Dun Laoghaire pier records highest ever footfall

Positive signs so early in the year are a great boost for the town.

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) welcomed the news that Dun Laoghaire pier experienced its highest number of visitors last Sunday.

“Over 24,274 people are reported to have visited the pier last Sunday (March 25
th) which is a fantastic boost for the town. Dun Laoghaire pier is renowned throughout Dublin as being an excellent place to bring your families for an afternoon stroll.

“Having so many people visit the pier has a knock on effect for the entire town as restaurants and shops will benefit from the increased numbers visiting the town.

“It is a very positive sign to see so many people visiting Dun Laoghaire so early in the year and I hope that this trend continues right throughout the year. A record 1.3 million people visited the pier in 2011 and I am confident that we can set a new record for 2012.”

Quotas are regrettable but necessary

Speaking on the Electoral Amendment Bill in the Dáil this evening (Wednesday), Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said that the introduction of electoral gender quotas are a regrettable but necessary measure needed to address the gender balance in political life.

Speaking during the Dáil debate, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor quoted Vivienne Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, who is planning to legislate for female quotas on private sector boards throughout Europe, as saying ‘I’m not a great fan of quotas…but I like the results quotas bring about’; a sentiment that the Dun Laoghaire Deputy agrees with.

“The only thing quotas have going for them is that they work. They change the context in which we live, especially when that’s in a limiting or discriminatory context.

“We could be waiting decades before parliaments, which are heavily tilted towards male representation, come anywhere near equal representation. We can wait it out over several generations or we can shout stop, introduce a quota system which we maybe do not like but that we know will work.

“In more than fifty countries throughout the world, quotas stipulate that a certain number of political party candidates for election must be women. In fact, the majority of countries with more than 30% female representation in parliament have implemented quotas.

“The reality is that waiting for political parties to see the light and promote more women into the parliamentary ranks doesn’t really work. Putting a quota in place does. A generation ago, equality laws were introduced with the result that a steady stream of women entered into third level education, into professions like medicine and into business.

“The current situation is due to inertia, which is the biggest speed-bump along the road of women’s progress. Quotas will eradicate inertia and allow a wider choice at election time. In short, quotas will represent a major last step towards acknowledging the equality of half of our population.”

€4.4 million to be made available for social housing in Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has today (Tuesday) welcomed the announcement of more than €4.4 million to be made available to Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown County Council for social and voluntary housing and regeneration projects. This is part of more than €250 million to be allocated to local authorities throughout the country to support social housing nationally.

“The details of the housing capital allocations to local authorities was made today by the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan. Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown is in line to receive €4,400,150, with more than €3.5 million going toward housing supply and €807,000 being used to improve the housing stock, including regeneration.

“Due to our economic circumstances, the days of big capital funded construction projects have come to a halt for the moment. The reality is, however, that the demand for social and voluntary housing remains high. This is forcing the Government to come up with new and innovative ways of doing more with less.

“The Minister has said she expects to be able to deliver between 3,500 and 4,000 additional social housing units this year through measures such as the Capital Advance Leasing Facility, among others. Investment in improving the housing stock should see another 1,500 properties that are currently vacant, come back into use.

“As part of the overall allocation of €691 million for local authorities under the Social Housing Investment Programme for 2012, €251.5 million is being used to support the national regeneration programme, to improve the standard of energy efficiency of the national housing stock and to fulfil commitments under existing contracts for the delivery of social and voluntary housing.

“By ensuring that social and voluntary housing construction remains on-going and that the regeneration and improvement of our cities and villages is sustained, we will continue to meet the housing requirements of those most in need of assistance.

“A particular focus is being given to bringing older and vacant housing back into use through improving the standard and energy efficiency of the national social housing stock. This will also serve the purpose of breathing new life into areas that have, in recent times, been neglected and ignored.

“I am delighted that such a generous allocation has been made for Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown and I look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring for the locality into the future.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes new licensing system to regulate cosmetic surgery clinics

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Tuesday) welcomed the Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly’s plans to regulate public and private healthcare providers, including cosmetic surgery clinics, so that patient safety can be improved and adequate standards ensured.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor received a response to a Parliamentary Question she put down to the Minister asking for plans to update regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry, in light of the recent reporting of defective breast augmentation procedures.

“Minister Reilly is currently working on the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill which will provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health service providers, including cosmetic surgery clinics. This will ensure that healthcare providers do not operate below core standards, helping to improve patient safety and public confidence.

“This will be viewed as a welcome move, especially by the women of the PIP Action Group who have been campaigning for full and proper regulation of the industry, with due regard being given to the devices and product materials being used in breast augmentation.

“The regulation of medical devices in Ireland, including where PIP implants are concerned, is governed by the EU. I welcome the fact that the European Commission has announced plans to revise the Medical Devices Directive with plans to ‘stress test’ any proposals put forward, to ensure they are suitable to detect and resolve the issues highlighted by the PIP implant case.

“The impact the PIP implant scandal has had on women who have undergone breast augmentations is immeasurable. In some cases the women still have not been informed by their clinicians as to what type of implant was used during their procedure. They have told me they are in a living hell, with their implants compared to a ticking time bomb and that they feel like they are being passed from pillar to post.

“Legislation to force all medical practitioners engaged in clinical practice to have adequate clinical indemnity insurance is also in the pipeline, with a timeline for its introduction planned for the end of the year. It is proposed to have this legislation in place by the end of the year.

“It is essential that a clear and unambiguous structure is in place for all public and private healthcare providers. There are clear lessons to be learned from the PIP implant cases. We must ensure they are acted on for the benefit of future generations.”

Four new school building projects announced for Dun Laoghaire

€1.5 billion on 275 school projects nationally, creating 18,000 jobs.

Fine Gael Deputy for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed confirmation that four schools in Dun Laoghaire will be extended, as part of a major new school building programme announced by the Government. A total of 275 projects will be completed between 2012 and 2016, creating 18,000 jobs nationally.

“I am delighted that four schools in Dun Laoghaire will benefit from extensions to their premises as part of this major school building programme. Despite our difficult economic circumstances, the Government is determined to prioritise school building projects to cater for the projected increase in pupil numbers over the coming years.

“Four schools in the constituency will benefit from this investment for new and improved school facilities. They are the Senior College, Dún Laoghaire, Clonkeen College in Blackrock, Newpark Comprehensive in Blackrock and Scoil Lorcain in Monkstown. These projects will not only have a huge impact on the pupils, teachers and local communities in these schools, it will also give a significant boost in terms of job creation. At least 15,000 direct jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs will be created nationally during the construction phase over the next five years.

“A total of €1.5 billion will be invested by the Government between now and the end of 2016 to provide these new and improved school buildings. This will include 106 new schools and 65 extensions at primary level, 43 new schools and 49 extensions at second level, and 8 new special schools and 4 extensions at special schools.

“The Government is acting now in order to prepare for the huge increase in pupil numbers expected over the next few years. It’s anticipated that there will be an increase of 45,000 children going to primary school, and 25,000 at second level between now and 2017.

“On top of the school projects announced today, a further 60 schools are already under construction and are due to be completed this year. It ’s also expected that some additional school projects may be announced during the term of the five year capital plan, to cater for increased demand in some areas.

“Education is being prioritised by this Government. Within extremely limited spending options we are taking the steps to ensure that our children are educated in safe, modern facilities. In recent weeks, funding of €35 million was also announced to put an end to the wasteful policy of housing our pupils in prefabs which was pursued by the Fianna Fáil Government for so many years.”

International Women’s Day presents opportunity to highlight domestic violence

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) said that International Women’s Day not only gives us a chance to celebrate women’s social, economic and political achievements, it also presents us with an opportunity to look at how we are providing for those suffering domestic violence.

“International Women’s Day offers us a chance to reflect on the contribution women make to public life and life in general. Sadly, it also is a time to reflect on the number of women who are suffering at the hands of abusive partners.

“Safe Ireland launched their One Day Census of Domestic Violence Services 2011 today in a bid to highlight the plight of the victims of domestic abuse. The census found that on one particular day (4th of November 2011), 770 women and children received support from a domestic violence service. The other findings include the fact that on this day:

    • 127 help line calls were received;
    • 499 women and children were living in a refuge or supported housing;
    • 10 women could not be accommodated in refuge because there was not enough room;
    • 10 women receiving support were known to be pregnant and
    • 11 women who received support were over 65 years of age.

“These figures demonstrate the prevalence of domestic violence in Ireland today, which undoubtedly portrays a depressing picture. However, they are encouraging to some degree in that they illustrate that the social stigma around domestic violence has eased somewhat and that women are taking back control of their lives and seeking support.

“In days gone by, many women would have feared seeking help due to fears of condemnation from their families and local communities. Our ability and willingness to empathise and care for others has thankfully evolved.

“I have continually raised women’s issues in the Dáil and throughout my political career. The gender pay imbalance and lack of women being appointed to senior positions in business and on State boards are two of the issues I have attempted to shine a light on. Domestic violence is, however, the issue that is closest to my heart.

“Ireland has 20 refuge centres with a total of 144 beds, meeting only a third of the Council of Europe requirements; an issue that needs to be addressed. I will be working with my colleagues in Government to ensure that the issue of domestic abuse against women, and men, is brought out into the open and that adequate resources are put in place to deal with it.”

Breast implant issue needs resolution

Full and comprehensive regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry needed

Following a meeting with the women of the PIP Action Group Ireland at the weekend, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said the fear being felt by women who have had cosmetic breast implant procedures carried out at private clinics over the future of their health, is completely understandable and has them living in fear.

“I met with the nine women of PIP Action Group Ireland at the weekend who outlined their concerns to me regarding Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) breast implants and the potential affects they may have on their future health. Their concerns centre on the fact that these implants are made using non-medical, industrial grade silicon and are heightened owing to findings by the EU Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) that components such as tin, zinc, chromium, arsenic and lead cannot be ruled out of the chemical composition of PIP implants.

“These women are young with young families and are desperately seeking reassurance. They feel they are being given the run-around, with GPs directing them back to the private clinic where the procedure was carried out, and the clinics then claiming they cannot help unless a rupture has occurred. Some women are even being obstructed in their attempts to obtain their medical records and have not been given full confirmation as to whether or not PIP implants were, in fact, used during their procedure.

“The women at the centre of this controversy are not looking for the taxpayer to pick up the tab for the removal of their implants. They are simply looking for full and proper regulation of the industry, with due regard being given to the devices and product materials being used.

“These implants should never have been placed into human bodies but there is little point dwelling on that now that the potential for damage has been done. These women feel as though they are a science experiment, with the clinics involved being reactive to new evidence as it emerges, rather than having a proactive response to patient safety and care.

“While there are always risks associated with cosmetic surgery, no-one expects to have the equivalent of a ticking time-bomb inserted into them. I am calling on the clinics involved to look with compassion on these women and to come to some arrangement so that they can get on with their lives and regain peace of mind.

“I have submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Ministers for Health and Justice, looking for the cosmetic industry in Ireland to be regulated. I will be pursuing this issue in the hope of formulating legislation to ensure full and comprehensive regulation of the industry.”

Teaching Council blunder a waste of time and money

Council should be absorbed into the Dept of Education –

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire / Rathdown, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Saturday) called a blunder by the Teaching Council of Ireland in a recent ballot as a ridiculous waste of time and money.

“A recent ballot by the Teaching Council of Ireland to appoint new members to the Council has had to be scrapped and redone due to a typographical error on the ballot form, of which its 79,000 members are eligible to vote on.

“This is another example of how the Council is wasting valuable time and money and is an embarrassment to the teaching profession.

“The Teaching Council employs 23 staff, has 37 members, a director and receives approximately seven million euro a year from its 79,000 members. It is also occupying a NAMA building in Maynooth but has now decided that this building is not big enough and is looking to purchase a larger office.

“I strongly believe that the Council is effectively another Quango and it should be abolished and the services it provides should come from the Department of Education.

“Every teacher in this country has to pay 90 euro a year to the Council in order to be recognised as a teacher in this country or you cannot be paid by the Department of Education. However, I fail to see what exactly the Council actually does and where the money it receives goes to.

“The roles of that of the Council and the Inspectorate are blurred and no one quite knows who is supposed to be doing what.

“I would like to know what exactly the Council does with the seven million euro it receives each year and I am urging the Minister for Education, Ruairí to review this situation and see how the Council can be absorbed into the Department of Education.

Interview process needed for student teachers

If teachers are unsuited to their profession they will diversify into other fields resulting in lost resources to the State.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said a screening process should be established for those hoping to undertake teaching courses to determine whether or not the prospective student is suitable for the profession. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor made the points during a recent Dáil debate.

“Good teachers must have excellent communication skills and must be equally good with people. As an ex-principal I have seen numerous teachers coming through the system who are unable to cope with the demands that teaching puts on the individual – socially, emotionally and educationally.

“The list of things that teachers must show an aptitude for is endless; music, foreign languages, sport and the arts, to name a few. They must be creative, as well as academic, have a love for children and have a presence within a classroom, with a personality that is bright, cheery and optimistic.

“In the interest of determining that the right people qualify from teacher training college and ultimately have a long and fulfilling career in the education sector, consideration should be given to the introduction of a screening system, similar to other countries.

“In Finland, students hoping to attend teacher training college are tested, through interview, for communication skills, willingness to learn, academic ability, and motivation for teaching. This places the focus firmly on ensuring that students have the right skills and aptitude for teaching.

“It is in the interest of potential teachers, students and State resources that this sort of system is put in place. Too often I have seen teachers, who were unsuited to the profession, diversify into other fields as they found it difficult to cope with the demands of the job, with the result that their teacher training skills become a lost resource.

“In examining this issue we cannot ignore the lack of males in the teaching profession. The CSO Women and Men in Ireland Report 2011 indicated that the teaching profession is 73.3% female. Undoubtedly, this has a negative impact on children, many of whom lack the influence of positive male role models. We must be creative in our thinking in a bid to turn the tide and to encourage more men into the teaching profession.”

Time to redress the gender pay gap balance

Steps taken to increase women’s representation in the Dáil, now time to look at the world of business

Speaking following the publication of an EU Commission study which suggests that Irish women are earning less than their male counterparts, Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said steps are being taken to increase female representation in the Dáil but discrimination persists in the business world.

“In the world of politics and business, women are seriously underrepresented. In the Dáil, we are outnumbered six to one and in the world of business it is estimated that we make up just 8% of senior positions on Irish listed companies.

“It is absurd to think that in this day and age, women are being undervalued in the workplace to such an extent. This study suggests that women in their 20s in Ireland are earning roughly 10% less than men, with this pay gap widening the older we get.

“Though there are many contributing factors at play here, the fact that women are the primary care givers in Irish society means that we are often overlooked for more senior roles in favour of men. Until this issue is properly addressed, these problems will persist.

“The Minister for the Environment is legislating to ensure a greater number of female candidates are put forward at election time, giving the electorate a fairer and more balanced choice of who represents them in the Dáil. We must now examine the best way to redress this balance in the private sector.

“In Norway in 2003, sanctions were imposed on companies that failed to ensure 40% female representation on corporate boards. This system worked well and resulted in female representation going from 15.9% to the targeted 40% four years later. If we are serious about increasing female representation and bridging the gender pay gap, careful consideration must be given to proposals such as this. We must also address the deficiencies that exist in childcare provision and in making the workplace more child friendly.

“Women make up half the population and should be treated equally to men. Attempts are being made to redress the gender balance in the Dáil, the Government now needs to examine the best way forward for the world of business.”