National News

As your local Senator I have been working hard to represent the people of Cork in Seanad Éireann. In recent years we have moved from economic uncertainty to stability, the maintenance of which requires continual work.

Some of the national issues I will be prioritising are tourism, job creation and public infrastructure, of housing, roads and amenities, in order to sustain such growth.

21st June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance

Cork-based Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has highlighted that the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will be paid in early July and has also encouraged families who don’t receive an automatic payment to make an application for the allowance.

Senator Lombard said: “My colleague, Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, has confirmed to me that the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will be made available again this year.

“The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance is a once-off payment to assist eligible families with the extra costs when children start school each autumn.

“In 2018, 13,535 Cork families received this allowance to help with the cost of school clothing and footwear during what is an expensive time of year for families.

“The majority of eligible families in Cork will receive an automatic payment from the week beginning 8 July, which is great as it allows families sufficient time to prepare for back to school. These families will receive written confirmation before the end of this month informing them of their automatic entitlement.

“I strongly encourage families in Cork who do not receive this letter to make an application for the allowance, even if they received a payment last year. To qualify for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, a person must be in receipt of certain social welfare payments or taking part in training, employment or adult education schemes, and their income must not exceed the threshold.

“People can apply up to 30th of September on www.mywelfare.ie or by picking up application form from 24th of June in their local Intreo Centre. You can also get this form by texting ‘Form BTSCFA’ followed by your name and address to 51909, or by sending an email to BSCFA@welfare.ie.”

The allowance paid for each eligible child aged 4-11 on or before 30 September 2019 is €150 while an allowance of €275 is paid for each eligible child aged 12-22 on or before 30 September 2019. Dependents aged between 18 and 22 years must be returning to full-time second-level education in a recognised school or college in the autumn of 2019.

Minister Doherty said: “I was very pleased to secure €56 million in Budget 2019 for this year’s scheme.

“Many families can be under pressure with back to school costs and I would urge them to check their eligibility for this scheme. While the benefit will be automatically paid to almost 110,000 families in respect of approximately 200,000 children already registered with us, I would recommend others to check out the scheme to see if they are eligible.

“The income limits for this payment have been adjusted to ensure that the increases in social welfare payment rates introduced by Budget 2019 do not negatively impact on people’s entitlement to the allowance.”

The Department of Social Protection is also providing a dedicated phone bank that will be open to answer enquiries from Monday 24 June during business hours 9.00am to 5.00pm.  Anyone wishing to make enquiries about this scheme can contact LoCall 1890 66 22 44.

 

21 June 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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It’s vital we raise awareness of skin cancer prevention

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has said the publication of a new Government policy will help raise awareness of skin cancer.

“I am very pleased that Minister Harris has published the new policy on skin cancer. I have been petitioning the Government to reduce the VAT rate on sun cream products for months.

“Hopefully now the policy is in place the Government will be able to reduce the VAT rate for sun cream and launch an awareness campaign to help drive down the 11,000 diagnoses we have here annually.

“Early detection is vitally important for treatment of skin cancer. The Irish Cancer Society says that If spotted early, up to 90% of cases are curable.

“I believe that if we made sun cream cheap and plentiful we can go some way to changing Irish people’s approach to the care of their skin.

“We all know that prevention is better than cure, it is essential that people are armed with the knowledge and the tools to help them combat skin cancer.

“From farmers working in the field to people sitting out in their back gardens, you need to make sure you are wearing the appropriate factor for your skin type.

“This new policy is very important to me as I lost my own brother Ger to skin cancer in 2009.  I hope it leads to less families having to go through similar loss.

“Remember it is vital that you check your skin regularly and bring it to the attention of your doctor if you’re concerned, “Senator Lombard said.

 

27 May 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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Local authorities must take action on the scourge of dereliction

Local authorities must take action to deal with the scourge of derelict buildings in our towns and villages, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard raised the matter in the Seanad this week highlighting public health concerns arising from dereliction of privately owned buildings and noting a particular example in Bandon Co Cork which presented a local health and safety risk.

Senator Lombard said: “Dereliction of urban areas is an issue we all need to address and local authorities play a key role.  When we have a dereliction or safety issue, it is important that local government acts appropriately and responsibly.

“Exactly 11 weeks ago, a building collapsed at about 2 am in Oliver Plunkett Street, Bandon. Thankfully nobody was hurt however the street is still closed off which is having negative impact on rate paying local businesses including the hotel, which of course also impacts visitors.

“This street closure has had a major effect on economic activity within Bandon town and it cannot be allowed to go on any longer. I also know I know of a street in Innishannon, County Cork, where there are 11 idle houses; an unacceptable situation

“I raised the issue in the Seanad to ascertain the role of local authorities in relation to this.

“The Minister responding on behalf of the Government, John Halligan, confirmed to me that local authorities have in fact been given substantial powers under the Derelict Sites Act 1990 in relation to any such sites. These powers include requiring owners or occupiers to take appropriate measures which, in the opinion of the local authority, are necessary to prevent the land in question from becoming or continuing to be a derelict site.  This applies to the initial stages of dereliction.  A local authority can also acquire derelict sites, either by agreement or compulsorily, and apply a derelict site levy on the registered owners of derelict sites which should be applied annually for as long as a site remains on the local authority derelict sites register.

“Furthermore the Minster confirmed to me that the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964 deals with dangerous structures, and empowers local authorities to give notice to an owner or an occupier of a dangerous structure to carry out works, including the demolition of the structure or the clearing and levelling of the site to prevent it from being a dangerous structure. Where a local authority is obliged to undertake any works in relation to a dangerous structure, the local authority can seek to recover any costs or expenses incurred by it in undertaking such works from the owner of the property concerned.

“The Act also imposes duties on the local authority to maintain a register containing the details of all such orders made in relation to dangerous structures and this register must be available for public inspection.  In the case of both the Derelict Sites Act and the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, failure to comply with a notice issued by a local authority is a prosecutable offence.

“The Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 also made a significant change to the Derelict Sites Act 1990 to provide that the derelict sites levy will increase from 3% to 7% of the market valuation of relevant sites with effect from January 2020.  This increase is intended to ensure that the measure can have more meaningful impact and incentivise owners to bring derelict sites back into productive use at an early stage.

“So it is time for the owners of such derelict sites to consider the consequences of this significant change to the law and start preparing now to bring their buildings back into use. The Government has made it in their financial interest to do and of course it is in the interests of the local communities affected.

“It is so important we get these derelict sites on our main streets back into circulation part of the economic success of our towns and villages.

“Local authorities have the power to ensure our main streets are vibrant and functioning as part of flourishing communities. I want to see them taking action to avoid this kind of dereliction. I have asked that the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government engage directly with Cork County Council on the particular example I have cited, but I also I want to see all local authorities stepping up their work to tackle the scourge of dereliction.”

 

27 February 2019

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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Access to Spinraza welcome news for families and children affected

The approval of access to Spinraza for children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is such welcome news for families and children affected.

Cork Senator Tim Lombard has welcomed the decision of the HSE to approve access for Nusinersen (Spinraza) for children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type I, II or III on an exceptional and individualised basis, stating: “Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed the decision was made by the HSE leadership team on Tuesday morning.

“This is such welcome news. Families have fought a long journey to get here, and I am so pleased children will now have access to this drug.

“Minister Harris has confirmed to me there will be no delay in accessing the drug. I want to commend the families for their campaign and the HSE for approving access.”

It is estimated that there are approximately 25 children living with SMA in Ireland.

 

12 June 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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Carers in Cork to benefit from Support Grant

Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said that 12,685 carers in Cork will benefit from the Carer’s Support Grant.

“The Carer’s Support Grant is worth €1,700 and is available to all carers providing full-time care to an older person or a person with a disability, regardless of their means or social insurance contributions.

“Furthermore, carers who are providing care for two or more people will receive a grant in respect of each person being cared for, to take account of the additional costs and challenges of providing care to more than one person.

“My colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, TD, has allocated €218 million for the Carer’s Support Grant this year which will benefit some 116,000 carers nationally and 12,685 locally here in Cork.”

The Carer’s Support Grant is paid automatically to carers who are receiving Carer’s Allowance (whether full rate or half rate), Carer’s Benefit, or Domiciliary Care Allowance. Other full-time carers who are not receiving any of these payments may also apply for the Carer’s Support Grant.

Senator Lombard continued: “Another very positive development for carers in recent years is the funding provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, as part of the Dormant Accounts Action Plans, to support training for carers.

“Under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018 in excess of €1.7m has been allocated to 12 projects across the country which will provide training, information and related support services for family carers.

“The purpose of this measure is to assist carers to provide the best care possible to the care recipient, to reduce the risk of injury to the carer and care recipient and, to help family carers cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of their role.

“Carers do such valuable work and are a huge benefit to our society. I urge carers in Cork to apply for the Carer’s Support Grant to make life a little easier. It is not means-tested and is assessed on the level of care being provided by the carer. The closing date for receipt of applications for the 2019 Grant is 31 December next year (31 December 2020).”

 

10 June 2019

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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€20 million Sláintecare Integration Fund

Fine Gael Senator for Cork South West, Tim Lombard, has said that the publication of the €20 million Sláintecare Integration Fund will support the delivery of community healthcare in Cork.

The Fund will be open to applications from both the public and voluntary sectors and will focus on testing new models of care with a focus on community care. Successful applications will facilitate a shift in care to the community or provide measures to help people avoid hospital.

Senator Lombard said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for our local Cork health and social care sectors to pitch their ideas to Slaintecare. The Integration Fund is looking for initiatives that help support us in meeting our ultimate goal of reducing waiting lists and reducing waiting times.

“The entirety of the €20m Integration Fund has to be spent in 2019, and I would encourage local interested parties to check out the guide to the application process on the Department of Health website – to demonstrate leadership and help realise the aims of Sláintecare implementation.”

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Sláintecare is our ten year cross party plan to significantly improve and modernise the health service. However, we certainly don’t think we have a monopoly on good ideas, and we now want to hear directly from health and social care providers on how we can better provide care in the community.

“Through this €20m Integration Fund, we can put good ideas into action and share best practice to help care for people closer to home and keep them out of hospital.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: “Sláintecare will reform Ireland’s health and social care service to create a modern, responsive service that offers the right care, in the right place, at the right time. Central to this is our goal to shift the majority of care from the acute to the community setting in order to bring care closer to home for service users.

“Today, we are asking those within the health and social care sector at large to pitch their ideas to help deliver this Sláintecare goal. Finding, supporting and scaling innovative new ways of providing care is fundamental to delivering Sláintecare,” the Fine Gael Minister said.

Applications are to be submitted via email to PitchToSláintecare@health.gov.ie.

 

02 April 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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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

13th June 2019 Comments are off Alesha Clarke
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BEEP pilot will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves

Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has confirmed the new Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot will receive €20 million funding in 2019 and is encouraging all eligible Cork farmers to apply to funding.

The scheme will target the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves – measuring the live weight of the calf at weaning as a percentage of the cow’s live weight.

Senator Lombard said: “Prior to the Budget I made continued representations to the Department on behalf of farmers and I am very pleased my Fine Gael colleague Minister Creed has responded and shown his understanding that this sector is under terrible financial pressure.

“Participating farmers will also get detailed feedback on the performance of individual animals and this will allow them to identify the most productive cows in their herd.

“Building on the success of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the data collected will also be a valuable addition to Ireland’s already impressive cattle breeding database. Breeding improvement through the Economic Breeding Index is identifying the most efficient animals for grass based production system.

“I am very conscious that 2018 was a very difficult year for beef farmers in Cork, in terms of weather, fodder issues and market volatility. This is the sector most exposed to Brexit, given its reliance on the UK market.  The BEEP is designed to provide an injection of investment at a critical time for farmers navigating the challenges ahead, while delivering in real terms on our climate objectives.

“I would encourage all beef suckler herd owners in Cork to apply for the scheme, applications will be accepted by the Department of agriculture between 4 and 22 February 2019.”

Application forms are available on https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/beep/. The Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot was announced in Budget 2019 as part of the €78m Brexit package for the agri-food industry. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, the BEEP will provide farm gate investment at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit.

 

04 January 2019