Students should be eligible for free water allowance

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday), appealed to Irish Water to consider extending the age for the children’s water free allowance to students up to 23 years of age who can prove they are in full time education.

“Water charges are needed as up until now we have been spending €1.2 billion to produce water, almost half of which leaks away through broken pipes. Significant investment in our long neglected water infrastructure is needed to allow us to cater for a growing population and to support job creation and investment. However, we need to ensure that these charges are fair and affordable for all.

“The Government has gone to great lengths to ensure that supports are available to assist with payment of the water charges. A free allowance of 30,000 litres has been approved for all households, charges will be capped for people with medical conditions who use more water, the Households Benefits Package will include a water support payment of €100 and income tax relief worth up to €100 per household per year will be available.

“In order to assist families, a free allowance of 21,000 litres per child has been introduced. This will be of great assistance to young families across the country, but I believe that we also need to ensure that families with dependent children still in education are supported in a similar way. Many young people over 18 are still in education and are fully dependent on their parents.

“There is no avoiding the fact that we need to invest in our water system, but we need the charges to be fair and affordable.“

Mitchell O’Connor hosts breakfast for Breast Health Day

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, today (Wednesday) hosted a breakfast in Leinster House to mark Breast Health Day 2014.

“This morning’s breakfast in, in co-operation with Europa Donna Ireland and Coviden, to mark Breast Health Day 2014 was a fantastic success. Irish chef Domini Kemp, who has survived breast cancer, was our guest speaker and shared her insights into battling and surviving the disease. The event was very well supported by my colleagues across all parties.

“I am delighted that this Breast Health day comes a week after Budget 2015 extended BreakCheck screening to women between 65 and 69 years old. BreastCheck currently provides free mammograms and a recall program to all eligible women aged 50-64 years. The decision demonstrates the Government’s commitment to women’s health and will greatly contribute to more early detections of the disease.

“Breast cancer survival in Ireland has improved significantly in recent years. Screenings are very important to women’s health as early detection is key in the battle against breast cancer. According to the Irish Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the country and is most commonly found in those over the age of 50.

“I passionately believe that we must do all we can to prevent this disease in as many instances as possible. I am proud to give my time and effort to this cause and I thank all of my colleagues in Leinster House for their support for today’s event.

Mitchell O’Connor welcomes abolition of pension levy

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, has welcomed the Government’s decision to abolish the 0.6% Pension Levy at the end this year, with the additional 0.15% levy expiring at the end of 2015.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor said: “The end of the Pension Levy is something I have discussed with Minister Noonan on many occasions. It has allowed the Government maintain the 9% VAT rate for tourism services.  However now that jobs are being created and the recovery is underway I am glad that we are lifting this burden. 

“The Irish people have made huge sacrifices to get the country to this point. Those sacrifices are starting to bear fruit but we acknowledge that many people have not yet felt the benefits of a recovering economy in their daily lives.

“Over the last three budgets we have restored the public finances without taxing income and jobs. This has been crucial to our economic recovery and helped the creation of 70,000 jobs since the launch of the Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012.

“Today’s decision on the pension levy is part of a bigger four year tax reform plan, including the reduction of the top rate of income tax from 41% to 40% and to increase the standard rate tax band above which the top rate of tax is paid by €1,000 to €33,800. This will make a significant difference for working families and individuals.

“We will ensure that the progress we have made as a country is maintained and the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.”

BreastCheck extended to older women in Budget

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said today (Tuesday) the decision to extend BreastCheck to 65-69 year olds in 2015 demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improving the wellbeing of Irish women.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor said: “I have been a strong advocate of the extension of the BreastCheck programme since my election to Dáil Éireann in 2011. I passionately believe this decision, announced by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD as part of Budget 2015, will contribute to improving the health of older women in Ireland and preventing breast cancer.

“Earlier this week, I urged the Government to extend the BreastCheck programme to include women up to age 69. Breast cancer survival in Ireland has improved significantly in recent years due to the combined approach of screening, symptomatic detection and improved treatment.

“Early detection is a key part of the battle against breast cancer. According to the Irish Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the country. Breast cancer is most commonly found in those over the age of 50.

“October is breast cancer awareness month and today’s Budget announcement will better arm us to fight this disease.”

€88 million investment and 1,700 new posts for Education

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’, has today (Tuesday) welcomed the news that €88 million is to be invested in education and that 1,700 new full time posts are to be created.

“An investment of €88 million will make a huge difference to schools and to children in Dun Laoghaire. An estimated 1,700 additional new full time posts are to be created; this will mean 920 new mainstream teaching posts, 480 resource teachers and 365 Special Needs Assistants (SNAs).

“There will be no reduction in the pupil teacher ratio, there will be no increase in class sizes and this investment will allow for a €530 million capital expenditure investment.

“Over 150 new schools have been built since this Government came into power and over 100 schools have been refurbished. Further investment in buildings will be possible due to the Budget funding announced today. €10 million will also be available for Institutes of Technologies during 2015.

“I am particularly pleased to see that funding has been made available to invest in highspeed broadband in schools, to invest in the Junior Cycle and in literacy and numeracy.  A new team of early years education inspectors will also be recruited to help improve the quality of the free pre-school. The free pre-school year is hugely important, this is a key time of development for children so it is essential we use this year to its full advantage.

“The Irish people have made huge sacrifices to get the country to this point. Those sacrifices are starting to bear fruit but we acknowledge that many people have not yet felt the benefits of a recovering economy in their daily lives.

“Looking after the education of our young people is essential and it is an investment in our future. A key aspect of the recovery is job creation and the fact that we have the talent in this country to attract the best companies in the world. We need to nourish and develop this talent through investment and supports in education. Further investment in education is needed but the economic recovery is still fragile and this Government is committed to securing the recovery and maintaining the advances that we have achieved with the help of the Irish people.”

Sinn Fein’s pre-Budget 2015 proposal to withdraw private school subsidy would jeopardise 1,500 jobs and cost millions

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has strongly criticised Sinn Féin’s pre budget proposal to withdraw the private school subsidy over five years on the grounds that this move will put 1,500 jobs at risk and cost the state tens of millions per year.

“Sinn Féin claim that by withdrawing the private school subsidy over five years, €20.6 million will be saved. In reality five schools have moved from the private to the public stream in recent years adding over €10 million in annual running costs and capital expenditure to the Government balance sheet.

“There are currently seven additional private schools who are considering integrating into the public stream and this would mean a total cost of over €25 million per year to the state. With 53 fee-paying schools in the country, it is clear that while withdrawing the state subsidy may save some money in the short term, this will only be small change in comparison to the additional bills the taxpayer would have to meet in the longer term.

“Fee paying schools support 1,500 jobs across the country. If private schools were integrated into the public system, the state would have to pay to employ additional teachers and this is another bill that would have to be paid.

“I have been clear on my view of fee paying schools; I openly support choice for parents. But from a financial point of view, Sinn Féin’s figures just don’t add up. Their plan reinforces their position as a high tax, anti-jobs party; it is nothing but populist and it is extremely short sighted. They have failed to account for the long term costs that this measure would bring onto the taxpayer.

“Numerous holes have been found in Sinn Féin’s budget proposals and this is just another that shows Sinn Féin is a party willing to make rash and misjudged decisions that would put the economic recovery at risk.”

Strong Calls to Extend BreastCheck Programme

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor attended the BreastCheck extension event early last week. The event, coordinated by the Irish Cancer Society called on the Government to extend the free BreastCheck screening. BreastCheck currently provides free mammograms and a recall program to all eligible women aged 50-64 years.

A constant champion of women’s health, the T.D. came out to show her support for the efforts to extend the BreastCheck programme to include women up to age 69, and to continue efforts to raise awareness about this cause that effects millions of women and their families annually. Breast cancer survival in Ireland has improved significantly in recent years due to the combined approach of screening, symptomatic detection and improved treatment.

Screenings are of the utmost importance to women’s health as early detection is key in the battle against breast cancer. According to the Irish Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer in the country. Breast cancer is most commonly found in those over the age of 50.

More than 70% of women offered screening accept it, which is very positive. However, acceptance rates for those invited for the first time has fallen to 66%. BreastCheck is initiating an advertising campaign to help raise awareness about the need to go for regular breast screening.

Breast cancer survival rates have improved significantly in recent years due to better screening programs and advances in treatment. Hopefully, survival rates can be improved even further through the extension of the BreastCheck program. Even with its limited scope, the BreastCheck campaign has already made an impact, over 144,000 women were screened in 2013 compared with 128,800 in 2012.

A healthy lifestyle is always the best defense against cancer. Making healthy lifestyle choices like choosing a balanced diet, practicing regular exercise, and limiting exposure to cigarette smoke, are all key to reducing the risk of cancer. A healthy lifestyle also includes preemptive screenings and body awareness.It is critical for women to know what is normal for their own bodies and to be aware of changes, be they day to day or over years.

October is the international Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to take a moment or two to learn more and find out how you can stand with Mary in making sure women aged 50 to 69 have access to preemptive care.

World Sight Day an opportunity to highlight Preventable Sight Loss

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday), on World Sight Day, highlighted the need for increased early detection and intervention of blindness and eye diseases in Ireland as 75% to 80% of sight loss cases are avoidable.

“World Sight Day is held on the second Thursday of every October and it is a day for us all to focus on preventable sight loss. Through my involvement with National Vision Coalition who represent the interests of the vision impaired and blind community, I have learned that 75-80% of blindness is preventable.

“Five people go blind every week in Ireland and more than 220,000 people in this country are blind or vision impaired. And with our ageing population this number is expected to increase by a fifth by 2020.

“Earlier this year the National Vision Coalition published their report Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland. This report outlined the economic impact of four eye diseases and blindness in sixteen countries including Ireland, and they found that blindness and vision impairment costs the State an estimated €205 million per year.

“It is essential that we tackle blindness and vision impairment for the well-being of those affected but it is also only prudent from a financial point of view that we invest in this issue to save money in the long term.

“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.

“I strongly support the call for the implementation of a national vision strategy to address blindness and vision impairment in Ireland and I encourage everyone to use World Sight Day as an opportunity to address your own optical health. Maybe now is the time to get an eye test or to address something that you have been ignoring. The vast majority of sight loss is avoidable so on World Sight Day we should all take the initiative to be proactive and take responsibility for our own health.”