Cllr Pearse McGeough: Fund Exposes Scale of Help Needed for Elderly

Age Action Ireland and the Irish Red Cross launched the Covid 19 Hardship Fund back in April offering a maximum of €500 to older and vulnerable citizens in need of help while they were cocooning.

Councillor Pearse McGeough was just one of many councillors in Louth who were approached by a number of potential beneficiaries who were struggling during the pandemic.

Cllr McGeough said “this fund was badly needed and would cover additional costs that older people were facing during lockdown. For some it could be the upgrade of a phone so they could have visual contact with their families, or it could have been an extra fill of oil because despite the good weather, older people at home not moving around as much feel the cold and they would be at home 24/7 during this time. It was basically to cover additional costs incurred because of Covid 19 to help with their physical and mental well-being.

“Remember, some of these people would rely on support from day centres or family support and suddenly they were cut off from everything as the lockdown occurred. Day centres closed and normal family visits were banned with essentials being delivered to the door and visits taking place through a window or from the garden gate.”

Age Action Ireland and the Red Cross had fundraised over €103,000 but unfortunately were inundated with applications from our most vulnerable and were only able to grant 453 of the 21,000 applications received. The fund brought forward its closing date from August to April because of the sheer volume of applications.

Cllr McGeough said “they sought assistance from the Department of Social Protection to meet the huge demand but unfortunately their calls went unheard so many vulnerable older citizens were left with no additional financial assistance when they needed it most.

“The older people have really suffered during this pandemic and have been proved to be most at risk should they contract it. This payment would have helped them through this both physically and mentally. We really appreciate the efforts of Age Action Ireland and the Red Cross and they have certainly identified the scale of help that is needed among this vulnerable group so it’s now time for the Government to step up and offer financial support to those who need it most.”

Government Formation Reaction from O’Murchú

Sinn Féin will continue to lead the way to ensure that the change that Louth voters signaled in the general election in February will happen, according to Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.

The deputy was one of 37 Sinn Féin TDs who gathered at Dublin’s Convention Centre on Saturday when Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was elected Taoiseach.

Mr Ó Murchú said he was aware that he was ‘attending government formation in Dublin as part of a strong Sinn Féin team because of the sacrifices of others’. He paid tribute to the late Bobby Storey whose funeral takes place in Belfast tomorrow, along with Dundalk republican Sammy O’Hare who passed away earlier this year.

He said: ‘People in Louth voted for change, in a massive way, with the election of two Sinn Féin TDs. Imelda Munster topped the poll with 17,203 votes. The party secured 42% of the vote in this constituency.

‘What has happened in the last few months is that, faced with a seismic change in politics, the old guard of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael circled to wagons and excluded Sinn Féin, using the cover of the Green Party in order to do so.

‘I accept their right to form a government. I accept we didn’t have the numbers, this time, but they didn’t even talk to us ahead of government formation, which disrespects our voters and shows Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s willingness to hold onto power at any cost.

‘Between them, they have produced a programme for government that lacks ambition and big ideas and will not deliver on affordable housing, on building health service capacity, on Irish Unity or on the right to retire at 65.

‘But the voters of Louth will know that Imelda and I, along with the strong team we have in Leinster House, will hold this government to account like never before. We will continue to work for the people and families that voted for us.

‘We will always put forward alternatives to the right wing, corporate-orientated politics of this new government and we will deliver the change that people voted for and deserve’.

Louth Flood Plans

Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú raised the issue of the CFRAM plan for Louth and East Meath in Leinster House recently and sought an update from the government about the multi-million euro plans.

The Sinn Féin deputy asked Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe about a number of projects earmarked under the CFRAM project including flooding defence works at Dundalk and Blackrock to which €40 million has been allocated.

Other CFRAM plans, such as Carlingford and Greenore, which will cost €23.41 million; Drogheda, costing €17 million and works at Ardee, Termonfeckin and Annagassan were also raised.

Mr Ó Murchú said he had met the former minister, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, a number of times when the TD had visited Louth, but this was ‘some time ago’. The TD said Mr Moran had engaged positively with Louth County Council and had made a number of site visits, including to Balmer’s Bog in Dundalk, where work is about to begin.

The Louth TD said he welcomed the commitment from Minister Donohoe that there would be allowances made for changes to the plans, which were first launched in 2018 and added that the money has been ringfenced for the CFRAM scheme.

Mr Ó Murchú told Minister Donohoe that Louth County Council was waiting on authorisation from the Office of Public Works (OPW) to appoint consultants to move the projects onto their next stage and get work started.

He also welcomed the news that the OPW which is responsible for the delivery of the CFRAM project, would look at delivering necessary ‘quick wins’ in the Louth constituency.

He also raised the issue of house insurance difficulties experienced by people living in Bay Estate.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘I used the time I was allocated during a debate on the OPW’s role in climate action to raise with Minister Donohoe the CFRAM project in Louth.

‘I welcome the commitments he gave to me in Leinster House, particularly the commitment that the OPW would contact Louth County Council to authorise them to appoint consultants to move the works to the next phase.

‘This work, particularly in Dundalk, which would see over 1700 homes protected from flooding, needs to commence as soon as possible, particularly given the challenges of climate change’.

Concerns for Students future on Social Care Course: Ó Murchú

Serious concerns about the future of students on a social care course at DkIT have been raised by Louth TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.

Around 42 students who have just completed third year of the college’s Social Care course logged onto the examinations results system at DkiT last Tuesday to find their results for the year had been ‘deferred’.

It is understood the issue centres around placement hours, which are a course requirement set down by the social care sector’s oversight body, CORU.

Because of Covid-19, the students were unable to complete their entire placement hours in April and May and the college offered alternative assessment methods.

The students said they believed they would be graded and moved into their fourth and final Level 8 degree year in September, but they were ‘stunned’ to see their grade had been deferred.

In addition, they were told that because of a college error in their second year, a further 100 hours of placement would have to completed in 2021, on top of the hours deferred because of Covid-19.

The Sinn Féin TD has written to the Ministers for Health and Education after receiving a number of representations to his office about how the matter unfolded this week and he has also written to DkIT president, Dr Michael Mulvey.

‘A number of students have contacted my office about this issue and are deeply upset and worried about what has happened.

 ‘The students who wish to go for a Level 8 degree are very worried about how they are going to complete this huge chunk of placement hours, on top of completing their final year assignments and thesis.

‘What is particularly concerning is that the students believed that the alternative assessments that they completed during lockdown were in lieu of the placement hours for 2020. But now it looks like these may not be accepted.

‘On top of that is the startling news that a further 100 hours were not completed in second year, again, without the students’ knowledge.

‘I have written to the ministers with responsibility in the education and social care areas, asking them to intervene in this situation so that there is a satisfactory outcome for the students.

‘I have also contacted Dr Mulvey to ask him to investigate what has gone on here and see if solutions can be found’.

Dentist Patients being Failed by System: O’Murchú

The health system is failing dental patients who have medical cards”, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has said after it was revealed a Dundalk dental practice texted clients saying they were no longer able to treat them.

The Sinn Féin TD said he had spoken to the dentist who sent the text and it was clear that ‘a major system failure is on the way unless the HSE gets its act together over medical card contracts for dentists’.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “This is a dreadful situation for medical card patients who need treatment from their dentist through the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). I have spoken to the dentist concerned and I have relayed patients’ worries to them.

“I do not agree with the way that medical card patients were told, wholesale and out of the blue, about the situation, and I have conveyed that to the dental practice, but the dentists were carrying out what they believed was due diligence and telling patients in time so they can find another practice.

“I have been assured that no patient will be left with incomplete, already started treatment.

“However, the harsh reality is that medical card dental patients are going to struggle to find another place to take them on, such is the level of the issue with dentists across the board.

“There is a major issue with PPE provision. Dentists believed they would have a supply of PPE from the HSE on an ongoing basis. This has not transpired and they have to buy it on a practice by practice basis.

“There have been difficulties with the contract since negotiations stalled in 2008 and there is no doubt, in the post-Covid-19 landscape, the system is about to collapse.

“It is only a matter of time, weeks probably, before other dentists follow and inform their medical card patients that they are no longer able to look after them. It’s happening already – a number have already indicated they are withdrawing from the DTSS.

“This crisis has been brewing long before Covid-19 but now, with additional PPE costs and reduced patient flow, due to social distancing and cross infection measures, the medical card patients are being treated at a loss.

“This is not sustainable. The HSE has to immediately engage with the Irish Dental Association over the contract for medical card patients and immediately address the PPE issue. If they don’t, this is only the start of a major crisis.

“In the longer term, there needs to be a far more sustainable method of providing public dental care.”

Deputy Ó Murchú last week submitted a parliamentary question about the issue to the Minister for Health.