Department of Education & Skills, Marlborough Street, Dublin D01 RC96 01-8892199

Every effort must be made to safeguard Vodafone jobs

Fine Gael Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Friday) joined her Party colleagues in calling on the Communications Minister, Pat Rabbitte to do all in his power to ensure that the 300 Vodafone jobs that are at risk of being lost to Newry are retained in the State.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor went on to say that the meeting that is set to take place next week between the Communications Minister and the CEO of Vodafone, Mr Jeroen Hoencamp, presents the perfect opportunity for the case to be made for retaining the jobs in Dublin and Dundalk.

“It is of great concern to me that there is a very real threat to 300 Vodafone jobs which provide customer care services at Leopardstown in Dublin and in Dundalk. This is on the back of 140 jobs lost at the company last May when the decision was taken to move call centres from Ireland to Egypt and India.

“Ireland is at a critical stage of rebuilding its economy and encouraging inward investment. Confidence is growing and we have seen a significant number of foreign companies choosing Ireland as their preferred destination for business development. Only yesterday, we had the announcement of a €200 million expansion of the Amgen plant in Dun Laoghaire after just a year in business.

“This move by Vodafone flies in the face of what every individual in the country is attempting to do; get Ireland Inc. back up and in business. Assiduous attempts are being made on all sides to undo the damage inflicted on us in recent years and to get our people back to work. It has not escaped my attention that people are more conscientious in buying Irish and in supporting shops in their local economy in an effort to create and retain jobs. I am seriously disheartened by Vodafone’s plans in this regard.

“The Minster for Communication’s commitment to meet with the CEO of Vodafone next week signals some light in what is a dark situation for the employees whose jobs are at risk. I am hopeful that a satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at and that ultimately the jobs in Dublin and Dundalk will be retained.”

Amgen’s expansion signals confidence in Ireland and Dun Laoghaire

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said that the expansion of the Amgen pharmaceutical plant in Dun Laoghaire is a huge boost for the local area, with jobs for graduates, the highly skilled and those in construction to be created. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following her visit to the plant yesterday (Thursday) with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

“As part of a €200 million IDA-backed investment, a major expansion of the Amgen plant at Pottery Road is set to take place with 100 jobs to be created for engineering and science graduates, as well as some entry-level positions. Three hundred and fifty construction jobs will also be created during the building phase of the 11,700sqm development.

“This will have a significant impact on a wide range of people in Dun Laoghaire and the surrounding areas and signals a major display of confidence by Amgen in what Ireland has to offer in terms of a stable and reliable corporate tax rate and a well-educated and highly qualified workforce. I am also delighted that Amgen has committed to working with local residents during the construction phase and that Pottery Road is in line to be upgraded.

“Amgen is the world’s largest biotech company and it is worth noting that this announcement comes little more than a year after the company purchased the facility from Pfizer. It is extremely heartening that such a substantial development is taking place after such a short time.

“The Government has placed a special focus on the biotech, pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors in the Action Plan for Jobs. These areas, among others, have been identified as sectors with the potential for high growth and job creation. Ireland has built up an outstanding reputation in these areas over the years, with the result that nine of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies now have a presence in Ireland.

“It is vital that we focus on doing all that we can to support indigenous businesses, to encourage more international start-ups and multinational companies, to improve competitiveness and target the sectors with the most potential. With 80 out of 83 (96%) measures in Q1 2012 of the Action Plan for Jobs having been delivered, the Government’s efforts in creating an environment in which jobs can be created cannot be called into question.

“There is still a long road ahead but this announcement further cements Amgen’s place in Dun Laoghaire and transforms the Pottery Road plant into one of the leading biotechnology manufacturing sites in the world. And that’s something we can all be proud of.”

Time to explore real childcare options that work

With empty schools and halls all over the country we are failing to capitalise on a most valuable resource.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) said that we must look at real, affordable and proven ways of providing childcare, in light of proposed changes to the lone parent payments. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor was speaking following comments made by the Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, in the Dáil last night on the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill.

“As a former school principal, I have extensive experience identifying ways of providing childcare that is both reliable and affordable. In my former school, we addressed this issue by employing qualified carers to provide after school care at reasonable rates.

“Parents were charged a small fee per hour for their children to be taken care of after school and within the school setting. A reduced rate was charged to disadvantaged pupils or those who demonstrated a difficulty in paying.

“The money raised from this initiative was used to pay back a loan that the school had taken out for renovations, independent of the Department of Education. The money that was raised enabled the school to easily cover the loan repayments, while providing a valuable service to parents and their children. If an initiative such as this was to be adopted in schools throughout the country, considering that the loan element would be removed, minimal charges could be imposed to cover the cost of employing the supervisors.

“We have empty school halls and gymnasiums the length and breadth of the country that could be used to provide after school care by professionals. These premises are available at very little cost and failing to use them, when there is obviously a need, is failing to tap into a hugely valuable resource. The taxpayer has funded these schools so it makes that they are used to the benefit of local communities.

“Our social welfare system needs to be overhauled and refocused in favour of those who are most in need of payment. In my experience, this system of childcare provision works very well for parents, children and, indeed, the school. I believe that all workable options must be explored to ensure that the social welfare system continues to provide for our people and that our children are cared for in the most suitable and affordable setting. ”

Funding will improve situation for all commuters in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

€1m for new cycle facilities, better access for walkers and new road.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the announcement of €1 million in funding from the Department of Transport to go towards improving transport infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown. This is part of a new round of funding of €12 million for more than a hundred projects in the Greater Dublin Area under the Sustainable Transport Measures Programme 2012.

“I am delighted that this funding has been made available to improve facilities for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown. One million euro had been provided, €600,000 of which will be used to improve the junction and signalling at the junction of Upper Kilmacud Road and Blackthorn Junction. This will include new cycle facilities and better access for pedestrians and cyclists at Sandyford Luas stop.

“Design works on a new road from Leopardstown Road to Sandyford Business District will also be carried out which will go towards improving the situation for people travelling this route, helping to shorten journey times and make life that bit easier.

“Work on designing a new cycle and walking link from Belfield campus to the Dart will also be carried out. These days more and more people are opting for local transport or are taking to their bikes. It is important that we encourage these trends by making sure that the facilities and pathways that cyclists and pedestrian use are up to scratch.

“Despite the constraints on his Department, the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, has made a concerted effort to ensure that smaller projects that will have a big impact locally are adequately funded.

“By providing €12 million for more than 100 road, bus, cycle and pedestrian projects in the Greater Dublin Area, the Minister is addressing the needs of all commuters, by seeking out the ways to best improve means of transport while encouraging more sustainable ways of travelling.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor raises concerns over development of Cherrywood

New villages could have negative impact on established areas like Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey, Blackrock and Glasthule.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has made a submission to Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council outlining concerns over the impact the Cherrywood Strategic Development Zone could have on Dun Laoghaire and the surrounding areas.

“The Draft Planning Scheme for the Cherrywood Strategic Development Zone details a 264 hectare green field site for development which would consist of three new villages, served by a town centre, with the capacity for three primary schools and two post primary schools.

Considering what is happening in areas such as Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey, Blackrock, Shankill, Ballybrack and Glasthule at the moment, the fact that the proposal is not anchored within an overall strategy for region and the possible negative impact it may have on surrounding towns and villages, is a cause of genuine concern.

“Too often we have seen the development of areas in isolation without any real reference to surrounding towns and settlements. The effects of the recession are already evident on the main streets of these towns with many retail outlets and offices closed down. Retailers argue, with conviction, that this development will draw customers from their towns and villages, especially at weekends, compounding an already difficult trading environment.

“Consideration must also be given to how a major population move to Cherrywood will impact on house prices and school pupil numbers in the already established centres. In the last few months a private primary school has closed in Dun Laoghaire town and I am aware of four other State primary schools in the Dun Laoghaire Electoral Area Ward that are set to lose significant pupil numbers. There is also pupil capacity in a number of our State run secondary schools in the area.

“The water supply to the development is also a cause for concern as the security of supply from Roundwood Water Treatment Works, which Cherrywood area is totally reliant upon, may not sustain a development of this scale.

“While the initial plan put forward in 2009 was appropriate, we are now living in very different times and must ask ourselves if this development is the best strategy at this time. We already have an oversupply of unfinished office blocks and apartment units, many of which are empty, in place such as Leopardstown. It is my strong belief that we should get our existing towns back up and running before embarking on new developments such as this.”

New Anti-Bullying Forum will help address cyber-bullying in schools

Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, of a new Anti-Bullying Forum that will address cyber-bullying as part of its remit. Deputy Mitchell O’Connor has urged the Minister to ensure that the forum will lead to up to date anti-bullying guidelines for our schools which deal with the issue of cyber bullying.

“Our anti-bullying guidelines for schools were created in 1993 and have clearly become outdated. I sincerely hope that the Anti-Bullying Forum established by the Minister will lead to stronger and more robust anti-bullying guidelines for our schools which also address the issue of cyber bullying.
“This is an issue that is particularly close to my heart. As a former school principal, I am well aware of the often lasting harm which bullying inflicts on its victims. I would urge the Anti-Bullying Forum to look at how school management can address occurrences of bullying between pupils outside of school hours, especially on the internet.
“It is important to point out the crucial role of parents in identifying and addressing bullying, whether their child be the perpertrator or the victim. Parents have a particular duty to monitor what their children are doing on the internet. A worrying issue which is on the increase is the targeting of teachers on the internet. Online innuendo, which is often of a sexual nature, can cause considerable upset to its victims.
“I believe that education on bullying within our schools should be given greater priority and I hope the anti-bullying forum will look at this issue. The Junior Cert Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum informs pupils about the dangers of cyber-bullying. However teachers complain that SPHE is often under-prioritised in favour of other subjects.
We have made progress in recent years in recognising and addressing the issue of bullying inside and outside our schools but it’s clear that we still have a long way to go. I am very hopeful that the Anti-Bullying Forum will help point the way towards lessening the incidences of bullying in and around our schools.”

Not paying household charge is unfair on those who have paid

Tuesday, 3rd April 2012 –
Household charge pays for services which we all benefit from.

Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, has called on people who have not paid the household charge to do so in the interests of fairness.

“The Government has established the household charge in order to pay for local services such as parks, street lighting, emergency services and libraries, in other words the services provided by our local authorities which we all depend on and take for granted. The charge is necessary because we have a €16 billion budget deficit and need to raise the money directly from our citizens.

“As everyone benefits from good local infrastructure and facilities, it is important in terms of equity and fairness that everyone pays. We all benefit from the same public resources so it is unfair that some should effectively pay for their neighbours.

“I fear that resentment may occur between residents in a local area if some have paid their charge and others decide not to. We cannot expect our neighbours and friends to pick up the tab for the roads, playgrounds and other public facilities which we all use. In the interest of fairness, we all need to contribute.

“On a separate note, I am greatly heartened that Dun Laoghaire constituency has the highest percentage of household charge payments in the country. Given Minister Phil Hogan’s indication that those areas which collect the most will receive the most funding things look positive for residents in the constituency.”

Dun Laoghaire pier records highest ever footfall

Positive signs so early in the year are a great boost for the town.

Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Thursday) welcomed the news that Dun Laoghaire pier experienced its highest number of visitors last Sunday.

“Over 24,274 people are reported to have visited the pier last Sunday (March 25
th) which is a fantastic boost for the town. Dun Laoghaire pier is renowned throughout Dublin as being an excellent place to bring your families for an afternoon stroll.

“Having so many people visit the pier has a knock on effect for the entire town as restaurants and shops will benefit from the increased numbers visiting the town.

“It is a very positive sign to see so many people visiting Dun Laoghaire so early in the year and I hope that this trend continues right throughout the year. A record 1.3 million people visited the pier in 2011 and I am confident that we can set a new record for 2012.”

Quotas are regrettable but necessary

Speaking on the Electoral Amendment Bill in the Dáil this evening (Wednesday), Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said that the introduction of electoral gender quotas are a regrettable but necessary measure needed to address the gender balance in political life.

Speaking during the Dáil debate, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor quoted Vivienne Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, who is planning to legislate for female quotas on private sector boards throughout Europe, as saying ‘I’m not a great fan of quotas…but I like the results quotas bring about’; a sentiment that the Dun Laoghaire Deputy agrees with.

“The only thing quotas have going for them is that they work. They change the context in which we live, especially when that’s in a limiting or discriminatory context.

“We could be waiting decades before parliaments, which are heavily tilted towards male representation, come anywhere near equal representation. We can wait it out over several generations or we can shout stop, introduce a quota system which we maybe do not like but that we know will work.

“In more than fifty countries throughout the world, quotas stipulate that a certain number of political party candidates for election must be women. In fact, the majority of countries with more than 30% female representation in parliament have implemented quotas.

“The reality is that waiting for political parties to see the light and promote more women into the parliamentary ranks doesn’t really work. Putting a quota in place does. A generation ago, equality laws were introduced with the result that a steady stream of women entered into third level education, into professions like medicine and into business.

“The current situation is due to inertia, which is the biggest speed-bump along the road of women’s progress. Quotas will eradicate inertia and allow a wider choice at election time. In short, quotas will represent a major last step towards acknowledging the equality of half of our population.”

€4.4 million to be made available for social housing in Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has today (Tuesday) welcomed the announcement of more than €4.4 million to be made available to Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown County Council for social and voluntary housing and regeneration projects. This is part of more than €250 million to be allocated to local authorities throughout the country to support social housing nationally.

“The details of the housing capital allocations to local authorities was made today by the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan. Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown is in line to receive €4,400,150, with more than €3.5 million going toward housing supply and €807,000 being used to improve the housing stock, including regeneration.

“Due to our economic circumstances, the days of big capital funded construction projects have come to a halt for the moment. The reality is, however, that the demand for social and voluntary housing remains high. This is forcing the Government to come up with new and innovative ways of doing more with less.

“The Minister has said she expects to be able to deliver between 3,500 and 4,000 additional social housing units this year through measures such as the Capital Advance Leasing Facility, among others. Investment in improving the housing stock should see another 1,500 properties that are currently vacant, come back into use.

“As part of the overall allocation of €691 million for local authorities under the Social Housing Investment Programme for 2012, €251.5 million is being used to support the national regeneration programme, to improve the standard of energy efficiency of the national housing stock and to fulfil commitments under existing contracts for the delivery of social and voluntary housing.

“By ensuring that social and voluntary housing construction remains on-going and that the regeneration and improvement of our cities and villages is sustained, we will continue to meet the housing requirements of those most in need of assistance.

“A particular focus is being given to bringing older and vacant housing back into use through improving the standard and energy efficiency of the national social housing stock. This will also serve the purpose of breathing new life into areas that have, in recent times, been neglected and ignored.

“I am delighted that such a generous allocation has been made for Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown and I look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring for the locality into the future.”