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.

Additional Incentives for Electric Cars

Budget 2018 has allocated €17 million towards incentivizing the uptake of electric vehicles and the roll-out of the renewable heat incentive.

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, said: “As a member of the joint Oireachtas committee for Communications, Climate Action, and the Environment I was delighted that Budget 2018 is addressing climate change through a number of positive, environmentally driven policies and funding of energy efficiency programmes.

“One such programme the Government is very supportive of is the transition of our car fleet to zero emissions technology, especially electric vehicles. It is encouraging to see strides being made towards this ambition, with such substantial funding allocated towards alleviating the cost of purchasing electric cars.

“Even as the cost of ownership of electric cars goes down, many still choose traditional diesel or petrol engines because they are believed to be more economical. This new funding will help offset this cost and allow more people to access a sustainable, and more cost-effective, method of transportation.

Test driving an electric vehicle at the Soceity of the Irish Motor Industry pre-budget breifing 2017

“While there are current grants offered through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and reduced VRT (to a maximum of €5,000), additional funding was made available through introducing a proposed 0% rate of benefit-in-kind (BIK) in 2018.

“This scheme is to run for a year to encourage organizations to switch to zero emission fleet.

“To meet the required reduction in CO2 levels as agreed to with the EU and the Paris Agreement more people need to use environmentally friendly methods of transportation such as the electric car. Electric cars allow drivers the freedom that they are familiar with along with the environmental benefits of a zero emission vehicle.

“Ireland has already begun to develop infrastructure to support the further demand of electric cars. The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has over 1,200 free public charging stations across Ireland allowing for freedom of movement without fear of access to areas to recharge. This network of charging stations allows electric car owners to travel the country with ease.

“As a local I am pleased that Cork has begun to set the tone for a more sustainable Ireland by encouraging pursuit of zero emission transportation. Drive4Zero is one group with a pilot program based in Cork that provides additional incentives for transitioning to an electric car, such as free parking and reduced tolls.

“This additional funding allocated for the promotion of election cars will be instrumental in helping to develop a zero emission Ireland.

“I applaud my Fine Gael colleague Minister of Finance, Paschal Donohoe, for including such a policy to help promote a more sustainable Ireland, and I look forward to seeing additional legislation continuing to support this goal in the future.”

16 October 2017

Lombard: 9% VAT for tourism and services sector retained

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has been advocating the need to maintain the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and services sector and is delighted that Budget 2018 has confirmed its retention.

After today’s announcement Senator Lombard said: “I am pleased that the significance of maintaining the special 9% VAT rate for our hospitality sector has been recognised in Budget 2018.

Senator Lombard supporting pre-budget submissions regardinng 9% VAT retention

“55,188 jobs have been created in Ireland as a result of the 2011 reduction of tourism and services VAT; 37,800 directly in the restaurant and tourism industry and a further 17,388 related jobs elsewhere in the economy.

“This increase in employment has resulted in savings to the exchequer of an estimated €756 million from the Social Welfare bill. Additionally, the restaurant sector contributes at least €4 billion to the Irish economy each year.

“These are only a few examples of the economic benefits associated to a lower hospitality VAT rate. While an increase would result in a direct increase of revenue, the knock-on effect and wider implications would be extensively disadvantageous to the Irish economy.

Speaking about the VAT rate during today’s Budget 2018 announcement, Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, said: “While I note that prices in Dublin continue to rise, I have said before that VAT policy cannot be decided on the basis of one location only but in the context of the national interest. Accordingly, I have decided not to change the VAT rate on the tourism and services sector.”

Senator Lombard agreed, adding: “This is incredibly important for tourism in rural Ireland in particular as they do not receive the same influx of people as our urban centers, thus there is a need to ensure affordability to attract patrons and secure return business.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the economic impact of Brexit and the increasing costs of doing business in Ireland, retention of the 9% VAT allows our hospitality industry to remain competitive.”

10 October 2017

€300m for SME’s under new Brexit Loan Scheme

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, is welcoming today’s Budget 2018 announcement that €300 million has been allocated to a Brexit Loan Scheme for small and medium business enterprises (SMEs).

Senator Lombard said: “The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in conjunction with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have formulated a Brexit Loan Scheme to assist SMEs across the country.

“Under this new scheme there is funding up to €300m available at a competitive 4% interest rate to SMEs, including food businesses, to assist with short-term working capital needs.

“I am delighted to see the expansion of the low interest loans initiative. The previous budget financed a similar Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme, the success of which was immense. Barely any of this fund remains indicating that there is a great appetite out there for low interest loans.

“I know from talking to local business owners that cashflow difficulties are a real concern after recent changes in the sterling exchange rate and commodity prices in certain sectors.

“SME’s are the backbone of our economy, critical to local communities as a source of employment and commerce. They are a major driving force of our rural economies and require support to mitigate against the uncertainty of Brexit.

“The Brexit Loan Scheme will help stimulate and stabilise economy and job creation for SME’s, enabling growth of more stable employment for Ireland as well as the long-term sustainability of our economy.”

10 October 2017

National strategy required for solar farm developments

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, is continuing to fight for national guidelines regarding the development of solar farms.

Senator Lombard said: “The last few years have seen huge increases in applications to build solar farms here in Ireland. It is worrying that no national strategy currently exists to ensure this industry develops in a sustainable manner.

“I have brought this issue to the attention of Seanad Eireann, and to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, and his Department a number of times.

“Last week I again brought a debate forward about creating a national strategy for solar farms, as I have been disappointed with the lack of progress towards what I believe is a very real concern.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: national planning guidelines required for solar farm development

“At the moment solar farm applications are being approved for sites next to substations due to proximity. This however is not taking into account other necessary factors and logistics.

“Issue such as proximity to housing, gradient of the site pertaining to water runoff, and appropriate elevation of the site regarding visual aesthetics, all affect the environment surrounding solar farms. These issues and more need to be assessed and accounted for in a national strategy that would guide appropriate planning and ensure the sustainability of the environment as well as the developing industry.

“Because there is no nation-wide focus to the development of this industry, we have an ad-hoc approach currently in place where each separate local authority makes different decisions based on their own geographical area.

“Developing solar farms is a national issue. There needs to be guidelines in place that enable a co-ordinated and sustainable, nation-wide development of this industry.

“When wind farms were first proposed in Ireland there was no framework to guide local authorities in planning their development, and the Government recognised the need to provide in this manner. The situation was assessed, guidelines designed and implemented, and now under review.

“Solar farms present the same challenge. Lacking a standard means that the industry will develop in a disorganised and unsustainable manner. I am hopeful that the need for national solar farm guidelines is soon recognised, assessed, and a strategy implemented.”

02 October 2017

Government supported website provides incredible photographs from the past

More than 10,000 historic pictures from Ireland’s past, including many from Cork, have been added to a folklore website, Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said.

“The new redesigned duchas.ie website and Photographic Collection was launched in Dublin last night (Tuesday). Roughly 10,000 photographs from the Collection have been digitized, catalogued and made available for the first time on the site.

“This is an incredible new resource for Cork and indeed wider Ireland. A large number of the photographs date from the early 20th century, providing a fascinating insight into our past.

Image from The Photographic Collection at Duchas.ie: The dwelling house, Rockchapel, Co. Cork

“The Collection contains photographs taken by professional photographers and by collectors working with the National Folklore Commission, amongst others, and are classified under 14 different topics including: festivals; holy wells; settlement; folklore collection; and games and pastimes.

Image from The Photographic Collection at Duchas.ie: farm implements, Knockadoon, Co. Cork

“Although it’s fair to say that there is a particular emphasis on country life, towns and cities were not neglected. The majority of urban photographs relate to Dublin, in particular to the folklore collection initiative which took place at the start of the 1980s, and contains an interesting record of the various aspects of life in the capital city.”

In addition to this, material from each of the 26 counties that took part in the Schools’ Scheme in 1937-39 is also available on the website. Meitheal Duchas.ie, a transcription project, began in Spring 2015 and is one of the most successful crowdsourced projects of its kind in the world. Some members of the Meitheal from Ireland, Canada and the United States were in attendance at the event yesterday.

Senator Lombard added: “Fine Gael places enormous importance on our national history and heritage and on the preservation of all our folklore and historic photographs. Putting all these resources online will allow people from Cork, to Donegal, to the Irish diaspora overseas to witness our past from their laptops and mobile devices.”

“This new version of the website will provide an additional perspective on Ireland’s rich and varied heritage with thousands of photographs from different times and places made easily available via the browsing facilities.

“This new collection will add to the value of duchas.ie as a digital heritage resource. For specialist researchers in the fields of folkloristics, local history, archaeology, genealogy, linguistics, and a range of other disciplines, the site offers considerable research potential.”

 

Notes:

The Dúchas project is the result of a partnership, beginning in 2012, between the National Folklore Collection in UCD, one of the largest folklore collections in the world, UCD Digital Library and Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge, the Irish-medium teaching and research unit in DCU.

The objective of the project is to digitise the National Folklore Collection and make it available to the public online. The project is co-funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with support from the National Lottery and by University College Dublin. The project has also benefitted from the financial support of the National Folklore Foundation.

27 September 2017

€1million for Cork’s Local Improvement Schemes

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, is pleased to announce the allocation of €1million for Local Improvement Schemes (LIS) here in Cork.

“LIS funding provides for the repair and improvement of small roads and laneways leading to local people’s homes and businesses that are not under the normal maintenance of the Local Authorities. The scheme will also support improvements in private roads that lead to public amenities such as beaches or lakes.

“I have been communicating with my Ministerial colleagues on the importance of the Local Improvement Schemes for people who live in rural Ireland in particular.

“The Government hasn’t been in a position to adequately fund the LIS’s for the last number of years, but we made a commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government that we would reinstate the scheme.

“I am delighted to now be in a positon to honour that commitment. The scheme will be funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and delivered through the Local Authority.

“For people who live in rural areas, like many here in Cork, road connectivity is hugely important.

“The ability of people to access their own premises, a farmyard or a neighbour’s house is compromised when roads are in a bad state of repair.  For emergency services, too, bad road surfaces can lead to delays in accessing sites and can damage their vehicles.

“An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar along with Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring have announced the Government is providing a total of €10 million to fund this scheme across the country.

“This will be combined with a small contribution from householders (10-15% of total costs) and Local Authorities, and will allow for the maintenance and improvement of many local roads all over Ireland.

“The re-introduction of the LIS is an important part of the delivery of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development.  One of the Pillars of the Action Plan focuses on improving rural infrastructure and connectivity.

“The Government’s vision for rural Ireland is very simple when it comes down to it – We want rural Ireland to be a better place in which to live and work by creating new opportunities, improving connectivity between rural and urban areas, and by protecting and enhancing services in the community.

“We want to offer the opportunity for young people to have access to good-quality jobs so that they can continue to live in rural Ireland if they so choose.  And the Action Plan for Rural Development provides the framework to achieve this.”

22 September 2017

€3,959,700 helping local families with back to school costs

31 August 2017

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has confirmed that some €3,959,700 in Government funding has been paid to help meet the back to school costs of 12,470 local families. The Back to School allowance is paid to parents to assist them in purchasing uniforms and footwear for the return to school this week.

Senator Tim Lombard said: “I am delighted with the announcement; it is encouraging to see so many families here in Cork taking up the initiative and benefitting from this funding.

“We parents face significant expenses at the start of every school year. The Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance is one of the single most effective ways for the Government to help our families manage school costs.

“This year some 194,000 children around the country will benefit from an increase to the payment of up to €50.

“Fine Gael is committed to ensuring that the Government offers a helping hand when it’s needed, to ensure everyone gets a fair chance and reaches their full potential.

“By helping parents with back to school costs, providing 2,800 extra teachers and 1,000 extra SNAs in our schools around the country, we will create a Republic of Opportunity and a brighter future for the children of Ireland.”

 

Notes:

  • The Back to School allowance was previously paid at a rate of €100 for children aged 4-11 and €200 for children aged 12-17.
  • From July 2017 onwards, it is paid at a rate of €125 for children aged 4-11 and €250 for children aged 12-17.
  • Almost €43 million has been paid nationally for this academic year.

31 August 2017

Farms are a workplace, not a playground

Senator Tim Lombard from Cork has said that farms should be treated as a workplace, not as playgrounds.

As a member of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee member Senator Lombard has urged all farmers to use the opportunities provided during Farm Safety Week 2017 to improve awareness and safety on their farms.

“We do not allow people to run amok on construction sites because it is too dangerous, and the same must apply for farms; they are a workplace with many potential hazards and should not be treated as a playground.

“It is careless and foolish to allow farms to be treated as such and farmers and visitors alike must take responsibility for personal safety when on a farm.

“Farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in Ireland. 21 people unfortunately lost their lives in farm accidents during 2016, and increase of 3 from 2015. This increase is especially distressing given that workplace fatalities fell by 21% across all sectors in 2016.

“These bleak statistics don’t even paint the full picture of the devastation a farm accident or fatality has for families, communities and businesses.

“To reduce these accidents there needs to be a greater focus on personnel safety in the farming sector; we must increase awareness of the dangers that exist and take time to minimise those risks, only then will we improve the safety of people working on or even visiting a farm.

“The annual Farm Safety Week is a great program which aims to reduce the number of farming accidents and fatalities through a number of initiatives. Many farm safety events are being held this week and I encourage farmers to take the time to participate in these educational opportunities.

“I would also encourage farmers to use this week as an opportunity to perform risk assessment of their farming operations and avail of the discounts available on safety equipment from retailers nationwide.

“Safety must be a fundamental component of the farming ethos. Even though there are many risks involved within the sector farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation, many accidents that occur are sadly preventable.

“This week isn’t just about raising safety awareness of people working on farms either. Anyone visiting a farm also needs to be made aware of the dangers associated with working farms.

“Farming is a huge part of our lifestyles and communities here in Cork. It is critical that we all take part in educating ourselves about the dangers posed by farming activity and thus improve the safety of our farming sector.”

More information on Farm Safety Week UK & Ireland can be found online at www.ifa.ie/farm-safety or follow @IFAmedia or #FarmSafetyWeek on Twitter.

25 July 2017

Huge Public response to the Affordable Childcare Campaign

Parents have been encouraged to inform themselves about childcare supports that will help them financially, and figures indicate a positive public response. Over 173,000 page visits were recorded last month to an information website – affordablechildcare.ie – which details the childcare supports available from September this year.

“I strongly encourage all parents in Cork who have not yet done so to log on to the website and get informed. While the figures show a fantastic response to the nationwide campaign, nearly two thirds of the people visiting the site come from the Dublin area.

Senator Lombard at the AffordableChildcare.ie launch

“The total spending on child care programmes this year is €466m, a 79% increase on figures in 2015, and I want to ensure that all eligible families here in Cork will benefit from such expenditure.

“At the start of the pre-school year up to 70,000 children nationwide will have extra supports, as negotiated in this year’s budget, with some children receiving childcare benefits up to €7,500.

“We are enhancing existing targeted childcare supports by as much as 50% and there will be improved access to subsidies for providers, with the traditional Community Childcare Scheme (CCS) being extended to both community and private providers.

“Families will benefit in two ways. Firstly, the changes will see a universal benefit for every child under 3-years old. Universal subsidies, of up to €1,040 per annum, which will be available for all children aged between 6 and 36 months in full time childcare.

“The second targeted support is based on income and also for those parents who have had to turn down jobs, training and education because they cannot afford childcare.

“This is the first big step but there is still much work to be done in this area. I am assured that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, is focused on the quality and accessibility of childcare here in Ireland, but also recognition for the workers who provide these services.

“Since first entering Government, Fine Gael has prioritised hard pressed working families; people who bore the brunt of the economic recession. A major part of this has been to reduce the cost of childcare for working parents. We introduced the free pre-school year, subsequently extending it to a second year, and it is estimated that the extended scheme provides an average saving of €4,000 per child.

“We also recently introduced paternity leave, so for the first time Irish Dads are now entitled to two weeks’ paid leave.

“I will continue working to ensure that parents across Cork can avail of high quality and affordable care for their children when they need it. An important step is knowing what childcare supports are available, so again I urge Cork parent to log on to the affordable childcare website and see what financial support is being offered.”

11 July 2017

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New low cost loan scheme will help Cork farmers deal with Brexit challenge

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said that a newly launched low cost loan scheme will be extremely beneficial for farmers in Cork, particularly to help them mitigate against the impact of Brexit. The ‘Agri Cashflow Support Loan Scheme’, which was developed in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), was launched by Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed today (Tuesday).

“My Fine Gael colleague, Minister Michael Creed, has launched the Government’s new low cost agriculture loan scheme. This is going to be really beneficial to farmers here in Cork who are looking for income stability in a period of price volatility due to Brexit. Cork farmers will be able to avail of low-cost interest rate loans of 2.95%, which represents excellent value compared to market rates.

“A major priority for Fine Gael in Government is to assist farmers in mitigating against the impact of Brexit. I know from talking to local farmers that some of them are experiencing cashflow difficulties due to recent changes in the sterling exchange rate, as well as lower commodity prices in certain sectors.

“Minister Creed has a ‘three pillar strategy’ in response to income volatility and pressures caused by the uncertainty around Brexit, including this low cost loan scheme, tax measures and farm payments.

“Cork farmers will be pleased to hear that as well as being good value, these loans will be flexible, with the possibility of optional interest only repayments at the start of the loan. Six year loan terms will be available.

“This loan scheme will allow farmers here in Cork to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, such as merchant credit or overdrafts, contributing to the ongoing financial sustainability of their farming enterprise.

“AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank will distribute the loans, making €150 million available to farmers throughout Ireland. This is supported by €25 million being provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, including €11 million in EU exceptional adjustment aid.”

31 January 2017