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.

Extension to rural local link evening bus service in Cork

Senator Tim Lombard has welcomed the planned extension of the pilot local link evening rural bus service.

“My colleague, the Fine Gael Party Chair, Martin Heydon, proposed the extension of evening rural bus services around the country to encourage increased connectivity in our communities and to tackle rural isolation, an issue that many people have raised with me locally.

“It is so important we ensure that people have mobility around their area at night time as well as during the day, be it to local events, sports clubs, shopping centres, restaurants, or visiting friends and relatives.

“Since last summer additional evening bus services have been running in Cork, and indeed all counties, on Friday and Saturday. This pilot scheme has proven very successful and I am glad that the Minister has confirmed it will continue until at least March 31st, until a full review is complete.

“Originally, it was intended that the pilot would end on the 31st of December 2018, after which the National Transport Authority would review the results and ongoing viability. It has been confirmed to me that the NTA will now conduct a further review of the performance of these services in March 2019 after which a decision will be taken regarding future funding for these services.

“As we have seen now with the pilot scheme, the more it is used, the better chance it has of being retained. I encourage the many people benefitting from this service in Cork to continue using it now that it has been extended, and within Fine Gael I will continue to push for this evening service to be made permanent.”

 

23 January 2019

€5,796 granted to 4 Men’s Sheds in West Cork

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has confirmed that €5,796 in Government funding has been granted to local Men’s Sheds in West Cork.

Senator Lombard welcomed the funding announced by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, and which will benefit 4 Men’s Sheds in West Cork.

Senator Lombard said: “It is really positive to see the Government supporting the The Irish Men’s Sheds Association which does fantastic work. I have seen first-hand the positive impact of their activities here in Cork.

“Last Summer, my colleague Minister Ring allocated €500,000 under the Men’s Sheds stream of the Community Enhancement Programme to enable individual Sheds to update their facilities by purchasing equipment or by carrying out minor works to improve their shed.

“Each Local Authority area was then allocated funding and the application process was overseen by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) around the country.

“I am delighted to say that Men’s Sheds in Kinsale, Skibbereen, Allihies, and Bandon were successful in their applications for funding to update and improve their facilities.

“€1,449 has been allocated to each of the follow projects: tools and equipment (drills, saws, and timber) for Skibbereen Men’s Shed; panel heaters and kitchen equipment for Kinsale; a new log cabin shed in Allihies; and tools (mitre saws and band saw stands) for Bandon.

“Men’s Sheds are a great outlet for men in Cork to connect with each other in their locality, to share their skills and to work together on community projects.

“Not only is this good for the health and wellbeing of the men themselves but it’s also of great benefit to the wider community. I will continue to support our local Men’s Shed’s, and I strongly welcome the Government funding to assist their work.”

 

16 January 2019

Self-employed in Cork encouraged to avail of Treatment Benefit scheme

Cork South West Senator Tim Lombard has confirmed that the number of self-employed people availing of dental treatment, optical exams, and medical appliances is on the increase across Cork.

Senator Lombard encouraged self-employed people to continuing using the scheme, which is proving to be a major success.

“In 2017, Fine Gael extended the Treatment Benefit Scheme to self-employed persons for the first time. This was a major milestone in terms of the equal treatment of small and medium business owners who are often the backbone of our local economy in towns and villages.

“In 2018 alone, 27,571 self-employed people in Cork took up the treatment benefit scheme, availing of dental treatment, eye exams and medical appliances. Dental Treatments were most popular amongst the self-employed, with 17,913 people taking it up.

“The introduction of this new benefit for the self-employed creates greater fairness in the system of welfare provision and reflects the Government’s commitment to creating the best possible environment for business to thrive.

“2019 will bring new supports for self-employed people who will become eligible for Jobseeker’s Benefit for the first time.

“Fine Gael’s ‘New Deal for the Self-Employed’ as outlined in our plan ‘Taking Ireland Forward Together’ envisages a totally reformed social insurance system. It will work to provide the self-employed and those in the ‘gig’ economy with a safety net in circumstances where their business or careers are interrupted.

“We also plan to expand other benefits, such as carer’s benefit, in the years ahead. The equalisation of the Earned Income Tax Credit with the PAYE Tax Credit is also part of this agenda to ensure the self-employed are properly recognised. For the 150,000 self-employed workers who make up an important part of our economy, the Earned Income Credit will be increased by a further €200 to €1,350.

“The Government wants to encourage enterprise and support those who drive job creation. We now have more people at work in the State than ever before and Fine Gael will continue to support those who create jobs and rejuvenate local economies.”

 

08 January 2019

€160,000 for Béicín Walkway

Fine Gale Senator for Cork, Tim Lombard, has confirmed €160,000 has been secured Bantry under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme. This funding is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and provides funding for the development of new, or the maintenance, enhancement and promotion of, outdoor recreational infrastructure.

Senator Lombard said: “I very much welcome the funding for outdoor recreation projects here in Cork. €160,000 has been allocated to Bantry for the upgrade and repair of the Béicín Foreshore Walk.

Recreational tourism is a growing part of Ireland’s tourism offering, and we have seen an increase in the number of Irish and overseas visitors enjoying the many greenways, blueways, and walking trails which have been developed around the country in recent years.

“This is generating income for rural areas and helping to create more jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors here in Cork. Figures available from Fáilte Ireland reveal that in 2017, 26% of all overseas tourists engaged in some level of hiking or cross-country walking.

“This equates to 2.3 million tourists, spending an estimated €1.3 bn during their stay in Ireland. A further 451,000 overseas tourists took part in cycling activities.

“Our local communities are also using these facilities in large numbers.

“The continued development of our recreational infrastructure will not only support our developing rural tourism industry, but will also provide better recreation options for local people and families for their own enjoyment of the countryside.”

Minister for Rural & Community Development Michael Ring said: “I am delighted, in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland, to announce funding of almost €11 million today to 78 very important projects under this phase of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.

“The funding being announced today builds on the €10 million which I allocated during 2018 to 150 projects under Measures 1 and 3 of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and brings the total investment from the 2018 call for proposals to almost €21 million.

“Over €40 million has now been allocated to almost 600 projects under this scheme since 2016 to improve existing, and develop new, walking trails, greenways and other recreational amenities for communities and visitors all over Ireland.”

 

08 January 2019

13 Cork South West schools will undergo major improvement works next summer

Fine Gael Senator for Cork South West, Tim Lombard, said 13 local schools will undergo major improvement works over the summer months thanks to Government funding through the Summer Works Scheme.

Senator Lombard said: “The Summer Works funding announcement confirms the Government’s continuing prioritisation of capital funding for school buildings nationally, which will enhance the learning and working environment for pupils and teachers.

“On Monday (17-Dec) my colleague, Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, has announced that 307 schools across the country will receive more than €40 million for 2019 Summer Works projects. Minister McHugh confirmed to me that 13 schools in Cork South West will receive funding for major improvement works, which are:

  • Trafrask Mixed National School, Adrigole – Structural Improvements
  • Scoil Naomh Seosamh (St Joseph’s Girls National School), Skibbereen – Structural Improvements
  • Our Lady Of Mercy National School, Bantry – Structural Improvements
  • Gogginshill National School, Ballinhassig – Structural Improvements
  • Caheragh National School, Drimoleague – Structural Improvements
  • Kinsale Community School – Structural Improvements
  • Union Hall Mixed National School – Window Upgrades
  • Scoil Dhairbhre, Cruary – Window Upgrades
  • Kilcoe National School, Skibbereen – Window Upgrades
  • Dromdhallagh National School, Dimoleague – Window Upgrades
  • Cork College of Commerce West Cork Campus, Skibbereen – Window Upgrades
  • Bandon Boys National School – Window Upgrades
  • Beara Community School – Curricular Requirements

“It is great that this announcement is being made now in advance of next year, to give schools more time to prepare for the planned works. The works will be carried out in schools mainly over the summer months in order to keep disruption to students, teachers and other to a minimum.

“The projects receiving funding relate to applications submitted by schools in categories 7, 8 and 9 under the multi-annual scheme. For any schools who applied under category 10, which relates to external works such as upgrade and resurfacing of yards and car parking, there will be further news on this next year. Given the scale of the projects involved further detailed analysis of these applications is required with a view to enabling approved applications to proceed in 2020.

“In addition, Minister McHugh has also announced a further round of the Summer Works Scheme, which will open for applications in early 2019 for projects to be delivered from summer 2020,” Senator Lombard concluded.

Minister Joe McHugh added: “The Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan included a major package of investment in education for the next decade with the school building budget increasing by 70 per cent.

“This investment will provide for the continued increase in demographics while also allowing for a greater focus on refurbishment and upgrading of existing schools.

“All schools approved for the 2019 Summer Works Scheme will be notified via the Department’s Esinet portal later today with further details and instructions on how to proceed.

“This year, almost €540 million will be invested in school building infrastructure under the school building and modernisation programme.”

 

20 December 2018

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

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

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