process is now open. For further information on the scheme and details on how to apply visit https://www.seai.ie/energy-in-business/training-and-standards/exeed-certified-program/.

 

04 March 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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GHG Emissions Tax an ineffective solution

Cork Senator Tim Lombard has stated that specific agriculture emissions need to be addressed in Ireland in order to combat Climate Change.

Senator Lombard said: “As a member of the Special Oireachtas Committee for Climate Action I have been involved in numerous discussions and briefings the past year which have examined carbon emissions in Ireland.

“Agricultural emissions account for a disproportionately large portion of Ireland’s total emissions due to the fact that our agricultural sector forms the majority of our overall economy.

“It is important to acknowledge that in terms of food production Ireland is internationally recognised as a very efficient, low-carbon producer of high quality beef and dairy. The European Union Joint Research Centre verified Ireland as the EU’s most carbon-efficient beef producer and the 5th most carbon-efficient dairy producer.

“Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions do however continue to be a genuine cause of concern, particularly with livestock based farming.

“The Citizens’ Assembly recommended imposing a tax on agriculture GHG emissions; however I believe this would be detrimental to the agricultural industry as a whole.

“The GHG emissions tax suggested by the Citizens’ Assembly has been made, according to Justice Mary Laffoy, without a thorough examination of the relationship between agriculture and climate change. It is imperative that farmers are included in efforts to reduce carbon emissions but more time needs to be spent assessing the impact of an emissions tax on our agriculture.”

Senator Lombard continued, “I believe that the desired results of the Citizens’ Assembly recommendation can still be attained by using funding support mechanisms, but I do not believe a tax is the most effective solution for lowering GHG emissions.

“Firstly, carbon taxes are currently globally applied at the point of consumption rather than at the point of production. If we apply a separate tax at the production level as well this would create significant concern about the economic competitiveness of our agriculture sector.

“Secondly, there is no complete way to accurately measure GHG emissions on any given farm, and no such capability is foreseen for the near future. This raises practical concerns around equal-measure and enforceability.

“Thirdly, farming is by and large a low margin business – the National Farm Survey indicates that an average family farm income was €31,374 in 2017 – and any additional taxes would raise serious concerns about the appropriately gradual transition to carbon-efficiency for the agriculture sector.

“I believe there are a number of other viable options which would see a reduction of Ireland’s agricultural emissions. One such option is increasing the focus EU funding, e.g. GLAS, on the implementation of environmentally-friendly practises. Another is to increase the profitability of carbon-efficient agriculture production which will encourage the entire sector into more environmentally-friendly practises.

“Farmers and landowners, as curators of the land, have a critical role to play in instituting necessary Climate Action changes. Ireland has a very proud agricultural tradition; it is vital that the State safeguard and strengthen our agricultural sector in its transition into a more sustainable, low-carbon sector.”

 

17 February 2019

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

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

Let’s help drive change with electric vehicles

The new Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action will consider ways in which the Government can further support the transition to electric vehicles, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Seanad spokesperson on Climate Action, Senator Lombard, said: “We all know the cost of running a car to our pockets with fuel, tax and insurance. But what is the cost to the environment?

“Earlier this year, 96% of the members of the Citizen’s Assembly recommended that the State should immediately take steps to support the transition to electric vehicles.

“I would like the Climate Action Committee to explore what else we can do to support motorists choosing electric vehicles, who are driving change every time they turn on the ignition.

“From last month, drivers of electric cars have seen their toll charges halved in a nod to their environmental impact.

“Motorists can avail of grants of up to €5,000 towards the purchase of a new electric vehicle and up to €5,000 VRT relief.

“They will also benefit from the lowest road tax band at €120. A home charge point grant of up to €600 is also available.

“Businesses should be aware that there is zero Benefit in Kind for company battery electric vehicles, while taxi drivers can avail of a purchase grant of up to €7,000.

“Many still choose traditional diesel or petrol engines because they are believed to be more economical – even as the cost of ownership of electric cars goes down.

“This new funding is helping to offset this cost and allow more people to access a sustainable, and more cost-effective, method of transportation.

“There are currently over 6,000 electric vehicles registered in the State – over 60% more than we had last year. We must look at how we can encourage this uptake further.”

Senator Lombard continued: “Public charging has been free since 2010 and there are well over a thousand charging points around the country.

“But I believe there should be more and even faster charging points to make electric cars more convenient for customers, especially in rural areas.

“The more visible and plentiful charging points are – the more realistic an option the change to electric vehicles becomes for people.

“This is something we will explore further on the Committee, as well as other new policies to protect our environment and ensure Ireland becomes a leader in this area.”

Senator Lombard concluded: “The National Development Plan commits the Government to no new non-zero emission cars to be sold in Ireland post 2030.

“In effect, there will be a ban on tailpipes on new cars from 2030. We will become the first EU country to do so. It is intended that no NCT certificate will be issued for non-zero emission cars post-2045.

“That is one of the most ambitious commitments on zero emissions on passenger cars in the entire EU.

“There will also be a transition to a low emission urban bus fleet, including electric buses, with no diesel-only buses purchased from 1 July 2019.

“The low-carbon, climate resilient transition ahead will require a societal transformation and engagement with wider society on an ongoing basis will be vital as we drive change.”

 

23 August 2018

Extended WIFI4EU scheme

Cork Senator Tim Lombard has confirmed the extension of the EU funded free public Wi-Fi scheme. The European Parliament announced the WIFI4EU scheme last year, whereby it would fund public Wi-Fi hotspots across EU towns and villages.

The scheme proposed funding high speed internet connection in public areas, with one voucher for equipment and installation to be provided to each Local Authority.

Senator Lombard said: “I welcomed the initiative in the Seanad earlier this year but also questioned whether one location was enough; many other EU Member States have Local Authority equivalents that are smaller in size and greater in number, thus Ireland would have been restricted in benefitting as greatly from this scheme as other states.

“Recent communication from Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has verified that the EU has agreed to increase funding for Ireland from 1 to 4 towns per Local Authority.

“This is a positive and unique opportunity for West Cork; free public Wi-Fi in four of our local towns is a welcome step in bolstering connectivity in rural Ireland, and would be particularly good for tourism in Cork as tourists will be able to connect to local Wi-Fi hotspots when visiting our towns and villages.”

 

14 August 2018

Smart lighting fund for SME’s can lead to 90% savings on lighting costs

Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has confirmed that national applications are now open for €3 million Lighting Upgrade Grant Scheme.

Senator Lombard said that funding has been increased this year following a successful pilot scheme in 2017, the scheme will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and applications are open until May 31st 2018.

“The grant is open to small businesses across all sectors, including retail, hospitality, tourism, private education, health facilities, and manufacturing.

“Applications can be submitted by individual businesses or by coordinators [who group applications and can deliver lighting upgrades for a number of businesses].

Senator Lombard continued: “The Programme for Partnership Government committed to providing additional resources to help support start-ups and small businesses across the country.

“There are currently over 200,000 SMEs operating in Ireland and this scheme aims to support energy efficient lighting upgrades across all SME sectors.

“Collectively small businesses account for a significant portion of national and global energy demand. The smart lighting grant will significantly help businesses reduce their energy-use, supporting our local economies but also helping to protect our environment.

“We in Fine Gael believe that our small businesses need these types of support to help them thrive in our resurgent economy. I would like to thank Minister Naughten for making this funding available.”

 

09 May 2018