€8,000 investment announced for festival and events in Dun Laoghaire

Tourism in Dun Laoghaire set to benefit from increased funding

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has welcomed the announcement by Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring TD, that €8,000 is set to be invested in festivals and events across Dun Laoghaire. This is part of a major national injection of over €500,000 by Fáilte Ireland in 175 regional festivals and events.
“Local events and festivals have played a huge role in Irish Tourism’s success in 2013. These events attract many people into the area and entice locals to come out and spend. Further investment in this area is set to provide a major boost; it will contribute to improving the festivals even further and assist in building the tourism sector.

“During 2013’s year of the Gathering, Dun Laoghaire was given the opportunity to showcase its cultural, musical and sporting charms. This funding will allow communities to broaden their appeal at home and abroad.

“The range of festivals and activities on offer in Dun Laoghaire is truly remarkable; from Dalkey Book Festival to Dalkey Lobster Festival there is so much happening. All investment in this area is truly welcomed.

“Tourism supports over 10,000 jobs each year in Ireland. In addition, thousands of people volunteer to help out with local events and festivals. These events are good for communities; they allow people to get to know their neighbours and to interact with people who share similar interests.

“This investment will allow us to attract further visitors and revenue, and it is a definite indication of the confidence Fáilte Ireland has in Tourism and in Dun Laoghaire.”

Mitchell O’Connor urges female TDs and Senators to donate professional clothing to Dress for Success

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) urged her female colleagues in Leinster House to donate professional clothing to ‘Dress for Success Dublin’. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking after she teamed up with stylist Sonya Lennon for a cross party suit collection drive in Leinster House.

Dress for Success Dublin helps women to enter or return to the workforce by providing free career advice and clothing for interviews. The not-for-profit group was founded in 2011 by Sonya Lennon, and in the last two years it has helped almost 700 women in Dublin.

“Dress for Success Dublin is a fantastic initiative aimed at helping women who are struggling to make their first steps, or get back onto, the career ladder. The group is empowering women to not only make a difference in their own lives, but ultimately in the workforce as a whole.

“By providing women with career advice and helpful tips on how to perform in interviews, as well as providing the right clothes to make a great first impression, Dress for Success is helping women to put their best foot forward. Even more important than that, the group is committed to the progression and retention of women in the workplace, a cause which I feel very strongly about.

“I have previously spoken of the need to increase the number of women in both the political and corporate worlds. Ireland is falling behind the international curve when it comes to female representation on boards, for example, which isn’t just bad for women, it’s bad for business.

“If you have been out of work due to the recession, or child rearing, or a whole range of other reasons, it can be very daunting to take your first steps back into the workplace. Dress for Success helps women make that jump by providing practical help and support.

“I am delighted with the response I have received from my female colleagues in Leinster House, and I hope the clothing donated today by TDs and Senators from all parties will be put to good use by women re-entering the workforce.”

Let’s not blame grandparents for our childhood obesity problem

Parents must take primary responsibility for children’s diets

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Monday) said we can’t blame grandparents for our rising childhood problem. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was responding to media reports today about UK research which found that young children had a 34% higher chance of being overweight if they were minded full-time by their grandparents.

“With Easter nearly upon us, it’s a good time to have a conversation about our attitude towards our children’s diets. While this UK research shows children cared for full-time by their grandparents are a third more likely to be overweight, it’s not fair to simply heap all the blame on granny or granddad.

“It’s down to parents to monitor their children’s food intake, and make sure they are eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise. Most parents would recognise that they are extremely fortunate if their children’s grandparents are in a position to look after them. But that doesn’t mean that grandparents can be held responsible for all bad habits. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some grandparents may find it more difficult to partake in physical activities due to their age.

“Grandparents do, of course, have to take some responsibility though. While it may be tempting to buy your grandchildren the biggest and best Easter egg in the shop, it’s worth remembering that chocolate isn’t the rare treat it once was. Children are eating sugary snacks on a daily basis, and the last thing they need is half a dozen Easter eggs in one weekend. Instead of heaps of Easter eggs, parents and grandparents should consider a trip to the zoo or a petting farm, or a simple gift like a book or a toy.

“We cannot ignore our spiralling childhood obesity problem. Almost a third of Irish 7-year-olds are overweight or obese, and the majority of these youngsters will go on to be overweight adults. This not only has an impact on self-esteem, it can have major health implications later in life. And it’s putting increased pressures on our already over-burdened health service.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure our children are eating healthily. Blaming granny or granddad won’t do anything to address the problem. Instead, Irish mums and dads need to have an honest conversation themselves, and with their own parents, to ensure their children are keeping healthy and fit.”

The Variety of Teaching Methods Being Employed for Children with Autism

Yesterday the Irish Times printed an I wish essay a little nine year old girl called Rachel from Meath wrote about her brother Matthew.

She said “I wish, I wish, I wish my brother could be ‘healed of autism’”.

April is Autism Awareness Month and I am speaking here today to celebrate uniqueness, while also raising awareness of challenges faced by those with the condition.

Little Rachel explains in her own words that “when Matthew was two, he was diagnosed with autism. Autism has no cure.

Some children with autism can talk, understand and communicate, but Matthew can’t”.

The challenges faced by families with autism can and must be helped!

It is unacceptable to have nearly two year waiting lists for the assessment and diagnosis of autistic children. One of my constituents contacted me recently in a distressed state because she was told that since the waiting list was so long they would send her monthly emails about Occupational Therapy in the meantime.

This is not good enough; sending emails instead of therapy.

The National Education Welfare Board say they are overstrained but so too are these families.

Without early diagnosis parents cannot be assured that their child can access appropriate resource hours or SNA support.

This results in children enrolled in schools for September without adequate support.

Every parent should look forward to their child’s first day in school- be it pre or primary school. This is not the case for parents of children with autism.

With autism, early diagnosis is essential. Autism is a broad spectrum that deserves specific attention.

This specific attention should start with a standardised approach to early intervention across the country.

I believe it is also time we reconsidered the variety of teaching/learning methods being employed for children with autism.

At the moment, the level of early intervention can vary from county to county.

I would support the wider adoption of the ABA and Pecs model, which has proven to be very beneficial for certain children with autism.

Little Rachel in the Time’s letter specifically refers to Pecs and how his teacher has managed to greatly help Matthew communicate through pictures.

With improved and standardised early intervention and training we would be providing these children with better opportunities in life and also the state money in the long run.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal featured an article onPatrick Brophy, which illustrates how autism can be turned into a positive.

Patrick, who is from Dun Laoghaire constituency, was hired by the software firm SAP not just because of his qualifications, but also because of his autism. Well done Patrick on your wonderful achievement-you have broken down barriers.

The company values people with autism because of their attention to detail and the different perspective they can bring to the workplace.

Too often parents can be made to feel that their child’s condition is a burden which places a strain on the State.

Minister I am aware that the Autism Bill 2012 proposes the preparation of an autism strategy and a national framework for addressing the specific needs of adults with autism.

This is a very positive development.

I would urge for this to include widespread consultation especially with the parents of autism.

Their voices and the challenges that families like Matthew and Patrick are facing need to be heard.

Thank you Minister.

May I suggest that the current supports and programmes that you have just outlined be better communicated to the public and families who are affected by autism?

I have watched parents not knowing where to turn to if their child is showing signs of autism.

A joined up and standardised approach is badly needed that these families can rely on.

There is still a stigma associated with autism, which I believe is based on a lack of understanding about the condition.

Having autism should not automatically be viewed as a negative.

Minister, I would also like to briefly mention and raise awareness about Autism Assistance Dogs.

I recently made a representation on behalf of a constituent and her autistic son Ciaran asking why they do not qualify for income tax relief like blindness assistance dogs do.

Revenue replied by describing Autism Assistance Dogs as “companions” and therefore do not qualify.

They are much more than “companions”!

Ciaran’s dog Yanni is his safety, mobility and independence. I had the honour to spend time with Ciaran and see first-hand his behaviour transform when he was physically attached to his dog. I can assure you minister assisted autism dogs are way more than that

I would urge for this tax relief to be reconsidered.

 

Tackling blindness early will help prevent needless suffering

75-80% of blindness is preventable

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has highlighted the need for increased early detection and intervention of blindness and eye diseases in Ireland. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor made her comments as she launched a key report for the National Vision Coalition entitled, Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland in Dublin today. The National Vision Coalition represents the interests of the vision impaired and blind community.

The National Vision Coalition’s report draws on a study carried by Deloitte Consulting on the economic impact of four eye diseases and blindness in sixteen countries including Ireland. Blindness and vision impairment costs the State an estimated €205 million per year.

“The human impact of blindness is hugely significant and in many cases, it is avoidable. It is estimated that 75-80% of blindness is preventable. Blind people often say that they feel invisible within society.

“There is a very strong case for investing in blindness prevention. Blindness and vision impairment caused by the four main eye diseases is costing the state €205 million per annum, but investment in cost-effective interventions could save up to €76 million per annum.

“Five people go blind every week in Ireland and more than 220,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired. And with our ageing population this number is expected to increase by a fifth by 2020. Cataract, glaucoma and wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the main impairments being dealt with in Ireland today.

“With modern technology, around 75% of blindness is avoidable using cost-effective interventions. Detecting eye disease early can prevent blindness, thereby averting disability burden. I support the call for the implementation of a national vision strategy to address blindness and vision impairment and help reduce its human, societal and economic impact.

“I would like to congratulate the National Council for the Blind in Ireland, Irish Guide Dogs, Fighting Blindness and other groups supporting people with sight loss for the wonderful work they are doing.”

Autism Awareness Day provides chance to celebrate uniqueness

Patrick Brophy story shows how autism can be turned into a positive

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said we should use Autism Awareness Day tomorrow (Tuesday) as an opportunity to celebrate uniqueness, while also raising awareness about the challenges faced by those with the condition. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor also called for a standardised approach to early intervention across the country.

“There is still a stigma associated with autism, which I believe is based on a lack of understanding about the condition. Having autism should not automatically be viewed as a negative. Yes, it presents challenges, but as the story of Patrick Brophy illustrates, it can also be turned into a positive. Patrick, who is from Dun Laoghaire, was hired by the software firm SAP not just because of his qualifications, but also because of his autism. The company values people with autism because of their attention to detail and the different perspective they can bring to the workplace.

“Patrick’s experience is an uplifting and encouraging story that will be heartening for parents of children with autism. Too often parents can be made to feel that their child’s condition is a burden which places a strain on the State. Instead, we should be willing to celebrate uniqueness and focus on the positive attributes that are associated with the condition.

“I believe it is also time we reconsidered the variety of teaching methods being employed for children with autism. We need a standardised approach across the country. At the moment, the level of early intervention can vary from county to county and teachers and SNAs are often not sufficiently trained on the most up-to-date strategies on how best to help children with autism. I would support the wider adoption of the ABA model, which has proven to be very beneficial in certain areas.

“Autism is a broad spectrum that deserves specific attention. The Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, TD, has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for policy advice relating to autism. It is important that this includes widespread consultation, and I would encourage parents to ensure their voices are heard.”