Imelda Munster, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath has met with the Minister for Disability Affairs Finian McGrath TD, asking him to intervene after letters were sent to 50 service users of Louth Disability Services advising them of the closure of the residential respite service at Sruthan House in Dundalk.
Deputy Munster also raised the matter with the Taoiseach in the Dáil.
The letter was sent by the HSE and advised service users that the service will close by the end of the year, because the HSE is “prioritising the provision of services to enhance cost efficiency and continuous quality improvement”.
Deputy Munster said:
“The letter advised service users that the service would be closing as a cost-cutting measure. It also said that patients with physical and sensory needs may go elsewhere, to places as far away as Sligo or Roscommon, or to a nursing home.
“This is an absolutely shocking way to treat people. The arrogance of the letter and the government’s attitude is outrageous. I raised this matter with the Taoiseach yesterday and he showed no interest, saying that I should take it up with whoever wrote the letter.
“This government thinks it can trample all over the rights of people with disabilities and get away with it.
Imelda Munster TD meets with Minister for Disabilities
“This service has been in place for 23 years and is a vitally important service locally for those who use it.
“Minister McGrath told me yesterday that he would look into the matter, and that he was not aware of it. I have asked him to intervene to stop the closure of this vital service and I will be following up with him to ensure that he takes action to ensure that Sruthan House remains open to those who avail of its services.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough informed Louth Chief Executive Joan Martin that “council tenants have rights too” at this month’s Council meeting.
The issue was raised by Cllr McGeough and several other councillors during the manager’s report. Cllr McGeough said “there are council tenants that are waiting for maintenance works to be carried out and many have been waiting for quite some time. Financial constraint is the reason being given as to why these repairs are not being carried out. Repairs are still being prioritised but what M/s Martin fails to recognise is that Council tenants have rights too.”
Cllr McGeough compared the Council to a private landlord and said “if a private landlord said they couldn’t afford to repair a tenant’s home because they didn’t have enough money, can you imagine the furore there would be? Their tenants would be entitled to report them to the Residential Tenancy Board.”
“All landlords have responsibilities including ensuring the property is in good condition and to carry out repairs within a reasonable time. There is an onus on landlords to ‘reimburse the tenants for any repairs they carried out on the structure that they requested with the landlord which the landlord did not carry out within a reasonable time’. Louth County Council is a landlord and they are not adhering to these rules.”
Councillors also raised the issue of ‘voids’ or vacant properties in the county. M/s Martin told the chamber that the only way she could afford to turn these properties around was if the Cllrs present increased the Local Property Tax by a full 15%.
Cllr McGeough said “there is a fund at central government to help with vacant properties and we need to avail of that to the maximum. It is a disgrace that we have over 70 ‘voids’, not to mention the vacant properties boarded up around the county while there are families with children living in B&Bs and hotels and people living on the streets.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described the government’s decision to create 19 new rent pressure zones, including incorporating all of County Louth within this new arrangement, as“insufficient to tackle the housing crisis in Louth and across the state.”
The Louth TD raised the issue in the Dáil today with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. Teachta Adams said:
“The decision to include all of County Louth in a Rent Pressure Zone, gives little protection to those struggling to find accommodation, or to tenants trying to hold on to their home.
Rent Pressure Zones in isolation are not the answer in Louth, nor anywhere else. The first quarterly Daft.ie rent report for 2019 shows that every county recorded rent increases above the Rent Pressure Zone cap of 4%.
The average monthly rental for Louth is one thousand two hundred and six euro which is an increase of 7.6% on last year. This is an increase of 44% since this government came to power.
The Minister needs to explain why he waited more than two years to include Louth in the Rent Pressure Zones. His failure to act allowed rents to increase substantially.
The Minister is failing to protect renters who need rent certainty. There clearly needs to be an increase in the supply of real social housing units. But immediate action by the Minister should include a rent freeze and a refundable, one-month tax credit for renters to help ease the burden on families. We also need to see the urgent roll out of affordable cost rental schemes.”
Louth TD Gerry Adams has expressed his concern at the number of assaults on HSE staff in the RCSI group which covers Louth County Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
Teachta Adams said:
“According to a Parliamentary response to my colleague Teachta Louise O’Reilly there have been 39 assaults on HSE staff in RCSI Hospital Group in the first five and a half months of this year.
Most of these assaults have been on nurses and midwifes. The statistics of assaults for all of the hospital groups revealed that 249 of the 279 who were assaulted were nurses and midwifes.
This is an alarming figure. More needs to be done to ensure the safety of staff”.
Gerry Adams added:
“Nurses and midwifes are central to the delivery of our public health services. It is unacceptable that they should face such high levels of threat and assault.
“The HSE, and the Minister for Health, need to increase measures to reduce the number of assaults on our front line HSE staff.
“One measure that could be introduced quickly would be to employ more security staff.
“Workers in Louth County Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda do an amazing job in caring for the health needs of patients. They should be able to work in an environment free from threat or physical assault.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath, Imelda Munster, has welcomed her appointment today as party Spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and her appointment to the Public Accounts Committee.
“It’s become clear that some areas of the country are not benefiting from FDI investment at all, and that the government have not brought forward any initiatives to tackle this serious neglect.
“This is all too apparent in my own town of Drogheda.
“At a time when Drogheda has suffered such neglect at the hands of this government, and other smaller towns in the constituency like Ardee and parts of East Meath, it’s vitally important that we get our fair share of investment.
“No longer can we be left out in the cold. Our town, and other parts of the constituency, have so much to offer and it’s high time the government woke up to this.
“Serious questions have arisen in relation to reports that IDA clients were steered away from establishing their bases in Drogheda and Ardee. If this was the case, then this raises serious concerns about the operations of the IDA.
“Other issues that are harming towns like Drogheda are high insurance costs for businesses, and the need to reform commercial rates. The uncertainty around Brexit is also looming over businesses, in particular in border regions. All these issues need to be tackled to ensure that jobs are protected and that new, good quality jobs are created to ensure that our towns and communities are given every opportunity to thrive.