Speech at the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Chamber County Business Awards Thursday 28 September

Cathaoirleach, Pat Neill, fellow TDs, Senators and Councillors, ladies and gentlemen: good evening! I am so thrilled to be here at the inaugural County Business Awards in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

It’s recognition of the huge contribution business makes to the vibrancy of the county and the well-being of those who live in it. The categories of award cover almost every conceivable type of business: from start up to green business. From international trade to small retailer.  And of course a top award to the Business Leader of the year.

The eclectic mix is eye catching. It reflects the wide range of business in the County.  Whether it is global multinationals in the Sandyford Business District, restaurants and pubs in Monkstown and Dalkey, or retailing in Dundrum and Dun Laoghaire the blend is alluring and attractive.

You all make a valuable contribution:

– fulfilling consumers’ expectations,

– creating worthwhile jobs and wealth,

– paying taxes,

– being good corporate citizens.

You are building a better Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

 

At Government level we are working to build a better Ireland in which the businesses, families and citizens of this County can flourish and prosper.

Look at jobs. There are now 2,063,000 people at work in Ireland. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.1 per cent; the lowest it has been since 2008. All those people at work in our County are supporting local businesses, large and small.

Most of you here are in business. As you know, my colleague Paschal Donohoe will announce Budget 2018 in twelve days. His first principle is to balance our books to keep Ireland secure in a risky world. That means paying our way and cutting borrowing, so that we can be better prepared for the uncertain future we face.

Brexit is the greatest economic challenge ahead and brings huge levels of risk and uncertainty. The challenge for the Government is to respond to uncertainty by bringing as much certainty as we can. Paschal is fond of quoting the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who said “Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone”. And so we need to take action. Action to prepare for the likely and unlikely outcomes of Brexit negotiations.

We need to continue to invest in and support the work of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and our Local Enterprise Offices. We need to protect our 12.5% corporate tax rate from the renewed pressure at European level.  (That’s a red line issue for anyone who is serious about Ireland’s future on the international stage.)And we need to invest to ensure that our transport links to mainland Europe are fit for purpose for a post Brexit landscape.

On the supply side, we have to agree on how to use our recovery to invest in the change and the supports we need for better opportunities for all. That means investing taxpayers’ money carefully and with continued reform to deliver the best capital projects, services and targeted income supports. Budget 2018 will be fair and prudent. Never again will be gamble on the nation’s future.

Our challenge is to deliver more for vital infrastructure: housing, roads, energy and water. In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, an example is upgrading the nearly 150 year old reservoir in Stillorgan which serves 200,000 people.

Or to deliver better health services, faster broadband and a more efficient public transport system. Locally, an example is more orbital bus routes around Dun Laoghaire, and more DART trains running. 

And to deliver on our promise of more housing, both social and private. That’s more affordable housing for people who want to settle down. People who want to raise families, work or return to Ireland. This week a major planning application was lodged for the new town soon to emerge at Cherrywood with 8,000 homes for 30,000 people.

As Minister for Higher Education, I am particularly focused on capital investment. Budget 2018 will allocate an additional €4.1 billion for capital investment over the next four years. The Government will be publishing a ten year capital plan for Ireland soon after the Budget. That has implications for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and the entire country.

Locally, I am confident that the Chamber, its members and the Council will play their part in delivering a better life for all.

In particular, I want to finish by once more saluting our winners here this evening. You will play a special role in realising locally what our long-term national vision will aspire to. I congratulate you and wish you continued success.

Thank you.

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

Minister of State, Mary Mitchell O’Connor hosted a “Returners” event in the LexIcon Library, in Dun Laoghaire on Monday 25th of September.

Speakers were invited to give advice to over 100 attendees on how to make the job market work for them.

The panel included Margot Slattery, Margot is Country President of the Irish operations of food and facilities management company Sodexo. Globally Sodexo employs 430,000 people and has a work force of 3,800 in Ireland of which 59% are female. Margot is an industry leader in diversity, inclusion and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk from Harvest Financials covered the subject of women and their pensions and how to prepare for retirement having taken time out of the work force to rear children, care for elderly relatives or due to illness.

Alan McGrath from the Higher Education Authority spoke on the courses and opportunities available to everyone to up-skill and re-skill and cited Springboard+ as being an invaluable resource to help you re-enter the work place fully skilled and equipped to face all the modern day challenges.

Alan was followed by Elaine Russell who has recently set up the Irish division of a UK franchise called Women Returners.ie. A website packed full of invaluable information on companies and industry who are keen to recruit females who want to return to work.

Paula King psychologist and coach, and CEO of Kingstown College challenged the audience to overcome confidence issues and how not to allow personal barriers stop you from challenging yourself to embark on a new career or return to a previous one.

Finally the last speaker was Ailish McGlew who returned to work after taking some time out to rear her three small children. Ailish spoke from the heart on how to make returning to the work force work for you and your family.

On the night the Minister said “As we reach full employment at a faster pace than envisioned in the programme of Government and Enterprise we have to ensure there is sufficient labour force with the right skills”

The Minister challenged her guest speakers to illuminate the route back to work for many of the attendees who had a desire to return to the work place after various extended breaks in their CVs.

Most of the local colleges and Institutes had sent representatives and a number of recruitment companies attended hoping to meet potential candidates.

At the end of the event the Minister thanked her guest speakers and the audience who took part in a lively and entertaining Q&A and said “I think we also need to encourage and facilitate employers to view ‘returners’ in a positive light. They have the ability to strengthen their skills base and have the ability to address their talent constraints”

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

 

If you are currently out of work, at home or on an extended career break – and you are feeling intimidated at the prospect of returning to work or your career, then this event is for you.

I invite you to meet some of our country’s brightest and inspiring experts: You will garner important information on how to prepare yourself for this, sometimes daunting, step.

Speakers include:

Margot Slattery, Country President, Sodexo Ireland – Describing herself as a ‘worker’, Margot has quietly championed inclusion and equality in the workplace and made Sodexo an industry leader in, their term, ‘quality of life services’ – Leading the way in new and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk, Head of Development and Marketing, Harvest Financial – Emer specialises in the area of advice on pensions and retirement planning. She is an associate of the Institute of Taxation and co-founder of Connect Women in Pensions, a network that supoprts the importance of retirement planning for women.

Elaine Russell, Head of Women Returners in Ireland. Having spent over 20 years leading commercial teams in large multinationals. Elaine specialises in career coaching and supports women to rebuild their professional confidence, play to their strengths and successfully integrate work into their lives.

Our panel also includes industry experts in higher education, retraining, upskilling as well as actual returners, who have successfully navigated their way back to work.

Tickets for the event are free but limited, so please take a moment to book your place asap. Tickets can be booked here

Please share the event with any friends and family you think might benefit from attending.

Best,

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD
Minister of State for Higher Education

 

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.

€4 million Capital Fund announced for Community Youth Groups

There is good news for community youth groups today following the announcement of the establishment of a €4 million capital fund which will be made available to volunteer led youth groups, to allow them to purchase equipment that will support their work in the community

Volunteer led youth groups are at the heart of every town and village in Ireland. Up and down the country there are groups bringing sport, theatre and arts, music, adventure, technology and so many other activities to the young people of their community. It is important that these are recognised and that funding is made available to support the equipment needs of such clubs.

As a parent, former teacher and Principal, I know how many children across Dun Laoghaire have benefitted from access to activities through community youth groups. We cannot underestimate the importance of these groups in a child’s development, mentally, physically and socially.

I welcome the news that this funding is to be made available and encourage volunteer led youth groups, across the constituency, who are in need of equipment to apply. Over 1,500 clubs across the country will be eligible to apply for this funding. The application process is expected to open in late September and I will share further details as they become available.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Monkstown Village Improvement Scheme

After a long wait, the Monkstown Village Traffic Improvement Scheme is due to start shortly.

Cllr. Patricia Stewart and I have been working on this for several years now so it is very good news to hear that contractors will be on site soon. The scheme presents an opportunity to improve and enhance the public realm in this conservation area whilst improving road safety.

The major elements of the scheme are:
• A signalised pedestrian crossing at Spar
• An increased area of granite at the “Ring” with extra planting and seating
• Two-way road in front of the church
• One-way (and left only) in front of Goggins; one-way on Clifton Avenue (towards the sea)
• Narrowing of the carriageway through the village and widening of footpath
• Parking bays will be indented and surfaced with cobble sets
• Raised flower beds in the Crescent to provide an attractive separation from the road
• A crossing point is being added at Avoca which will incorporate seating and planting
• The existing overhead cables will be removed and the poles relocated
• Street furniture will be rationalised & decorative lighting added
• Loading bays will be reduced in size resulting in no loss of parking as a result of the new scheme

This scheme aims primarily to improve road safety but it will also visually enhance Monkstown.

If you have any further questions on the scheme, Cllr. Patricia Stewart is available to help you at 086 8291002 or at patriciastewart.ie@gmail.com. Alternatively, if I can be of assistance on this, or any local or national issue, please contact my office on 01-6312219 or by email to mary.mitchelloconnor@oireachtas.ie.

All documentation and drawings can be found on:

http://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/council-democracy/capital-programme/monkstown-village-traffic-improvement-scheme-and-public-realm

Dun Laoghaire to get 14,800 new homes, 5,000 before 2021

Dun Laoghaire Fine Gael TD, and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes Government funding that will deliver 14,800 new homes to the area.

The €40 million in funding for Dun Laoghaire represents Fine Gael’s commitment in the Programme for Government to increase access to public infrastructure and enable more housing to be developed.

Some 5,000 houses will be built in the area by 2021, with the potential for 14,800 houses to be built here in total in the long term.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “This funding will help deliver a strong mix of private, rental and social housing delivery at appropriate locations and create new and attractive local communities to live in at affordable prices and rents.”

“In recent months I have been at a number of significant jobs announcements in the constituency, most recently Microsoft, where 600 additional jobs will be created. I am acutely aware of the importance of quality housing stock in attracting companies and workers to the area and this funding will help to significantly increase the number of homes being built.

“These homes are important; we know there are housing and accommodation shortages in certain areas. Fine Gael is dedicated to improving the lives of families and children. Everyone has a right to a home and we are ensuring this is possible. We will continue this work throughout the 32nd Dáil” the Minister added.

“Together with other targeted and complementary measures under the Government’s Action Plan for Housing, the delivery of this housing in the next four years will have an extremely positive impact on the availability of housing in the short to medium term.”

“Through the work undertaken, we are now making progress in recalibrating a sector that has faced enormous challenges in recent years.

“Today’s announcement of the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation projects signals what can be achieved from a collaborative approach involving local authorities, public bodies and housing providers, working together to maximize the impact on housing development and delivery from the focussed use of available public funds.”

The Minister went on to say that Dun Laoghaire’s new funding represents an effective use of targeted funding to achieve real results for ordinary citizens, adding that the announcement will lead to the delivery of 23,000 housing units nationally by 2021 and an overall figure of over 69,000 housing units in the next ten to fifteen years in areas where the shortage of supply is critical.

“Through the projects announced today under LIHAF, together with the completion of our review of the Government’s Capital Plan and the development of a new National Planning Framework later this year, we will see further sustainable progress being made to address our housing needs and accelerate our economic and social recovery”.

This is a great example of ‘joined-up Government’ and has acted as the trigger to draw both public and private partners together to leverage much wider public and private sector investment.,” The Minister concluded.

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.