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.

Minimum Lifespan of Five Years for Gift Vouchers

Senator Tim Lombard has agreed with the proposal that all gift vouchers should have a minimum lifespan of five years.

“There’s no doubt that there are great advantages to gift vouchers, for consumers and businesses alike. However Ireland currently has no legislation regulating their expiry dates, which causes confusion and frustration for many consumers.

“This can be particularly frustrating where the vouchers themselves aren’t clear about their expiration date.

“For the last few months, my Fine Gael colleague Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has been developing proposals to introduce a minimum expiry date of 5 years.

“These proposals are now at an advanced stage. Minister Humphreys will be going to Government to seek approval to draft a Bill shortly.

“Every year, countless gift vouchers are lost or go out of date, and these new proposals could see real improvements for consumers.

“We are hopeful that this important consumer protection initiative can be agreed by all parties in the Oireachtas.”

 

06 June 2018

€74,000 in capital grants for West Cork childcare providers

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has confirmed that over €74,000 in capital grants has been awarded to West Cork childcare providers. The announcement was made by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone. A total of €6.87m in Capital funding will be awarded to providers of Early Years and School Age Childcare across Ireland.

Senator Lombard said: “Today’s announcement follows on from the childcare measures we introduced last September, giving up to 70,000 children extra supports.

“This funding will contribute towards the creation of new childcare places, natural outdoor play areas and the essential maintenance and repair of services here in Cork.

“The capital funding has been awarded following the completion of a very competitive application and appraisal process. The approved Early Years and School Age Capital funding for 2018 has been made available to the following childcare providers here in West Cork:

  • Rosscarbery Community Playschool ltd; €4,711
  • Timoleague Community Playschool and Afterschool Club; €19,553
  • Gráinne’s Montessori School, Clonakilty; €6,920
  • Teach Na Nog, Bandon; €6,988
  • Happy Days Montessori Pre-school, Bantry; €6,697
  • Hillcrest Montessori School, Dunmanway; €7,000
  • Drimoleague Community Playgroup; €6,876
  • Caha Childcare, Adrigole; €15,451

“I am very pleased with the progress we are making with childcare. Fine Gael is delivering on its election commitment to support families and to help ease the financial cost of childcare.

“The extra supports announced last September included a universal childcare subsidy, of up to €1,040 per year, available for children aged from 6-months up to starting their free pre-school year (ECCE Scheme) at 36 months.

“Families on lower incomes, who qualify by way of a means test, are eligible for supports worth up to €7,500 per year for children aged 6 months to 15 years of age. The aim is to ensure that parents previously prevented from taking up jobs, training or education because of the cost of childcare, are now able to join the workforce.

“In addition the free pre-school year (ECCE scheme) we introduced and later extended to two free years has been hugely beneficial to families saving them on average €4,000 per child.

“We introduced two weeks paid Paternity Leave for new fathers for the first time in the history of the State.

“Under 6s now benefit from GP care and an extra 10,000 children now qualify for a medical card thanks to it being extended to those on Domiciliary Care Allowance.

“We have provided for 47,000 extra breakfast club places to benefit children and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance has increased by 25%,” the Fine Gael Senator said.

Minister Zappone said: “I am delighted to announce the €6.87m which will create over 2,000 new childcare places across the country.

“There was an unprecedented amount of applications this year which shows the appetite for expansion within the sector. I will continue to seek increased investment in this area in order to increase capacity and deliver the highest quality of childcare for families in Ireland.”

 

01 June 2018

Extension to summer slurry-spreading deadline a welcome relief for derogation farmers

Cork based Senator, Tim Lombard, has said that extending the summer slurry-spreading deadline is good news for derogation farmers.

Senator Lombard said: “The one month extension to summer slurry-spreading announced by Ministers Murphy and Creed is good news for Cork farmers.

“The deadline by which derogation farmers must have 50% of their slurry spread is now 15th July, after which the remainder of slurry must be spread by low-emission technology.

“By extending the date the Government has acknowledged the significant difficulties faced by farmers and contractors in spreading slurry as a result of the extreme weather earlier this year. This extension will allow farmers to catch up with their workloads, which have been substantially delayed in many cases.

“Ireland’s 4th Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) will commenced in January 2018 and run until the end of 2021, as will the renewed derogation.

“Renewal of this derogation is recognition that Ireland is continuing to maintain our commitment to improving water quality during ongoing developments in our agricultural sector.”

 

28 May 2018

€30m Regional Enterprise Development Fund

Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, is encouraging Cork groups to apply for the new €30m Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which was launched by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys.

Senator Lombard said: “The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is looking for innovative proposals that are based on collaboration; they want to see groups in both the public and private sectors working together to build on our regional strengths.

“Categories include ‘Major Regional Change Projects’, ‘Regionally Significant Change Projects’, ‘Local and Community Enterprise Development Initiatives’ and ‘Industry Clusters’.

“I strongly encourage all companies who are interested in applying to check their eligibility and apply to the fund.

“The Fund is already open for applications and closes on 27th June 2018. Each region will secure a minimum of €2 million once projects meet the necessary standards.

“Regional jobs are a big priority for the Government, which is why it has developed this Fund as part of the strategy to boost growth in rural Ireland.

“The June deadline may seem like a long way off, but the process is highly competitive so I would urge anyone in Cork with an idea to start working on their application immediately.

“The Fund is being administered for the Government through Enterprise Ireland and you can find out more at www.enterprise-ireland.com.”

 

19 April 2018

Defence Forces and Civil Defence played vital role during Storm Emma

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, is praising members of the Defence Forces and Civil Defence for the vital roles they played throughout the country in response to Storm Emma.

Nationwide, over 1,332 members of the Defence Forces were deployed in response to over 300 separate requests for assistance by primary response agencies such as the HSE, An Garda Síochána, the ESB and local authorities. Defence Forces operations staff also liaised with their counterparts at National and Regional Emergency Coordination Group level advising on capabilities and resources available during the emergency period.

According to Senator Lombard the activities of the defence forces personnel included transporting patients and medical staff, transporting meals, clearing paths and generally assisting the emergency services.

The Civil Defence, which is made up of 3,500 volunteers, also played an integral part in keeping our communities safe. Some the activities of the Civil Defence here in Cork included: numerous patient transfers and transportation of district nurses and essential staff to vulnerable clients; providing support to vulnerable persons; transported people from adult disability centre in Skibbereen to their homes in Dunmanway, Bantry, and Clonakility; activated a severe weather resilience desk which provided a focal point for Voluntary Emergency Services to support the PRAs.

Senator Lombard commended the work of both the Defence Forces and Civil Defence in response to Storm Emma, saying: “We cannot list all the ways in which these personnel assisted our communities during the recent snow storm. Both the Defence Forces and Civil Defence showed tremendous leadership during this severe weather period; from assisting the national ambulance service to our ESB crews, their contribution to our community deserves the utmost of recognition.

“Personnel worked night and day, supported by many of their local colleagues in the national ambulance service and coastguard.  What we saw during Storm Emma was incredible collaboration between all the state agencies.

“I know I speak on behalf of everyone when I say thank you to the Defence Forces, Civil Defence, and all state bodies that were involved in the response.

“While the storm may be over, the clean-up must now take place. Our local council will work with other agencies to ensure all life returns to normal in all communities across the county.

“We have seen recently, with both Storm Ophelia and Storm Emma, that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. That’s why it is important we invest in climate action. The New National Development Plan, Project Ireland 2040, contains provision for €22bn of investment in this area.”

Minister with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe was actively involved in coordinating the overall response to Storm Emma.

Minister Kehoe said: “Our personnel have worked round the clock throughout the past number of days as part of the response efforts to Storm Emma. The Defence Forces and Civil Defence always remain on standby to assist in cases of emergency.  I want to again thank them for their tremendous service in keeping our communities safe.”

 

05 March 2018

Cork schools win the race to study PE

Three West Cork schools are among the 80 secondary schools nationwide to be part of the first phase implementation of Physical Education (PE) for Senior Cycle programmes

Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard welcomed the news saying: “I am delighted that Kinsale Community School, Maria Immaculata Community College in Dunmanway, and St. Brogan’s College in Bandon have been included in this pilot scheme. This means Cork students could be among the first in the country to take the Leaving Cert exam in PE.”

80 schools will implement either the examinable Physical Education Leaving Certificate subject or the new Senior Cycle Physical Education Framework which is not for examination, or both. It will be rolled out to all schools from 2020 so all students in Cork will benefit from this before too long.

Senator Lombard continued: “Students taking the new Leaving Certificate subject from September 2018 will sit the first Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) exam in 2020. The subject can be taken at both higher and ordinary levels. The new Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) Framework, will provide a new modern curriculum for teachers to teach PE to all students at senior cycle.

“The assessment process will have 20% going to a physical activity project; 30% to performance assessment and 50% to a written examination.”

“The Fine Gael Government is taking physical education seriously for the health of our nation and this announcement is part of the overall Government focus on encouraging healthy living. We want to support families and communities in Cork to make healthy choices. The announcement is also a key commitment in Minister Richard Bruton’s Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.”

 

23 February 2018

Sustainable rural housing will help develop our rural communities

Sustainable rural housing will ensure that rural communities can thrive, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard said: “After a comprehensive debate in the Seanad, Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed to me that once-off rural planning will be safeguarded under the forthcoming national Planning Framework. This is great news for communities in rural Ireland.

Seanad debate regarding once-off planning in rural Ireland

“The National Planning Framework will offer a real opportunity to achieve real balanced regional development. There has been extensive consultation with stakeholders in rural Ireland to ensure that their concerns are listened too.

“I am delighted to see that the Minister has clarified the position of Government that the NPF won’t see a dramatic clampdown on housing in rural Ireland.

“Housing in rural Ireland will continue to be considered on the basic of social, economic and occupational links to the rural areas in question.

“There have been two formal phases of public consultation regarding the NPF; this time last year and then again in October and November.

“There have been over 40 regional events and workshops, four engagements with various Oireachtas Joint Committees, feedback from an expert Advisory Group and detailed submissions from a range of stakeholders.

“It heartening to see the Government taking the concerns of rural Ireland on board as this will help preserve our rural communities,” the Cork Senator said.

 

08 February 2018

Fine Gael Press Office

Significant improvements to pension outcomes for homemakers and carers

 

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has said there will be significant improvements to pension outcomes for homemakers and carers who were affected by rate band changes in 2012.

The new Total Contributions Approach will calculate pensions based on all contributions made over a working career. There will also be provision for a new Home Caring Credit of up to 20 years to assist workers who took time out to raise families. The new system will be implemented from the 30th of March, and payments to eligible pensioners will be backdated to this time.

Senator Lombard said: “In recent months, many people expressed concern to me about their pension rates, which were affected by rate band changes in 2012.

“I have been in constant communication with my Fine Gael colleague, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty on this issue, highlighting the concerns of Irish pensioners.

“Minister Doherty has been working with her Government colleagues to find a solution to this issue and today, the Government has agreed to allow post 2012 pensioners to choose between their current rate and that to be introduced under the Total Contributions Approach.

“This approach is expected to significantly benefit many people, particularly women, whose work history includes an extended period of time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role.”

Senator Lombard continued: “Later this year the Department will invite over 40,000 pensioners, currently assessed under the 2012 rate band changes, to have their pensions recalculated under TCA to determine if they qualify for a higher rate of entitlement.

“As it will take time to design and set up administrative processes, and the necessary IT systems, the Department expects to send out the invitations from Q4 2018.

“Pensioners do not need to contact the Department or do anything else until written to by the Department nearer the end of the year.  The first payments will be made from early 2019, with payment backdated to the 30th March 2018.

“The TCA will ensure that the totality of a person’s social insurance contributions – as opposed to the timing of them – determines a final pension outcome.

“No existing pensioner will see their pension reduced by this change- if their rate is improved by the TCA calculation option they will benefit, but if their TCA calculation entitlement is lower, they will remain on their existing rate.

“I am delighted that this new model will help build a sustainable future for those pensioners in Cork who took time outside the paid workplace, while raising families or in a caring role.”

 

23 January 2018

Ferry route to Spain will link up Wild Atlantic Way with the Camino

 

A new ferry route between Ringaskiddy and Santander in Northern Spain can link the Wild Atlantic Way with the Camino, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard says the new ferry sailing represents a great opportunity to link the two iconic routes.

Senator Lombard said: “I am delighted to see Cork linked to Northern Spain by a sea route. There are deep historical ties between the two places and I hope to see them renewed by the new ferry service.

“The north of Spain has much to offer visitors as indeed does Cork. I believe the new service is a great opportunity to link up two iconic tourist trails, the Camino de Santiago and the Wild Atlantic Way.

“The trek to Santiago in Gallicia, Northern Spain, traditionally begins when the traveller sets out from their own home.

“This has led to routes to Santiago springing up in Germany and France, known as Jakobsweg and Le Chemin De St. Jacques respectively.

“I propose to incorporate the Wild Atlantic Way into an Irish Camino, beginning by touring the breath-taking scenery of the South West of Ireland and then sailing to Santander and before concluding in Santiago de Compostela.

“I think that uniting the two iconic routes will boost the profile of both and further strengthen the bonds of friendship between our two countries and offers endless possibilities in terms of boosting tourism.

“I am looking forward to welcoming the Spanish back to Kinsale personally this Spring,” the Cork Senator said.

 

16 January 2018

New online system to apply for a medical card

 

The HSE has launched a new National Medical Card online service, www.medicalcard.ie. This new service enables people to apply online for a Medical Card quickly and easily using a user friendly step by step process, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Senator Tim Lombard believes the streamlining of applications will greatly benefit those who need medical cards here in Cork.

“Users can find out if they are eligible for a Medical Card immediately, and if they are, their application will be processed in 15 working days.

“This online service conveniently allows applicants to scan and upload documents and other information, and no longer requires a visit to a GP to stamp paper forms. The new, streamlined service will bring great benefits for people in terms of turnaround times, convenience and security,” Senator Lombard said.

Benefits of new National Medical Card Online service:

  1. The online system guides you through each step of the application process.
  2. Applicants can submit all supporting documentation digitally, including photographs of relevant material.
  3. Your GP will be able to accept you onto their panel via the online system.
  4. If the HSE needs to contact you about your application, they can email instead of writing to you.
  5. When you have submitted your financial details as part of the online application, the HSE will tell you straight away if you qualify for a medical card.
  6. Complete application will be processed in 15 working days.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “This is a very welcome new development by the HSE and is part of the ongoing streamlining and modernisation of the operation of the medical card scheme.

“Under the new system people will be able to make an online application for a medical card, which is faster and more convenient than the current paper based system.

“This puts the applicant at the centre of the process and I am sure will, in time, become the preferred method of application for many applicants, both first time and those seeking a renewal.  I would urge anyone who needs to apply for a medical card to log on to the new system and see how easy it is.”

 

16 January 2018