Watters: Narrow Water Bridge Included in New Deal

Sinn Féín Councillor Antóin Watters has welcomed the inclusion of the Narrow Water Bridge in the “New Decade New Approach” document released on Thursday evening and which details a deal to restore the institutions in the north of the country.

Sinn Féin Ard Chomairle has agreed to accept the deal and has taken the decision to re-enter the power sharing institutions and nominate Ministers to the Executive.

Cllr Watters who has been instrumental in ensuring the project was kept to the fore in Louth said “Over my term on Louth County Council I have worked to ensure the Narrow Water Bridge project has been kept on the agenda and remains a shovel ready project. Back in 2018 when the planning permission was scheduled to lapse I had to keep pressure on both Louth County Council and also Newry, Mourne and Down Council to ensure this did not happen and that the necessary works were carried out.”

It also emerged at that time that “Louth County Council had already spent €2 million on the project so I was very sure I wasn’t going to let them write that off. It was vital that I kept the pressure on.”

Cllr Watters is hopeful that “should this new deal be accepted we can finally see Narrow Water Bridge completed. It is imperative that this is done to further boost the tourist industry in the North Louth area.”

“I will continue to work with our Sinn Féin team to deliver this project and I am hopeful that after three years the new Assembly will be a more fair and equal power sharing Executive and we can see projects like this come to fruition.”

Munster pleased Minister is following her lead in prioritising border businesses ahead of Brexit

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Imelda Munster TD, has welcomed the announcement of a targeted Brexit fund for border counties, which was recently announced by Minister Heather Humphreys. The funding is in line with Deputy Munster’s amendments to the Industrial Development Amendment Bill, which ensured that border counties would be given preferential treatment regarding grant funding for businesses at risk due to Brexit.

Deputy Munster said:

“I am delighted that my amendments were successful and that the border is being prioritised in the allocation supports for businesses ahead of Brexit.

“This is good news for the entire border region.

“My home town of Drogheda is a good example as to why these supports are required. Drogheda is Ireland’s largest town, located on the Dublin-Belfast corridor. We have a well-educated workforce, a dynamic business community and great potential to grow.

“Government policies have held Drogheda back – the previous Labour and Fine Gael government stripped us of our town council and borough status which was a major blow to the town.

“The current government consistently overlooks Drogheda time and time again when it comes to business and development opportunities. We got nothing in the National Development Plan and Ireland 2040, other than ‘third tier status’, which is frankly an insult to Drogheda, given its size and potential.

“The government has been slow to date in helping businesses to plan for Brexit. The Brexit loan schemes have been seriously problematic, and there are ongoing concerns around the safeguarding of jobs ahead of Brexit.

“This funding is a first step in addressing these issues for border counties. I am pleased that my amendments have been successful in that the government is finally taking its responsibilities to the border region seriously.

“It is important that the funding targets businesses who need it most, and who are most exposed to Brexit risk, and I will be following up on these matters with the Minister when the Dáil resumes next week.

Funding for Addiction Services lower in 2019 than 2007 – Ó Murchú

Sinn Féin Councillor and Chairperson of Louth Drug and Alcohol Forum, Ruairí Ó Murchú, has written to the Minister of State for Drugs, Catherine Byrne, to request a meeting with her and also with the Ministers for Health and Justice.

Councillor Ó Murchú said,

“Across Louth there are a huge number of families and individuals whose lives are being destroyed by drugs.

“At the last meeting of Louth Drug and Alcohol Forum a number of associated groups stated serious shortfalls in funding and that this is having a negative impact on service delivery.  Forum members decided that we need to meet with the Minister to put these points directly to her.

“At a meeting of the North East Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, I learned that in 2007 funding was approximately €1.4 million.  In the past year only €900,000 was allocated.  This is despite an exponential growth in demand for these services, coupled with increases in rent and other operational costs.

“I have written to the Minister of State Catherine Byrne, to outline how any further reduction in addiction services will have severe negative impacts on communities across Louth.

“The prevalence of drugs in our communities is at a higher level than ever before, however government policy and funding has not kept pace with the needs of addiction services.

“At a recent Joint Policing Committee meeting in Dundalk, the Garda Chief Superintendent for Louth Christopher Mangan, stated that there is a decreasing government focus on demand reduction and a severe lack of drug treatment rehabilitation services for people who want to kick their addictions.

 

“In Louth we have a very successful drugs court in operation.  However a key component of its success is the availability of services to those who come before this court.

“The inability of service providers to deliver services will have a hugely negative impact on communities in terms of crime levels, antisocial behaviour and intimidation by drugs gangs.

“A recent report from the EU Drugs Agency and Europol found that violence and intimidation by drug gangs has severely affected communities in Ireland and had major impacts on individuals, families, communities and the functioning of local services and agencies.

“It is not enough for the Government to register huge concern when report after report indicates that this is a worsening problem.  It is time that serious focus and resources were allocated to counteract the vast resources of the drugs gangs.

“On behalf of Louth Drug and Alcohol Forum I have written to the Minister to request that she provide a date to meet with me and the other members of the Forum and I hope that the Minister will respond positively and that we can make the case for additional funding for groups across Louth involved in this essential work.”

Cllr Pearse McGeough: Ardee not deterred after attempted ATM theft

                    Cllr Pearse McGeough on RTE in Ardee

Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough has hit out at those responsible for the attempted robbery of an ATM in Ardee in the early hours of this morning.

This is the second attempt on an ATM in the mid-Louth area in the past five weeks and Cllr McGeough has described it as “an attack on the community and on the business community.”

Cllr McGeough described the scene when he arrived to open his weekly clinic in the town. “Part of Irish Street has been closed which is causing disruption to the businesses in the area. Gardaí are on site and there is a mechanical digger and a tractor on the road with a burnt out vehicle nearby. The Ulster Bank appears to have been badly damaged.”

Irish Street, Ardee after the robbery attempt

However, Cllr McGeough was defiant, “these people are no addition to Ardee nor indeed anywhere. Businesses in Ardee are having their last few busy shopping days before Christmas and certainly don’t need something like this but it won’t deter them. Ardee is open for business despite these people and the people of the town will not be deterred, it is business as usual.”

“The inconvenience caused to shoppers and businesses lies solely at the feet of the thieves who are attacking small communities like ours up and down the country.

“Once again, Gardaí resources have been discussed and that is a matter for the Government and the Gardaí to address. I and Deputy Imelda Munster have been very vocal on this issue and are hoarse screaming for more resources to be allocated to Louth Gardaí, especially the rural areas. There was some success last August when a criminal gang who carried out a spate of ATM robberies were apprehended in County Cavan following a joint operation between Gardaí and PSNI but we need more of that. These robberies are still happening and we need to keep the pressure on.”

Cllr McGeough also pointed out that “Gardaí can’t be everywhere but there are things that we as a community can do. Keep your eyes open for any suspicious activity around ATMs, any strange vehicles in the area and also be aware of heavy plant and machinery moving at night. I would also urge owners of plant and machinery to ensure they are secure and immobilised at night when they are not in use.”

Gardaí are appealing to anyone who was in Ardee between 3am and 5am this morning, or anyone with dashcam footage to contact them at Ardee Garda Station or any Garda station.

If you see any suspicious activity in or around ATMs please phone Garda confidential line 1800 666 111 or Crimestoppers on freephone 1850 250 025

Rising rents in Louth unacceptable – Cllr Joanna Byrne

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has slammed the Government over continuing rising rents in Louth and has called on all Louth TDs to support the progression of Sinn Féin’s Rent Freeze Bill.

Cllr Byrne said,

“The latest quarterly data from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) shows that rents have increased another 1.3% in Louth with the average rent in the county now reaching €1,010 per month, an increase of 6.8% on this time last year.

“The rents in Drogheda are exceeding €1,100 significantly higher than the northern or mid parts of the county. Unlike the Minister who is living in cloud cuckoo land, I know many renters in Drogheda struggling to meet rent payments that are far in excess of these figures.”

The RTB report contains facts which Cllr Byrne describes as ‘startling’:

  • The average rent across the rest of the State is now €1,243 per month, an increase of 8% on last year.
  • The average rent is now over €1,000 euro in seven counties across the State.

Cllr Byrne asked “When is enough, enough? There is nothing stable about the private rented sector for most tenants and the insistence of the Minister with responsibility for the sector claiming otherwise is not just delusional but worrying. Rent pressure zones are not working. Rents are too high and are continuing to rise even in areas like Drogheda where tenants are supposedly guarded by these RPZ’s.

“We need to reduce and freeze rents immediately. The Sinn Féin bill passed second stage in the Dáil last Thursday with huge support and must be progressed and I am calling on all TDs in Louth to step up, do the right thing by your constituents and support its progression.

“We also need to see investment in affordable cost rental projects to offer renters long term solutions”