Deputy Mitchell O’Connor welcomes Sky jobs boost

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Tuesday) welcomed the announcement that 800 jobs are to be created in Dublin by the digital TV provider Sky. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor has been liaising with Cabinet ministers in recent months in relation to the announcement.

“This is a hugely welcome boost for Dublin, and will have significant positive benefits for the entire south side of the city. The 800 positions will come on stream over the next two years at Burlington Plaza, where Sky is opening its new customer service centre.

“I’ve been aware that this investment could be in the pipeline for some time, and I have been liaising with Cabinet ministers on the issue. It is fantastic news that the project is coming to fruition, and I would like to compliment the IDA on its work in securing the jobs for the city.

“This announcement is the positive news that many people have been waiting for, and it should help to get hundreds of skilled professionals off the Live Register. The jobs will consist of a wide variety of positions including customer service managers, advisor roles, training, coaching and HR.

“As well as providing new career opportunities to 800 people, this investment will have a significant knock-on positive benefit for the area, particularly for local small businesses.

“BSkyB, Sky’s parent company, is a major global brand. It is testament to the strength of the Irish offering that we are continuing to attract such high profile multinational companies to our shores. Announcements such as this one help to underline our reputation as a small, open economy, which is an ideal location to do business.

“The new Sky customer service centre is due to open in August, and recruitment has already begun.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes €5,133,180 in road funding for DLR County Council

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor TD, today (Tuesday) said the announcement by the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, that €5,133,180 is to be made available to maintain and improve roads in Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown is most welcome.

The main allocations are:
• Restoration Improvement €2.29 million
• Old Dublin Road, Shankill €25,000
• R118 at Cherrywood €18,000
• Rock Hill Road €35,000
• Shanganagh Road, Ballybrack €9,000.

Speaking following the announcement, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor said: ‘I am very aware of the necessity of maintaining and improving the quality of our roads. Last year Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown suffered a very unfortunate rise in road fatalities and casualties. It is imperative that we do our utmost to reduce needless road injuries’.

“This year’s road allocation underlines our Government’s commitment to support the County Council in its endeavours to implement a road safety strategy.

“Currently, Dún Laoghaire / Rathdown County Council is implementing the Road Safety Plan 2010-2015. The plan was developed to provide a greater focus on road safety, in line with the National Road Safety Strategy, over a five year period. It is an action plan with a focus on reducing road collisions and casualties through ‘The Four Es’: education, enforcement, engineering and evaluation.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund is great opportunity for local businesses

Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, has welcomed the Competitive Start Fund planned for 2012 by Enterprise Ireland, which was launched yesterday by Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for local businesses to acquire critical early funding to test the market for their products and services and progress their business plans for the global market. Under the terms of the Competitive Start Fund, start-ups will receive an equity investment of up to €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake.

“I believe the funding provided by Enterprise Ireland under this scheme will nurture and develop potential and fledgling business plans into profit turning companies capable of supplying much needed secure employment. I strongly encourage all entrepreneurs in sectors that are covered by this round of funding to make an application.

“The closing date for applications is the 9th of February and applications are welcome from start-ups in both the ICT and Industrial sectors including sub-sectors such as internet, gaming, cloud computing, enterprise software, telecoms, life-sciences and cleantech.

“In addition to funding, each start-up will be provided with an experienced business mentor to support them. The application process has been designed to be fast and efficient to allow the new start-ups to concentrate on validating their business concept and getting to market entry stage as quickly as possible.

“I believe the Competitive Start Fund can be a major boost to start-up businesses and I look forward to jobs being created in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown as a result.”

Growing Up in Ireland Report outlines what teachers have known for years

Taking an interest in child’s reading habits at home can improve literacy levels.

Commenting on the Growing Up in Ireland – ‘Influences on 9-Year-Olds’ Learning: Home, School and Community’ Report launched yesterday, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said parents have a significant role to play in increasing literacy levels in children.

“Over the last 10 years, numeracy and literacy levels in our children have dropped significantly; a fact clearly borne out by successive Pupil International Student Assessment (PISA) Reports.

“While there is a need to closely examine how our children are being taught in classrooms, focusing on goal setting and progressing students’ learning, there is a considerable amount to be gained if parents take the time to encourage reading in the home and to nurture their child’s learning skills.

“This report found that while literacy skills are, by and large, initially developed in school, these skills can be reinforced by reading outside school, either with parents or independently. It found that less than half (47%) of nine year olds had read something with their parents in the last week and that the children who read with their parents reaped the rewards as they reported a higher frequency of reading for pleasure.*

“It was also found that children who read at home, unsurprisingly, do better in school than the children who sit in front of the telly all day.

“In my experience as a primary school teacher, I have found that generally people want what is best for their children but are sometimes constrained in delivering that objective. This Government is funding a new Literacy and Numeracy Programme and this month the first children’s citywide reading project was launched in Dublin by Dublin City Libraries and Dublin UNESCO City of Literature to encourage 4th and 5th class students to read and to have fun doing so.

“Taking an active part in a child’s after school activity and taking the time to read with your child could improve his or her learning capacity, and ultimately their opportunities down the line, dramatically. Every parent in the country should be encouraged to do just that.”
*76% of those who read with their parents read for fun at least a few times a week compared with 67% of those who did not read with their parents.

Figures suggest high number of student solicitors unable to secure apprenticeships

Students being exploited by high exam fee and no chance of training after

Speaking on the Legal Services Bill this evening (Tuesday), Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said the current system of training and education for solicitors is unfair, with many trainees apparently unable to secure apprenticeships and complete their training after taking their exams.

“When consideration is given to the number of students qualifying as solicitors, compared to the numbers who sit the exams, even accounting for a percentage that may be unsuccessful, they simply do not add up.

“In 2006, between the April and October sittings of the FE1 exams, roughly 1,706 students took the papers. Three years later, in 2009, after the required period of time to undergo an apprenticeship had lapsed, just 705 students qualified as solicitors.

“In 2007, the number sitting the exams was in the region of 1,712, with the number of trainees qualifying three years later in 2010 standing at 729. Even accounting for high exam failure rates, it is difficult to understand how just 42% of those who took the FE1 exams in ’07 went on to qualify in 2010.

“These numbers simply do not add up. One can only conclude that there is a sizeable number of students completing their FE1’s who cannot acquire an apprenticeship after their exams and consequently cannot complete their training. This is an unfortunate situation and a difficult one for the students concerned. FE1 exams are expensive to take, at ■110 per paper, with eight papers in total, bringing the total cost to students of ■880. There is no grant or subsidy available to students taking the exam and the qualification gained on completion is only recognised by the Law Society.

“Our current system is expensive, it is not student friendly and it is putting up road blocks for a large number of our students.

“If the number of apprenticeships available is radically disproportionate to the numbers taking these expensive exams, I cannot help but feel that students are being exploited. The Legal Service Regulatory Authority has been given two years to compile a report into this matter and to investigate issues surrounding examinations in legal subjects.

“I look forward to the report from the Authority and to any recommendations it will make to ameliorate the present situation for our many hopeful student solicitors.”

Corporate board quotas could significantly improve situation for women in business

Speaking in advance of the ‘How to Elect More Women Conference’ which is being held today (Friday) at Dublin Castle, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said that while the Government is committed to the greater engagement of women in Irish political life, it must also consider the situation for women in the world of business.

“In 2003, a 40% gender quota for public limited, State-owned and inter-municipality companies was introduced in Norway. It resulted in female representation on corporate boards going from 15.9% to the stated target of 40% four years later.

“The Irish Government, through the Electoral Amendment Bill, is committed to addressing the low number of women going forward for election in this country. Similar to Irish female representation in politics, however, Irish female representation on corporate boards is dismal. Women make up only 8% of senior positions on Irish listed companies, compared to 15.25% in the Dáil and 17% in local government.

“The quota system introduced in Norway gave companies a grace period to reach the 40% target and imposed tough sanctions for companies that failed to implement the quota. Studies have shown that the Norwegian model has been a success there and has gained broad acceptance. Legislated board quotas have since been introduced in Spain (2007), France and the Netherlands (2010) with quotas for public limited companies currently under discussion in Belgium, Canada and Italy, where laws are pending at different stages of the ratification process.

“There are numerous issues that impede women from advancing in the world of business and politics such as childcare, cash, confidence and culture. In the coming weeks we will introduce a gender quota for women in politics. If the Government sought to address the situation in respect of female representation on corporate boards, we would see infinitely more opportunities open up for the female population.

“I will be suggesting to the Minster for the Environment that the Government legislates for a Corporate Board Quota, similar to Norway, to compliment the candidate political party gender quota proposed in the Electoral Amendment Bill.”