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.

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

New TAMS II measure will help tillage farmers to modernise and cut costs

The new and specialised Tillage Measure under TAMS II is going to help Cork tillage farmers to modernise and cut costs Cork Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said.

“The newly launched and specialised Tillage Measure, worth approximately €26 million, is the seventh of a suite of measures available to farmers under TAMS II. I know from talking to tillage farmers here in Cork that many of them were disadvantaged by the poor harvest last year. Minister Creed is all too aware of this thanks to the Tillage Stakeholder Forum.

“This new initiative includes capital investment measures which will support tillage farmers to use the most modern and efficient equipment and facilities. Specific areas of investment include Minimum Disturbance Tillage Equipment, Sprayers, Rain Water Harvesting, Grain Storage and Grain dryers.

“I encourage all Cork tillage farmers to examine the provisions of TAMS II and this new measure to improve efficiency and cut costs. Applications must be made on-line, either by the farmer or by their authorised Advisor. Further details are available at:

“The closing date for applications under the first tranche of the new measure will be Friday 30 June 2017.”

Note: the Targeted Modernisation Scheme (TAMS II) is part of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and is co-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

09 March 2017

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

Aid required for Grain Sector

The plight of the farming community has been a recurring issue brought up this year, one sector that really requires focus and support is the grain industry and our grain growers.

Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, said: “Over the past few years the grain sector in Ireland has been declining and unfortunately is now on the verge of collapse. A fourth year of bad weather, mediocre prices and reduced volume has been severely detrimental to the grain industry.

“We are looking at a situation from Cork to Donegal where grain has not been harvested, prices are as low as €135 per tonne, and moisture content is anything up to 30%. It is a massive issue for all those involved in the agriculture sector; the grain industry has always been an important sector for Irish agriculture and we cannot let it continue to slip through our fingers. We must act now, before Irish grain growers and our grain industry can no longer persevere.

“Last weekend I met with grain farmers from all around West Cork and all of them presented the same predicament. Years of struggle and adversity are paying its toll; grain farmers are at the end of their tether and they need assistance.

“During a debate in the Seanad last week I called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, to come to the Seanad and discuss this issue as I believe we need to go to Europe for an aid package that will help support and resuscitate Irish grain farmers and industry. A package of €11.2 million has been put in place for the livestock sector this year but none has thus far been allocated for the grain sector.

“There needs to be funding available for this collapsing industry. If aid is not forthcoming soon we will face a situation that the grain sector may not survive, and the resulting loss would be an awful shame for Ireland’s agricultural sector and our farming community.”

03 October 2016

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

Waiting list delays for Psychology Services needs to be addressed

The Primary Care Psychology Service in the Cork and Kerry Community Health Organisation (CHO) provides vital services for children, aged 18 and under, with social, emotional or behavioural problems. This is a critical service; mental health has a profound effect on an individual’s quality of life, physical and social well-being, as well as long-term economic productivity.

Cork based Senator Tim Lombard said: “It was recently brought to my attention that the wait times to receive Psychological Services in Cork are extremely long. The HSE confirmed that the current waiting period for assessment is 22 months.

“I was shocked, and deeply concerned by this news. 22 months is a huge period of time in the life of a child, and a very substantial portion of their development. An 8 year old child could be waiting a quarter of its lifetime just to be assessed; we’re not even talking about progression being made here, just waiting a quarter of a lifetime to receive an assessment.

“This is absolutely unacceptable. Research shows that early intervention is an essential factor in increasing likelihood of positive outcomes; the earlier an issue is understood and resolved the better the overall outcome, not just for the individual but the wider community.

“The current delays to receive vital psychological services cannot continue if we are to give our children the best possible start and a foundation for a positive future. If waiting list delays are not addressed soon there will be long-term effects on the wider community due to things such as reduced economic productivity and more complex and financial exhausting issues.

“I raised this issue in the Seanad this week, discussing the current 22 month delay for Psychology services in Cork and Kerry CHO with specific focus on the need to reduce wait times for said services.

Senator Lombard, Seanad Debate: waiting list delays need to be reduced

“I am happy with the response presented by the junior minister in the Department of Health who stated that there were current plans to recruit 4 full-time staff for the Cork and Kerry CHO. It was also confirmed that a number of actions are being undertaken in within the Psychology service to try and reduce the waiting list, including: drop-in clinics (so avoiding waiting list altogether), maximising the input of trainee psychologists, and facilitating group work and staff training as much as possible.

“These are welcome developments, it is good to see that the issue is known and attempts are being made to resolve it. I have also been advised that the Cork and Kerry CHO is currently reviewing the waiting lists for therapy services, psychology included, in order to identify any opportunities that exist to improve wait times.

“Proper funding is often an issue associated with providing the best service possible, so I hope that psychology services will be given due consideration in the upcoming budget so that the people of Cork, and the wider Irish community, can receive the service they not only require but deserve.

“Reducing wait times for therapy services is critical. I will raise this issue again in 2 months to see what progress has been made and ensure that we continue to make improvements with relation to psychology services.”

04 October 2016

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

Catch-up scheme needed for MenB vaccine

Fine Gael Cork Senator, Tim Lombard, has called for the Meningitis B vaccine programme, introduced in October 2016, to be back-dated to allow for a catch up scheme for all children.

“The Meningitis B vaccine programme introduced by my Fine Gael colleague and Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, in October last year was a great incentive for families to ensure their children are vaccinated. We are all aware of the dangers of Meningitis B and it is a critical investment in our future to immunise against it.

“This incentive was made available to children born from the time of its introduction in October 2016 onwards. Where this has occurred with previous vaccination programmes in the past, a backdated catch up scheme would sometimes be introduced at a later date, ensuring that children born before the scheme was introduced could also benefit.

“This is exactly what I am calling for in the case of the Meningitis B vaccine. While I understand the funds are not there to do it at the moment, I am hopeful it can be done as soon as possible and I will continue to push for the backdating of this scheme.

Senator Lombard debating in the Seanad about the need to back-date the catch up MenB scheme

“Contracting Meningococcal disease can be life threatening; 1 in 20 who contract it will die. There is an average of 170 cases of Meningitis B in Ireland per year and 10% of the survivors endure major disability, including amputations, loss of hearing and brain damage.

“The dangers are very real, but we are lucky to live in a time where medical assistance is available. Not only does early diagnosis and antibiotics ensure most people who contract the disease will make a full recovery, but better than that is that Meningitis B is preventable through vaccination.

“A recent case of a teenage death in Cork has highlighted the sadness and loss caused by this disease, and the fact it could have been prevented only intensifies the wretchedness of the situation.

“The Meningitis B vaccine has been shown to be very effective, providing great protection against contracting this particular strain of the disease. We have seen in other countries how an immunisation scheme, offered and run through the school systems, has reduced the rate of this particular meningococcal strain to a level where experts deem routine vaccination unnecessary. It was also noted that the epidemic waned faster than would have been expected if there had been no intervention.

“In Ireland, the HSE National Cold Chain Service has distributed 35,500 doses of the Men B vaccine to date. This is sufficient to vaccinate the children in the cohort born on or after the 1st October 2016, although the uptake figures are not yet available.

“While this immunisation programme is great step in safeguarding infant Ireland against infection, I believe it is essential that it be extended toward all Irish youth. There are two vulnerable age groups, the 0-5 and 13-18; these are the children that should receive vaccination first, after which we have to continue distribution to the 6-12 year olds.

“Additionally, my own research has found that the current average cost of this vaccination (for those outside the parameters of the free immunisation scheme) is, on average, €150 per shot. This is a huge financial burden for parents, especially when considering that children over 9 months receive 2 shots and those under 9 months require 3.

“I believe a catchup scheme should be introduced to help alleviate the cost of protecting our children against infectious and life-threatening diseases. Not only is it financially supportive for parents and families, but this Men B vaccine is a crucial for the future health of our children.”

10 March 2017

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

Legislative support for our vital Coast Guard Services

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, raised the issue in the Seanad today of the lack of legislation regarding Coast Guard Services in Ireland.

“The Irish Coast Guard Service is an invaluable and essential emergency service for our island nation. Each year its 950 volunteers manage roughly 2,500 marine emergencies and assist other primary response agencies with nearly 4,500 treacherous situations. The highly trained Coast Guards volunteer an average of 10,000 combined man hours every year and the work they do is critical for the livelihoods of all Irish people as well as the visitors to our shores.

“There is a growing concern that this primary response agency is not legislated for in an effective and meaningful way. Along with the fire service, ambulance service and the Garda the Coast Guard Service is one of our four emergency services assisting in precarious situations, however the Coast Guard Service is the only primary response agency not legislated for in this State.

“I have recently spoken to Coast Guard volunteers throughout Cork who are concerned that decisions about their operations are currently being made by a Department that has no direct involvement with their service. This means that the Coast Guard Service do not receive suitable or substantial support from the Government consequently leaving this organisation of highly trained volunteers unable to reach its full potential.

“Concerns pertaining to the lack of management officials have also been raised. Currently there are only three sector managers for the entire country. Three people responsible for overseeing operations of all coastal units is totally insufficient to maintain consistent and effective services. Legislation needs to be introduced and funding provided to enable a command structure from experienced and qualified Coast Guard personnel that will provide practical support for this service.

“The implications of legislating a volunteer service need to be thoroughly deliberated and I have called on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, to come into the Seanad and debate this issue. We need to establish a legislative framework and funding model that will safeguard our vital Coast Guard Service.

“Due to the critical nature of the service provided we need to see immediate action on this issue. Going forward, in order for the Coast Guard Services to function efficiently they need to be afforded the same legal footing as other emergency services.”

09 November 2016

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National Task Force required to deal with Japanese Knotweed

Senator Tim Lombard has called for a national task force to deal with the invasive plants currently causing problems in Ireland.

“Invasive plants, in particular Japanese Knotweed, have become very prevalent in Ireland over the last few years. It is presently a substantial financial and labour-intensive burden that will continue to endure and will only accrue a much larger future obligation if not dealt with now.

“To give an international example of the cost involved, £70 million was required to clear Japanese Knotweed from the Olympic village site in London 2012. Appreciating the magnitude of the issue, the UK today has allocated a national budget of £5 billion per year towards addressing this problem.

“Local authorities in Ireland have struggled to deal with the issue of Japanese Knotweed because the current strategy of all state agencies working individually is not extensive enough to eradicate such invasive plants. A local social housing project, which has the potential to deliver 56 housing units in Beechgrove Clonakilty, has been delayed because invasive plant eradication works are required on site. The resulting financial consequence is high. The estimated cost of construction for the Clonakilty housing project is €8.7 million, which will only increase due to these eradication delays. To save the future cost, which will only increase incrementally the longer it is left, action must be taken now.

“The responsibility of dealing with invasive plants comes under the Department of Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht and this issue needs to be dealt with directly by the Department of Environment, which would have the ability to coordinate the local authorities, the NRA, the Inland Fisheries, and Iarnród Éireann in a national task force.

“To gain an understanding of the magnitude of this issue, all local authorities should carry out a survey on all their lands to record the prevalence of invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed. Once the size of the undertaking is known, a national strategy can be put in place to eradicate this issue so that crucial infrastructure projects, such as the Clonakilty housing project, are not delayed in future.”

09 August 2016

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

Action Plan for Education to tackle disadvantage

Cork based Fine Gael Senator, Tim Lombard, has said that the Action Plan for Education 2017 is going to promote wellbeing in schools as well as tackling educational disadvantage across Cork and wider Ireland.

“The Action Plan for Education initiated by my Fine Gael colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, is designed to ensure that we have the best education service in Europe within the decade.

“The 2017 version of the Action Plan contains over 400 actions and sub actions, with a strong focus on helping children who may be vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage.

“For example, the 2017 Plan is going to improve the lives of children all over Cork by promoting wellbeing in schools. Every school will be required to have dedicated guidance counselling time available for students and we are appointing an additional 10 NEPs psychologists across the country.

“Schools will also have to establish a wellbeing steering committee to develop a policy statement in this area and identify gaps in existing services.

“Every school will be required to implement the Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme which contains guidelines for making wellbeing a whole school endeavour.

“Minister Bruton has announced that he is very shortly going to publish a Plan for future supports to tackle educational disadvantage. This will build on existing DEIS supports, with new schools being phased into DEIS from next September.

“In the area of Special Educational Needs, we are introducing a new model for the allocation of teachers in mainstream schools to support children, we are establishing a new Inclusion Support Service for schools and we will complete a comprehensive assessment of the Special Needs Assistants (SNA) scheme.

“The 2017 Action Plan for Education also contains lots of great initiatives to equip Cork children for the world we live in today and for the future workforce. This includes a real focus on technology and skills in education.

“For example the implementation of computer science as a Leaving Cert subject is being brought forward 12 months to September 2018 and we are developing a curriculum for computational thinking and coding at primary level.

“Thirteen new apprenticeships and 2 new traineeships are being developed in 2017 and there is going to be a review of work experience at post-primary level. A new foreign language strategy will also help equip our young people for the modern workforce.

“Our time in Government shows that Fine Gael has a strong record on protecting and promoting the rights of children. Achieving excellence in education is a key part of that. Budget 2017 secured an extra €458 million in funding for education, making it the third highest education budget in history.

“This marked the start of a major programme of reinvestment in education, from which children all across Cork will benefit. The 2017 Action Plan for Education is an important step on the road to ensuring Ireland has the best education system in Europe.”

06 January 2017

27th March 2017 Comments are off admin_exsite

A new website will raise public alcohol awareness as well as help people to manage their drinking habits and improve their health and well-being. Cork based Senator, Tim Lombard, said the new website will help people assess their relationship with alcohol and provide detailed information on how excessive alcohol use impacts on physical and mental health.

“This website and the associated HSE campaign will play an important role in providing public health information on alcohol. One of the features of the website is a drinks calculator, which can help people assess their habits and make more informed choices about their own drinking.

“There is valuable information on the impact of alcohol on weight, fitness and mental health, as well as a guide on where to get help if you need it. The website also has a dedicated section for parents with information on how to help your child stay safe and be smart about drinking.

“In Ireland our alcohol consumption levels are high and binge drinking is commonplace, a pattern which is causing significant harm to individuals, their families and society. Education and awareness are key components of fashioning an accurate perspective on healthy vs unhealthy drinking habits. I would encourage everyone in Cork to have a look online; it will help those looking to manage their on drinking, but also inform all of us about the effects of alcohol on public health. The website will also be a useful resource for health services workers and those working in the field locally.

“My colleague, Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, will further address our need to reduce our alcohol intake as a nation through the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. While there are still a few details to be ironed out, this legislation is revolutionary and necessary on so many levels.

“The Bill provides for minimum unit pricing to eliminate very cheap alcohol from stores; health labelling on alcohol products to inform consumers; separation in stores to restrict location and visibility; restrictions on advertising and marketing; regulation of sponsorship and regulation of the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol products.

“I hope people in Cork, and our wider communities, will avail of the website so we can all educate ourselves about alcohol consumption and work together as a nation to address the unhealthy culture that has developed around alcohol consumption here in Ireland.”

07 March 2017