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.

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

Budget funding will ensure farming community in Cork is protected from the effects of Brexit

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard has said that funding from Budget 2019 will ensure the farming community in Cork is protected from the effects of Brexit.

Senator Lombard said: “I am delighted to see that Minister Creed has made provision for a Brexit Resilience Package of €78 million. This will ensure our largest indigenous industry is prioritised and will strengthen the farming sector’s ability to meet the challenges of Brexit.

“The funding will give a helping hand to farmers who need it most and ensure our local rural communities are supported here in Cork.

“The measures announced by the Minister include €44m in direct aid for farmers.  This will include an additional €23m for farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC),   allocation for 2019, bringing the allocation for 2019 to €250 million. This is a 24% increase over the last two years and essentially restores ANC payments to the level prior to the economic downturn.

“It will also see the introduction of a €20m Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot scheme (BEEP). This is a new pilot scheme targeted at Suckler farmers, and aimed at further improving the economic and carbon efficiency of Irish beef production.

“An additional €1m in funding for the horticulture sector has been made available, bringing the total provision for a sector particularly challenged by Brexit to €6 million. This will help create the conditions for sustainable rural development and provide local level supports to support vibrant and sustainable rural Cork communities.

“Minister Creed has also provided €27 million in Brexit related supports for the food industry comprising: €13 million in supports for food industry competitiveness and innovation. €3 million for Artisan and Micro food and beverage programmes through the Leader Programme and for LEAN manufacturing initiatives designed to improve competitiveness.

“An additional €5 million has been made available to Bord Bia, bringing the total Grant in Aid to €46.6 million. This is a 60% increase in funding for marketing and promotion of our food offering since 2014.

“€6m in funding to progress an €8 million Food Innovation Hub in Teagasc Moorepark, of which €2 million was provided in 2018,” Senator Lombard concluded.

Minister Michael Creed said: “My priority has been to deliver measures designed to help farmers, fishermen and food SME’s to navigate the challenges of Brexit.

“I believe that the package of measures I have announced will support the agri-food sector and assist us focussing on competitiveness, innovation, new market development and environmental sustainability – all key themes of the Food Wise strategy, and the best response we can make to the uncertainty and challenge posed by Brexit.”

 

10 October 2018

€107,000 for South and West Cork Tidy Towns committees

Cork South West Senator, Tim Lombard, has welcomed the allocation of €107,000 for 74 Tidy Towns committees here in South and West Cork.

The Fine Gael Senator said: “Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, has announced a €1.4 million national grant scheme to mark the 60th anniversary of the Tidy Towns Competition. Such investment by the Government will directly support our local Tidy Towns groups.

“These volunteer led community initiatives really bring out the best in our towns and villages, and what this competition really shows us the importance of participation. Our local Tidy Towns volunteers are a credit to our community. I encourage anyone who feels strongly about our community and our environment to get involved with Tidy Towns.

“I have no doubt that towns and villages across Cork will benefit hugely from this investment. Wherever you have active Tidy Towns committees, it gives the place a real boost and creates the environment for tourism,” Senator Lombard said.

Minister Ring said: “This funding is recognition from the Government of the huge contribution made by citizens in their own communities.

“Tidy Towns groups have made our country as a whole a better place to live in and to visit. The work is carried out on a voluntary basis and we all benefit from it. This investment by the Government will further enhance our towns and villages and represents great value for money.”

 

05 October 2018

9% VAT rate must be retained

Cork Senator Tim Lombard has stated that the 9% VAT Rate is essential for continued growth in the tourism and hospitably sectors across rural Ireland.

Senator Lombard said: “There is no doubt that some people believe Dublin is generally overpriced even though Fáilte Ireland argue it is a medium priced city destination by European standards.

“Many overseas visitors spend part of their stay in Dublin as it is viewed as a gateway to the rest of the country. This has created an imbalance between Dublin and the rest of the country.

“The success of Dublin hotels should not be allowed to dominate the discussion on the VAT rate which has proved so helpful to the hospitality sector. It was an exceptional boost to jobs growth, providing more taxation funding for the Exchequer.

“The 9% VAT rate continues to be a most important tool in enabling the sector, especially in rural areas, to maintain value for money for our visitors. We must not forget how vital it continues to be in sustaining the continued growth of our tourism sector.

“We have witnessed a slight decline in UK visitors due to the weakness of Sterling. Maintaining the 9% VAT rate will see us continue to be a competitively priced option for holidaymakers.

“Given all of the uncertainty around Brexit it would be imprudent to risk damaging the hospitality and tourism sector by making it less attractive for visitors. Many of our regional areas are still a long way from achieving sustainability and are totally reliant on seasonal business.

“This rate was introduced by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when he was the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. It was an exceptional boost to jobs growth, providing more taxation funding for the Exchequer,” Senator Lombard said.

 

10 September 2018

The Best of Irish Cuisine

The annual Foodie Destinations awards have recently announced Kinsale as Ireland’s Foodie Town of 2018.

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard, who opened his constituency office in Kinsale earlier this year, has commended the town on this success.

“Kinsale is a thriving town that works hard and is deserving of its many accolades. This recent award is another acknowledgement of the community’s collective effort and achievement.

“Our small town has much to offer in terms of foodie experiences and will help to boost the profile of Irish cuisine, both at home and abroad.

“I congratulate all those who have contributed towards this accomplishment, and am confident that more shall follow in future.”

 

03 September 2018