€200 Million PPP Investment Programme Announced for Institutes of Technology

“I am delighted that the PPP programme we are announcing today will provide eleven new state of the art buildings and that it will have such a strong focus on supporting regional development.

“The projects announced today will be focused on the Institute of Technology sector. The sector that is key to our dual aims of increasing access to education and ensuring we are producing graduates that are fit for purpose in a changing economy.

“Institutes of Technology have been disproportionately affected by the fall-off in capital investment in higher education over the past decade. And yet they have still shown a level of flexibility and innovation that rivals any other sector. In recent times the infrastructure hasn’t evolved or improved quickly enough to match their dynamism. We’re starting the process of changing that today. Today’s investment will help cater for new approaches that promote innovation and make use of the latest technologies.

“Many of our Institutes are working towards the attainment of Technological University status and the new infrastructure will support them in that aim.
“The move towards Technological Universities is a game changer for the sector. It’s a significant, welcome structural change. And is an example of the kind of vision and big thinking we need to progress our society.

“Technological Universities will provide the opportunity to drive regional development, provide more opportunities for students, and create a step change in the impact and influence of these institutions regionally, nationally and internationally. My intention is to progress the legislation as quickly as possible. Because it’s essential that we make rapid progress on this issue.
“The projects announced today will address a diversity of skills areas. A majority of new student places will be generated in critical STEM areas but we are also responding to wider skills needs in the economy, with support for digital media and design provision, culinary arts, and teaching and collaborative work space that is purpose-built for the teaching and learning needs of today. The buildings will also allow Institutions to expand their flexible and blended learning provision, with scope for online learning delivery.”

A full list of projects to be included in the PPP Programme is as follows:

Athlone Institute of Technology
STEM Building
Cork Institute of Technology
Learning Resource Centre
Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire
Digital Media Building
Galway Mayo Institute of Technology
STEM Building
IT Blanchardstown
Phase 2 Teaching Block
IT Carlow
Science Building
IT Tallaght
Phase 2 Campus Development
IT Tralee
STEM Building, North Campus
Letterkenny Institute of Technology
Library, IT and Teaching Building
Limerick Institute of Technology
Applied Science and IT Building
Waterford Institute of Technology
Engineering, Computing and General Teaching Building

The 11 projects will be procured on behalf of the Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education and Skills by the National Development Finance Agency.
While the intended location and skills focus of projects today is being announced today, it should be noted that all proposals will be the subject of ongoing technical appraisal and economic analysis to ensure value for money is achieved. This process will inform the final scale and scope of each project, which will be approved and announced prior to procurement.

The projects have been selected for inclusion in the Programme following a detailed assessment undertaken by the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which took account of factors such as projected enrolments, capacity to deliver on skills requirements, the potential to contribute to regional development, and an economic analysis of the costs and benefits. The relevant circumstances of each institution and the objective of achieving maximum impact from the limited capital envelope were also key considerations.

In the next stage of the process, the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) will procure technical advisers on behalf of the Department to bring the projects through planning and to procurement stage. It should be noted that value for money aspects will continue to be monitored as projects are progressed, including updating economic appraisals where necessary, and undergoing the value for money tests that form part of PPP assessment. A project may be removed from the Programme if value for money requirements are not met.

The total floor area in new infrastructure to be delivered through the PPP programme will be over 70,000m2. The floor area of each building will be confirmed as part of the detailed technical design process, review of Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBAs), and engagement with each Institute of Technology. Costs for each building will not be announced as is the norm in such a PPP procurement process. The total capital envelope for the programme amounts to approximately €200 million ex VAT.

The projects will facilitate an additional 8,000 new student places. These will be created primarily through the provision of new accommodation in the PPP buildings. However, in many cases, the provision of these buildings will free up space in existing buildings and allow for new student places there. It should also be noted that the new PPP buildings will also provide upgraded accommodation for existing students.

The following is a summary description of each of the eleven projects being announced today:
Athlone Institute of Technology
Athlone Institute of Technology is aiming to develop a new STEM facility which will include science labs, lecture theatres, classrooms and other facilities.
Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
As part of its campus Masterplan, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown is aiming to expand its general teaching facilities to support growth in student numbers across a range of disciplines.
Institute of Technology Carlow
The project in Institute of Technology Carlow would provide additional space for STEM provision, in particular science.
Cork Institute of Technology
The proposed project is the construction of a Learning Resource Centre which would accommodate learning, study, exhibition, engagement and entrepreneurial space. It would allow CIT to increase capacity across STEM, business and humanities subjects.
Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire.
The proposed project is the construction of a Digital Media Building which will house the animation and visual design communications labs, with capacity also for growth in courses in creative computing, entrepreneurship and creative technologies.
Galway Mayo Institute of Technology
GMIT has proposed the construction of a new STEM building, which would include labs, multi-purpose rooms, lab support rooms, seminar rooms and classrooms.
Limerick Institute of Technology
The proposed project is the construction of a new Applied Science & IT building on the LIT Moylish campus. The building would accommodate science labs, flat teaching facilities, computer labs, tutorial rooms, breakout and meeting spaces.
Letterkenny Institute of Technology
The project proposed is the construction of a Library and General Education Building which will accommodate a learning resource centre, IT and innovation laboratories, online learning delivery rooms and classrooms.
Institute of Technology Tallaght
The project proposed by IT Tallaght includes a technical development centre (i.e. practice based learning facilities for engineering and science courses); facilities for the culinary arts; and new classrooms and computer labs.
Institute of Technology Tralee
The proposed project is the construction of a building to accommodate the STEM School of IT Tralee. The STEM building would be located at the Institute’s north Campus at Dromtacker.
Waterford Institute of Technology
The project would consist of the construction of a new Engineering, Computing and General Teaching Building at WIT’s Cork Road Campus. It would provide for the consolidation of a number of faculties in one space and generate efficiencies in that respect.

Note on Public Private Partnerships
A Public Private Partnership or a PPP is a contract between a public sector contracting authority and a private sector company (PPP Co.) for the provision of public works and/or services. Typically the State procures buildings under the form of an “availability based” PPP contract whereby the PPP Co. is responsible for the design, build, finance and maintenance of public buildings and facilities on land provided by the State.

In exchange for this, the State pays a “monthly availability payment”. The duration of the services phase of a PPP contract (and monthly availability payment) is typically 25 years. The State payment of the monthly availability payment is dependent on the building and facilities being maintained to an acceptable standard and the satisfactory provision of associated services by the PPP Co.

The Department of Education and Skills has also used PPPs for the delivery of schools infrastructure. There are currently 27 operational PPP schools, 6 PPP schools under construction and two operational PPP higher education buildings as well as one in the procurement phase. 

Budget 2018 and Higher Education

After a relatively short time in the Department of Education, I am delighted to be able to announce a comprehensive major new investment in current and capital spending on 3rd Level education.

This includes a significant increase in capital investment in Higher Education over the remaining period of the Capital Plan.

The Exchequer envelope over the period 2018-2021 will be increased from €110m to €367 million.

This is in addition to the €200m worth of projects which are being selected to progress as part of a Public Private Partnership Programme for the higher education sector.

These combined investments will now put us in a position to make real and substantial progress in addressing the infrastructure deficits in the sector – expanding capacity in areas of key skill needs, driving regional development, orienting for demographic growth, and ensuring that core campus infrastructure is fit for purpose.

“The new investment will also support the development of Technological Universities across the country. It is my intention to have this Bill passed by Christmas and the first applications for designation will follow the enactment of the Technological Universities Bill.

I am delighted that we are responding to the increasing demographics and are providing an additional 2100 student places in higher education. The opportunity now exists for more students to avail of further education.

Throughout my career, I have been a strong advocate of opening up our Third Level institutions for students from disadvantaged communities and we are continuing to invest in broadening access to higher education. We are providing an additional €4m for access measures in 2018. This complements the €8.5m that was provided in 2017 and which will be provided again in 2018. It also complements the funding of €450m that is provided on an annual basis by the Department for access measures including the student grant scheme.

On the reform of the National Training Fund reform it is my intention to continue constructive dialogue with employer representatives to ensure the closest possible alignment of their needs and programmes run under the Department of Education.I am also providing funding to support greater gender equality in the sector and the forthcoming work of the Gender Taskforce.”

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) demonstration

Statement by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor

Wednesday 4th Oct, 2017

In response to the demonstration today by the USI, the Minister of State, with responsibility for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has said

“I understand the students concerns as a politician and the Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education around funding and quality in education.

This is a very important sector. The Government is aware we need to fund our third level institutions so we produce thoughtful, inspired graduates to enrich our growth as a society.   We have to ensure job-ready graduates to assist in our continuous growth as a country.  

The Government must look at long term sustainable funding streams to make sure that our universities and our Institutes of Technology continue to excel and be world class.  

The students and their families have my assurance that we are looking at all funding options outlined in the Cassells’ report and that this Government has not made any decisions on deferred funding or otherwise.  

I am adamant there will be no undue financial pressure placed on parents and students.   We simply do not want our students graduating burdened with the kind of debts that we have seen in other countries.   

We are awaiting the report from the Cross Party Education Committee on the Cassells’ report.  Once we have that report, I will bring it to cabinet and will make it one of my top priorities to ensure that there is a fair outcome for students and their parents”

Minister Bruton and Minister Mitchell O’Connor Announce New Fund to Increase Collaboration with Global Universities

€500,000 available through new programme to promote collaboration between Ireland and our global partners

Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Richard Bruton T.D. and Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today launched ‘The International Academic Mobility Programme’. The new Programme, which will be managed by the Higher Education Authority will fund activities that lead to collaborative activity between Irish universities and global institutions in high potential markets.

A fund of €500,000 has been dedicated to the programme, giving an estimated 100-150 academics from universities, Institutes of Technology and colleges here in Ireland the opportunity to travel to and collaborate with key strategic partner institutions across the world.

It is open to teaching, technical, management and administrative personnel from eligible institutions to apply to the programme. The HEA will now run an open, competitive call for proposals with a view to making awards by the end of 2017.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD commented “I’m delighted to launch this new programme which will support more strategic collaboration between Irish universities and our global partners. Working closely with international institutions is key to the success of our higher education sector, especially in light of Brexit, and the other global challenges and uncertainties we face. This programme will be in addition to supports already available under the Erasmus+ initiative that facilitate, for example, student exchange and partnerships between higher education institutions”.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor was also delighted to point out that “This new Academic Mobility Programme is the latest in a number of strategic actions driven by my Department, in conjunction with the international education sector here, to implement the strategic vision set out in the Government’s International Education Strategy.  It follows on from the implementation of a trebling of the number of Government of Ireland Scholarships for international students, the introduction of a 24-month stayback permission scheme for post-graduate international students and the provision of greater supports by Government to assist with the diversification of international education markets.  This also further supports Ireland’s higher education sector as it prepares for the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.”

Speech at the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Chamber County Business Awards Thursday 28 September

Cathaoirleach, Pat Neill, fellow TDs, Senators and Councillors, ladies and gentlemen: good evening! I am so thrilled to be here at the inaugural County Business Awards in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

It’s recognition of the huge contribution business makes to the vibrancy of the county and the well-being of those who live in it. The categories of award cover almost every conceivable type of business: from start up to green business. From international trade to small retailer.  And of course a top award to the Business Leader of the year.

The eclectic mix is eye catching. It reflects the wide range of business in the County.  Whether it is global multinationals in the Sandyford Business District, restaurants and pubs in Monkstown and Dalkey, or retailing in Dundrum and Dun Laoghaire the blend is alluring and attractive.

You all make a valuable contribution:

– fulfilling consumers’ expectations,

– creating worthwhile jobs and wealth,

– paying taxes,

– being good corporate citizens.

You are building a better Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

 

At Government level we are working to build a better Ireland in which the businesses, families and citizens of this County can flourish and prosper.

Look at jobs. There are now 2,063,000 people at work in Ireland. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.1 per cent; the lowest it has been since 2008. All those people at work in our County are supporting local businesses, large and small.

Most of you here are in business. As you know, my colleague Paschal Donohoe will announce Budget 2018 in twelve days. His first principle is to balance our books to keep Ireland secure in a risky world. That means paying our way and cutting borrowing, so that we can be better prepared for the uncertain future we face.

Brexit is the greatest economic challenge ahead and brings huge levels of risk and uncertainty. The challenge for the Government is to respond to uncertainty by bringing as much certainty as we can. Paschal is fond of quoting the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who said “Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone”. And so we need to take action. Action to prepare for the likely and unlikely outcomes of Brexit negotiations.

We need to continue to invest in and support the work of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and our Local Enterprise Offices. We need to protect our 12.5% corporate tax rate from the renewed pressure at European level.  (That’s a red line issue for anyone who is serious about Ireland’s future on the international stage.)And we need to invest to ensure that our transport links to mainland Europe are fit for purpose for a post Brexit landscape.

On the supply side, we have to agree on how to use our recovery to invest in the change and the supports we need for better opportunities for all. That means investing taxpayers’ money carefully and with continued reform to deliver the best capital projects, services and targeted income supports. Budget 2018 will be fair and prudent. Never again will be gamble on the nation’s future.

Our challenge is to deliver more for vital infrastructure: housing, roads, energy and water. In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, an example is upgrading the nearly 150 year old reservoir in Stillorgan which serves 200,000 people.

Or to deliver better health services, faster broadband and a more efficient public transport system. Locally, an example is more orbital bus routes around Dun Laoghaire, and more DART trains running. 

And to deliver on our promise of more housing, both social and private. That’s more affordable housing for people who want to settle down. People who want to raise families, work or return to Ireland. This week a major planning application was lodged for the new town soon to emerge at Cherrywood with 8,000 homes for 30,000 people.

As Minister for Higher Education, I am particularly focused on capital investment. Budget 2018 will allocate an additional €4.1 billion for capital investment over the next four years. The Government will be publishing a ten year capital plan for Ireland soon after the Budget. That has implications for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and the entire country.

Locally, I am confident that the Chamber, its members and the Council will play their part in delivering a better life for all.

In particular, I want to finish by once more saluting our winners here this evening. You will play a special role in realising locally what our long-term national vision will aspire to. I congratulate you and wish you continued success.

Thank you.

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

Minister of State, Mary Mitchell O’Connor hosted a “Returners” event in the LexIcon Library, in Dun Laoghaire on Monday 25th of September.

Speakers were invited to give advice to over 100 attendees on how to make the job market work for them.

The panel included Margot Slattery, Margot is Country President of the Irish operations of food and facilities management company Sodexo. Globally Sodexo employs 430,000 people and has a work force of 3,800 in Ireland of which 59% are female. Margot is an industry leader in diversity, inclusion and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk from Harvest Financials covered the subject of women and their pensions and how to prepare for retirement having taken time out of the work force to rear children, care for elderly relatives or due to illness.

Alan McGrath from the Higher Education Authority spoke on the courses and opportunities available to everyone to up-skill and re-skill and cited Springboard+ as being an invaluable resource to help you re-enter the work place fully skilled and equipped to face all the modern day challenges.

Alan was followed by Elaine Russell who has recently set up the Irish division of a UK franchise called Women Returners.ie. A website packed full of invaluable information on companies and industry who are keen to recruit females who want to return to work.

Paula King psychologist and coach, and CEO of Kingstown College challenged the audience to overcome confidence issues and how not to allow personal barriers stop you from challenging yourself to embark on a new career or return to a previous one.

Finally the last speaker was Ailish McGlew who returned to work after taking some time out to rear her three small children. Ailish spoke from the heart on how to make returning to the work force work for you and your family.

On the night the Minister said “As we reach full employment at a faster pace than envisioned in the programme of Government and Enterprise we have to ensure there is sufficient labour force with the right skills”

The Minister challenged her guest speakers to illuminate the route back to work for many of the attendees who had a desire to return to the work place after various extended breaks in their CVs.

Most of the local colleges and Institutes had sent representatives and a number of recruitment companies attended hoping to meet potential candidates.

At the end of the event the Minister thanked her guest speakers and the audience who took part in a lively and entertaining Q&A and said “I think we also need to encourage and facilitate employers to view ‘returners’ in a positive light. They have the ability to strengthen their skills base and have the ability to address their talent constraints”

Speech on the Launch of QQI cycle of reviews

Good afternoon.

 Francis Bacon wrote in the Advancement of Learning, Book 1,

 …if we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties”

With that in mind I am delighted to be here today to launch this first review cycle for higher education institutions, the CINNTE review cycle.

 QQI have a crucial role to play in our national higher education infrastructure. They are the national regulator for quality and quality assurance. The organisation has now been in existence for 5 years. During that time it has evolved from an organisation that inherited policies and procedures from its 4 predecessor bodies into a forward looking organisation with its own way of doing things based on its own ethos.  That has been no mean feat and I would like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone in QQI for their efforts in this regard.

 This is a challenging time for the higher education sector. We have seen funding decline since 2008 at a time when student numbers have risen considerably. These demographic trends are set to continue well into the future. This has led to concerns about the impact of quality in higher education. QQI itself recently suggested that quality was at a tipping point and that investment in the sector was urgently required. This was the same conclusion that was reached by the expert group on future funding which reported in 2016.

As Minister for Higher Education I am pleased that the Government signaled its intent in this regard in the last budget. The Department secured an additional €36.5m in Budget 2017 for higher education. That was the first increase in higher education expenditure in almost a decade. I would like to invest further in higher education through Budget 2018. Those discussions are ongoing.

The review cycle that is being launched today has a crucial role to play in contributing to quality in higher education. It is our window into what happens inside our higher education institutions. It allows us to see in a very transparent way the manner in which quality assurance is supported and enhanced in the sector.

 I am particularly interested in enhancement. We need to support and maintain quality. But it is equally if not more important to strive to improve quality.That is the challenge that QQI are setting for our higher education institutions. Institutions have an opportunity, through the review process, to showcase their examples of quality enhancement. These examples can then be shared as best practice through the publication and dissemination of the review reports. The review process is underpinned by some very important principles that are at the heart of QQI’s approach to quality assurance. I would like to highlight five in particular:

Firstly:

  • Institutional autonomy:

 Quality is the responsibility of each higher education institution in the first instance. This is an important principle and it means that everyone in an institution has a responsibility to make quality their business.

 The second one I want to highlight is

  • Transparency:

The fact that the review reports are published is an important means of promoting transparency. It also allows my Department, students, and the wider public to have confidence in the public investment that is being made in our institutions.

 Thirdly: 

  • Student involvement:

 QQI have been very active in ensuring that the student voice is recognized and reflected in their work. The involvement of student representatives in the review process is a very welcome development. Students should be at the centre of everything we are trying to achieve in higher education.

 Fourthly:

  • International context:

 The fact that the review teams will be appointed to conduct reviews will comprise international experts is very important. We can learn a lot from our international peers as well as sharing our best practice with them. This international dimension also provides added assurances about the independence of the review process.

And finally:

Administrative impact: I know that QQI are very conscious about the potential administrative impact of their work on institutions.

The potential for ‘review fatigue’ was a clear message that emerged from the ‘review of reviews’ that was conducted by QQI in 2014. QQI are working closely with the HEA in particular to ensure that their regulatory activities are planned to complement one another so that the impact on institutions is minimized as much as possible.

I think that ensuring that these principles are at the heart of the new review process      will contribute in a significant way to its future success.

I would just like to finish by acknowledging that my Department is working closely     with QQI in drafting the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance Bill. This new Bill will provide QQI with new regulatory powers and will facilitate the introduction of the International Education Mark.

These future legislative developments will complement the work that QQI is       currently doing in relation to its new cycle of reviews and in other important areas.

 I would like to thank QQI and Dr Pádraig Walsh for the opportunity to be here today to launch CINNTE and I wish you every success for the future.

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

 

If you are currently out of work, at home or on an extended career break – and you are feeling intimidated at the prospect of returning to work or your career, then this event is for you.

I invite you to meet some of our country’s brightest and inspiring experts: You will garner important information on how to prepare yourself for this, sometimes daunting, step.

Speakers include:

Margot Slattery, Country President, Sodexo Ireland – Describing herself as a ‘worker’, Margot has quietly championed inclusion and equality in the workplace and made Sodexo an industry leader in, their term, ‘quality of life services’ – Leading the way in new and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk, Head of Development and Marketing, Harvest Financial – Emer specialises in the area of advice on pensions and retirement planning. She is an associate of the Institute of Taxation and co-founder of Connect Women in Pensions, a network that supoprts the importance of retirement planning for women.

Elaine Russell, Head of Women Returners in Ireland. Having spent over 20 years leading commercial teams in large multinationals. Elaine specialises in career coaching and supports women to rebuild their professional confidence, play to their strengths and successfully integrate work into their lives.

Our panel also includes industry experts in higher education, retraining, upskilling as well as actual returners, who have successfully navigated their way back to work.

Tickets for the event are free but limited, so please take a moment to book your place asap. Tickets can be booked here

Please share the event with any friends and family you think might benefit from attending.

Best,

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD
Minister of State for Higher Education

 

Opening Address: Trinity College Dublin – THE NEW ACADEMIC TRACK FOR INTERNSHIPS

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor being greeted by the Provost Dr. Prendergast, Prof Hennessy and Prof Gill at the launch of the National Academic Track for Internship, TCD, Dublin. Photo: David Coleman

Distinguished Academics and HSE representatives. And to the new head of the Trinity School of Medicine, Prof Michael Gill.

I am truly delighted to be invited here this morning, to meet with you all as you embark on one of the most exciting developments in Irish medicine and innovation. And especially on the morning that this esteemed campus is named as one of the most beautiful on the planet! Congratulations!

As a mother, having lived, first hand, through the blood, sweat, tears and commitment that a trainee doctor needs to apply to their medical qualification I commend you all on your huge achievement – Being selected as the inaugural group of 24 junior doctors to undertake the first of its kind in Ireland, The Academic Track for Internship.

I know you started your programme in July and I hope you have settled in and are relishing the challenge that lies in front of you. This is the first step on your career path from academic intern to a consultant clinician scientist. Exciting.

On reading some of your testimonials where you recount your areas of research, I was inspired and heartened that the future of our healthcare system will benefit from your innovations and the discoveries your research will bring.

As the first class of the The Academic Track for Internship, it was inspiring to read that approximately a third of you expressed an interest in undertaking the innovative pathway. You will lead the charge in enabling Ireland to remain one of the top innovation nations in the world.

It is a great opportunity for all of you to gain valuable experience in either clinical research, further medical education or in leadership and healthcare management.

You, as the chosen 24 interns, will make valuable connections with clinical researchers, academic and healthcare leaders that might not have otherwise happened until much later in your career.

I am sure many of you would have sought our similar programmes in the UK or further afield, so I am delighted as the Minister for State with responsibility for Higher Education to be able to facilitate your academic career in Ireland. Retaining medical talent in Ireland helps us address the skills shortage in academic medicine. 

As you are aware, Health Research is critical in providing essential information to government and policymakers. Health research is an investment in our future and it ensures a better health system and a better health outcomes.

Health research provides us with the evidence to address key societal challenges – such as an ageing population and the increases in chronic diseases. Research activity attracts and retains high-quality health professionals in the system. With global shortages in all areas of medicine and patient care, we need a vibrant research-active system to attract and retain skilled personnel.

The HSE is investing €250,000 in this programme. NDTP hopes that the availability of the academic track internships in Ireland will contribute to the retention of medical graduates of Irish medical schools who have academic as well as clinical ambitions. Furthermore, this initiative provides an early and dedicated focus on research skills among doctors.

I sincerely hope that many of you will go on to undertake further and more sizeable academic research during your careers and work as academic clinicians and that we all will be reading about you and your medical advancements in the years to come.

Brexit is set to have a significant impact on higher education in Ireland and the long term effects of it on the research landscape both in Europe and Ireland are not yet clear. Every year a considerable number of Irish medical students leave the country on graduation.

I see this development within the School of Medicine in Trinity College Dublin as an advancement to mitigate against any negative effects of Brexit and undoubtedly will strengthen the opportunities for Medicine undergraduates and postgraduates.

It is imperative that the Government does everything within its power to ensure opportunities exist for our future academic clinicians that keeps Ireland at the forefront of medical innovations.

I believe the future of clinical research in the country will be in safe hands, your hands. Programmes such as this are the perfect way to harness your exceptional abilities to benefit all our inhabitants. I have no doubt that patients both here in Ireland, and globally will thank you for your dedication in years to come.

I want to reiterate Prof Martina Hennessey’s remark, you are the stars. Go forth and shine in the field of medicine. I wish you every success during your internship and look forward to hearing and reading about you in the future.

Thank you.

HSE review of autism services open for submissions

ASD affects many adults and children across the constituency. I want to encourage people with autism spectrum disorder, parents and clinicians to make submissions to a HSE review of autism supports and services. I want to ensure that people with ASD in Dun Laoghaire have access to the necessary supports to enable them to reach their full potential and live rich and fulfilling lives.

I recognise the need for a strategic approach to enhancing the responsiveness and effectiveness of local services to meet the evolving needs of people with ASD.

Following feedback from the constituency, I have been in constant communication with my Cabinet colleague, Minister for Health Simon Harris, highlighting the need for such a review. The HSE has set up a working group to consider the effectiveness of existing services, to identify models of good practice among such services and to identify practice models that are not having a positive impact.

It is important that we identify where in the country services are operating well and where they are not. The HSE has now invited submissions from service users, parents and practitioners and I want to encourage people to take the opportunity to have their voices heard.

“Three workshops will also be held in September with key advocates and NGOs: Disability Federation of Ireland; the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and Inclusion Ireland and the working group will report on its findings by the end of September.

The Department of Health will initiate an epidemiological research study into the prevalence and future projections for autism spectrum disorder later this year to allow us to plan for the future and future-proof our strategies for people with autism.

Following the advancement of this work, the Minister has told me he intends to proceed next year with a national strategy for enhancing the health service response to people with ASD.

Further information on the review, including how to make your submission, can be found here 

The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2017.