Sinn Féin Proposal Leads to Cross Border Anti-Dumping Project

Cllrs Mickey Larkin & Antóin Watters

Louth Sinn Fein Councillor Antóin Watters and Newry, Mourne & Down District Councillor Mickey Larkin have been plagued with illegal dumping in their respective sides of the border, both reporting an increase especially in the dumping of toxic materials like tyres and building rubble.

In July of last year they submitted motions to their respective Councils, Louth County Council/Newry Mourne & Down Council, on the need for co-operation and a cross border approach to tackle illegal dumping.

A recent dumping of tyres

At Wednesday’s Memorandum of Understanding Joint Committee Meeting a Cross Border Anti-Dumping Project was approved which is a huge step forward in bringing about a significant reduction in the unacceptable social, economic and environmental harm caused by illegal dumping.

The project will also see increased collaboration between all relevant bodies and organisations within the two jurisdictions, to ensure the best outcome for the environment and local communities. Cllr Watters said “this is a massive step at reducing illegal dumping in our areas and we are delighted to see a concrete action plan being put in place.

“The action plan will include joint clean-up operations, awareness campaigns, GDPR Data Sharing Agreement, preventative measures, joint surveillance operations and the installation of smart enforcement technologies in dumping hot-spots.

“Be under no illusion, it is you and I as the tax payer who are picking up the tab for these criminals who have no regard for our countryside. Well that money is now going to be invested in being pro-active in stopping this activity rather than reactionary and cleaning up after them.”

Cllr Larkin welcomed the project saying, “This is what we have been advocating for and working towards. Rural areas are the prime target for dumping in areas such as Slieve Gullion and Turf Mountain, Edentubber.

Cllrs Antóin Watters, Mickey Larkin, Ruairí Ó Murchú with David Loughran – another dump site

“The Slieve Gullion area has the highest level of fly-tipping in the North and Cooley and North Louth has possibly the highest level in the South. This project will enable these areas to be monitored and the information shared between all relevant bodies.”

Sinn Féin has worked hard for the local communities in the border region and warmly welcome this project and look for to it coming into effect in the next few months.

Deplorable Cost of Agency Staff in the Health Service – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the “dependency of the HSE on agency staff in the Louth area as symptomatic of a health service in perpetual crisis because of the government’s failed health policies.”

Teachta Adams said: “The chaos within the cervical check system, the numbers of women now waiting up to seven months for the result of smear tests; the overspend in the construction of the National Children’s Hospital; the numbers of citizens on hospital trolleys, and the waste of taxpayers money on agency staff, are just some examples of the failure of policy on this government’s watch.”

Gerry Adams added: “Last year saw the single biggest increase in agency spending in the last five years. Since 2011 Fine Gael have spent almost €2bn on temporary agency staff to fill staffing gaps because they have continuously failed to address the recruitment and retention crisis. Agency staff were supposed to be a temporary fix to a staffing problem but it is now a fixed policy with escalating costs each year which impact on funding for other health services.

The failure of the government to address the recruitment and retention crisis around nurses has left hospitals with huge gaps in nursing staff that is being filled by agency staff who cost significantly more.

Louth County Hospital spent over a million-euro last year on agency staff. Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda spent over €9million of agency staff.

Louth is part of CHO area 8 (Community Health Organisation) which provide community healthcare services outside of acute hospitals. These include primary care, social care, mental health, and other health and well-being services. According to a Parliamentary response CHO 8 has seen the cost of agency staff escalate over the last 8 years from €13 million in 2011 to €32.5-million-euro last year.

“The government is responsible for this mess. It is its policies which have created the ongoing multiple crises with the health services. Spending €318-million-euro last year on agency staff is not the answer.”

Cllr Joanna Byrne supports Coastguard Blues

Following the revelation that the Irish Coast Guard staff and volunteers have been told they are no longer permitted to use blue lights and sirens on vehicles while driving,

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has expressed grave concerns about the ramifications of this directive. In a letter written to Eugene Clonan, Acting Director of the Irish Coast Guard, Cllr Byrne stated: “As a Public Representative in Louth, based in the Municipal District of Drogheda, I have major reservations over this, and genuinely fear it is a pen-pushing decision that will no doubt result in the loss of lives.”

Cllr Byrne said “The Drogheda Coast Guards unit alone attended 86 emergency call outs in 2018, that’s touching on nearly two call outs a week. In 2018, 17 people were rescued by this unit and a further 20 people were intervened with before entering the water.”

Cllr Byrne went on to state that “The River Boyne has torn many families in Drogheda apart losing loved ones to it, my own father included, and the service the Coast Guard provide in rescues (among other things) is invaluable to the people of our town. I am confident that without the use of blue lights, the turn out times of this unit to incidents would be severely impacted and we could be reading statistics on how many deaths occurred rather than the fantastic results stated above.

“Any step like this put in place to hinder this service is a retrograde move in my opinion.”

Cllr Byrne concluded in issuing a stark warning to Mr.Clonan that it would be on his head when this time next year they would be sitting discussing deaths.

Cllr Byrne demanded to know what consultation or communication there was with the management of the Coastguard before this being implemented and what the plans are for the sufficient training to be rolled out to the drivers.

Subsequent to this, Cllr Byrne has tabled a motion for Louth County Council’s March meeting calling for Ministerial intervention to reverse this decision, or to commit to the rolling out of training as a matter of urgency within the organisation, before many lives in this County are put at risk.

Munster: Coast Guard Blues – Retrograde Step

Serious concerns raised about Irish Coast Guard’s Directive banning the use of Blue Lights and Sirens while driving Coast Guard vehicles.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport, Tourism and Sport Imelda Munster TD has expressed serious concerns about the latest directive issued to staff and volunteers of the Irish Coast Guard stating that Coast Guard drivers are no longer permitted to use blue lights and sirens while driving on public roads.

Deputy Munster said: “I am astounded that this retrograde step has been taken which will cause dangerous delays to Coast Guard drivers as they make their way to assist in emergency situations which all too often can be of a life or death nature.”

“Irish Coast Guard vehicles are fitted with blue lights and sirens and although drivers were never permitted to use high speeds or break lights, the use of lights and sirens has always played an essential part in alerting other road users to make way for them so that they could get to their destination as quickly as possible.” “Although the directive, which was issued this month, outlined how there is a ‘risk’ with not following the Emergency Services Driving Standards (ESDS) voluntary code based around three training levels for drivers of emergency vehicles, with only the highest level permitted to use blue lights and sirens, there was absolutely no mention of providing training or date of when training would be completed.”

“Volunteer units from the Irish Coast Guard conducted over 1,100 missions in 2018 and saved more than 400 lives. The Drogheda Coast Guard Unit alone attended 86 emergency call outs in 2018; 17 people were rescued by this unit and a further 20 people were saved from entering the water.”

“They are also frequently called out to liaise with helicopter services and other medical emergency missions where time is of the essence.”

“I will be raising this matter in the Dáil and I would urge the Minister for Transport to intervene so that this nonsensical and poorly thought out directive which may undoubtedly cause loss of life can be reversed. This retrograde step could have very serious impact on their operations and their ability to respond to normal emergencies without delay when they are traveling to incidents.

“The priority now should be to ensure that all volunteers and full-time staff are trained to the highest level as a matter of urgency.”

Cllr Tom Cunningham Endorses Charter for Fishers, Coastal Communities & the Islands

Cllr Tom Cunningham & Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Fein Councillor Tom Cunningham has today launched the Party’s new 24 point Charter designed to protect our fishing industry, coastal communities.

The Charter for Fishers, Coastal Communities and the Islands is the work of numerous consultations with fishers, NGOs and coastal communities and Cllr Cunningham launched the document in his home town of Clogherhead along with Imelda Munster TD.

Cllr Cunningham said “this is an action plan whose guiding principles are driven by people who know this area best, those involved in the fishing industry and those who live in fishing communities: those that have a vested interest in making sure they can get a living from the ocean, whose lives and livelihoods rely on the ocean.”

Cllr Cunningham called all on all political Parties to “get behind this Charter to protect and support our fishing communities. Clogherhead and the Irish fishing industry have been badly let down by successive governments and indeed by the European Union. This Charter will form the bedrock of Sinn Fein’s proposals in the renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy and other agreements in Europe. I believe that there is an opportunity for positive, progressive change and if there is political will, it can happen.”

Imelda Munster TD said “if we are to have a decent, reasonable and sustainable fishing industry here in Clogherhead and throughout the country, where fishermen and the local communities can make a decent living and thrive, then I believe that this Charter has those basic principles that are needed for this to happen.”

Concluding the launch, Cllr Cunningham urged all those with an interest in the fishing industry and those who live in or are part of the coastal community to read this document, “contact your councillors, TDs and MEPs and encourage them to get behind the principles contained in it.”