Registration for free GP care for over 70s begins today

For Online Registration & Further Details Visit

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch have today announced the start of registration for the Free GP Care service for people aged 70 and over, which will commence on August 5th. This second phase of universal GP care extends a GP service without charges to everyone aged 70 years and older.

This new measure applies to those aged 70 and over who do not currently hold a medical or GP visit card.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Varadkar said: “This is the next step to universal healthcare. From August 5th, all 400,000 people aged 70 and over will be able to see their GP without paying fees. It’s an important step because, for the first time, the eldest and youngest in our society will be able to access GP care without being charged.”

Minister Lynch added “This Government is committed to strengthening and further developing primary care services. As we continue to expand free GP care to those under 18 years of age, we will also provide more services in primary care. We will focus on early intervention, providing services such as minor surgery and managing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma in primary care. As the number of primary care teams and centres continue to increase, so too will the range of services being provided.”

A HSE public information campaign on the new service is also starting which is aimed at encouraging just under 40,000 people aged 70 years or older, who do not already have a medical card or GP visit card to register for this service.

Mr John Hennessy, HSE National Director of Primary Care explained; “ A simple online registration system is available from Friday July 31st on Registration of a person aged 70 or older just requires the person’s name, PPS number, gender, date of birth, contact details and the selection of a GP of choice.  Alternatively people can download a form from the website, or locall 1890 252 919 to receive a copy by post. The registration form will also be available in pharmacies and local health offices”.

All persons aged 70 or older will be able to access a GP service without charges, replacing the existing GP service arrangement for this age group which is based on a means-test. Their dependents, including spouses or partners, who are under the age of 70 will continue to have access to a GP service without fees where they meet the existing income limits. Please note that persons Over 70 who already hold a medical or GP visit card do not need to register.

If anyone needs help or guidance they can contact the helpline 1890 252 919 (weekdays 8am-8pm)

New Govt apprenticeships scheme provide opportunities for school leavers in Dun Laoghaire

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said that a Government scheme to support new apprenticeships will provide great opportunities for school leavers in Dun Laoghaire. These will be in the areas of Manufacturing and Engineering, Tourism and Sport, Financial Services, Information Technology, Transport Distribution and Logistics, and Business Administration and Management.

“The new apprenticeships announced by the Government will provide great opportunities for school leavers. Twenty five of the new apprenticeships are going to be prioritised and made available in the next 12 months. Up until now, apprenticeships were only available across five sectors and the expansion. We must work to incentivise small businesses to take on apprentices.

“The new apprenticeships are due to be developed over the next two months, and some of them will give participants the opportunity to gain qualifications up to a level 8, or honours undergraduate, degree as part of their training.

“Up until now apprenticeships, with the exception of printing, have been four years long leading to a Fetac Level 6 qualification. As well as keeping young people off the Live Register, an apprenticeship can now be a great way of allowing someone to attain a higher education qualification while getting practical skills and experience on the job.

“We must now do more to incentivise small businesses to take on apprentices. Fine Gael has been running a campaign called Standing Up for Small Business, which has sought the views of small business owners around the country to see what more we can do to encourage their success and help them to grow. Currently apprenticeships involve block periods working on the job and block periods in training centres. This has made it very difficult for a small business to take on an apprentice when they know that person will have to spend weeks away from their work in education. Perhaps there could be some flexibility in the amount of time the apprentice has to spend away from the workplace.

“I commend the Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English for bringing this important scheme forward. The Government’s Action Plan for Jobs has seen over 100,000 jobs created since its launch in February 2012. We must keep going on this trajectory. Apprenticeships are a great way of keeping young people off the Live Register and ensuring they gain both the qualifications and the practical experience and skills to help them build successful careers.”

Regulation of Audiologists

This week I called upon the Minister for Health to further regulate hearing aid suppliers through legislation that would ensure that only qualified audiologists can fit and prescribe hearing aids. I have long championed for such regulations in order to protect the best interest of consumers, as shown throughout my participation within various Oireachtas Committee’s on Health and Children. This is an important issue that I will continue to advocate. Please find my full Parliamentary Question and answer from the Minister.


DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Health (Leo Varadkar)
by Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor for WRITTEN ANSWER on 16/07/2015

*  To ask the Minister for Health his plans to legislate to ensure that qualified audiologists fit and prescribe hearing aids in view of the fact that at present it is open to persons to set up anywhere and sell hearing aids, often costing up to €4,000 to €6,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D.
The Health and Social Care Professionals Council and the registration boards, also known by the umbrella name CORU, established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 are responsible for protecting the public. They do so by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence amongst registrants of the professions designated under the Act.

The 14 professions currently designated under the Act do not include that of audiologist. However, the Act provides that the Minister for Health may, under section 4(2), designate a health and social care profession not already designated if he or she considers that it is in the public interest to do so but only if and when specified criteria have been met.

My priority is to establish the registration boards and their registers for the professions currently designated. A total of 8 registration boards have so far been established and it is hoped that the remaining boards will be established before the end of 2016. It is likely that CORU will be requested to risk assess and prioritise in terms of public protection the professions aspiring to be regulated under the Act.

New local authority homes to benefit elderly and disabled people in Dun Laoghaire

The provision of 42 new homes in Dun Laoghaire for elderly people and those with intellectual or physical disability will greatly benefit these individuals and their families according to Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following the announcement by Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Alan Kelly, and Minister for State for Housing, Planning & Construction, Paudie Coffey, of a major nationwide programme to provide housing to vulnerable individuals.

“This is fantastic news. It will directly benefit these individuals and their families and will greatly help to reduce the pressure on Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Furthermore it will provide us with a legacy of improved housing stock for those who are unable to provide for themselves. It is extremely welcome that we will have these new dedicated social housing units to provide these supports to those who find themselves in need of housing support.

“This announcement comes on the back of the announcement by the Government in May of increased funding for local authorities to undertake adaptations to houses to support people with a disability and the elderly.

“The investment, which comes to over €151 million nationally and €7,432,700 in Dun Laoghaire, will be given to Approved Housing Bodies, to assist those with specific needs such as elderly people, persons with intellectual or physical disability and homeless persons. The newly acquired homes will be ready for people with housing needs this year while the newly constructed homes will be completed by 2017.

“The construction and upgrading of these housing units will also help create local employment, the benefits of which will be felt by businesses in our community.”

Strategic investment in childcare will improve affordability and accessibility for parents

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said that today’s proposals for strategic investment in childcare would improve affordability, quality and accessibility for parents and children across Ireland.

“This major new childcare report, launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly TD, proposes important changes on how best to invest in childcare services over the coming years. By putting forward costed options it provides a clear path for future investment and represents the most ambitious and detailed plan for childcare ever produced for Government.

“The report proposes three main areas where investment can be targeted:

· A period of paid parental leave, which could be shared by both parents
· An enhanced ECCE provision (currently the ‘free pre-school year’), which would be extended to the point at which primary school starts (this would ensure that from the age of 3, all children in Ireland would be entitled to free education, either in pre-school or in primary school)
· A new single subsidy scheme for pre-school and school-going children, with simplified eligibility based on income. It would cover both community and private settings, rather than the community sector alone as at present. The report says this should be designed to be progressively universal over time

“The report recommends measures to embed quality in the sector, including a quality audit and proposals for upskilling of the workforce, as well as measures to make sure there is adequate supply for future demand. It also recommends carrying out a survey to establish the scope for using school buildings for after-school care.

“I am especially delighted that my own proposal is included in the report for a once-off capital fund to support after-school services using community and private providers.”

“This report provides a sound basis for real improvements in affordability, quality and accessibility in the childcare sector, which will improve parental choice and help remove barriers to work.”

Leopardstown Link Road Contract – Traffic Information

On Wednesday 22 July 2015 from 10am there will be a new road layout on Leopardstown Road East in the environs of the Leopardstown Roundabout. The new Leopardstown Link Road will provide access to Leopardstown Race Course, Leopardstown Park Hospital and South County Business Park.

Existing access to South County Business Park and Leopardstown Park Hospital off Leopardstown Roundabout will be closed as will existing access to Leopardstown Race Course.

Road users should be aware that:-

Traffic accessing the New Link Road from Leopardstown Road East/N11 will:

– Turn left at the new traffic lights

Traffic accessing the New Link Road from Brewery Road will:

– Take the first exit on Leopardstown Roundabout

– Turn right at the new traffic lights

Traffic accessing the New Link Road from Burton Hall Road will:

– Take the second exit on Leopardstown Roundabout

– Turn right at the new traffic lights

Traffic accessing the New Link Road from Leopardstown Road West/M50 will:

– Take the third exit on Leopardstown Roundabout

– Turn right at the new traffic lights

With the exception of closing the access/egress to South County Business Park & Leopardstown Park Hospital, the Leopardstown Roundabout will operate as normal.

€501,815 in grants for Dun Laoghaire businesses from Local Enterprise Office

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said that grants of €501,815 paid from the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in 2014 are providing great support to local businesses in Dun Laoghaire. The Local Enterprise Offices are supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

“The new Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) were launched last year to deliver an improved system of local enterprise supports to start-ups and small businesses across the country.

“The LEOs provide a ‘first-stop-shop’ for all Government supports for small business in easily accessible locations across the country.

“The LEOs form part of the Government’s strategy to spread the recovery to all regions of the country. This comes alongside the Regional Action Plan for Jobs being launched by the Minister for Jobs, Richard Bruton.

“Previously some businesses were considered too large to access supports from City and County Enterprise Boards or as they were not exporting, they did not qualify for Enterprise Ireland supports and so fell between two stools. All categories of business are now benefitting from services provided by the LEOs.
“Fine Gael is committed to supporting small and medium businesses that are at the heart of rural communities. Fine Gael’s Standing Up for Small Business campaign engaged closely with small, local businesses while the Standing Up for Rural Ireland campaign which has just been launched, calls for continued investment in rural services, particularly broadband.

“The LEOs are a fantastic resource for sole traders, micro businesses and small and medium sized companies seeking information and support on starting or growing a business. The injection of€501,815 into local businesses in this area is a huge boost”.

Dun Laoghaire, Sallynoggin and Loughlinstown Dublin Bus Review

On Tuesday evening I raised to the Minister in the Dail the concerning matter of the Dun Laoghaire, Sallynoggin and Loughlinstown Dublin Bus Review. I will continue to work on this matter and ensure the public are informed and included in this review process. Please see my speech in full and the response from the Minister below.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)

Last week, on Monday, 6 July, Dublin Bus met with councillors from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to propose changes to the current network of services in the south-east area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. What has ensued since is a case of misinformation, speculation and conjecture because of the lack of hard concrete information. This has caused much upset and anxiety in the area. The routes under consideration include the Nos. 7A, 7B, 8, 45A, 59, 63 and 111 which serve many local communities throughout the Dún Laoghaire constituency. Constituents rely on these vital services and it is crucial any changes made are decided on after a fair and inclusive consultation with the public.

I am calling on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to ensure Dublin Bus runs an inclusive public consultation and informs the wider public when, where and how long such a process will take place. As far as I am aware, the consultation details have not yet been decided and the review is not available online. These steps should be taken as a matter of priority. It is unfair constituents have to learn from hearsay that their bus route may no longer exist or will be amended. Several constituents have contacted me already on the proposals, including local colleges which have firmly stated the potential adverse effects of any such change cannot be overestimated. We cannot forget the large elderly community in the constituency. These bus routes serve and act almost as a lifeline to elderly people, ensuring their daily mobility and independence.

I have been in touch with Dublin Bus to arrange a meeting with its new chief executive, Ray Coyne. I will be recommending to him that the consultation uses all means possible, including open days in shopping centres similar to those for Dublin Bus’s Network Direct service and stands where Dublin Bus reps can take on board both positive and negative feedback. The public need to be heard on this.

Ann Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Labour)

I am taking this important matter on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe.

I understand the stress that can be caused in areas where there is talk about changes to bus routes. Under the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, as amended by the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009, the NTA is responsible for the provision of bus services. The Minister has no role in decisions regarding bus routes.

Subsidised bus services in Dublin are provided by Dublin Bus in accordance with the terms of its contract with the NTA. No changes to services can be made without the approval of the NTA. The Minister, however, has been informed by the NTA that subsidised bus services are constantly changing and evolving to better meet the needs of the travelling public and ensure best use of public funding. The NTA regularly meets with Dublin Bus to review the operation of the subsidised bus network.

Dublin Bus is developing proposals to revise the current network of services in the south-east area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The purpose of the proposals is to improve the public transport network in the area, providing dedicated access to Loughlinstown Hospital, helping combat traffic congestion and increasing service levels to key destinations such as Cherrywood. Routes under consideration include Nos. 7A, 7B, 8, 45A, 59, 63, and 111.

Dublin Bus presented the emerging proposals to local councillors in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area on 6 July last. Dublin Bus will also be consulting with customers and other interested parties prior to finalising the proposals for consideration and decision by the NTA.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)

I thank the Minister of State for her reply. I am glad to hear Dublin Bus will be consulting customers and other interested parties. However, I want this to be a genuine conversation, not a one-way street. I am perturbed the details of the proposals are not up on the Dublin Bus website, even though a public meeting will be held tonight on them. It is difficult for people to know what exactly is the truth concerning these proposals. I want people, particularly older people, to be helped in this process. The concerns of older people and those with disabilities must be listened to.

Grants totalling €46,020 approved for ‘Ireland 2016’ projects & events in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

At the meeting of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council on the 6th of July 2015, the Council awarded a total of €46,020 to successful applicants under the DLR Ireland 2016 Grant Scheme, funding 18 different commemorative projects and events across the County that will mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.


The DLR Ireland 2016 programme of events is being developed by the Council, in association with Ireland 2016 and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for ‘Ireland 2016’, a national initiative to develop, coordinate and deliver a programme for the 2016 centenary year with local, national, and international events, based on five intersecting themes, drawing inspiration from the ideals of 1916, the Proclamation, and the events of that time.  It is a call to action to REMEMBER the events of 1916, REFLECT on the last 100 years, and RE-IMAGINE Ireland’s future.


The funding has been made available for local groups, organisations and other interested parties to play their part by developing a project, or projects, to mark this important event.

DLR Ireland 2016-List of Awarded Grants (pdf -134kb)


New cross-party group seeks greater efforts to counter childhood obesity and food poverty

A new cross party Oireachtas group set up to seek a more effective policy response to the twin problems of childhood obesity and food poverty was launched in Dublin today.

The Oireachtas Children’s Future Health Group, chaired by Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout, was launched by RTE presenter Miriam O’Callaghan, along with Irish Heart Foundation spokesman and consultant endocrinologist, Professor Donal O’Shea.

The group is being established amid growing concern across the political spectrum over the health status of children in Ireland at a time when one in four children are overweight or obese and one in five children go to bed hungry at night. The Irish Heart Foundation is providing a secretariat, along with expertise to support the group, which is also being assisted by organisations, including the Children’s Rights Alliance, Healthy Food for All and Social Justice Ireland.

The members of the informal group include: Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour), Deputy Clare Daly (Technical Group), Deputy Billy Kelleher (Fianna Fail), Deputy Sandra McLellan (Sinn Fein) and Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Fine Gael).

“To date actions to tackle obesity have focused on individual behaviour change through education, awareness and media programmes. But these don’t take into account the key drivers of obesity – the increasing availability and intense marketing of unhealthy food and drinks that are becoming cheaper all the time compared to healthy produce,” said Senator van Turnhout.

“Meanwhile, as the numbers living in food poverty grow, health workers are seeing more and more children who are obese and undernourished at the same time – a phenomenon of modern malnutrition.”

Senator van Turnhout said the objective of the Oireachtas group was to develop proposals for actions which tackle the root causes of childhood obesity – particularly those recognising that childhood obesity and food poverty must be addressed in tandem and that solutions must be primarily targeted at disadvantaged communities.

“The disparity between social classes is demonstrated in the Growing Up in Ireland study which shows that among nine-year-olds, whilst 19% of boys and 18% of girls from professional households are overweight or obese, the rate soars to 29% of boys and 38% of girls from semi-skilled and unskilled households.

“For parents who cannot make ends meet, the worry isn’t feeding their children well, it’s feeding them at all. One recent study shows the cost of a healthy calorie is up to ten times higher than an unhealthy one and it’s high time we woke up to the fact that if we don’t help these families, we are condemning increasing numbers of children to lives dominated by ill-health, chronic disease and ultimately an early grave.”

Specific areas the Oireachtas group will be examining include taxation to fund programmes such as fruit and vegetable subsidies and community food initiatives, school food provision, no fry zones around schools, addressing the impact of low incomes on health eating, food labelling and marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children. Later this year the group will launch the first ever study on food marketing to children via the Internet and social media, which is currently being carried out for the Irish Heart Foundation.

Professor Donal O’Shea, consultant endocrinologist and member of the Irish Heart Foundation Nutrition Council said: “I see this group as strong cross party support for the full implementation of the Healthy Ireland Framework – ensuring that Healthy Ireland will continue beyond the life of this Government. It is really hard to understand why there has been so little sustained action to tackle obesity to date. It is the number one public health issue facing the developed world in terms of driving diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. Doctors are seeing confirmation of this daily even in children with boys and girls in primary school suffering from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, painful joint conditions and rapidly increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Speaking before the launch of the group, Miriam O’Callaghan added: “Children and their parents are constantly being bombarded by strategies to encourage them to consume more: Product placement in stores, attractive packaging, toys with fast food meals, promotions to buy one-get-one-free, prizes, discounts, supersizing. As a mother I know well how hard it is to resist such marketing and it’s clear that solutions to childhood obesity must address the fact that treat food and drinks are increasingly being consumed as if they were a staple part of children’s diets.”