Over €1 million allocated to make Dun Laoghaire energy efficient

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has, today (Monday), welcomed the allocation of over €1 million from the Better Energy Communities Programme to improve Dun Laoghaire amenities.
“The Better Energy Communities Programme is funding awarded by Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) to retrofit Ireland’s building stock and facilities to high standards of energy efficiency, this reduces the use of fossil fuels, running costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
“In Dun Laoghaire, €1,294,400 has been awarded to a range of community projects. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council partnered with Dun Laoghaire leisure services and Irish Water to carry out a wide range of energy efficiency upgrades on public lighting, public heritage buildings, on community centres, leisure centres, sheltered housing and water services.
“It is very important that we create a society based on sustainable energy structures and I am pleased that this money is being used to upgrade older buildings and systems; these are facilities used by all of the community on a daily basis.
“I am particularly happy to see that Ballybrack Community Rooms, Cois Carn Community Rooms, St Nathy’s House Community Rooms and Glencullen Community Hall benefit from this programme. These community halls are at the core of the community as they provide vital services to all.”

Get SUSI applications in before deadline on Friday 1st August

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has, today (Monday), urged parents and students to apply for third level grants this week as SUSI’s deadline is this Friday, 1st August.

“If you or someone in your family is hoping to start a third level course this year, this is the last week for applications as the deadline of 1st August is fast approaching.

“Every year my constituency office is inundated with worried parents and prospective students who didn’t apply to SUSI on time or who didn’t send the correct information. It is really important that you take the time to put together all the required information, that you fill out the form correctly and that everything is submitted on time.

“If you provide SUSI with insufficient information or you make a mistake on the form, this will hold up your application and may result in a delay in payment. There are a lot of costs associated with getting started at third level, so it is important to get applications in on time to ensure payment is received as soon as possible.

“It’s also worth pointing out that although some people may think they are above the threshold you may be eligible for part of the grant and this can be of great assistance. There are a variety of limits in respect of the allowable income depending on the adjustments or increments which are applicable in a particular case. Households with a combined income of €54, 240, and with four or less dependents, are eligible to partial contribution.

“There are only another few weeks before the Leaving Certificate results come out so now is the time to get planning and organising. I know many people who contact me in distress, about late applications, say their son or daughter didn’t think they’d get their course so they let the SUSI deadline pass by without applying. Students often underestimate how well they have done in their exams or they may take a second choice course so it is important to apply anyway and make sure to do so before Friday.”

The system has been too slow to help students with special needs reach their potential.

Special people have special needs. Truly wonderful, unique, vibrant people sometimes require and always deserve extra support and a little more attention. This is something that really hit me years ago as principal of The Harold School, Glasthule. Ciara was enrolled in our school when I was appointed principal. At the time, I tried to inform her mother, Anne, that in a class of 30 pupils, I was concerned that we could not facilitate her daughter’s additional needs.

Last week, as Ciara accepted her award at a Special Olympics ceremony we held in Dun Laoghaire, having won three medals at the event in Limerick in June, her mother and I looked back on this first fractious meeting. She recalled her anxiety and frustration as a mother of a six-year-old girl with Down Syndrome, who was being directed away from the local school where her siblings were already in attendance.

I remembered, with embarrassment, my initial assertion that Ciara’s educational needs may be better served in a ‘special school’.

I recalled how Anne vociferously reminded me that it was my job, as principal, to ensure that Ciara’s educational needs were met. I remember clearly that at one stage, Anne looked me straight in the eye and said, forcibly: “Principal, what would you want for your sons if they had Down Syndrome?”

This was a moment of true understanding and awareness; it changed me forever in my professional role and set me on a path of setting up a Special Education Department in the school.

The school diversified and adapted over the following years, and when appointing teachers we looked for expertise in dealing with special needs. We welcomed children with special and additional needs. It was their right to access the school, as much as any other pupil attending. A right, not a privilege.

As Ciara, a wonderful girl with a huge personality and bags of talent, accepted her Special Olympics award last week, I was thankful that special education has advanced so much in the past number of years, but I know that there are still massive deficits that need to be addressed.

The reality faced by parents of children with disabilities was highlighted to me again recently when my friend’s little boy was diagnosed with autism. In the past, a family would present at our school, usually with a diagnosis, and we would put in place resources and individual education plans. What I didn’t know was the horrible struggle families had to face to get that diagnosis. My friend’s family are in the same position as thousands of others.

Getting a diagnosis for autism seems to be the first major hurdle to overcome. Waiting lists, lack of appointments and a deficit of resources meant, in the case of my friend, it took over two years for her son to be diagnosed. She already knew he was autistic but you cannot enter the system until it’s official. This whole process was exhausting and extremely stressful for the family. My friend is checking every website, Facebook page and following Twitter accounts to learn as much as she can. There is information out there but it is inconsistent and I have learned that the support available is piecemeal depending on where you live.

County Wicklow has a very good reputation for autism services while support in my own area of Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, is dismal.

Fine Gael supports diversity in the education of children with special needs, we recognise that both intensive education and mainstreaming can be seen to work for individual children.

As the economic situation improves, we are working towards improving conditions for families and I am committed to representing the families of children with special needs in working to improve the systems in place.

We need to provide more specialised training for teachers and encourage practising teachers to consider masters and diplomas in teaching of special needs. All children in mainstream schools benefit from the attendance of children with special needs.

This promotes integration, understanding and diversity, so we need to make sure schools are adequately equipped with dedicated classrooms and speech and occupational therapists.

A child with a stammer can access speech therapy, but a child with autism or Down Syndrome or other syndromes has to jump through hoops.

Special needs assistants are hugely helpful in schools but I firmly believe they should be trained to deliver programmes tailored to meet the needs of the child.

I am proud of the work that I have done as a teacher and as a TD to advance support available in schools to those with special needs, but I know more can be done. If I was back in my office at Harold School and I was sitting down to mark the copybook of the Department of Education and Skills, I would write in bold red pen: “Has improved in the past 10 years, but needs to do much better.”

– See more at: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/schools-must-do-more-for-special-pupils-30461992.html#sthash.2DT12DFP.dpuf



HSE does not have adequate resources or systems to monitor Section 38 and 39 agencies

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD and member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, today (Tuesday), speaking at the Health Committee hearing on the HSE Section 38 and 39 report, questioned HSE Deputy Director General, Laverne McGuinness on the HSE’s capability to monitor Section 38 and 39 agencies.

“It is a huge task for the HSE to audit these organisations and to ensure that tax payer’s money is allocated wisely. Today I questioned Laverne McGuinness, HSE Deputy Director General about the competence of the HSE and its ability to monitor section 38/39 organisations when the HSE itself is fragmented.

“I find it extraordinary that ten years after the HSE was set up, financial systems are still not integrated, eleven or more financial management systems remain in place. How could the HSE possibly monitor what is going on in the Section 38 and 39 organisations when it is so fragmented in terms of financial management systems? An integrated system is badly needed.

“When asked if she has confidence in the HSE’s ability to monitor Section 38 and 39 agencies, Laverne McGuinness admitted that the current system of operation is lacking and that new procedures are needed.

“There are also issues around the number of qualified accountants, financial controllers and auditors employed by the HSE, are staff resources available to do this properly?

“We need to know why very generous pay practices are only coming to light now. Were there whistle-blowers trying to attract attention? Was this brought to the attention of HSE senior management?
“The HSE funds over 1,900 Voluntary Agencies to a value of approximately €3.1 billion. Forty-four of these agencies, accounting for €2.5 billion are funded under Section 38 of the Health Act, while the remaining agencies of which there are more than 1,800 are part-funded under Section 39 of the Health Act.

“I appreciate the very important work carried out by Section 38 and 39 organisations, but it is essential that we ensure that these bodies are managed in a way that benefits the service users and the tax payer. I am not confident that the HSE has the means to carry out this function and the Deputy Director General failed to reassure me at today’s Health Committee meeting.”

Mitchell O’Connor receives assurances from Council that local bathing waters are back up to standard

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said she is pleased to have received confirmation from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council that bathing waters at White Rock and Killiney beaches are back up to standard. They were among four locations which had swimming bans imposed earlier this week due to poor water samples.

“I was very concerned earlier this week to hear that ‘do not swim’ notices had been put in place at Killiney and White Rock, because water samples didn’t comply with standards.

“I have been in touch with the local Council on this matter, and I am pleased to receive confirmation that the prohibition notices are being removed because samples taken on Wednesday show water quality is back to normal.

“The Council has said that there was no obvious cause of the poor results earlier in the week, so I hope it was an anomaly which will not be repeated.

“Following consultation with An Taisce, the Blue Flag is to be put back on Killiney beach.

“The standard of our beaches is not just a source of pride for people living locally, but it is also extremely important at this time of year in terms of attracting tourists. I am delighted that Killiney and White Rock beaches have had their reputations restored as two of Dublin’s best bathing spots.”

Mitchell O’Connor urges Dun Laoghaire residents to have their say on Local Property Tax

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) encouraged local residents to make their voices heard on the Local Property Tax (LPT). Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking after Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council announced it is inviting submissions on whether it should lower property tax rates.

“The Government has given local councils the power to adjust the rate of the LPT, within a range of +/- 15%. While cutting the property tax sounds like a no brainer, it is important to add that it is essential that local councils manage their budgets sensibly, otherwise local services will be hit.

“I hope that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council will be in a position to lower the property tax for local residents. Just because you live in the so-called ‘leafy suburbs’ doesn’t mean you find it easy to afford the property tax. But I would also caution that the council must ensure that if it cuts the property tax rate, local services should not be allowed to suffer.

“This Government is determined to give local councils more control over their own affairs; that is why the administration of the LPT has been handed to local councils. Home owners in Dublin, and particularly in areas like Dun Laoghaire where property prices are rapidly rising, often pay considerably more in property tax because their homes are worth more.

“Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has invited written submissions from the public. The Council particularly wants to hear from people about what impact a change in the LPT rate would have on businesses, local services and local residents. Now is the time to make your views known.”

Proposed Closure of Dun Laoghaire Courthouse

Please see the below letter and Parliamentary Question response I recently sent out to local solicitors and business people regarding the proposed closure of the Dun Laoghaire Courthouse

Dear ____________,

I know it has been of concern to you that Dun Laoghaire Courthouse has been threatened with closure.

Since late last year, I have had meetings with solicitors and Business Associations about the impact the closure would have on local legal cases, and also the impact it would have on the business community in Dun Laoghaire. Closing Dun Laoghaire Courthouse will entail the public, Gardai, and solicitors travelling to courthouses in either, Blanchardstown, Dolphin House or The Courts of Criminal Justice in the city.

I have also met with The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, about the threatened closure, outlining the impact it would have. In the Dáil, I put a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Justice and Equality and she has sent me her reply.

I draw your attention to a paragraph stating that the consultation period on Dun Laoghaire Courthouse has been extended and I would urge you to make a submissionto dublinreview@courts.ie  by 5 September 2014:

The Courts Service had originally sought submissions by the end of June but it has now agreed to extend the timeframe for submissions to early September to allow for the fullest possible consultation. I have been assured by the Courts Service that all submissions received on the proposal will receive consideration. It is intended that proposals arising from the review including the closure of the court venue in Dun Laoghaire will be considered by the Courts Service Board at a meeting in October.

I will continue to make representations to keep Dun Laoghaire Courthouse open. Please share this information with your colleagues. If you need to contact me, please call my Blackrock Office at 01 210916. My email address is: mary.mitchelloconnor@oir.ie

Yours sincerely,

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD


DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Ms. Fitzgerald)
by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor
for WRITTEN on Tuesday, 8th July, 2014.

* To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason Dun Laoghaire courthouse is being considered for closure in view of the fact that it will result in a breakdown of the administration of justice and increase financial costs for the State in the long run; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

– Mary Mitchell O’Connor

As the Deputy may be aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts, including the provision of accommodation for court sittings, is the responsibility of the Courts Service which is independent in exercising its functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and I have been informed that following a review undertaken in 2013 into the delivery of court services in the greater Dublin Area, the proposals which have recently been published by the Courts Service include a proposal to close the District Court venue in Dun Laoghaire. The purpose of the review was to examine options to ensure that the Courts Service can continue to maintain an appropriate level of front line services to court users throughout Dublin city and county. The review has been the first comprehensive assessment of the delivery of court services in Dublin in many decades. In addition, the proposals arising from the review are designed to ensure the maximum utilisation of court accommodation and resources while at the same time providing opportunities for efficiencies across the justice system.

The Courts Service recognises that the proposal to close the court venue in Dun Laoghaire would inevitably have an impact on a range of organisations and courts users. In this context, I welcome the consultative approach which is being adopted by the Courts Service in seeking submissions on the proposal from any interested parties or local interests. The Courts Service had originally sought submissions by the end of June but it has now agreed to extend the timeframe for submissions to early September to allow for the fullest possible consultation. I have been assured by the Courts Service that all submissions received on the proposal will receive consideration. It is intended that proposals arising from the review including the closure of the court venue in Dun Laoghaire will be considered by the Courts Service Board at a meeting in October.

I have been assured that any impacts on the administration of justice and/or any possible increased costs to the State will be among the matters which will be taken into consideration by the Courts Service Building Committee and the Board when considering the proposals. It should, of course, be noted that the final decision in relation to the closure of any court venue is a matter for the Board of the Courts’ Service.

Photograph from South Dublin Today


Leeway to reduce Local Property Tax by 15% will benefit families

“We talk about the leafy suburbs, but many of the parents here are struggling to pay their bills. I hope that councillors will now move to reduce the tax to relieve pressure on these families.”

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor has, today (Sunday), welcomed the commitment in the Statement of Government Priorities that local authorities will retain 80% of property tax.

“I am very pleased with the confirmation in the Statement of Government Priorities that local authorities will be in a position to keep 80% of the Local Property Tax (LPT) take, with the option to vary the rate of LPT by 15%.

“This will make a huge difference to homeowners, particularly in Dún Laoghaire and South Dublin where property tax rates are higher than they are in other parts of the country.

“Modest three bed, semi-detached houses in South Dublin or Dún Laoghaire Rathdown at present are commanding a property tax of up to €700, while a house twice the size in rural Ireland often costs less. Local Property Tax is a major expense for families and any reduction in this fee is very beneficial.

“In the Fine Gael Local Election Manifesto we committed to reducing the Local Property Tax rate and now the Government delivered on this commitment. Each local authority will have flexibility in fixing their own rate.

“Access to 80% of the revenue collected from LPT will be a great boost to local authorities and will bolster the vital services they provide. Councils will now be able to set their budgets in line with this income and they will be in a position to reduce LPT rates by up to 15%.

“It is essential that local authorities maintain high levels of services to residents and to ratepayers in South Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Rathdown. In line with this however, it is very positive that they will be in a position to vary downwards LPT rates and to provide some relief for local families and businesses.

16 Dun Laoghire Clubs to Receive Funding under the Sport’s Capital Programme

Wednesday, 3rd July 2014

Fine Gael Dun Laoghire Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD has welcomed today’s announcement that 16 clubs in Dun Laoghire will benefit from this year’s Sports Capital Programme, receiving € 1,159,311 in total. Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor was speaking as Minister for Sport, Michael Ring TD, announced a total of €40.5 million in new funding for 880 sports community projects nationwide.  This represents a 33% increase on the last round of the Sports Capital Programme and brings the total figure granted since this Government came into office to €85 million.

“The announcement of € 1,159,311 in Sports Capital Programme funding for Dun Laoghire is really great news.

“Local clubs and groups to benefit include:

■Blackrock Bowling & Tennis Club

■Blackrock College Rugby Football Club

■Cuala GAA

■Curragh Sun Aqua Club

■Dalkey Scubadivers

■De Vesci Lawn Tennis Club

■ Avoca Hockey Club/ Dominican College, Sion Hill

■Foxrock Cabinteely GAA Club

■Kilmacud Crokes GAA Club

■Monkstown Hockey Club/Rathdown School

■Sailing in Dublin Club

■Shankill Bowling Club

■St. Michael’s Rowing Club

■The National Yacht Club

■Trojan Gymnastic Club

■Trojan Swimming Club

“The last Government scrapped the Sports Capital Programme. Having reinstated the Programme when we came into office, this Government is demonstrating that despite limited finances, we are determined to invest in local facilities, which are the lifeblood of communities across Ireland.

“The Government understands the importance of the work carried out by sports clubs and organisations in our communities and funding such as this helps them do this vital work. It assists clubs to build or improve their facilities and also enables them to buy much needed sports equipment. This in turn increases their capacity to cater to larger numbers of local people.

“The more people we get involved playing sport, the better for the country’s overall physical and mental health. We particularly want to encourage more young people to get involved in sport, and start the good habits of a lifetime early.

“Aside from promoting good health, sport also has a really valuable community development function. Sport brings local people together in towns and villages across the country, fostering a sense of solidarity in communities.

“Unfortunately, due to the huge demand for the Programme, not all clubs and organisations who applied were successful this year. I encourage any clubs who have been disappointed to reapply for the next round of funding.

“I am delighted that Dun Laoghaire is to benefit from this year’s Sports Capital Programme and I know that it will be of real benefit to the local people right across the county.”