Ruairí Ó Murchú:Ban on Music at Weddings Should be Reviewed

Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has called on the government to review the ban on music and dancing at weddings.

The Louth Deputy said: “There are many people out there who have decided to continue with their wedding plans and have made huge sacrifices to do so.

“Couples have cut guest lists and changed venues in order to comply with the public health regulations. In spite of the difficulty this has caused, these couples have adapted and persevered because they want to get married and have a great day celebrating their love with their families and friends.

“However, the reaction from couples getting married to the most recent decision by the government and Fáilte Ireland to ban music and dancing at weddings has been one of extreme disappointment. The couples I have spoken to feel this is a mean-spirited decision by the government which will only serve to ruin their wedding day.

“The public health restrictions are already very specific and restrictive – 25 people only at a wedding – so this is a strange decision.

“This ban is not stated in the government’s regulations and has only subsequently been decided by the Minister for Health, the Minister for Tourism and Fáilte Ireland. This matter should be reviewed by government so couples can have some sort of music and dancing at their weddings in a safe and secure way.”

Ruairí Ó Murchú: Student Nurses News Welcome

Louth TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has welcomed the announcement by Taoiseach Micheál Martin that a review of pay by student nurses will be completed by the end of the month and that those who are not able to get part-time work can avail of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

The Sinn Féin deputy was one of a number who raised the issue with the government during the Order of Business at Leinster House on Tuesday.

Addressing the Taoiseach, Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘Student nurses should be paid, particularly when they do essential necessary work and at a point in time when there are unable to work in other health settings.

‘Now that the Government has made its decision, I welcome that some can avail of the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP. I also welcome that there will be a review of allowances.

‘Third year nursing and midwifery students in the Dundalk Institute of Technology, DkIT, brought this to my attention. Would it be possible for this review as it relates to allowances to be fast-tracked? The payment could be front-loaded and paid upfront to ease some of the financial hardship that they are dealing with’.

In response, the Taoiseach said: ‘The allowances review will be completed by the end of December. The intention then is to act very quickly on that.

‘The pandemic unemployment payment decision was made between the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Protection and will be available to student nurses who cannot partake in normal part-time work because of Covid-19. That is where things are at the moment but we are committed to protect the degree programme itself’.

Cllr McGeough: Controversial Annagassan Junction to be Reviewed

Sinn Féin Councillor Pearse McGeough has referred to the new junction layout in Annagassan as ‘an embarrassment’ and is demanding for it to be rectified immediately.

The Farm Road Junction in Annagassan was ‘upgraded’ recently but according to Cllr McGeough “they narrowed the entry/exit so much that there is barely a full car breadth between both lanes. I don’t know who measured the mouth of the junction but they must have thought everyone using that junction was going to be driving minis.

“When you turn into the road, you have to ensure there is no car waiting to exit because you need to take up both lanes when you turn in. There are wheel marks on the footpath at either side as cars have had to mount the pavement either to enter the junction or to leave it to avoid other vehicles.”

Cllr McGeough also hit out at the lack of foresight. “What if there is an emergency and a fire engine or ambulance needs to get down that road in a hurry? They will have to stop and manoeuvre their way round that junction which will cost precious time. There is a bus service along Farm Road several times a day and it is a joke watching the poor driver waiting until the junction is clear of traffic before attempting an extremely challenging manoeuvre just to enter the road. I honestly believe that every time the bus driver manages to get in or out of Farm Road safely they should get a round of applause. The whole thing is an embarrassment for all those involved in that junction upgrade.”

Cllr McGeough said “No-one is happy with this junction and after several representations from local residents and farmers in particular and after consultation with transport providers I will be demanding that Louth County Council rectify this fiasco immediately and not put it on the long finger citing lack of resources. This is a mess and it needs to be put right immediately.”

Following the Ardee Municipal Meeting, Cllr McGeough was informed that a review of the junction would be undertaken immediately. At the meeting Cllr McGeough referred to a friend’s description of the realignment of the junction as the “biggest controversy in Annagassan since the Viking invasion of 841AD”

Ó Murchú: Victory for Hauliers

A victory for local haulage businesses was achieved in the Dáil last week after concerns about transport managers’ qualifications post-Brexit were raised by Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú and a number of other TDs.

The Sinn Féin TD had been contacted by the manager of a North Louth haulage business who had been told last week by the Department of Transport that the CPC qualification he had in the North would not be recognised after January 1.

A Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) in Road Transport Operations Management is a qualification that allows the holder to act as transport manager in a haulage business.

Around 200 transport managers were contacted by the Department of Transport last week to say that their qualification, which was obtained in the North, would not be recognised after Brexit.

The Louth TD, along with a number of others, raised the issue at the EU Affairs Committee last Wednesday.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘What we have here is hauliers who are currently operating with recognised CPC qualifications that will not be recognised post Brexit.

‘I put it to the Government that this issue needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Deputies referred to conversations they have had with other Ministers. Deputy Joe McHugh and I raised this issue with the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Thomas Byrne, at the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs. The Government knows about the issue. We need to ensure that a solution is provided for the people who require it for their livelihood’.

Deputy Ó Murchú said he was delighted when, the following day, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton, said the transport managers affected would be provided with a mechanism to allow their Northern qualifications to be recognised. They are to be issued with corresponding, EU-recognised certificates and will not have to sit a further exam.

The Louth TD said: ‘I am delighted that I was able to raise this issue at the EU Affairs Committee and the government took on board what was said. This was the sensible option and it has lifted a burden of worry off the constituent’.

Health Settings in Danger of Coming Apart at the Seams: Ó Murchú

Virus outbreaks at specialist health units in Louth were raised in Leinster House last week by Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú who highlighted Covid-19 outbreaks at St John of God’s Drumcar and at the Crosslanes facility in Drogheda.

During debates on Covid-19 and mental health, the Louth TD said he had been made aware that there had been an outbreak at the St John of God’s facility in Drumcar around October 14. It is a residential campus for adults with disabilities.

The Sinn Féin TD said the outbreak affected three residents and 14 staff, with one of the residents becoming ill with Covid-19. However, on public health advice, all of those at the facility were deemed not be close contacts and were not tested.

It is believed the virus was most likely brought into Drumcar by an asymptomatic staff member. It is understood that a resident passed away as a result of Covid-19 at Drumcar. Mr Ó Murchú said this was a tragedy.

Mr Ó Murchú said: ‘Testing was not happening in this congregated setting and, even following the outbreak in question, full testing was not done.

‘A number of staff did not feel particularly well over two periods. They went to their own doctors to get tested and approximately nine of them had Covid-19. This is something we need to look at’.

The Dundalk TD also said he had been made aware there had been a Covid-19 outbreak at Crosslanes in September or October, which almost brought services to a halt. He raised it during a debate on Covid-19 in Leinster House.

He said: ‘We need to look at all these health settings and at other congregated settings from the point of view of screening. The question is whether the latter is done by using the PCR capacity that exists.

‘We also have to look at the possibility of carrying out rapid antigen tests, possibly alongside PCR testing, which is still seen as the gold standard. This is what we have to do until we get to that almost promised land when we have a vaccine and can move to a more normal life’.

He asked Ministers of State at the Department of Health, Anne Rabbitte and Mary Butler, to examine the outbreaks at the Louth centres, the pertaining public health advice, and he was told by them that would do that.

He said: ‘The public health advice may say people are not close contacts because they are operating certain procedures with masks etc. The fact is that many of our health settings were already under pressure without screening. They will come apart at the seams’.