Time to break the silence on the mistreatment and harassment of older people

An estimated 10,000 people aged 65 and over experience abuse.

Speaking following a briefing on elder abuse, hosted by Fine Gael’s Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, the Dun Laoghaire Deputy said that we must lift the veil of secrecy around elder abuse and empower older people to speak out about any mistreatment they are receiving.

“Elder abuse is generally not widely reported which is due, in part, to the fear felt by older people of the repercussions that would follow. A report by Age Action in 2011 highlighted that elder abusers are often family members and that older people often fear being put in a nursing home if they speak out.

“Elder abuse comes in many forms, be it physical, mental, emotional or more commonly financial. 2012 is the European Year of Positive Ageing and Inter-generational Solidarity, presenting a golden opportunity to take a stand on this disturbing issue.

“In 2010 the first Irish prevalence study on elder abuse was carried out by The National Centre for the Protection of Older People in UCD. It found that approximately 2.2% of people aged 65 years and over experience elder abuse, equating to 10,200 people.

“A formal dedicated service to investigate and support those involved in incidents of elder abuse is already in place in Ireland but unfortunately its existence is not widely known.

“If we are to deal effectively with this issue, it is vital that we open up discussions about it and encourage older people not to tolerate it. We, as a society, need to be vigilant to the signs of abuse and must be forthcoming in reporting our suspicions.

“The HSE elder abuse service is to be the main provider of elder abuse training for all agencies providing services for older people. Between 2007 and 2010 there have been more than 25,000 people trained in elder abuse, with an increase of almost 50% in the numbers receiving training between 2007 (4184 people trained) and 2010 (8126 people trained)

“We have made great strides in the area of child abuse. We must now apply the lessons we have learnt to address issues where our elders are concerned.

“I am very grateful to Emer Begley and Robin Webster of Age Action for addressing the briefing today and look forward to continuing to work with this and other agencies in the future to help stamp out elder abuse once and for all so older people are treated with the dignity they deserve.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes Rehab’s creation of 750 jobs

Yes vote on Stability Treaty Referendum will ensure economic progress continues.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the announcement this morning (Wednesday) of 750 jobs to be created by Rehab, over the next three years.

Deputy Mitchell O’Connor also said a Yes vote in the Stability Treaty Referendum on 31st May will further enhance investor confidence in Ireland, where foreign multinationals and indigenous companies are concerned.

“The creation by Rehab of 750 new jobs over the next three years, 400 of which will be here in Ireland, with the remainder being created overseas, is another boost to our economy that has been showing real signs of improvement over the last year.

“The Government is well aware that the number of people on the Live Register is still too high but every efforts is being made, through initiatives such as the Action Plan for Jobs, to ensure that all departments are looking at how to best use the resources we have to create the jobs we so badly need.

“Rehab is already a significant employer, both here and abroad, and these new posts will present opportunities for those seeking work in the areas of training, education, health and social care, IT, sales and marketing, management and administration. Rehab plays an important role in preparing people for further education, training and employment by ensuring they are equipped with the valuable skills they need to fulfil their full potential. The aim of the Government, through the Pathways to Work Scheme, is also to ensure that a person’s first day out of a job is the day they take their first step on the pathway back to work.

“While there is no doubt that Foreign Direct Investment will play a central role in driving economic growth in Ireland in the future, supporting strong indigenous enterprise that can compete on the world stage, is also key. A Yes vote in the upcoming referendum will bring the stability, certainty and confidence that will allow companies, like Rehab, to continue to grow and develop. I have every confidence that the progress we have been making since this Government came to office will continue. Voting Yes on 31st May will ensure that that is the case.”

Communion money being spent at the races is completely unacceptable

Children as young as 8 being taken to greyhound tracks on nights out.

Fine Gael Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has today (Thursday) said that the practice of schools bringing children, some as young as eight years old, to greyhound and horseracing tracks on benefit nights must be eradicated. The Dun Laoghaire Deputy went on to say that while legislation is in place that clearly states that anyone under the age of 18 should not be engaged in betting of any kind, in practice, the reality is very different.

“It has recently been brought to my attention that very young children are being taken to greyhound tracks on nights out which are organised by primary schools and Parents’ Associations as part of benefit and fundraising events. This practice is completely unacceptable and must be immediately dealt with.

“To encourage gambling in children who are young enough to spend their communion money, by taking them to race tracks, is completely irresponsible. Gambling can have a seriously detrimental impact on the lives of adults and young people. What chance do children have if they are being exposed to this practice before they have even reached ten years of age?

“Legislation is already in place to deal with this issue. People under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in betting of any kind, however, this is not reflected in reality. It is not unusual to see children of all ages at race tracks across the country placing bets in what is portrayed to them as a fun and harmless setting. This sets a dreadful example and one that should not be tolerated by parents or by the racing establishment.

“For a school or a Parents’ Association to choose a greyhound track as the venue for a night out, which is attended by children, shows a serious lack of judgement. I am calling on all gambling institutions to ensure that the laws that are in place are adhered to, so that we do not see our children of Communion and Confirmation age engaged in a practice that could have devastating consequences for them down the line.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes progress being made on PIP implants

Dr. Holohan’s comments at Dáil Committee indicate things are moving in the right direction.

Fine Gael Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has welcomed the progress that is being made in relation to the PIP breast implant scandal, saying recent comments by the Department of Health Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, that he wanted to ensure that the cost of rectifying the situation for the women who had faulty implants fitted would not fall to the taxpayer was a welcome development.
“The women at the centre of this scandal have been in a living hell. When I met with them, they likened their situation to having a ticking timebomb inside them. The fact that some progress is now being made in sorting things out, is not before time.
“Comments made this week by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Holohan, that he wanted to ensure that the cost of rectifying this situation falls, not to the taxpayer but to the providers is to be welcomed. It is my strong hope now that where clinics have been cooperating, that that cooperation continues and where cooperation has been lacking, that it is soon replaced with a willingness to face up to responsibility.
“The Minister for Health has confirmed his intention to regulate public and private healthcare providers, including cosmetic surgery clinics, through the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill so that patient safety can be improved by ensuring that healthcare providers do not operate below core standards.
“The introduction of legislation to force all medical clinical practitioners to have adequate clinical indemnity insurance is also expected by the end of the year. This will go some way to improving patient confidence in a sector that has been badly damaged by the PIP debacle.

“Cosmetic surgery is not something that should be entered into lightly. However, we must endeavour to ensure that any and all clinical practices in the State are fit for purpose and that those engaging the services of a clinician, of any kind, do so safe in the knowledge that all safety standards are being met.”

Suitable, unemployed people should be first in line for polling day and count centre jobs

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has seconded the Minister for the Environment’s call for consideration to be given to employing those currently out of work on polling day, May 31st, and subsequently in count centres throughout the country.

“While the efficient conduct of polls and the count is paramount where the Stability Treaty Referendum, and all referenda, are concerned, local returning officers and sheriffs should pay particular heed to employing suitably skilled and experienced unemployed people for count centre and polling pay posts.

“Nothing is more important now than bringing back jobs and growth to our economy and a Yes vote on the Stability Treaty will help to build a working Ireland. It will ensure that all countries adhere to sensible budgetary rules and what is essentially ‘good housekeeping’ and will also ensure that we have access to the European Stability Mechanism, a funding backstop, should we need it in the future. This will instil confidence in foreign investors who are looking at Ireland as a place to invest and will encourage them to develop or expand operations here, creating much needed jobs.

“Those who are currently out of work are in a difficult place. While the Government has stemmed the flow of unemployment, we still recognise that the jobless figures are too high. That is why we are calling for a Yes vote on 31st May, as a Yes vote will sustain the conditions we need to protect the jobs we have and create the jobs we need.

“I am asking all those who are responsible for recruitment on polling day and subsequently in count centres in every constituencies to employ those out of work where at all possible.”

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.”

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