Ó Murchú: Brexit Breakfast, Useful Info for Local Businesses

Vincent Power (L) and Thomas McEvoy (R) with Cllr Ruairi Ó Murchú

Louth Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú attended the recent business themed Brexit briefing hosted by Louth Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland in the Ballymascanlon Hotel on Thursday last.

Councillor Ó Murchú said;

“The SCBI / LEO breakfast was certainly more impressive than recent commentary from Boris Johnson and others in relation to the entire Brexit debacle.

“This event, which had presentations by the SCBI, Enterprise Ireland, InterTrade Ireland and the LEO was designed to inform local businesses of the range of supports and finance that are available to business for Brexit proofing.”

Cllr Ó Murchú advised that “there is a necessity to draw the business community’s attention to these Brexit preparation aids.”

InterTrade Ireland has a ‘Brexit Voucher’ system which allows companies to engage a professional, to the value of €1,250 to evaluate its exposure to Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland offer ‘Be Prepared Grants’ for SMEs who would benefit from further research and may need specialist services in developing their Brexit plan. This grant can be up to €5,000.

The SCBI Brexit Loan Scheme offers amounts of between €25,000 to €1.5m, loan terms ranging from 1 year to 3 years and unsecured loans up to €500,000. All information relating to these schemes are to be found on each organisation’s website.

“The LEO contribution by Thomas McEvoy was a comprehensive list of the many services available to companies in relation to planning, marketing, their online platforms etc. and didn’t just relate to Brexit.

“For information on the all these services go to localenterprise.ie/louth.

“Any measures which may mitigate some of the negatives of the Brexit process on Irish companies are to be welcomed. I would encourage companies and businesses in Louth to seek further information from the Local Enterprise Office.”

This event was attended by representatives of many local businesses both SMEs and larger companies.

“Their attendance is proof of the levels of concern among the business community regarding the negative effects Brexit could have on their ability to trade competitively.

“Sinn Féin has consistently said that Brexit will be bad for Ireland, north and south, in economic, political, social and cultural terms. I believe that the Irish Government must ensure the backstop agreement is enacted in the event of a no deal Brexit.

“Dr Vincent Power, the highly entertaining keynote speaker told of the spectrum of Brexit in relation to the multiple facets of the economy and society and its impact upon them. Brexit in relation to people and goods being different to Brexit in relation to services and that’s not to speak of medicines and aviation etc. He explained the Customs Union and Single Market as being maintained by a hermetical seal along EU borders which are a lot less porous than ours. He stated that any Brexit deal likely to be done would be a ‘skinny deal’ and a perpetual state of negotiations between Britain and the EU.

“Following my question on how he foresaw the Irish border post Brexit. He couldn’t see anything other than a ‘Hong Kong’ type solution and a border in the Irish sea. Anything else would have definite ramifications for border communities and businesses.

“This solution sounds to me like special designated status for the 6 counties, which would allow it to stay within the EU and maintain the necessary alignments between North and South.

“This was a useful event and I commend the staff of Louth LEO for convening this information briefing.”

Ó Murchú: Land Bank interest payments strangling Louth County Council finances

“The land banks held by Louth County Council need to be part of any housing solution by central government”, says Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú.

“Sinn Féin does not think much of Eoghan Murphy’s deflective proposals to strip County Councils of powers to deal with emergency accommodation and our planned motion of no confidence in him is well highlighted.

“The government’s idea of a Land Development Agency would only be worthwhile if  adequately resourced and operating greater, more realistic home building targets.

“Many of these land banks were bought by Louth County Council for building social and affordable housing, as was required by the government of the time. Not only are they not being built on but to date Louth County Council’s finances are being strangled by paying interest on loans on these lands. Next year the cost of this will be an estimated €1.5 million on loans of about €60 million.”

Cllr Ó Murchú described the situation as ‘ludicrous’.

Ruairi at a recent Housing Presentation by Eoin Ó Broin

“We have a responsibility to the people of Louth to ensure their budgets are being used properly and appropriately. People are entitled to value for money and it’s unjustifiable to have over €1.5 million taken out of your budget before you even start and have nothing to show for it.”

Louth County Council is also facing the daunting prospect at the end of the year of having to deal with the capital element of some of these loans.

Some of these land banks were purchased at the height of the boom and are worth a lot less now making it unviable for the land to be sold off according to Louth County Council. Councillors were told at the recent Louth County Council budget meeting that one of the last batches of land bought by LCC were purchased for €1.3 million per acre. These same lands would be lucky to fetch €400,000 per acre in today’s market leaving LCC ‘on the hook’ for the outstanding debt. LCC officials stated they have used this situation to force the issue with Central Government and will continue to make representations to them.

The government in tandem with Louth County Council needs to assess which lands are most suitable for necessary home building and to put plans in operation. If lands are not economically or any other way viable for housing, they should be looked at from a point of view of IDA development or some other solution

Either way, they have been bought by the state and the state needs to find an answer rather than compounding Louth County Council’s problem with underfunding from Central government.

Cllr Ó Murchú said “Across this state we have about 10,000 people in emergency homeless accommodation, tens of thousands of households on the housing waiting list and a huge level of tenants on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) at a huge cost to the state. We have a huge cohort paying exorbitant rents and many unable to purchase their own homes.”

Sinn Féin is enthusiastically supporting the ICTU led ‘Raise the Roof: Homes for All’ rally which will take place outside the Dáil on October 3rd at 12.30pm.

A number of elected reps and activists travelled to Carrickmacross to hear Eoin O’Broin highlight this rally and to hear Sinn Féin proposals to address the public housing problem in this state.

Housing crisis in Louth: Adams TD

Commenting on the recent homeless figures Gerry Adams TD pointed out that; “There are now more citizens homeless in this state than the combined populations of Ardee, Castlebellingham, Dunleer, Jenkinstown and Tullyallen”.

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has challenged local TDs, irrespective of their party allegiance, to support Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in the Housing Minister Eoin Murphy when it comes before the Dáil in the next few weeks.

The Sinn Féin Louth TD said:

“The government’s housing policy, supported by Fianna Fáil, is failing the tens of thousands of households on the waiting list, the almost ten thousand men, women and children who are homeless, the many more who are paying exorbitant rents, and those who want to buy their own home.

Minister Murphy is out of touch with the needs of households who need a safe and secure roof over the heads.

While there has been a very slight drop in the number of homeless in Louth the government’s policies are failing to dent the housing crisis in this constituency and across the state. The number of homeless dropped by just two between June and July.

There are now more citizens homeless in this state than the combined populations of Ardee, Castlebellingham, Dunleer, Jenkinstown and Tullyallen.

This is an outrageous situation. Consequently, Sinn Féin will be tabling a motion of no confidence in Minister Murphy in the next few weeks. We are seeking support from across the political spectrum.

I am calling on all local TDs to place the housing needs of citizens first and to join with Sinn Féin in demanding that Minister Murphy goes and the government adopt effective and urgent policies to end the housing crisis. My appeal is especially directed at Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach whose party’s support for the government is keeping it in power. Fianna Fáil is complicit in this housing crisis. Fianna Fáil TDs have the power to demand that the government change its disastrous housing policy but thus far they have refused. The Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Minister presents Teachta Breathnach and others with an opportunity to put the people first.”

 

Cllr Ó Murchú: No Notice on Bay Estate Works by Irish Water

Sinn Féin Councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has criticised Irish Water for its failure to notify people living in the Bay Estate area of impending road closures and works.

Cllr Ó Murchú said,

“I welcome the fact that Irish Water will be carrying out necessary upgrade works to the sewer network in Bay Estate, however, it is unacceptable that people living in the area were not properly informed of the necessary road closures to complete the works.

“This is a major scheme which will see the Hazelwood Avenue junction with the N52 closed for a ten week period, right up until Christmas. This is to happen during the 14 week period from Wednesday 19th September to 21st December.

“I raised the issue with officers of Louth County Council at Tuesday’s meeting of the Dundalk Municipal Council meeting, held in the Heritage Centre in Carlingford. Councillors were told that, while the Council is responsible for closing the road, it is the responsibility of Irish Water to provide the information to the public in a timely fashion. We were informed that the council would communicate this general dissatisfaction to Irish Water.

“There were also complaints about upgrade works that were carried out over the summer with little or no prior notice to elected reps or the public and other communication difficulties.

“Irish Water has failed in its duty and I have contacted the company today to raise these matters with them directly and to request prior notice for any major schemes across Louth in the future.

“I have also requested additional information in relation to the works and road closures planned for Bay Estate and will keep residents informed as I get it.”

Ó Murchú: Additional Funding Need for Housing Maintenance

Sinn Féin councillor Ruairí Ó Murchú has said that Louth County Council must make additional maintenance funding available for the Council’s housing stock as soon as possible.

Cllr Ó Murchú said:

“On Tuesday night at the Dundalk Municipal Council Meeting, councillors were informed that the current budget for housing maintenance had been completely exhausted. I asked if there was any possibility of the necessary funds being found and was told they were in the process of appealing to the Chief Executive for additional monies.”

A Budget meeting then took place on Wednesday.

Cllr Ó Murchú was at that meeting and said “the Chief Executive said she would make €400,000 to €500,000 available for housing maintenance which is to be welcomed but it is questionable as to whether this will be sufficient.”

“Housing repair works which are not completed in a timely way will have a longer term impact on the Council’s budget as these problems worsen over time. I am aware of cases in which Council houses are being left empty for long periods of time due to the lack of funding to bring them up to a habitable standard.

“The current housing shortage, which is the direct consequence of government policy, has also led to rising instances of sub-standard accommodation being used. We cannot permit housing stock in Louth to fall into disrepair.

“All of this needs to be taken into account in relation to the 2019 maintenance budget as part of the overall Council budget.

“There is a major problem with insufficient funding from central government for local authorities.

“Overall central government funding is less now than it was in 2014 and 2015 and there has been no taking into account of inflation or payroll restoration costs.

“This has been an on-going issue for the Council and they continue to represent to central government. In the meantime, tenants are left in the position that in spite of paying their rent, their landlord, the Council, is not carrying out repairs in a reasonable timeframe, if at all.”