Budget presents opportunity to assist smokers to quit

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) said that the upcoming Budget presents an opportunity to assist smokers to quit.

“For many, the battle to quit smoking is something they grapple with all year around. New Year, birthdays and Budget time are all milestones throughout the year when smokers regularly make a pact with themselves to give up smoking.

“Giving up, especially after years of smoking, poses a significant challenge. A considerable amount of willpower is required, as is a dramatic change in habit. This ensures the best chance of success. To assist those who are attempting to make this positive change, proper support systems need to be in place. Initiatives such as the National Smokers’ Quitline, which is supported by the HSE, together with websites such as www.quit.ie and associated campaigns aim to educate smokers about the impact smoking is having on their lives and encourages them to quit.

“Increasing the cost of cigarettes in the upcoming Budget and investing all savings made into cessation programmes could assist hundreds in their goal to quit. There is a concern, however, that a rise in the cost of cigarettes fuels the smuggling trade which ends up costing the Exchequer in the end. Figures from the Irish Heart Foundation suggest that it is possible to increase the cost of cigarettes while, at the same time, tackling the underground trade.

“It suggests that while the cost of cigarettes in the UK rose by 77% between 2001 and 2011, the level of smuggling fell from 21% to 9% during the same time. I have written to the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, to ask about the revenue that could be generated by a budgetary increase on cigarettes, which could perhaps then be ringfenced for anti-smoking campaigns and support services. I have also asked the Minister about the possibility of imposing a profit tax for tobacco companies or whether an individual sector taxation could realistically be introduced.

“Smoking is costing us dearly every year, both in real terms, as our healthcare services struggle to deal with smoking related illnesses, and in human terms, as one in every two smokers die of a tobacco related disease.”

Mitchell O’Connor welcomes commitment to great transparency in family law cases

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the commitment from the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD, that he will bring forward legislation in the coming weeks to allow for greater transparency in family law cases.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor raised the issue of family law proceedings with the Justice Minister in the Dáil last July.

“I was delighted to hear Minister Shatter confirm at the weekend that he will introduce legislation following on from the Children’s Referendum to increase transparency where family law cases are concerned. The Minister stated that the ‘in-camera’ rule, during which family law and child care cases are heard in private, has been an issue which has concerned him for a number of years.

“It is essential that a balance is struck when dealing with family law and child care cases as the sensitivity of these cases dictates that the privacy of those at the centre of proceedings is protected. By ensuring greater transparency, however, cases will be subjected to an increased level of scrutiny by the public, allowing them the opportunity to understand how the Family Court works.

“The Children’s Referendum next Saturday gives us a chance to make a real difference to how children are protected and families are supported in this State and gives may children who are currently trapped in legal limbo when it comes to adoption, the chance, for the first time, of a second chance at a loving and caring family.

“The Referendum will also give children a chance to have their voices heard in family court proceedings where access, guardianship and adoption are concerned by taking account of their views, where it is appropriate and where the child’s level of maturity allows.

“The changes being made by this Government in terms of how are children are cared for puts them front and centre of decision making and prioritises their rights. The family is still acknowledged as the best place for a child to be, but in a small number of cases, the family environment is not a safe place to be. By casting a vote in favour of the Children’s Referendum this Saturday, we will be sending a strong signal to our young people that they really matter. Minister Shatter’s introduction of legislation to ensure a greater level of transparency in family court and child care proceedings will further bolster what is to become a more supportive and protective environment for all families into the future.”

Government prioritises children with €2.25m in capital funding for youth cafes and recreational facilities

Youth groups in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown encouraged to apply for funding.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the announcement of €2.25 million in capital funding which is being made available to build and develop youth cafes and to support recreational facilities in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown and beyond.

Deputy Mitchell O’ Connor encouraged youth groups and local organisations to apply for funding if they have not already done so.

“The Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald TD, is making €2.25 million available so that children across Ireland will have safe, drug and alcohol free places to play and to enable local communities to embark on youth projects which will deliver play facilities for our children.

“The funding will be made up of €500,000 for youth cafes this year, for which applications have already being received and are currently being assessed. One and a half million euro will go towards youth capital projects next year, including further youth cafes, and €250,000 will be available for play and recreation initiatives. This funding will be accessible, in part, through local authorities with further details of the project scheme being announced by the Department of Children & Youth Affairs in the coming weeks.

“I would encourage local groups, clubs and organisations in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown to apply for funding so that local children and young people can be given the chance to avail of a suitable place to play and an environment that facilitates growth, development and physical activity.

“So many of our children are living increasingly sedentary lives with the result that obesity is on the rise. It is up to us to ensure that children are getting the physical exercise they need so that they are not beset with heart disease and other illnesses down the line.

“This Government has put children front and centre of policy decisions. For the first time ever we have a Minister for Children whose sole focus is on making Ireland a better place for our children to live. Our children’s emotional, social and physical wellbeing is dependent upon the decisions we make on their behalf. That is why a new National Play and Recreation Network was established earlier this year to oversee the delivery of local play and recreation services in communities like Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown and across the country. It is also why the Government is campaigning so hard for a Yes vote on Saturday in the Children’s Referendum.

“I would encourage everyone who cares about our children’s futures to ensure they go out to vote next weekend and for local clubs and organisations to ensure they avail of youth facility funding which will reap so many benefits for our children into the future.”

Patents Amendment Bill

This legislation is the outcome of a pro-business and pro-enterprise approach on the part of the Government.

A particular concern for Ireland is the new patent box regime due to come into effect in the UK in April 2013. The previous Governments decision to abolish the tax exemption for Irish patent royalties has left us susceptible to losing inward investment from high technology companies as the UK patent box regime will make that country’s tax code more competitive in attracting foreign direct investment by global high technology companies. The UK Government proposes to introduce a 10% rate of corporation tax in respect of income from qualifying patents. Qualifying income comes under three headings: income from licence fees and royalties received for use of an invention, income from the sale of products which incorporate inventions from qualifying patents and income from the sale of patents. Furthermore, once a patent is granted a company can claim patent box benefits for any income arising between the date of application and the date on which the patent is granted, up to a maximum of four years prior to the date of granting.

This new regime possibly presents a competitive threat to Ireland. We need to send out a strong message that Ireland is open for business and welcomes foreign direct investment. The UK initiative on patents, alongside continued reductions in corporation tax rates, should receive our careful attention.