Monica Barnes RIP

It is with profound sadness that I learned of Monica Barnes passing last evening. Monica was the most wonderful, warm hearted woman and represented our Dun Laoghaire constituency so ably. She was articulate, sincere, and passionate about the advancement of women.

Only last week when I spoke to her, she was excited and enthusiastic about coming to our next DunLaoghaire Constituency meeting and celebrating Votáil 100. She was also due to participate in an event tomorrow for Fine Gael women of the “Class of ‘83”.

I have the lovely memory of meeting three generations of the Barnes family a few short weeks ago: Monica, Sarah and her granddaughter Ailbhe. It was clear how much of Monica’s energy and passion has been passed through the generations.

I offer my deepest condolences to the Barnes family.

Action Plan for Education 2018 Launch

 

The Action Plan for Education 2018, led by Minister Bruton, is the next step in the Government’s plan to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.

An Taoiseach today launched the Plan in St. Audoen’s National School with Minister Bruton, Minister of State Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State Halligan.

Major international studies have recently shown the strength of the Irish education system. Ireland’s 15-year-olds are among the best in OECD countries in reading and are above average in mathematics and science. Our primary school students are the best in Europe for reading and maths.

The Action Plan for Education 2018 builds on this success and sets out a roadmap for how we plan to support education leaders on the journey to making Ireland’s Education and Training Service the best in Europe by 2026.

Minister Bruton launched a three year plan in 2016. The 2018 plan being announced today is in accordance with his commitment to putting in place an annual process where the government commits to concrete actions and strict timelines.

Some key actions in the 2018 Action Plan:

– School Excellence Fund: Support school clusters to undertake innovative projects in areas of Digital, Disadvantage, Creativity, Gaeltacht and School Inspection under the School Excellence Fund.

– Leadership: Support schools in deploying the recent investment of 3,000 extra posts of responsibility. Improve middle management structures in schools and empower school leadership with training, mentoring and resources. A proportion of the CPD budget will be dedicated to delivering on strategic priorities such as innovation and leadership.

– Brexit: Implement Foreign Languages Strategy to significantly increase the number of students studying a foreign language at all levels. Increase Erasmus uptake. Publish strategy to attract world-leading researchers to higher level institutions in Ireland post-Brexit.

– Digital: Implement Computer Science for Leaving Certificate in 40 schools. Implement School Excellence Fund- Digital to support schools in digital innovation. Progress new maths curriculum for primary schools to include elements of coding. Continue work of Minister’s Digital Implementation group of experts.

– STEM: Formally recognize outside of school initiatives at Junior Cycle. Develop new summer courses in STEM subjects and industry placements for teachers. Deliver 20% increase in take up of students doing STEM for the Leaving Certificate and 40% increase in female participation.

– Disadvantage: Update DEIS Plan – our plan to tackle educational disadvantage. Develop a more tailored resource allocation model for DEIS schools. Address barriers to higher education.

– Parental Choice: Enact the Parent and Student Charter Bill and the School Admissions Bill. Shortly commence Reconfiguration for Diversity process to deliver step up in number of multi-denominational schools.

– Higher Education: Enact Technological Universities Bill, with the first TUs to open in September 2018. Review quality of Higher Education, including the quality of teaching. Implement new model for allocating funding to higher level institutions to better align to national priorities and incentivise lifelong learning, innovation and research. Develop a consistent digital experience for third-level students.

– Wellbeing: Recruit 10 more NEPS psychologists. Provide more guidance to schools on the use of external providers. Publish Wellbeing Policy Statement. Expand Student Support Teams. Support Wellbeing programme for Junior Cycle.

– Special Education: Develop first ever In-School Speech and Language Therapy Service. Undertake comprehensive assessment of the SNA scheme to ensure we are achieving the best outcomes for children with special educational needs.

– Critical skills: Deliver new, revised literacy and numeracy targets given the success of Irish students in meeting existing ones. Increase number of students taking higher level maths at junior cycle and senior cycle.

– Curriculum: trial new assessment methods and commence work on reviewing senior cycle programmes; Implement senior cycle Physical Education as a leaving certificate subject in 80 schools. Develop new Religion and Ethics programme for primary schools. Implement Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Music and Geography to new Junior Cycle.

– Skills: Roll out Springboard+ 2018, offering all courses to those in employment for the first time. Conduct review of career guidance. Publish Entrepreneurship Policy. Develop 25 new apprenticeships and 10 new traineeships

– Teacher supply: establish a Teacher Supply Steering Group; build on initiatives already announced and develop a policy on Teacher supply to support the availability of relevant teaching resources across the system in the short-medium and long term.

– Gaeltacht: Implement Gaeltacht Schools Policy – for which the budget this year has doubled. Issue grants and resources for schools who have opted into Gaeltacht schools scheme. Commence Schools Excellence Fund – Gaeltacht. Commence new M – Ed programme for Irish language teachers.

– Ongoing Review: every agency under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills will be reviewed to ensure they are in line with our ambition to be the best in Europe; first reviews to commence in 2018

An Taoiseach said:

“Education improves our society, boosts our children’s potential and is integral to our economic success. Our approach to education is about giving every child an equal opportunity in life, and that’s why the Government is determined to build the best education and training system in Europe by 2026.

“The Action Plan for Education 2018 builds on achievements made during 2016 and 2017, and the focus this year on excellence and innovation means that we are embedding the extensive reforms already taking place within the sector, for the benefit all learners. This year, for example, we’ll be encouraging schools to work together on innovative projects; we’ll take steps to increase the number of students studying a foreign language and we’ll introduce PE as a Leaving Cert exam subject in 80 schools.

“As a Government, we are spending more on education, increasing teacher supply and investing significantly in new schools. The Action Plan for Education will help to ensure that this investment delivers the best possible results for students at every stage of the education system.”

Minister Bruton said:
“Education is key to delivering on our ambitions as a nation. It is the engine that drives economic growth. It is a powerful tool in breaking down cycles of disadvantage and ensuring every person is given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.

“I’ve set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. Thanks to the leadership and dedication of our education and training providers, this is a realistic goal. International studies have recently shown how far along this journey we already are. This Plan is our roadmap for taking us the rest of the way.

“The expectations from our education and training service are changing. The challenge in the years ahead will be to invest and transform our education system so that it broadens career paths, builds momentum around key curricular reforms, continues to break down cycles of disadvantage and embeds regional development.

“Since I’ve been Minister, the education budget has grown by €1billion. This significant investment shows the importance this Government places on Education. We are hiring more teachers and investing more to support learners with special education needs than ever before. We are seeing higher retention rates, exceptional outcomes in literacy and numeracy and better results in ensuring opportunities for those who come at education at a disadvantage. All of these investments and results show that we are on a journey to becoming the best education and training service in Europe”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said:

“The focus of this year’s Action Plan on excellence and innovation is very welcome. Today’s launch comes when we have a new Systems Performance Framework and new funding arrangements in place for the Higher Education sector. These will see more funding for STEM courses, the introduction of an Innovation Fund and a performance fund to reward institutions who excel in particular areas, as well as new funding streams for research and incentivised life-long, part-time and flexible learning opportunities.

“Linked to these changes is the progress through the Oireachtas of the Technological Universities Bill, which recently moved a step closer to enactment. Technological Universities will provide an opportunity to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise and the community. They will have a significant impact and influence regionally, nationally and internationally.

“All of these changes fit with the overall focus on excellence and innovation across the education and training sector as a whole, and, as Minister of State for Higher Education, I am delighted to see how Higher Education will contribute to that during 2018.”

Minister Halligan said:

“Delivering a coherent national response to skills needs is vital as we build on and sustain our economic recovery. Some of the measures we’ll be taking to do this in 2018 include continuing to strengthen the apprenticeship and traineeship systems, supporting the development of an Upskilling Pathways Plan, implementing a strategy to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland in the context of Brexit, increasing the enrolment of postgraduate researchers and growing the number of programmes to support postdoctoral researchers, in partnership with enterprise.

“By equipping learners with the right skills and fostering strong partnerships between employers, higher education and further education and training providers, we will ensure Ireland continues to be an attractive place for international investment.”

What Being the Best in Europe Means:

• Delivering a learning experience to highest international standards

• Harnessing education to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion and setting the benchmark for social inclusion

• Equipping learners of all ages and capacities to participate and succeed in a changing world

• Leading in innovation and a broad range of endeavours, scientific, cultural, enterprise and public service

• Fostering strong relationships between enterprise and education and building strong bridges with the wider community

Breast Cancer Ireland Fundraiser: Thank You

I was delighted that so many people attended the recent coffee morning in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. It was a very positive event and there was a wonderful atmosphere in the room.

Thank you so much to everyone who attended on the day, and to those who were unable to attend and sent good wishes. Thanks also for the donations to Breast Cancer Ireland, we raised €675 through your generosity. Please see below a copy of the acknowledgement from BCI in thanks for the funds raised.

Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer in women in Ireland. Every year it affects about 3,000 women and 20 men in this country. Breast Cancer Ireland, and other cancer charities, do phenomenal work to support patients and their families, as well as contributing to vital ongoing research to help to combat the disease.

I would like to thank the Royal Irish Yacht Club for the beautiful setting for the event; and Ciara Holmes, from Breast Cancer Ireland, for giving her time to attend on the morning.

Sincere thanks to Ian McConnell from the band El C, who also joined us on the day. Ian played their Christmas Single “Don’t Cry for Christmas”, a beautiful, poignant song, which touched the hearts of everyone in the room. The single can be pre-ordered here and all proceeds from the song will go to The Irish Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK, in memory of lost loved ones.

Opening Address: Trinity College Dublin – THE NEW ACADEMIC TRACK FOR INTERNSHIPS

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor being greeted by the Provost Dr. Prendergast, Prof Hennessy and Prof Gill at the launch of the National Academic Track for Internship, TCD, Dublin. Photo: David Coleman

Distinguished Academics and HSE representatives. And to the new head of the Trinity School of Medicine, Prof Michael Gill.

I am truly delighted to be invited here this morning, to meet with you all as you embark on one of the most exciting developments in Irish medicine and innovation. And especially on the morning that this esteemed campus is named as one of the most beautiful on the planet! Congratulations!

As a mother, having lived, first hand, through the blood, sweat, tears and commitment that a trainee doctor needs to apply to their medical qualification I commend you all on your huge achievement – Being selected as the inaugural group of 24 junior doctors to undertake the first of its kind in Ireland, The Academic Track for Internship.

I know you started your programme in July and I hope you have settled in and are relishing the challenge that lies in front of you. This is the first step on your career path from academic intern to a consultant clinician scientist. Exciting.

On reading some of your testimonials where you recount your areas of research, I was inspired and heartened that the future of our healthcare system will benefit from your innovations and the discoveries your research will bring.

As the first class of the The Academic Track for Internship, it was inspiring to read that approximately a third of you expressed an interest in undertaking the innovative pathway. You will lead the charge in enabling Ireland to remain one of the top innovation nations in the world.

It is a great opportunity for all of you to gain valuable experience in either clinical research, further medical education or in leadership and healthcare management.

You, as the chosen 24 interns, will make valuable connections with clinical researchers, academic and healthcare leaders that might not have otherwise happened until much later in your career.

I am sure many of you would have sought our similar programmes in the UK or further afield, so I am delighted as the Minister for State with responsibility for Higher Education to be able to facilitate your academic career in Ireland. Retaining medical talent in Ireland helps us address the skills shortage in academic medicine. 

As you are aware, Health Research is critical in providing essential information to government and policymakers. Health research is an investment in our future and it ensures a better health system and a better health outcomes.

Health research provides us with the evidence to address key societal challenges – such as an ageing population and the increases in chronic diseases. Research activity attracts and retains high-quality health professionals in the system. With global shortages in all areas of medicine and patient care, we need a vibrant research-active system to attract and retain skilled personnel.

The HSE is investing €250,000 in this programme. NDTP hopes that the availability of the academic track internships in Ireland will contribute to the retention of medical graduates of Irish medical schools who have academic as well as clinical ambitions. Furthermore, this initiative provides an early and dedicated focus on research skills among doctors.

I sincerely hope that many of you will go on to undertake further and more sizeable academic research during your careers and work as academic clinicians and that we all will be reading about you and your medical advancements in the years to come.

Brexit is set to have a significant impact on higher education in Ireland and the long term effects of it on the research landscape both in Europe and Ireland are not yet clear. Every year a considerable number of Irish medical students leave the country on graduation.

I see this development within the School of Medicine in Trinity College Dublin as an advancement to mitigate against any negative effects of Brexit and undoubtedly will strengthen the opportunities for Medicine undergraduates and postgraduates.

It is imperative that the Government does everything within its power to ensure opportunities exist for our future academic clinicians that keeps Ireland at the forefront of medical innovations.

I believe the future of clinical research in the country will be in safe hands, your hands. Programmes such as this are the perfect way to harness your exceptional abilities to benefit all our inhabitants. I have no doubt that patients both here in Ireland, and globally will thank you for your dedication in years to come.

I want to reiterate Prof Martina Hennessey’s remark, you are the stars. Go forth and shine in the field of medicine. I wish you every success during your internship and look forward to hearing and reading about you in the future.

Thank you.

HSE review of autism services open for submissions

ASD affects many adults and children across the constituency. I want to encourage people with autism spectrum disorder, parents and clinicians to make submissions to a HSE review of autism supports and services. I want to ensure that people with ASD in Dun Laoghaire have access to the necessary supports to enable them to reach their full potential and live rich and fulfilling lives.

I recognise the need for a strategic approach to enhancing the responsiveness and effectiveness of local services to meet the evolving needs of people with ASD.

Following feedback from the constituency, I have been in constant communication with my Cabinet colleague, Minister for Health Simon Harris, highlighting the need for such a review. The HSE has set up a working group to consider the effectiveness of existing services, to identify models of good practice among such services and to identify practice models that are not having a positive impact.

It is important that we identify where in the country services are operating well and where they are not. The HSE has now invited submissions from service users, parents and practitioners and I want to encourage people to take the opportunity to have their voices heard.

“Three workshops will also be held in September with key advocates and NGOs: Disability Federation of Ireland; the National Federation of Voluntary Bodies and Inclusion Ireland and the working group will report on its findings by the end of September.

The Department of Health will initiate an epidemiological research study into the prevalence and future projections for autism spectrum disorder later this year to allow us to plan for the future and future-proof our strategies for people with autism.

Following the advancement of this work, the Minister has told me he intends to proceed next year with a national strategy for enhancing the health service response to people with ASD.

Further information on the review, including how to make your submission, can be found here 

The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2017.

Clonkeen College

I am vehemently opposed to Christian Brothers’ plan to sell off the majority of the playing fields site at Clonkeen College to a developer.

In the past fortnight, I have met with the School Principal and Deputy Principal to discuss the situation. Following those discussions, I wrote to Brother Garvey and to Minister Bruton seeking a resolution. I have received a response from Brother Garvey and have passed that on to the Chairman of the Board of Management. I also requested a meeting with Brother Garvey but he has yet to respond to that request. This morning, along with Cllr. Patricia Stewart and my Special Adviser, I met with members of the Board of Management and advised them that they should urgently seek legal representation.

Clonkeen College has a long history of using these fields and, under the principle of promissory estoppel, they have an understanding that they can continue to use this land in this way into the future. There has been significant investment on the site, both on the school building but also the recently concluded drainage, seeding and fencing of the playing fields themselves. This investment needs to be protected.

These playing fields are absolutely irreplaceable in the locality. There are no alternatives; the fields are a significant public amenity as well as being vital to the wellbeing and fitness of the school students, and a key resource for their physical education. The school community and the community of the greater area would be adversely affected if this land was to be sold.

The Christian Brothers justify the sale of the lands by saying the money is needed to make their outstanding payment to redress scheme. Why these lands? Why penalise the children of Clonkeen College, current and future to pay for the sins of members of the Christian Brothers congregation in the past? It is unacceptable.

I will continue to work with the school and the Minister for Education and Skills to explore every avenue to protect these pitches.

 

 

Aspire Technology announces 150 new jobs in Dublin

Aspire Technology, an independent, Irish-owned and managed ICT company today (Friday, 12 May 2017) announced 150 new jobs at their Irish headquarters in Sandyford, County Dublin. Founded in 2010, Aspire Technology delivers end-to-end mobile network lifecycle professional services and product solutions to the world’s leading telecommunications, equipment and software providers.

The new positions, which are supported by the Department of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland, cover a broad spectrum of ICT and mobile telecommunications technologies and competencies. The roles include software developers, network engineers, design specialists and project managers at both experienced and graduate levels. Recruitment of the new positions is starting immediately including an extensive graduate recruitment programme.

As part of the expansion, Aspire Technology will be adding to their existing headquarters in Sandyford where they will build a state-of-the-art Network Support Centre. The new centre will serve over 16 million mobile customers across 32 markets during 2017. Plans are already in place to grow this facility to manage over 50 million mobile customers.

Announcing the new jobs, Bill Walsh, CEO and Founder of Aspire Technology said: “Aspire Technology’s growth is based on our world-class people whose deep expertise, allied with the innovative and entrepreneurial culture within the company, has resulted in a significant increase in demand for our solutions. We are thrilled that we are doubling our team in 2017. We have amazing opportunities for ambitious candidates who love working with people and technology. Our culture is built on developing and supporting our teams to deliver exceptional expertise to our international blue-chip customers. This culture is reflected in our high levels of employee satisfaction and we are proud to be known in the industry as having an exceptionally high employee retention ratio.”

Welcoming the announcement, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, said: “Today’s announcement that Aspire Technology, an indigenous company, is creating 150 new high-tech, professional jobs in Dublin is exciting and very welcome. It is testament to the vision and hard work of everyone in Aspire Technology that the company has grown from a small start-up into a highly innovative and successful company. The Government through Enterprise Ireland looks forward to continued engagement with Aspire Technology as they scale their business in international markets. I wish Bill and all the team at Aspire continued success for the future.”

Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland concluded: “Enterprise Ireland’s mission is to partner with innovative Irish businesses with the drive and ambition to scale internationally. Aspire Technology is a great example of an indigenous Irish ICT company with global ambition, competing and winning against strong competition in international markets. This expansion is testament to the ambition and capabilities of the company. Enterprise Ireland has been working with Aspire Technology since its establishment in 2010, and we are proud to be backing this exciting new phase in its development with support for 150 new highly-skilled jobs at their headquarters in Dublin.”

Patronage of New Primary School in Dun Laoghaire Awarded to Educate Together

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and TD for Dun Laoghaire constituency, has welcomed the news that Educate Together has been awarded the patronage of Dun Laoghaire’s new primary school, to be opened in September 2017.

“Dún Laoghaire is growing and thriving thanks to the hard work of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Chamber, Dún Laoghaire BID, Digital Dún Laoghaire and other local driving forces. This is bringing new people into the area.

“The changing demographic has been reflected in the decision about the patronage of this new school. The Educate Together movement began in Dalkey almost 40 years ago. From one school they have grown to, not just a national body, but an international body, with their first school in the UK opening in 2014. It is fitting that they have been awarded patronage of this new school.

“In accordance with the Programme for Partnership Government, the Government has a strong commitment to increase the number of multi-denominational and non-denominational schools across the country. This will continue as more schools are built to accommodate our growing population.

“As a former teacher, education is always on my radar and this new primary school is a vital addition to the area. Parental preference and demand played a big part in deciding patronage following a public consultation in late 2016. I am delighted that people took the opportunity to be part of that consultation and have their views reflected in the decision.

“September 2017 will be a special time for the students of Dun Laoghaire Educate Together Primary School, and their parents and families who have campaigned for this school for a long time. I look forward to seeing smiling faces at the school gates.

 

Do you need to renew your passport?

As we approach the busy holiday times of Easter and summer, it is important to make sure your passport is in date if you plan to travel abroad. Please check your passport, and the passports of anyone that may be travelling with you, especially children.

At this time of year there is always a seasonal increase in the demand for passports. Added to that, we have a significant increase in applications for Irish passports from the UK, with Brexit on the horizon. Extra staff have been recruited by the Passport Office but delays remain likely.

As of today, the turnaround times from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for applications from Ireland are:

Passport Card: 5 working days

Passport Express: 16 working days

FIRST/Lost/Stolen/Damaged passport: 23 working days

It is important to note that applications for a first passport take significantly longer than renewals due to additional security measures.

The turnaround times are changing on a regular basis so the DFA advises allowing at least six weeks for your passport application. Delays are often encountered when forms are incorrectly completed and the six week recommendation allows time for any issues to be resolved.

For genuine emergencies there is a Rapid Renewal Service. Certain specific documentation is required for this and candidates need to make an appointment with the Passport Office on Lower Mount Street. There are limitations to this service, so it’s best to check your passport sooner rather than later and get your application in on time.

The Department of Foreign Affairs offer a reminder service whereby you can register the date of your passport expiry and an email address and they will send you an email when your passport is due for renewal. This is a very useful tool and can be found on www.eforms.gov.ie/en/reminder/passport

Brexit meeting, next Monday, 6th March – hope to see you there!

On Monday next, March 6th, I will host a public meeting on Brexit in the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, Killiney at 8pm.

The evening will feature a panel of guest speakers. Joining me on the night will be Mary Buckley, Executive Director with Enterprise Ireland, Kevin Sherry Executive Director with IDA Ireland, Nicola Byrne, Incoming President of the Irish Exporters Association and Lorraine Higgins, Head of Public Affairs with Retail Excellence Ireland.

I would be delighted to see you on the night, please join us for what promises to be an informative discussion.